Access 2013: More Query Design Options

Lesson 12: More Query Design Options



Access offers several options that let you design and run queries that return exactly the information you're looking for. For instance, what if you need to find out how many of something exists within your database? Or what if you would like your query results to automatically be sorted a certain way? If you know how to use Access's query options, you can design almost any query you want.

In this lesson, you'll learn how to modify and sort your queries within Query Design view, as well as how to use the Totals function to create a query that can perform calculations with your data. You'll also learn about additional query-building options offered in Access.

Throughout this tutorial, we will be using a sample database. If you would like to follow along, you'll need to download our Access 2013 sample database. You will need to have Access 2013 installed on your computer in order to open the example.

Modifying queries

Access offers several options for making your queries work better for you. In addition to modifying your query criteria and joins after you build your queries, you can choose to sort and hide fields in your query results.

To modify your query:

When you open an existing query in Access, it is displayed in Datasheet view, meaning you will see your query results in a table. To modify your query, you must enter Design view, the view you used when creating it. There are two ways to switch to Design view:

  • On the Home tab of the Ribbon, click the View command. Select Design View from the drop-down menu that appears.
    Screenshot of Access 2013Switching to Design View with the View command on the Ribbon
  • In the bottom-right corner of your Access window, locate the small view icons. Click the Design View icon, which is the icon farthest to the right.
    Screenshot of Access 2013Switching to Design View using the View Icon

Once in Design view, make the desired changes, then select the Run command to view your updated results.

You may notice that Access also offers SQL view. You can ignore this. SQL view allows you to create advanced functions that you will not need to use for this tutorial or for most Access functions.

Sorting queries

Access allows you to apply multiple sorts at once while you're designing your query. This allows you to view your data exactly the way you want.

A sort that includes more than one sorted field is called a multilevel sort. A multilevel sort allows you to apply an initial sort, then further organize data with additional sorts. For instance, if you had a table full of customers and their addresses, you might choose to first sort the records by city, then alphabetically by last name.

When more than one sort is included in a query, Access reads the sorts from left to right. This means the leftmost sort will be applied first. In the example below, customers will be sorted first by the City where they live and then by the Zip Code within that city.

Screenshot of Access 2013A multi-level sort. The records will be sorted by city first.

To apply a multilevel sort:

  1. Open the query and switch to Design view.
  2. Locate the field you want to sort first. In the Sort: row, click the drop-down arrow to select either an Ascending or Descending sort.
    Screenshot of Access 2013Applying an Ascending sort to a field
  3. Repeat the process in the other fields to add additional sorts. Remember, the sorts are applied from left to right, so any additional sorts must be applied to fields located to the right of your primary sort. If necessary, you can rearrange the fields by clicking the top of a field and dragging it to a new location.
    Screenshot of Access 2013Creating a multi-level sort
  4. To apply the sort, click the Run command.
    Screenshot of Access 2013Clicking Run command
  5. Your query results will appear with the desired sort.
    Screenshot of Access 2013The sorted query results

You can also apply multilevel sorts to tables that don't have queries applied to them. On the Home tab on the Ribbon, select the Advanced drop-down command in the Sort & Filter group. From the menu that appears, select Advanced Filter/Sort and create the multilevel sort as you normally would. When you're finished, click the Toggle Filter command to apply your sort.

Screenshot of Access 2013Clicking the Advanced Filter/Sort command

Hiding fields within queries

Sometimes you might have fields that contain important criteria, but you might not need to actually see the information from that field in the final results. For example, take one of the queries we built in our last lesson: a query to find the names and contact information of customers who had placed orders. We included Order ID numbers in our query because we wanted to make sure we only pulled customers who had placed orders.

However, we really didn't need to see this information in our final query results. In fact, if we were just looking for customer names and addresses, seeing the order number mixed in there might have been distracting. Fortunately, Access makes it easy to hide fields while still including any criteria they contain.

To hide a field within a query:

  1. Open the query and switch to Design view.
  2. Locate the field you want to hide.
  3. Click the checkbox in the Show: row to uncheck it.
    Screenshot of Access 2013Unchecking a field to hide it
  4. To see the updated query, select the Run command. The field will be hidden.

To unhide a hidden field, simply return to Design view and click the checkbox in the field's Show: row again.

More types of queries

By this point, you should understand how to create a simple one-table or multi-table query using multiple criteria. Additional queries offer you the ability to perform even more complex actions with your database. One of these is the totals query, which lets you perform calculations with your data.

Totals queries

Sometimes setting simple criteria won't give you the results you need, especially when you're working with numerical values. You may want to see your query results grouped or counted in some way. For example, let's say we want to find out how many of each menu item at our bakery has been ordered—how many Almond Croissants, Apple Pies, and so on. To do this, we could create a totals query to find the sum of the quantities for each item.

First, the totals query will group all similar menu items from separate orders (for example, Almond Croissants). Then, the Sum function will add the values in the Quantity field to calculate the total number sold for that item.

An illustration of a totals query: The ungrouped data shows every occurance of each item. Our totals query groups all like valies together. The Sum function shows us how many of each item has been ordered.

The Sum function helped us find the desired information in this example, but in other situations you may need to use a different function to find the answer you need. There are several functions you can choose from:

  • Count: Counts the total number of each item
  • Sum: Adds the values together
  • Average: Finds the average of the values
  • Maximum: Returns the highest value
  • Minimum: Returns the lowest value
  • First: Returns the first—or earliest—value
  • Last: Returns the last—or most recent—value

In our example above, we created a subtotal for each menu item in our query. If you wanted to create a grand total for all of the items, you would need to add a totals row. Review our lesson on Modifying Tables to learn how.

To create a totals query:

For our example, we want to find the total number we've sold of each of our menu items, so we'll use a query showing us all of the menu items we've sold. If you want to follow along in our database, open the Menu Items Ordered query.

  1. Create or open a query you want to use as a totals query.
  2. From the Design tab, locate the Show/Hide group, then select the Totals command.
    Screenshot of Access 2013Clicking the Totals command
  3. A row will be added to the table in the design grid, with all values in that row set to Group By. Select the cell in the Total: row of the field you want to perform a calculation on, then click the drop-down arrow that appears.
    Screenshot of Access 2013Selecting the totals row of the field we want to perform a calculation on
  4. Select the calculation you want to be performed in that field. In our example, we want to add the quantities of products we've sold, so we'll select the Sum option.
    Screenshot of Access 2013Setting the Totals calculation to Sum
  5. When you are satisfied with your query design, select the Run command on the Query Tools Design tab to run the query.
    Screenshot of Access 2013Clicking the Run command
  6. The query results will be displayed in the query's Datasheet view, which looks like a table. If you want, save your query by clicking the Save command on the Quick Access toolbar.
    Screenshot of Access 2013The totals query. Note the sums in the far-right field.

More query options

We offer mini-lessons on creating additional types of queries in the last lesson in this tutorial. Below is a list of the queries we currently cover.

  • Parameter query
    A parameter query allows you to create a query that can be updated easily to reflect a new criterion, or search term. When you open a parameter query, Access will prompt you for a search term and then show you query results that reflect that search.
  • Find duplicates query
    A find duplicates query lets you find all duplicate records in your database so you can delete them. Duplicate records can negatively affect the integrity of your database.

Other query-building resources


  1. Open an existing Access database. If you want, you can use our Access 2013 sample database.
  2. Open the Customers Who've Ordered from Nearby Towns query, and switch to Design view.
  3. Add a Totals row to the query.
  4. Set the Totals row in the Orders Table ID field to Count. This will let us count how many orders each customer has placed.
  5. In the Customers table in the Object Relationship pane, double-click the word City to add another City field to the design grid below.
  6. Click and drag the City field you just added so it is to the left of the First Name field. It should now be the leftmost field in the design grid.
  7. Apply the following multilevel sort:
    • In the leftmost City field, apply an ascending sort.
    • In the Last Name field, apply an ascending sort.
  8. Hide the leftmost City field.
  9. Run the query. If you did it correctly, there should be 14 records in the query results. The first record should look like this.