Database Basics: Part 7

Remember, the skills that you have learned here are only the tip of the iceberg. There are many more concepts and helpful tools just waiting for you out there.

The next best step in learning how to work with databases is to actually create one yourself. Take some time and investigate the databases that are available to you.

If you are looking something simple to start you off I would suggest Microsoft Access. Access will provide you with a straight forward interface to design and create tables. It will also allow you to use some the SQL commands that you have learned here.

If you do not own a copy of Access and don’t want to spend the money to get one, I would suggest investigating MySQL. MySQL is downloadable and free to individuals (be careful not to apply MySQL to commercial uses without a proper license). You can download MySQL at A word of caution, though. MySQL comes in just under 100 different flavors for all sorts of operating systems (alright, 100 is a bit of an exaggeration). It may take you some time to find the one that will work for your system and get it implemented correctly.

If you are interested in continuing your education in SQL, there are several books available including Sams Teach Yourself SQL in 10 Minutes. We will also be doing an intermediate series on SQL in the future, so check HTMLGoodies often.

What Next?

Once you have decided on a database, create a small project for yourself. Start with something simple like an address book that has your friends’ names, addresses, telephone numbers and email addresses. This will provide you with a perfect opportunity to practice your skills.

So, what are some other uses for a database?

If you take a moment to examine our information based world, you will probably notice that databases are used in almost everything we do. They track our checking accounts, our buying habits, our credit cards, our personal contact information, our taxes and more. They also provide us with information we need in the form of news content, product information, technical information and more. Information on almost anything you can think of is stored somewhere on a database.

Let’s look at some specific examples that can be applied to the web. We’ll start off with some personal database projects:

  • A friends directory that can be accessed form your website.
  • A list of photographs of your children that your friends and family can download.
  • A schedule of events for your child’s school activities that friends and family can access.
  • A DVD exchange that allows friends to post new DVD’s they buy and loan movies out.

Those are just a few suggestions. I’m sure you will come up with many more as you continue to develop your own personal websites.

Now let’s look at some commercial web uses:

  • A newsletter site that displays old articles stored in a database.
  • A banking site allowing access to account information.
  • A scientific research site that provide white papers to researchers.
  • An online store of any kind.
  • A technical support site with technical information and downloads.

Again, these are just a few of the instances where a database plays an iatrical role in providing information.

So, how do I use a database with my web development?

Well, there are many different technologies available to you that allow you to access all sorts of DBMS’s. Some of the more notable ones would include ASP, ASP.NET, Perl, PHP and JSP. Each have their own advantages and disadvantages, so take some time to check them out. And if none of the technologies I list here appeal to you there are many more out there.

Good luck and happy programming!

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