Directory Assistance

Contact Database

by Steve Deal on May 8, 2012

Usually we do automation projects for a simple reason – to simplify processes and save time and money.   But sometimes we do them just because we can !

My wife was preparing the annual updates to our Homeowners’ Association (HOA) Directory.   The paper document we inherited appeared to have been printed with a string of tables (maybe in Word?), each one custom for each family.    Surely there’s a better way?

We looked first at Microsoft Publisher, normally a first choice for documents like these.  It has a ‘catalog merge’, which creates repeating entries from a database.   But these were all fixed length, and we needed the entries to shrink/grow easily based on the family.

The right solution was Microsoft Access 2010.   I found a ‘Desktop Contact management database’ template that was pretty close.

I added a few fields, and deleted ones we would not use to simplify things. I added a little logic to handle single folks.   We tweaked the layout of the ‘Directory’ report to something a little more pleasing.

I also did a little ‘magic’ to get the records to resize (use the ‘shrink’ option).

We imported the data from an existing Excel spreadsheet.

Finally, we printed it on an HP printer.   HP has ‘Booklet Printing’ as an option, turning the 8.5 x 11 pages into a nice 4.25 x 5.5 booklet.

Maintenance is now easy too – when that house on the corner sells, we can generate a new book on demand.  Here’s a copy of our project Contacts – Generic.

The entire project took about 3-4 hours, mostly because I had not used Access in a while, and had to relearn a few things.  It probably would have taken that long to just retype it all in Word from the Excel spreadsheet (snore).  This certainly was a LOT more fun – Hope this inspires you to transform your next boring project!

{ 0 comments… add one now }

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: