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Using Scientific Notation in Microsoft Access

written by: Bruce Tyson•edited by: Christian Cawley•updated: 7/26/2010

Microsoft access Scientific notation brings the power of exponential notation to the powerful database program. Microsoft Access scientific notation can simplify data entry as well as data presentation in forms, reports and queries. Learn about Microsoft Access scientific notation below.

  • slide 1 of 3

    Getting Started with Microsoft Access Scientific Notation

    This Microsoft Access tutorial assumes that the user has Microsoft Access installed on a computer that meets the minimum system requirements for the program. Although this tutorial uses Microsoft Access 2010, users of other versions of Access, including Microsoft Access 2007 should be able to follow along without any problem.

    Normally, tables and forms in Microsoft Access display numbers in their regular form. For example, if you were to enter the national debt, this is how it would look in a table.


    In a query, the appearance of the field is similar, displaying the full value of the number.


    In a form, The number displays in the same format as well.

    microsoftaccess06 Now, you will see how to adapt numbers like this one to scientific notation. You will see how Microsoft Access scientific notation improves the usability of this field.

  • slide 2 of 3

    Changing from Regular Numbers to Scientific Notation

    Changing to Microsoft Access scientific notation is a fairly simple process that usually will not require much help. First, change to design mode for your table. Do this by clicking "Table Tools" above the ribbon and then selecting "Views" and then "Design View."


    You now see the design sheet for your table. It will look something like the following image.


    Place your cursor in the field you wish to display as scientific notation (in this case the field name is called "National Debt"). In the "Field Properties" section of the screen (toward the bottom), you will see the "Field Size" which in this case is "Double" (very large numbers will usually need to be set as Double. To change this, click on the drop down arrow on the right end of the field.

    microsoftaccess04 The "Format" field and click on the drop down arrow. Select "Scientific"


    When the "Property Update Options" button appears, click its down arrow and choose "Update Format everywhere NationalDebt is used" (Microsoft Access will insert the name of the field being modified into this sentence). This option makes it very easy to update forms and reports where the "NationalDebt" field is located. When the "Update Properties" window appears, confirm that you want to change the field in the listed locations by clicking the "Yes" button.

    Notice that Microsoft Access does not prompt you to update the "NationalDebt" field that is in the query. This is because the query preserves the formatting of the table.

    microsoftaccess10 Close the table. Now let's see how Microsoft Access scientific notation looks after making the change. This will be the last step of this Microsoft Access Tutorial.

  • slide 3 of 3

    Confirm Microsoft Access Scientific Notation Settings

    Open the table to see if the "NationalDebt" field shows Microsoft Access scientific notation.

    microsoftaccess12 The "E" following the left side of the number indicates that the Exponent follows to the right.

    Similarly, the query, and the form now show the value for "National Debt" in Microsoft Access scientific notation.

    microsoftaccess13 microsoftaccess14 

    Now that you know how Microsoft Access scientific notation works, you can use it for number fields in your databases as necessary.

    Image Credits: Screenshots taken by Bruce Tyson