First of all, why would you like to display database information in a presentation? Look around you! You are surrounded by data enabled presentations. Take a train station as an example. The LED screens and VGA computer screens that you see in a train station, are presentations with variable real-time information. This is an attractive way of communicating the latest information to travelers. Needless to say, when train is delayed, it needs to visualize this change of data immediately to the passengers. When a train switches tracks in the last minutes, then you should signal this important change too. Same story at an airport. But also at less time critical places you can display real-time information like teacher absences in a school, class room changes, general announcements and messages in an office or factory or parking lot, theater information, advertising and much more. But also for offline reporting and statistical presentations, where you present the latest production or sales figures, then it is beneficial to connect your presentation to your database to display the latest information.
In this article I will show you 3 different ways to display information of a database in your PowerPoint presentation by using the DataPoint add-on. These 3 methods are very close to each other but they all have their own characteristics and (dis)advantages.
With DataPoint installed, first the user should have to identify the database that the user wants to connect to and use in the presentation. Common used databases are Microsoft Access, Microsoft SQL Server, Oracle, MySQL and more generic connections like ODBC and OLEDB connections. In this article we will use the sample Microsoft Access database northwind.mdb. First click DataPoint in the PowerPoint menu.
Then click List in the Connections group.
Now navigate to the Microsoft Access node in the list and then click the Add connection button at the right.
Click the Browse button and navigate to the database that the user wants to use.
Locate the database file and click OK to load the database in the presentation. Click OK to close and return to the list of databases. The user will see that this database is now added to the Microsoft Access node.
Perfect. Now we have set up our first connection to a Microsoft Access database. Now we can identify what data needs to be displayed.
First method: linking a table directly
Make sure that the added connection is selected and click Add query.
Now the user will get a list populated with all the database objects. The first one Customers is a table. The user might not see this visually here, but the user as the database owner or user, will know that this is a base table in the Microsoft Access database.
So select the Customers table and hit OK.
Now we have set up a data link to the Customers table in our presentation and have completed the first method. Now the user can set up a link directly to a table to display unfiltered table data. The user will find out that direct table linking is quickly done but the user will always have all the data at the disposal. Unsorted, unfiltered, all raw data.
Second method: use a database query
As a database administrator, the user can create queries in the Access database. In the northwind.mdb sample database, there are a few queries already defined. A query is filtering and sorting information of a base table. For example it is filtering out the unpaid invoices. Or it is joining information of two or more data tables when the user needs to display or filter out information of more than one table.
Now do the same steps as for a table earlier. Click Add query in the connections overview and now select e.g. the query named Customers Extented from the list. Click OK to apply.
All done. Now we have set up a link pointing to a query of our database. There is actually not much difference for an end-user between a table and a query but remember that a query is filtering out the correct data that we want to use and is usually returning less information than a raw table. The user needs to understand that there is need of database access as an administrator in order to create queries and that queries are visible to all users of that database. Or need to address the database administrator to create a query on the database.
Third method: use custom sql statement
Most flexible is this last option to bind data to the presentation. Again click Add query on the connections list and click the Custom SQL option on the form.
Now the user can enter the custom sql statement in the text box and hit Test to confirm correctness of the statement.
Click OK to apply the changes. A custom sql statement gives the user full flexibility to use the power of custom sql statements on the fly without creating a query in the database first. This is often preferred for queries that are not that common used or in situations where the user does not want (or not allowed) to have custom sql queries defined on the database itself. A disadvantage of this method is that not everyone knows how to write sql statement.
Now the user will know 3 ways to get information of a database in the presentation. The user can now add text boxes and tables and start linking this dynamic database information to the presentation.
Note that with data driven presentations the user will always have the latest information in the presentation, in real-time and without any typing mistakes.
Run this slide show and DataPoint will continuously scan the database for updates and update the default PowerPoint shapes accordingly.
Download DataPoint from the PresentationPoint web site. The NorthWind database is a sample Microsoft Access database provided by Microsoft. The user can download a copy of it.