Example Apps for Businesses, Schools & Developers

Version 3.5      Updated 6 Mar 2019               Approx 4.4 MB   (zipped)

This is the first in a series of articles showing different ways of filtering and grouping data in Access

This article focuses on the use of cascading combo boxes.
This approach is particularly useful where you have a very large dataset that would be impossibly slow to search using a single combo box or listbox.

For example, in my UK Postal Address Finder app (UKPAF), I have a table of 2.6 million postcodes.

For info, UK postcodes have 7 or 8 characters including a space.
      Area              e.g. HA
      District          e.g. HA3
      Sector           e.g. HA3 0
      Zone              e.g. HA3 0S
      Postcode       e.g. HA3 0SN

For anyone interested, additional postcode info is provided in the attached PDF file

All the above are official UK postcode terminology except zone (added here to assist with searching postcode sectors)

The normal postcode entry is a textbox. However, a postcode builder form is available when you aren't sure which postcode to enter.

Searching a dataset of this size is unmanageable using a single combo box. To make it manageable, the search is broken down using 5 cascading combo boxes.
The contents of each combo are dependant on the choices made in the previous combo which reduces the size of each list.

Each combo is based on a separate table filtered on the previous selection which makes it very fast. In addition, all fields used in the combo searches are indexed. This increases the database size BUT dramatically reduces the search time needed.

The attached example is a cut down version of the postcode builder used with the UKPAF application to make the file small enough to upload here.
It only has data for two of the 125 postcode areas in the UK - Bristol (BS) & Kirkwall (KW). Inactive postcodes have been removed from the list.
This reduces the total number of postcodes to around 28500 instead of the full data set of 2.6 million.

It also contains an example postcode map. Please keep this in the same folder as the database.

Click the OK button to start using the postcode builder.

A dropdown box appears with a list of postcode areas. Select an area from the list

Further dropdown boxes appear in turn for district, sector and zone until you select a full postcode using the final combobox.

In the UK Postal Address Finder app, a Google static map is automatically downloaded.
The map is centred on the geo-coordinates for the selected postcode and can be zoomed in/out.

In the attached example, the mapping feature has been removed. Instead it just uses the same example map for each postcode



Click to download:

        Postcode Builder Example     (zipped)

        UK Postcode Info     (PDF)

The FMS website has another example of the use of cascading combo boxes.
I haven't tested that example. However, since writing this article, I've had feedback from several people that it contains some flaws.


Please use the contact form below to let me know whether you found this article interesting/useful or if you have any questions/comments.

Do let me know if you find any bugs in the application.

Please also consider making a donation towards the costs of maintaining this website. Thank you

Colin Riddington                       Mendip Data Systems                       Last Updated 6 Mar 2019

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