Database management

What is Microsoft Access? This is how the database management system works and how it differs from Excel


  • Microsoft Access is a database management system (DBMS) used to store and manage data.
  • Access is part of the Microsoft 365 suite, and is designed for professional and corporate users.
  • Although they both involve data tracking, Access and Excel are very different programs.

Microsoft Access is a member of the Microsoft 365 family of applications and is a powerful productivity tool designed for business and corporate users.

A little like Microsoft Excel, Access allows you to view and edit data. But Access is more powerful than Excel and can handle a lot more data at once.

Here’s everything you need to know about Microsoft Access.

How Microsoft Access is different from Excel

Microsoft Excel and Access can be used to store data, so they can look similar. But in reality, they are quite different.

Excel is a spreadsheet program that is primarily used for individual projects and for performing brief calculations. Most Excel users only work with a few tens to a few hundred cells of data at a time. And Excel is ideal for graphing and graphing these calculations and data points.

Microsoft Access, on the other hand, is designed to store and manage large amounts of data in a form that makes it easy to retrieve and use in different applications. While Excel users type directly into their spreadsheets, Access databases are manipulated with predefined forms and queries. Most businesses also connect Access to other applications. So when these other apps generate data, it is automatically transferred to Access.

How Microsoft Access is used

Here is an overview of the main elements of Access and how they are used.

  • the tables: Access stores its data in tables. You can create a single database that includes all of the data for the entire project – this is often referred to as a “flat” database.
  • Relational databases: It is almost always easier, however, to create many tables, each containing elements of the data that must be tracked for a project (for example, a company may maintain separate tables for product data, orders, customers and shipping information). Each of the tables can be interdependent and connected to each other – this is called a relational database, which allows developers to create many relatively simple databases and link them together.
Access databases can be shared and edited from multiple computers.Yagi Studio / Getty Images
  • Shapes: Database developers often create forms that allow users to enter information into the database without using a spreadsheet. By avoiding having to enter data into a table similar to a spreadsheet, there is much less chance of data entry errors.
  • Queries: Queries are another common element in Access databases. The program supports sophisticated queries to find information in the database, which can be important when the database can contain thousands of entries.
  • Reports: Access allows users to create custom reports quickly and easily. A report wizard makes it easy to sort, group and label data for easy printing and sharing.

Together, these components enable businesses and organizations to manage and understand the large amounts of data that they must store.

For example, a business can use Access to track their inventory and sales, while a school can use Access to track their students, personal information, grades, performance, courses, and teacher data. Access can be used on specific projects, such as managing coworkers, tasks, accomplishments, deadlines, and follow-up activities.

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