At first glance, Microsoft Access looks an awful lot like Microsoft Excel — both involve copious amounts of data that’s organized into rows and columns. But beyond that, it turns out that Access and Excel are completely different.
Long story short, Excel is for data analysis while Access is for data management. It’s a subtle but crucial distinction that means Excel is more useful when you need to crunch numbers while Access is better when you have to manage a lot of data that’s either non-numeric or relational in some way.
While there are tons of resources for learning Excel, the Access side is far sparser. That’s why we’ve rounded up a few FREE courses and tutorial series that will introduce you to Access, why it’s useful, and how to make use of it.
Note: Unless otherwise noted, these courses and tutorials are meant for Microsoft Access 2013 and may or may not be compatible with other versions of the software.
Seeing as how Access is a Microsoft product, who better to teach you the ins-and-outs of how this program is meant to be used? Fortunately, Microsoft provides a series of online videos that cover several different topics for Beginners and Intermediates.
Each video is between 15 to 20 minutes long. The first one covers the key concepts and principles that make Access what it is, and subsequent videos explore skills like database creation, querying for data, and using advanced query parameters.
Microsoft tutorials aren’t always the best — they can sometimes be dry and overly technical — but these videos makes for a surprisingly clean introduction to Access, so don’t hesitate to check them out.
GCF Learn Free is an initiative by the Goodwill Community Foundation that aims to teach skills necessary for prosperity in the 21st Century. The site is home to 1,000+ lessons across various subjects, and they’re all available for free.
Of those lessons, 19 of them cover basic Access education. Most are available in either text format or video format (both formats include helpful diagrams and illustrations to guide you along). The ones without videos are short enough that video wouldn’t add much value.
While these aren’t the most in-depth tutorials, they’re great as an introduction and as refresher lessons in case you get rusty and need a few reminders.
Though Quackit is technically a resource for web developers, it does contain a short and sweet tutorial series for Access. Like GCF Learn Free’s Access series, this one is good for an introductory overview. As such, it should be supplemented with a more in-depth resource.
If you’re interested in learning more about web development, consider checking out Quackit’s other tutorials on databases and SQL (including MySQL and Microsoft SQL Server).
Rich Holowczak is a computer guru who has worked with numerous computer systems leading all the way back to the Apple II and has been teaching computer science for several decades. Suffice it to say that this guy knows his stuff.
His website is home to a number of tutorials, but his biggest hit is his Microsoft Access series. It comes in two versions: the original was written for Access 97/2000/2003 while the second version is updated for Access 2007/2010/2013. We recommend the second one.
The series starts with basic concepts and interface tips, moves onto manipulation of tables/queries/forms, and ends with a handful of more complicated topics like reports, switchboards, and advanced database design.
It doesn’t take much effort to find plenty of YouTube playlists for learning how to code, which is a good thing since YouTube instructionals can be quite helpful — and that’s the case with PC Learning Zone‘s multiple series.
The Access Beginner Level 1 series is comprised of 13 videos that last a little over 3 hours in total. There’s another playlist called Access Level 2 which digs a bit deeper. As of now, the Level 2 series is halfway done and still in production.
If you look through the channel’s playlists, you’ll find other helpful series for Word, Excel, and older versions of Access. Want to brush up on your Office skills? This is a great resource for doing that.
Hint: Here are some tips for setting up YouTube for better learning.
Bonus: Lynda and Udemy Courses
All of the above courses and tutorials are completely free to use, but if you’re willing to invest a bit of cash in your education, we recommend looking into what’s available on both Lynda and Udemy.
Lynda subscriptions start at $25 per month, but one subscription is all it takes to unlock thousands of courses across hundreds of subjects. For example, these digital art Lynda courses are some of the best you’ll find anywhere on the web.
Udemy courses are more pick-and-choose. For example, the Introduction to Microsoft Access 2013 course is $19 for 4 hours of introductory material, whereas the Definitive Guide to Access 2013 is $99 for 11 hours of advanced content.
Alternatives to Microsoft Access
As useful as Access can be, not everyone is blessed with a full suite of Microsoft Office software. If you’re in that predicament, are you out of luck? Not necessarily. You could always look into the many free alternatives to Access, such as LibreOffice Base.
But for those of you who have Access but never knew how to use it, you no longer have any excuses! These free resources will get you up to speed in no time, so take advantage of them.
Will you be picking up Access now? Share with us in the comments below. Know of any other free and useful Access tutorials? We’d love to hear about them!