Microsoft Access is a database tool, popularised through its inclusion in most Microsoft Office updates since 1992. Being the industry standard, it’s also a complex tool with a steep learning curve. If you’re searching for more intuitive and free alternatives with comparable features that are worth your time, look no further.
Why Use an Microsoft Access Alternative?
Is Microsoft Access your go-to database tool? Despite the platforms continual inclusion in the top 10 database-engines ranking, Microsoft Access often splits opinions. Pro-Access users point to its ease of use, the massive range of online resources available for users across the spectrum, and its powerful querying, filtering and table tools. Anti-Access users contest that its lack of scalability, its frustrating 2GB limit and generally cold, lifeless interface restrict its potential, forcing users to seek alternatives.
So, here we offer you some free, easy-to-use alternatives to Microsoft Access:
OpenOffice / LibreOffice (our LibreOffice review) offer a very similar database tool in Base, hence the inclusion of both under the same header (they do come from the same source-code, after all!). Base is a great all-rounder suited to both home and business needs, providing cross-database support and linking for other common database engines such as MySQL, PostgreSQL and of course, Microsoft Access.
This pair of images illustrates the LibreOffice Base interface.
As a potential user, you can flick through a number of tutorials and templates before downloading. Base, like Microsoft Access, divides opinion. Perhaps the best, most concise explanation for this split is this:
“Base is a quality solution for small applications and database development. Microsoft Access is more of a Swiss Army Knife than Base.
And of course, price…with OpenOffice still being free of charge”
This pair of images details the OpenOffice Base interface – you could very well be looking at the OpenLibre screenshots situated above.
As mentioned, you can see from the screenshots just how similar each platform is. However, they are both worthy competitors modelled on their direct rivals that, with the right experience, you can jump right into and for a powerful, personal database solution that is free, are definitely worth considering.
Axisbase was brought to life by a frustrated developer, angered at the expense of forcing his clientèle to pay for Microsoft Access, though development seems to have stopped in January 2011. Axisbase is slightly different from the other entries in this list in that it offers an entire database solution, with a familiar front end interface that feels similar to Filemaker, Access or Base, but can also act as a database server like MySQL.
The interface is simplistic, keeping visual bombardment to a minimum, providing the software with an unsophisticated, accessible aesthetic. Axisbase offers some tutorials and functionality content, though there is no landing page specifically detailing tutorials. These are accessed in the left-hand column situated on the homepage, as seen below.
Overall, Axisbase represents a solid Microsoft Access alternative, capable of using powerful expression syntax’s for advanced users.
For its interesting name and potential, two issues from the outset made me lose interest in Glom: you cannot run a database instance as a Windows Administrator, and it cannot edit databases it didn’t create. Whilst the former is to ensure beginners do not destroy their system when running PostgreSQL, having to make a separate user account on a Windows terminal is somewhat frustrating and lack of documentation only added to my frustrations.
However, judging from others experiences across the online sphere, there are some positives to take from the open source software. Being built on a PostgreSQL backend should provide a powerful relational database, whilst from other screenshots the interface appears simplistic and easy to approach.
4. FileMaker Pro (30 Day Free Trial)
We’ve included FileMaker Pro’s 30 Day Free Trial as a potential database solution for small businesses and home users. Similarly to other ‘established’ database platforms on this list, FileMaker Pro comes with a robust documentation package and a huge range of tutorials to boot – exactly what you would expect from an Apple subsidiary.
FileMaker Pro offers novice users the chance to drag and drop their existing database file onto the FileMaker icon, instantaneously opening and importing any available data. This, along with the familiar Apple-esq aesthetic lend FileMaker an appeal and overall ease of use. However, after your 30 day free trial ends, prepare yourself for some equally Apple-esq costs to license your software: $329 / £289 for a single license.
5. Brilliant Database (30 Day Free Trial)
This is another free to try database, but it could be worth the $80 to license the professional edition. The unassuming user interface belies its backend, with the import features and wizards particularly useful, though at times frustrating if you need to rewrite import parse files.
A range of tutorials, wizards and practice databases are appealing for beginner users adding to the open, easy feeling of the software and for small businesses or home database users Brilliant Database is potentially worth a look – if you can stomach the $80 cost.
Of course we haven’t covered all open source or free to use database platforms in this article. MySQL, PostgreSQL, MSSQL, SQLite, MongoDB, RethinkDB, Cassandra and the many, many others represent resilient, powerful database tools suited to a wide range of data tasks. However, for relative ease of use for new database users wishing to experiment with accessible, familiar user interfaces and content management systems, our selections represent a great range of the existing market that most users should be able to instantaneously access.
What are you favorite Microsoft Access alternatives? What do you look for when selecting a database for home or work usage? Let us know below!
Image Credits: file in database Via Shutterstock