Free Database Software: 5 Free Access Alternatives
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Most free database software isn’t as good as Microsoft Access. Fortunately, there are a rare few great alternatives. This article covers the five best.

Microsoft Access is a database tool, popularized through its inclusion in most Microsoft Office packages since 1992. Like many database programs, Microsoft Access is a complex tool with a steep learning curve. However, there are Microsoft Access alternatives, and here are some of the best.

Why Use a Microsoft Access Alternative?

Is Microsoft Access your go-to database tool? It is understandable. Access is a core Microsoft Office feature for both Office 365 and standalone licenses. Despite the rise in free Microsoft Office alternatives, Microsoft Access still consistently features in the top 10 database-engines ranking.

Microsoft Access splits opinions, too. Pro-Access users point to its ease of use, the massive range of online resources available for users of all abilities, as well as its powerful querying, filtering, and table tools.

Anti-Access users contest its lack of scalability, its frustrating 2GB limit, its continued use of a solitary file for the database, and potential for database corruption in multiple-user databases. For others, the price of Microsoft Access is a sticking point, too. Other free database options perform as well as, if not better than Microsoft Access.

1. LibreOffice Base

libreoffice base database create query

LibreOffice Base is a great starting point for those considering a free alternative to Microsoft Access. The open source office suite remains a strong pretender to the Microsoft Office crown The 7 Best Free Microsoft Office Alternatives The 7 Best Free Microsoft Office Alternatives Microsoft Office is the king of office suites, but that doesn't mean it's the right one for you. Here are some other office suites you might like better! Read More , and the latest version of LibreOffice, 6.1.3, is one of the best yet.

Base remains a great all-rounder, well-suited to both home and business needs. LibreOffice Base has a range of handy features, including cross-database support for multi-user databases such as MySQL, Adabas D, Microsoft Access, and PostgreSQL.

LibreOffice Base is probably as close as you can get to a direct Microsoft Access clone. Both are front-end database management tools. You can use Base to make decent database applications or websites, as well as choose between Firebird or HSQLDB for your embedded database framework.

2. Kexi

kexi database access alternative

Calligra Suite is an office and graphic design suite developed by the KDE open source community. Kexi is the Calligra Suite answer to Microsoft Access. Kexi offers a decent mixture of database features: data entry, queries, forms, tables, reports, and more. Furthermore, you can use Kexi as the frontend for a database server such as MySQL, PostgreSQL, or Microsoft SQL Server.

Another handy feature for those users looking to make the switch is the Kexi Microsoft Access migration assistant. The wizard helps users migrate databases to the Kexi database framework, persevering data and allowing editing between the applications.

3. Axisbase

axisbase database

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.

Note: Axisbase doesn’t support standard SQL, so be careful!

Axisbase isn’t the most accessible database program to use. You will use Axisbase “building blocks” to develop your database. A building block is “a data subset, list, graph, window, or report.” The building blocks can become incredibly complex, such is the underlying depth of Axisbase.

The best place to get started is the Axisbase Documentation Home. The developer provides an overview of how many of the systems work, how you can implement building blocks, and other vital information for the development of your database.

4. Symphytum

symphytum database access alternative

Symphytum is an open source personal visual database. The biggest difference between Symphytum and the other options on this list is the target market. Symphytum is a handy database tool for personal databases, without any need to learn any programming or complicated structures.

Don’t let that statement fool you, though. You can still use Symphytum to create a large visual database with lots of customization. It is very accessible and has some handy features, too. For instance, you can drag and drop fields with records to arrange the visual layout.

Symphytum does come with a few limitations, mind. The database cannot “handle relational data and automatic field calculations.” Also, the import CSV function leaves a lot be desired.

5. PortaBase

portabase database tool

Your final free alternative to Microsoft Access is also the most basic. In that, you probably won’t replace the extensive functionality of Access with PortaBase. However, PortaBase is free, and you can create a basic single table database without too much effort.

Because it is such a basic program, there isn’t much to learn, either. You create a new database, add the fields that you want, and start filling them in. You can import from CSV, XML, or MobileDB, and export to CSV, HTML, or XML.

One nice PortaBase feature is integrated file encryption. You have the option to encrypt your database using a Blowfish-based encryption library, meaning the encryption is good and strong. Just make sure you don’t lose your password!

Other Microsoft Access Alternatives

There are some notable absences from the Microsoft Access alternatives list.

You also have the option of using other free and open source database options such as MySQL, PostgreSQL, MS SQL, SQLite, Cassandra, MariaDB, or one of the many others. These all represent resilient, powerful database tools suited to an extensive range of database tasks.

However, for relative ease of use, especially for new users wishing to experiment or get to grips with their first database management program, these selections represent a thorough cross-section of the existing market.

Ready to step up from Microsoft Access? Here is how you install MySQL Community Server on your Windows machine How to Install a MySQL Database on Windows How to Install a MySQL Database on Windows If you often write applications that connect to database servers, it's nice if you know how to install a MySQL database on your Windows machine for testing purposes. Read More .

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  1. Ray Mullins
    April 1, 2019 at 9:10 pm

    Wow. A mention of what is a total blast from the past: Adabas D, from my former employer, Software AG. (Oh, big props for the proper British/German pronunciation of Adabas; in America, the "a"s are pronounced long.)

    Adabas D powered the "Access" component of StarOffice, and that's why LibreOffice supports it. It was an excellent relational DB, but has now generally been sunsetted by Software AG.

  2. dee
    November 12, 2018 at 11:31 am

    Hi Gavin! I am a volunteer with a small film festival (60+ films) who is the point person for all talent, meaning directors, producers, actors, etc involved with the films. I need a clever and easy way to track who's attending, who's sending their "people", who those people are and their titles, what day they arrive in town (for airport trans), if they need accommodation and for how many people, what their film is and what category it's in, what workshops they're hosting/attending etc. Unlike other "attendee registration" boring forms sent out, I basically would like to take the info they send me in a personal email and transfer it to their "file" that I've created if that's possible. A database is the first way I came up with to do this but I'd rather avoid spending days learning software. Also I have no budget. Ideally I'd create a system that was easy to access all info to my and my team of festival organizers. Over our first couple of years, a google doc spreadsheet was created by someone which I then had access to however I found it daunting to access the info I needed and it was difficult to keep up to date. Any thoughts??!! Thanks! :D

  3. James R. McCarthy
    May 12, 2018 at 12:19 am

    My company is a full-service management consulting business. We have a database containing descriptions of our various programs, workshops and consulting services. I need a database package that can help my customers look through our database as they come onto our website - to help them determine what of our "offerings" may suit their needs. Is there any package "out there" that can do this?

    • Goli Kaviani
      May 29, 2018 at 5:34 pm

      You can use HyperOffice online database to do this.

  4. john blues
    December 21, 2017 at 12:05 am

    A free trial is not free!

  5. Jim Butterworth
    May 16, 2017 at 11:00 pm

    Have tried some Windows databases but simply can't get into them. Maybe being brought up on the DOS version of Q&A has spoilt me as this is so easy to use, program and produce reports. Plus it has the unique integrated Write which makes writing personalised letters and circulars so easy. I have even tried Lantica but it would have been so much work to reprogram everything I gave up.
    I appreciate I am now well out of the mainstream but my Q&A DOS works and above all, is not one of those likely to be affected by the current ransomware :-)

  6. Areeb Aurangzeb
    November 1, 2016 at 2:21 pm

    Nice, very helpfiul

  7. Areeb Aurangzeb
    November 1, 2016 at 2:20 pm

    nice

  8. Cristian S.
    September 10, 2016 at 9:38 pm

    Allow me to recommend Data Xtractor (data-xtractor.com), with an universal SELECT query builder and generator. You never write SQL, you design simple to complex queries and they are generated for your current database, or simulated for Oracle, SQL Server, PostgreSQL, MySQL, Access, SQLite, Firebird, MariaDB, Redshift, Ingres, Sybase, SQL Anywhere etc.

    With powerful emulation support, you may design crosstab/pivot queries or grouping sets/rollup in ANY database, even in those with no native support.

  9. nfrhnjuf4
    April 8, 2016 at 4:22 pm

    ITS REAL HOURS

  10. asdf
    March 7, 2016 at 9:59 pm

    SQL Express?

  11. name
    February 19, 2016 at 5:26 pm

    Kexi?

  12. Anonymous
    July 29, 2015 at 6:18 am

    There is another option in the "free to try" category that has been around for a few years. Database Oasis (www.DatabaseOasis.com) strikes a good balance between simplified user interface and feature set. It's geared towards non-technical users and handles the technical parts of creating a database automatically with no database knowledge required by the end user. There is a simple form designer that can be used to layout data screens exactly as users envision them, then all of the technical parts of creating tables, handling relations and other usually high learning curve tasks are handled automatically. It's not necessary to even know what a data table is, let alone how things like field types and other normally difficult tasks are handled. It's all automatic. With multi user capabilities, sorting, filtering, a reporting engine and other features intuitively handled, the learning curve for getting up to speed for novice users is surprisingly low. There are quite a few pre-installed and set up data templates, so it's possible to get started without even designing a single form - or any of the templates can be easily modified. It's equally easy to create your own from scratch.

  13. Anonymous
    June 24, 2015 at 12:39 pm

    Hi,
    I am using access db rite now in my windows app.But i want to change it to sqlite db.Can you please help me in regard to it?

    Thanks & Regards,
    Supriya

    • Anonymous
      July 17, 2015 at 10:55 pm

      My Visual Database

  14. Dan Vincent
    May 15, 2015 at 1:01 am

    OK - I'm old. But I've been using - and loving - the same database program for the past (over) 20 years: AppleWorks. Prior to that is was named ClairsWorks. I have tried to switch to Access, OpenOffice, and other styles, but I keep coming back to AWs. It's easy, full-featured, easy to learn, and cheap. I think you can still purchase the software on eBay. If you need to share, you can convert to Access.

    • Andesine
      May 15, 2016 at 1:23 pm

      Doesn't work with Win 7, 8, and 10.

      • Brainwave
        March 10, 2017 at 4:58 pm

        For an easy to use database for simple home use I have been using MS Works v4.5. I have had this program since the beginning of time. It does work fine in Windows 10. (it was installed with Win7 then upgraded to Win10.) Businesses probably need Access or other professional database, but MS Works has stood the test of time for ease of use and simplicity. It is no longer supported but you can find it online, try eBay.

        • Gavin Phillips
          March 15, 2017 at 3:41 pm

          That is actually quite a good shout if you only need basic tools. A new license will still set you back $90, so finding an older license might be best - as suggested.

          There are some reasonable online/cloud database options for basic stuff, too. You could try Zoho Database, for instance.

  15. Postit47
    May 1, 2015 at 7:47 pm

    I have used MS Access for many years and have designed a relational database on pop music and since I wanted to go all Apple I now have an iMac but, MS Access won't run on my Mac you have to partition and run Windows. I have Filemaker Pro 13 and been to the seminars and experience days but can't do what MS Access can do, albeit a relational database, simple things like tick boxes or navigation within various forms. So for me until I see what is included in MA Office 2016, the beta is out now, i will have to use bootcamp and run my database under Windows.
    I cannot find anywhere on the internet to explain to me why Microsoft can release a Apple version as if you do search on Access for iMack there are lots of people asking the same questions, 'Where is MS Access for iMack'

    Postit47

  16. John
    April 20, 2015 at 12:35 am

    I dont like microsoft access - it totally and absolutely sucks - I have taken excel 1 and need to need to plar an exam in access 1 tomorrow. I hope I pass it although online practice quizzes are harder for it than for excel (the first part of it). Excel can do almost anything and has so much more straightforward to operate. Some microsoft salesperson is for the advertising and selling of access. I would

    • David Schofield
      May 1, 2015 at 3:30 pm

      John wrote "Excel can do almost anything and has so much more straightforward to operate..."
      Yes, except that Excel is essentially a calculator on steroids, and access is a database. Both are the right tool for their intended jobs.
      It's true that you can create a database in Excel; and I can use the heel of my dress shoe for a hammer in an emergency, but I'd hate to build a house with it!
      I actually support a client (http://www.stinkbugspecialist.com, if you're in Western PA) whose CRM is an Excel application. But his customer "database table" is stored as a Worksheet, and if he goes in and sorts the worksheet by customer name, for example (which he should never do, but he does) then his application breaks.
      David Schofield, Systems Consultant and Founder, Hotspot Office LLC
      412 dot 726 dot 1147
      david dot schofield at hotspotoffice dot net

  17. Eric Christian Hansen
    March 6, 2015 at 4:34 pm

    My alternative to MS-Access is instead using Microsoft Jet Engine 4.x. This is an awesome database that is free/no cost. It came factory installed on my Windows 7 Home Premium Laptop. All I had to do to set it up was create a blank *.MDB file in ODBC Administrator, then create the tables and indexes/constraints using simple SQL statements via ODBC, which I run from Win32 PERL, also free. Another programming language could also be used, I perfer PERL.
    The Jet Engine 4.x Database gives you 2 Gigabytes of Compressed/Encrypted data storage. That's not all !! Because you are connecting via ODBC, you have the flexibility of connecting to as many 2 GIG *.MDB files as you like. My single database is 100s of Gigabytes, not limited to 2 Gig. The end-user is oblivious to this. They think they are accessing MS-SQL Server or other database server style database.

    I have actually successfully opened 510 ODBC connections simultaneously/concurrently (via Windows O/S detached background processes kicked off from PERL) to the same *.MDB file (acting as a table or partial table, and not as a database in and of itself), and performed SQL query reporting and table Updates without generating neither ODBC or JET ENGINE errors, and none it consistently over and over again. Yes, I did have to tweek the FILE DSN to have the parameters it offers properly configured, such as raising the THREADS to 510.

    I plan on using this database technology for National databases (such as U.S. Census).
    Let it be known that one(1) JET ENGINE 4.x *.MDB file, compressed/encrypted intrinsically, can store over 10 million rows/records evevn with MEMO fields.

    One(1) Billion record/row databases are possible with Microsoft Jet Engine 4. x.

    • kiranc
      June 1, 2015 at 4:52 am

      For the record, Microsoft Access uses the Jet database engine as its back-end. You can use both interchangeably, but they serve different purposes. Jet Engine would be used as a database server, for example when an application on other computers or the net needs to store data in an external database, while Access would be used more for personal databases on a single computer, or for managing the database that is otherwise used by and accessed through the Jet engine.

  18. Annette
    February 18, 2015 at 8:34 pm

    If you don't mind paying for a good alternative to Access, try Alpha5. I used it for years at work. It's very intuitive, has more features than Access and costs a lot less. I could do anything with that program. I made rosters, a supply program, with invoicing, and also did my bookkeeping on it.

    • Gavin
      February 19, 2015 at 3:29 pm

      Haven't come across that one, Annette, will give it a look. Thank you for reading!

    • Matthew Kaney
      May 18, 2015 at 7:40 am

      A little bit of a late comment but Alpha 5 is worth looking at. I haven't used it in years but it was great for developing line-of-business apps long before Access was even truly useful. It was truly amazing. In fact a $3 billion dollar company I wrote a small CRM for demanded I use it. Apparently it has come a long way including providing web form development.

    • Andesine
      May 15, 2016 at 3:58 pm

      $60 a month for the basic version. Works out a heck of a lot more expensive than buying access. The free version is heavily limited and no use for any decent sized database.

  19. Anita Petersen
    January 9, 2015 at 11:17 am

    Thank you for the review. Very helpful indeed.

    Is it possible to import data from excel to Open Office, or any other of the free alternatives? I read the tutorial but I can´t seem to figure out if import of data is a possibility.

    • Gavin
      February 19, 2015 at 3:31 pm

      You can import data from MS Excel to Apache OpenOffice, or LibreOffice using the correct format.

      We were looking at Access alternatives, focusing on the database aspects of these programs. You can export Access to LibreOffice, too, amongst others. Does that help?

  20. Pete
    December 16, 2014 at 5:38 pm

    I think any database solution decision is based on a number of interrelated needs and requirements, such as complexity of output, individual preferences, user (population), ease of use, availability of IT support, Internet vs server vs individual client, and, of course, ultimately, cost. Two "solutions" not mentioned for some may be of interest. On the personal database level, consider GS-BASE from Citadel5; an inexpensive and highly flexible and capable product. For use via server or individual client, consider FileAmigo by Sierra Software, a cost effective relational product in mdb format that is easy to use with excellent report capability.

  21. Pete
    December 16, 2014 at 5:36 pm

    I think any database solution decision is based on a number of interrelated needs and requirements, such as complexity of output, individual preferences, user (population), ease of use, availability of IT support, Internet vs server vs individual client, and, of course, ultimately, cost. Two "solutions" not mentioned for some may be of interest. On the personal database level, consider GS-BASE from Citadel5; an inexpensive and highly flexible and capable product. For use via server or individual client, consider FileAmigo by Sierra Software, a cost effective relational product in mdb format that is easy to use with excellent report capability.

  22. Wayne
    December 1, 2014 at 12:55 pm

    Trial versions should not count toward your five. True title, three free alternatives.

  23. Dmitriy
    November 28, 2014 at 1:25 am

    Please, add in review My Visual Database

  24. Richard Hassler
    November 27, 2014 at 9:55 pm

    A great db app is Informix SQL.

  25. jjc_Mtl
    November 27, 2014 at 12:44 pm

    all these alternatives lack vba
    jjc_Mtl

  26. Avijit
    November 27, 2014 at 2:54 am

    What's about Kexi? It comes with Calligra Suite :)

  27. Russell Wilson
    November 27, 2014 at 2:16 am

    In effect, and as much as I hate to say it, this really is a non-contest -- Access wins. I have NEVER been impressed by "OpenLibre" Base -- for a long time they even used to, justifiably, apologise for it. It is still the poor relation in the family, much less supported than the other modules. It might be OK for geeks, but everyone else should just leave it alone. User support is almost totally non-existent -- I submitted a basic request for assistance, and got a reply 2 MONTHS later -- it was obvious the "reader" had never actually read my request. For those with basic needs, you have unfortunately "forgotten" to mention Alex Nolan's MDB Viewer, which while designed to "edit" MS databases, is almost a basic development tool in its own right. Thre's also HanDBase, the Windows-desktop MS Access-compatible, limited but cheap, companion to an app for a variety of mobile OSes -- something none of the others seem to have.

  28. Dmitriy
    November 26, 2014 at 11:26 pm

    Please add, My Visual Database

    • Gavin
      February 19, 2015 at 10:13 pm

      MVD is too much money when you could have Access, IMO. If it's still retailing for $99 per license.

  29. Glenn
    November 26, 2014 at 11:03 pm

    The major feature Access contains that is difficult to easily replicate in other databases is its powerful reporting capabilities. No other database I have ever worked with on pc's has such features.

    I have created Access applications for users that report on data from MySQL, SQL Server, and other databases and applications, where the reporting capabilities are not nearly as sophisticated or easy to develop.

    In addition, without paying a fortune, producing similar reports on the web is virtually impossible.

  30. Doc
    November 26, 2014 at 12:49 am

    No love for FoxPro? While Microsoft has ended development with Visual FoxPro 9, it's still a wonderful xBase database and development system, and there's lots of development still going on.