Microsoft Access is a powerful database management software that can store, sort, and categorize vast volumes of data. Access operates at the enterprise level as part of the suite of programs within Microsoft 365, often used in conjunction with Excel–although with several key differences.

The benefits of learning Microsoft Access are compelling, whether you need to upskill to carry out data-related duties within your role, wish to transition business databases to a more agile solution, or are working toward full Microsoft Office Specialist certification.

ONLC’s Microsoft Access training courses offer live, instructor-led training and on-demand programs, allowing businesses, teams, and professionals to tailor their learning to their requirements.


How Are Microsoft Access and Excel Different?

Both Excel and Access are capable of storing data. However, Excel is primarily used to perform calculations or extract metrics from data groups, such as tabulating a list of transactions to calculate averages, values, or the sum of each category.

While Excel is ideal for utilizing data assets to create charts and graphs, it isn’t necessarily the best way to manage larger datasets. The spreadsheet format may also not be aligned with the organization’s needs or make it easy to retrieve specific pieces of data on demand.

Access can store broader data sets, such as databases with individualized entries for each customer, employee, or inventory item, yet with the ability to manipulate that data in multiple ways. Rather than a spreadsheet, the interface comprises pre-programmed forms and query instructions, which are straightforward to integrate with other applications.


What Is Microsoft Access Used For?

Microsoft Access has countless applications, but its core functionality is as a relational database. This means all the stored data, whether a record of all sales transactions or data related to separately tracked projects, can be interrelated by adding categories, codes, or customized fields.

Orders might be sorted into those over a specific value, those made to business clients, orders placed by customers within a demographic or region, or orders for a product or range. Relational databases can identify and connect data points among the data stored within the system, displayed in a user-friendly format.

For instance, if you wished to draft correspondence to every member within a huge database, you could create a template and instruct Access to collate a mailing list of every entry with the same commonality and extract names, addresses, and other details to tailor every email or letter to the recipient in seconds.


What Are the Main Features of Microsoft Access?

Access is well-suited to the modern working environment, with users able to log in from any device, share and edit data, depending on their permissions, and extract reports and information. Data is stored in tables but displayed and entered via forms, which are more intuitive than spreadsheets and prevent manual errors where users can complete each data field before progressing to the next.

Aside from entering and editing data, Microsoft Access users tend to use the following two features most often:


  • Queries allow users to enter sophisticated or complex inquiries, sorting through thousands or even millions of pieces of data to extract accurate information.
  • Reports are customizable and allow businesses to create detailed reports summarizing the data extracted from any number of records. The Report Wizard can generate reports by sorting and grouping the stored data, which can be printed or shared with other users.


These tools are used by a diverse array of organizations, from educational institutions tracking students, grades, results, and attendance to businesses tracing and monitoring inventory and sales transactions.


What Are the Benefits of Using Microsoft Access?

MS Access is designed with drag-and-drop functions that mean any user, even without any technical understanding of how the database management software works, can create new tables, run reports, generate queries, and enter new data. Organizations that receive data from multiple internal and external sources use the program to aggregate and consolidate data–such as adding multiple contacts to a business customer record.

Access is compatible with SQL databases, Outlook files, spreadsheets, and other files, connecting all the data that flows into an organization in one place and labeling and categorizing the data so it can be retrieved and sorted. Macros enable businesses looking to improve productivity and efficiency to set up automation for everyday tasks, with full integrations with all other Microsoft Office applications to ensure data can be easily imported and exported.

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