Access vs Excel - [15 Relevant Facts About Both Software]
Access and Excel are two relevant applications part of the Microsoft Office suite. Commonly, most people tend to confuse them or think that they serve the same purpose. Despite both Access and Excel sharing some common features, each specializes in one specific aspect. But, What is the best application? In this Access vs Excel article, we’ll respond to this question.
Table of Contents:
What is Access?
Access is a database management system that allows multiple users to use it at the same time. It combines a relational Access Database Engine with a graphical user interface. Access lets you store your data in a relational database, allowing you to create multiple tables, either linked or not, to form a relationship and preserve data integrity.
This mode of working has multiple benefits. Among these, if you change or update data in one table, all the related records are automatically updated. Furthermore, it allows you to store large amounts of data.
What is Excel?
Excel is a spreadsheet program by autonomy. Just like Access, Microsoft Excel is part of the Microsoft Office suite and is used for a wide range of multiple tasks. This is great for multiple for several reasons, such as data management as well as calculating figures, percentages, and creating visualizations through graphs, charts, pivot tables, and much more.
One of the greatest advantages of Excel is that it’s really easy to use and intuitive. This makes it easy to learn, even when you are learning complex calculations and managing data.
When to Use Microsoft Access?
Access is mainly for manipulating databases. Furthermore:
- Data management and storing.
- Running reports for sorting data.
- Adding new data, deleting tables, and managing relational databases.
The best of Access is that databases are related. This way, it is easy to reference a table in other tables. When data changes on a table, it will be automatically updated in all the other data sources and all the referenced places. Besides, in an Access table, data types can restrict users from entering the wrong data in a specific field. For instance, you can’t enter a name in a number field.
With Access, you can add new records all the time without the necessity of adding new fields. Thanks to this, you do not have to retest formulas and check if they’re working correctly every time you add a new record.
One of the most important cons of Access is that it’s really hard to learn. We can say that Access is the most complicated Microsoft software. It can be quite confusing to set up a database the first time.
In other words, the learning curve of Access is high. To manage it correctly, you must have a lot of knowledge and experience. Training, skills, and experiences are mandatory to the best while defining and normalizing tables and structuring data.
Databases are better for creating and manipulating data, which you may scale in the future.
When to Use Excel?
Excel is used mainly for data analysis. It involves analyzing complex numerical data, creating forms and tables, running macros to automate tasks, creating reports, and storing data on a regular basis. Excel users can easily store data, make calculations, format cells, etc.
And although Excel has lots of advanced uses like pivot tables and analysis toolpak, it wouldn’t take more than 15 minutes to learn their basics and use them. Besides, you can find a lot of Excel templates on the web to store information, both paid and free, to simplify your tasks.
Nevertheless, Excel is a flat file, whereas Access is a complete relational database utility. Below, we address the key differences between both software.
Excel vs Access - Key Differences
This is a tricky question since both software were designed for different purposes. Ok, they can be used for some similar purposes, but each program focuses on different functions that aim in different directions.
So, some questions you should ask yourself are:
- What is your objective?
- Which functions are better for your purposes?
- Is data visualization important for you?
You can easily add charts, graphs, tables, images, etcetera to your worksheets in Excel. You can also alter the information of the cells that are linked to the images to automatically update those images. This is perfect when it comes to visualizing data in the form of graphs or tables.
On the other hand, Microsoft Excel is better when it comes to using graphs and charts features for presentation.
On the other hand, Access allows you to add custom forms, such as graphs and tables, while creating Access databases. These forms can be structured by several pieces of information and displayed in organized access data. This way, you can easily read and navigate it.
Excel is the classic software application for data analysis since it allows you to add formulas and perform calculations and functions of written values.
MS Access has special tools for financial analysis and summarising data. This means you can create tables that calculate data in several ways and from different sources, allowing you to analyze large amounts of data.
MS Excel does not add any extra security level to its files. Access to Excel files is easy for anyone who can view or edit the data. Still, it holds user-level security features, such as locking and protecting individual worksheets. It’s great for users who want to create an Excel spreadsheet with restricted access and a certain security level.
Access offers total control over people who want to access your database files as well as what they can do with them. In other words, you can give different levels of access to your team workers and other users.
Excel allows you to easily create macros to automate your tasks. A macro is a set of repeated actions that you can run as many times as you want. This is very useful for small businesses that need to work on many data types which require doing the same routine over and over.
With Access, you can create modules in which you can write a VBA code (Visual Basic for Applications). This, just like macros of Excel, allows you to automate tasks, especially inserting or deleting records into a table.
Data Storage Capacity
Access is undoubtedly superior to Excel when it comes to Data Storage Capacity since the first was designed to store a huge amount of data. Besides, it’s easier to access and import data in Access, hence its name. However, Access requires that new records have a corresponding value in a different table. For instance, if you create an order, it must include customer information.
On the other hand, storing and organizing data in Excel is a bit harder and does not support such a quantity of information. Remember you have to do it manually and linking them is not so functional. Entering records as well as creating data entry forms is easier in Access.
Price and Accessibility
Good news! Or not so new, but both apps are part of the Microsoft 365 bundle. You can get both applications from the official Microsoft Store at a starting price of USD$6 per user per month (annual subscription - auto-renews).
You can also buy the Microsoft Office suite from web stores, such as Amazon and eBay, at a lower price. For example, on Amazon, you can purchase Microsoft Office 365 Personal 1 Year PC or Mac at USD$49.99.
In these terms, you can always get a legit CD Key of the Microsoft Office suite from third-party sellers. One of the best of these stores is RoyalCDKeys. Here you can find a reliable and cheap copy of Microsoft Office both Home, Business, or Retail. The starting price is around €3,50, depending on the version and the year of release.
Last but not least, you can always try a 30-days free Excel and Access version by downloading the trial version of Microsoft 365.
Advantages of Microsoft Excel
The most important advantage of Excel over Access is that the first has a short learning curve. So, it’s easy to use, and it can be immediately implemented. Other advantages are:
- Excel makes it easy to format cells, perform numerical and financial calculations, and generate custom output, layouts, and reports.
- It includes several advanced functions, such as pivot tables, an analysis toolkit, and unique templates to enhance the potential of the app.
- It can be integrated with the Analytic Services from SQL Server (Structured Query Language).
Advantages of Access
Most pros of Access have to do with its functionality as a database. Despite this function being also offered by spreadsheets, it’s mandatory to mention its strong points.
- Data structure and normalization through multiple linked tables.
- Data and referential integrity.
- Access stores data in a new or existing table.
- Ability to set up elaborate validation rules for records, fields, and forms.
- Great scalability.
- Generating complex queries and accurate reports.
- Automation through VBA modules.
Disadvantages of Excel
- As the work gets more complex, spreadsheets become more difficult to manage.
- As new rows and columns are added, formulas may be modified.
- Data and formulas are not consistently updated.
- Hard to manage large-scale projects.
Disadvantages of Access
- Access requires a higher level of knowledge, training, and expertise to create reports and manage huge amounts of data.
- Figuring out how to define normalized tables and structure the information to easily edit view, and report may be a challenge.
- Copying and pasting data blocks are more complicated than just storing data in multiple cells of a spreadsheet.
- Charting features are more advanced.
- It lacks analysis features, such as power pivots.
Final Thoughts - What’s the Better Choice?
The Microsoft Office suite offers us several applications to enhance the efficiency of our organization or personal work. Two of these Microsoft Office products, Access and Excel, were thought for either basic tasks or professionals, such as financial analysts, information workers, and others.
If your business requirements need a spreadsheet just for calculating or managing data on a short scale, then your tool is Excel. On the other hand, if you need to store a large amount of data and manage it, then Access is the perfect choice for your small business. We recommend you to study and try both.
If you don’t know how to use both software, you can always take a free course to learn the basics of Excel services. On the Internet, dozens of websites offer these types of lessons. Besides, you can also look on YouTube for tutorials to learn more about various tools.