Software Decisions: Access vs. Excel

A main question I hear people asking when it comes to Microsoft (MS) Office software are which programs to use for certain tasks. For instance, Access or Excel, this can be a tricky issue and I have seen many people use the wrong program on many instances.

In some cases this is a matter of preference; by this I mean which program are you more proficient with using.

In other cases this is a matter of ignorance; a common lack of knowledge in regards of software applications, and this extends to even professional positions.

Check below to see how they compare...


  • Both programs allow you to register, maintain, manipulate, and then print data...they're relatively inexpensive and universal software, for both businesses and personal uses.

  • Both programs are great tools for managing data and performing calculations.

So the question remains, which program do I use?


Excel -

Accurately this program is considered spreadsheet software, for novice users Excel is used to track basic info; such as employee schedules, names, phone numbers, and simple calculation inputs.

Yet for advanced Excel users, such as myself, Excel is an excellent tool for performing mass calculations and analyzing data on a large scale. By knowing how to create versatile formulas, utilizing Pivot Tables, and other features such as data validation and macros, Excel can accomplish nearly any task.

Examples of uses would be tracking employee 401K plans, figuring the weekly wages of your employees, and even personal uses like figuring a retirement plan...and all of this could be accomplished using a versatile worksheet, instead of creating a new one each time.

Access -

This program is considered a relational database, this means that data functions both independently and interdependently (using tables) to allow the database user to combine data from multiple sources and analyze and/or report information in almost limitless ways.

Access can store tons of data in different forms and yet still be intertwined for easy referencing and analyzing. Other types of relational databases are sites that reference keywords and display articles, etc. that contain the keywords (Google, Yahoo, and the biggest one - the internet), Access is just on a much smaller scale.

When they work best:

Excel functions best with calculations...Take it from any CPA or financial expert, spreadsheets were created to simplify and organize financial data. Using Access for calculations is like using a butcher's knife to butter your bread.

Access works best at storing vast amounts of info that have relational fields, this way you can easily reference the data and keep it maintained. For instance, if your storing peoples name, address, and phone number it might be best to just list it on Excel, or use your MS Word Mail Merge feature (which is ideal) but that's another story. However, if you plan to store additional information such as personal information, hobbies, job information, gift buying history, networking details, etc., which may apply to more than one contact, you will probably want to use Access.

A great thing to remember with software...Use the easiest and simplest program, as long as it accomplishes your goal!

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Jon Mileteche 9 years ago appears a lot of people in my office have been using these programs wrong.

El_Che 8 years ago

these are two other main considerations when deciding which one to use:

1. Excel worksheets can only hold 65000 rows, obviously if you are trying to import data this might become an issue.  Excel is ideal for charts and graphs, but if you want to merge different tables then it becomes difficult to manage. 

2. Access doesn't have a 65,000 row limitation but, its database file system can only hold about 2Gigs of data.  But can use the power of SQL, Reports, and Forms with Access more effectively.

Bottom line, if you need graphs and charts and are handling small amounts of data then Excel is the way to go, but if you are trying to merge data from different tables and require up to 2 gigs of space then Access would work best.

amerdad profile image

amerdad 8 years ago from California

You've done a really good job of clearing up the difference between the two, thanks.

SSC 8 years ago

wrong! devil

skelly golden gun 8 years ago

its shit

MR.E 8 years ago

This site was prooven absolutly usless, i coppied and pastede the info and failed my exam

Skelly Golden Gun 8 years ago

what did i tell u u made da boi fail

sss 8 years ago


kabery profile image

kabery 7 years ago from Ohio

good overview - accurate.

islam-boy 7 years ago

keep up the good work

Rogue 7 years ago

This is a load of innacurate rubbish you pretentious arrogant prat

yourgran 7 years ago

this sucked my dog could do better, you seroiusly need a life you smell like poo

Chris Oneil 7 years ago

This was a piece of rubbish, give up on life poooooooooo

Chris Oneil 7 years ago

I scored a goal last night. Yeh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

yourmum 7 years ago

this was excellent apart from the fact that everything you said was utter crap get a life you smell like poo and my gran could do better........!!!!!!!!!!!!

Robert 7 years ago

Your silly

graham durham  7 years ago

i broke azza's cod 5 and my cat sat on his xbox also you smell and this was utter crap you fat american, go to mcdonalds that's where you belong also michael guilbert cannot mark and header at the same time and chris oneill is a facking retard, also there is a beaver in my school and a man/woman who smells like the local chippy, cigarettes and 2 yr old spunk

bird of prey 7 years ago


Ben Rolph 7 years ago

I like birds they are just like me

Kiam Chick 7 years ago

This was very good, these other peopleare retards.

Ben Rolph 7 years ago

I like men

Ben Rolph 7 years ago

I like men

Ben Rolph 7 years ago

KAKA is good

Ben Rolph 7 years ago

KAKA is good

Ben Rolph 7 years ago

KAKA is good

Gary Chick 7 years ago

This program is a piece of poo and take it off the internet and I love Kiam

BEn ROLPH 7 years ago

I like grannies

BEn ROLPH 7 years ago

I like grannies

BEn ROLPH 7 years ago

I like grannies

Ben Rolph 7 years ago

and grandpas

Ben Rolph 7 years ago

and grandpas

Matt Barker 7 years ago


RUMOOOO! 7 years ago


Robert 7 years ago

Your Silly

Graham Durham Gay 7 years ago

Im torn between Dani and Azza :'(

lucky singh 7 years ago

that was good...but better if give more details

LT 7 years ago

Good work on clearing the difference, its very useful and clear.

what are some good sites that provide clear and easy tutorials for both access 2007 and excel 2007?

If you can think of any can you please email the links at:;

thanks again.

xylah 7 years ago

good explanation

ALI 6 years ago

XCEL 2007 is over a million rows and Just 1 sheet tab has 17 BILLION CELLS

fukt ard 5 years ago

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