4 open source alternatives to Microsoft Access

Build simple business applications and keep track of your data with these worthy open source alternatives.
358 readers like this
358 readers like this
Databases as a service

Jason Baker. CC BY-SA 4.0.

When small businesses, community organizations, and similar-sized groups realize they need software to manage their data, they think first of Microsoft Access. That may be the right choice if you're already paying for a Microsoft Office subscription or don't care that it's proprietary. But it's far from your only option—whether you prefer to use open source alternatives from a philosophical standpoint or you don't have the big budget for a Microsoft Office subscription—there are several open source database applications that are worthy alternatives to proprietary software like Microsoft Access or Apple FileMaker.

If that sounds like you, here are four open source database tools for your consideration.

LibreOffice Base

LibreOffice Base

In case it's not obvious from its name, Base is part of the LibreOffice productivity suite, which includes Writer (word processing), Calc (spreadsheet), Impress (presentations), Draw (graphics), Charts (chart creation), and Math (formulas). As such, Base integrates with the other LibreOffice applications, much like Access does with the Microsoft Office suite. This means you can import and export data from Base into the suite's other applications to create financial reports, mail merges, charts, and more.

Base includes drivers that natively support multi-user database engines, including the open source MySQL, MariaDB, and PostgreSQL; Access; and other JDBC and ODBC-compliant databases. Built-in wizards and table definitions make it easy for new users to quickly get started building tables, writing queries, and creating forms and reports (such as invoices, sales reports, and customer lists). To learn more, consult the comprehensive user manual and dive into the user forums. If you're still stuck, you can find a certified support professional to help you out.

Installers are available for Linux, MacOS, Windows, and Android. LibreOffice is available under the Mozilla Public License v2; if you'd like to join the large contributor community and help improve the software, visit the Get Involved section of LibreOffice's website.

DB Browser for SQLite

DB Browser for SQLite

DB Browser for SQLite

DB Browser for SQLite enables users to create and use SQLite database files without having to know complex SQL commands. This, plus its spreadsheet-like interface and pre-built wizards, make it a great option for new database users to get going without much background knowledge.

Although the application has gone through several name changes—from the original Arca Database Browser to the SQLite Database Browser and finally to the current name (in 2014, to avoid confusion with SQLite), it's stayed true to its goal of being easy for users to operate.

Its wizards enable users to easily create and modify database files, tables, indexes, records, etc.; import and export data to common file formats; create and issue queries and searches; and more. Installers are available for Windows, MacOS, and a variety of Linux versions, and its wiki on GitHub offers a wealth of information for users and developers.

DB Browser for SQLite is bi-licensed under the Mozilla Public License Version 2 and the GNU General Public License Version 3 or later, and you can download the source code from the project's website.

Kexi

Kexi

As the database application in the Calligra Suite productivity software for the KDE desktop, Kexi integrates with the other applications in the suite, including Words (word processing), Sheets (spreadsheet), Stage (presentations), and Plan (project management).

As a full member of the KDE project, Kexi is purpose-built for KDE Plasma, but it's not limited to KDE users: Linux, BSD, and Unix users running GNOME can run the database, as can MacOS and Windows users.

Kexi's website says its development was "motivated by the lack of rapid application development (RAD) tools for database systems that are sufficiently powerful, inexpensive, open standards driven, and portable across many operating systems and hardware platforms." It has all the standard features you'd expect: designing databases, storing data, doing queries, processing data, and so forth.

Kexi is available under the LGPL open source license and you can download its source code from its development wiki. If you'd like to learn more, take a look at its user handbook, forums, and userbase wiki.

nuBuilder Forte

nuBuilder Forte

NuBuilder Forte is designed to be as easy as possible for people to use. It's a browser-based tool for developing web-based database applications.

Its clean interface and low-code tools (including support for drag-and-drop) allow users to create and use a database quickly. As a fully web-based application, data is accessible anywhere from a browser. Everything is stored in MySQL and can be backed up in one database file.

It uses industry-standard coding languages—HTML, PHP, JavaScript, and SQL—making it easy for developers to get started also. 

Help is available in videos and other documentation for topics including creating forms, doing searches, building reports, and more.

nuBuilder Forte is licensed under GPLv3.0 and you can download it on GitHub. You can learn more by consulting the nuBuilder Forum or watching its demo video. 


Do you have a favorite open source database tool for building simple projects with little or no coding skill required? If so, please share in the comments.

Opensource.com publishes stories about creating, adopting, and sharing open source solutions. Follow us on Twitter @opensourceway.

12 Comments

I'm msaccess applications developer since 17 ago and til now. I'm looking for an other solutions,

These are great alternatives and I'm grateful that you shared them. I was aware of LibreOffice Base but had not heard of Kexi. I'll have to check that out.

I liked this article on opensource alternatives to MS Access but wanted to say that as interested as I was in nuBuilder4 I spent several hours trying to install it on Ubuntu 18.04 and never could figure out the entire installation steps.

I searched the nuBuilder User Forum using "installation" and found many pages of questions on the same topic "how to get this installed".

I did leave a new Issue on their Github telling them this and a link to all the messages on their own Forum about the same topic and asked if they could produce a better step-by-step guide as it only helps them avoid having to repeatedly respond to the same central question over and over again.

So I'll keep a watch on their project and if I see a better install guide appear I'll give it another shot.

thanks

nuBuilder wow
Something to watch?
Thank you for this!

MS Access has VB for applications. Do any of these alternatives has something similar?

I'm really surprised no one took VB/VBscript/VBA and made an open source programming language out of it - that compiles via LLVM to small, fast executables. Kind of what Crystal is doing with Ruby-like syntax but runs "fast as C."

And kind of what the FreePascal Compiler/LazarusIDE combo is doing as a viable alternative for the commercial Delphi/C++ Builder duo using Object Pascal. This has been a huge success.

In reply to by THOMAS DUCUSIN (not verified)

OpenOffice/LibreOffice has a VBA-like macro system which is designed to have a good degree of compatibility with VBA.

In reply to by THOMAS DUCUSIN (not verified)

Which one can do a straight up Open with one click on an .MSDB access database with no conversions?

None I do not believe, but that does not mean you cannot migrate the data. Libre Office Base at least can import data exported from MS Access DB.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D_W-FAT3XE4&t=290s

Beyond that, what you ask for was not the point of this article, and is not the main goal of either of these alternatives either. Like any DBS or RDBMS the most accepted method to get to your data outside that system is to export and then import elsewhere.

In reply to by Mickey

I've been using (the very expensive) FileMaker Pro database for my personal databases for a long time. My needs are pretty simple, but FM has a few features that don't seem to be available (at least not in any simple or obvious way) with other database packages.

Specifically, these features are:
1: Text fields that don't have a length limit. Every text field in FM allows arbitrary amounts of text, including basic formatting. And it is stored efficiently - I'm not wasting a maximum-size field for every row in order to have this capability.
2: Numeric fields that include text. In FM, a number field is a text field that is sorted/parsed based on the leading string of digits. Non-numeric context following the digits is accepted and stored, but is not used for sorting or searching.
3: Multi-value fields. I can declare any field to accept multiple values. On the GUI form, I specify the maximum number of values to display, but internally there doesn't seem to be a limit. When searching, a value matching any of a field's values will match the field.
4: Embedded media. I can paste images into fields. I think most databases support this today, but it is trivially simple with FileMaker.
5: A trivially easy layout editor for designing input forms and reports.

The last time I looked at database packages (several years ago), no other product (not even Access) supported 1-3. Ironically, #1 was available in the 80's using Clipper (a compiler for dBase programs) using its "memo" type fields.

The open source world really lacks an environment for rapid application developement like access. While the database part of access can be substituted by many os dbs, I do not know any tool (neither libreoffice base) that allows to build with almost no code forms, queries and reports. Possibly with html. Do you know any? That is the power of msaccess that cannot find any alternative.

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