Top Desktop Databases

Desktop databases offer simple, flexible solutions for data storage and retrieval. They're often quite sufficient to meet uncomplicated database requirements for both small and large organizations. If you're not sure if a desktop database is right for you, try reading the Choosing a Database series of articles which covers both desktop and server databases in depth.

Access is the "Old Faithful" of desktop databases. You'll find the familiar Microsoft interface and a thorough online help system. The greatest strength of Access is its tight integration with the remainder of the Office suite. It also serves as an excellent front-end for any ODBC-compliant server database, so you can connect to existing databases. Access provides a user-friendly query designer and supports web-based applications.

Access is, however, a complex and powerful program and can pose a steep learning curve, especially for users who are unfamiliar with basic database concepts.

Access 2016 is available as a stand-alone product or in the Office Professional suite. Access is also available as part of Office 365, Microsoft's subscription-based Office product. More »

FileMaker Pro is extremely popular among Macintosh users, but it's rapidly gaining market share among the PC crowd as well. It offers an intuitive interface and hides many of the complexities inherent in database management. It's also ODBC compliant and offers some integration capability with Microsoft Office. The most recent version is FileMaker Pro 15.

FileMaker Pro is part of the FileMaker platform. This includes:

  • FileMaker Pro Advanced, which includes all the Pro features as well as a set of advanced development and customization tools
  • FileMaker Go which allows iPhone and iPad users access to FileMaker custom apps
  • WebDirect, which allows users to access FileMaker databases in a web browser
  • FileMaker Server for more robust database hosting
More »

LibreOffice Base is part of the open source LibreOffice suite and is a credible alternative to the many commercial databases available. The free licensing agreement supports any number of computers and users. 

Base is — well, based on — Apache's OpenOffice Base database product, and is being actively developed and supported, unlike OpenOffice. Base integrates fully with all other LibreOffice products and sports all the features you would expect in a desktop database. Base is user-friendly with a set of wizards for creating a database as well as tables, queries, forms and reports. It ships with a series of templates and extensions to make database development easier.

Base is also fully compatible with several other databases and provides native-support drivers for other industry standards including MySQL, Access and PostgreSQL.

Base is attractive not only because it is free, but because it is backed by a large developer community and user base.

The current version is LibreOffice 5.2. More »

Paradox comes bundled with Corel's WordPerfect Office X8 Professional suite. It's a fully functional database system and offers JDBC/ODBC integration with other databases. However, it's not as user-friendly as some of the more mainstream DBMSs. 

Paradox is considerably less expensive than Access or FileMaker Pro, but is not as broadly used. Further, Corel is no longer actively updating it; the current WordPerfect Office X8 includes Paradox version 10, last updated in 2009. It is, however, fully compatible with the rest of the suite and may suit your purposes if you need a basic, low-cost database for home use. More »

Brilliant Database is a relational database that offers a relatively low-cost solution packed with a full set of features. It includes easy-to-use editors to help create forms, reports, scripts and queries. It comes with network support so multiple users can simultaneously access the database, and supports databases up to 1.5 Tbyte.  

Its interface is patterned after Outlook with its familiar tree of folders on the left, and two panes on the right for viewing folders and records. In fact, if you have no database experience, Brilliant might feel intuitive for you: rather than the term "tables" used by other databases, Brilliant uses the term "forms," and uses "folders" to store records.

The current version is Brilliant Database 10, and prices are  $79 for a home license and $149 for a commercial license. Brilliant also offers the Brilliant Database Server edition which supports multiple computers on a local network. More »