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Ask Slashdot: Easy-To-Use Alternative To MS Access For a Charity's Database? 281

New submitter danzvash (447536) writes "I'm doing some volunteering for a street kids charity in Senegal, West Africa, and they need a new database to store all their information for the kids, and to help the funding organizations like UNICEF. The charity staff have a few computers running Windows 7. Being a die-hard OSS geek I'm more inclined to knock up a MySQL backend with a Django (or similar) front-end and run the whole thing from a reliable VPS. But it needs to be understandable by the non-geeks in the charity — there is no IT expertise here. Is there anything that can allow me to design and edit databases, tables, and forms but doesn't require an MS license?"
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Ask Slashdot: Easy-To-Use Alternative To MS Access For a Charity's Database?

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  • OpenOffice? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 15, 2014 @01:52PM (#47010581)

    OpenOffice has a database thing similar to Access (at least on the surface). Dunno how well it fits the use case, but the product blurb sounds right up your alley:

  • by FalconZero ( 607567 ) <FalconZero.Gmail@com> on Thursday May 15, 2014 @01:58PM (#47010669)
    ^ This.
    MySQL is almost certainly overkill.
    It's probably also worth considering if any db is overkill - can you achieve your use cases with a spreadsheet (Calc)? If so - that's a much lower learning curve and less maintenance for you.
  • by Noah Haders ( 3621429 ) on Thursday May 15, 2014 @02:02PM (#47010721)
    I assume that if the submitter is planning on building a MySQL and django database system for this charity where nobody else has tech experience, he will commit to moving to Senegal and working for the charity to maintain this db for the next decade+ while the db is in use. All for free.

    alternatively, he could build a tool nobody knows how to use, migrate critical data to it, then bail.

    my advice from being in similar positions? Just use excel. you can make a VBA form if you feel strongly about it. a single excel file can hold a million records on each tab and it's easy to pull data and summaries. If you're feeling fancy, you can write VBA reports as well. then you can gracefully step away with a clear conscience and let other people handle it.

    you say you don't want a ms license. Is this because of the cost or politics? you're running windows anyway. Just dig up some excel 2007 or 2010 licenses or buy off ebay. this way you don't need to do the subscription model that ms is doing now. you say you only have a few computers anyway.
  • by gbjbaanb ( 229885 ) on Thursday May 15, 2014 @02:11PM (#47010835)

    bollocks. If he's asking for a "simple to use" alternative, the charity is probably not paying anything for it. so a free alternative makes a lot of sense.

    If he's knocking up some simple DB, if he was to use the MS product, no doubt it'd be Access or Excel with a load of VBA scripting and macros - and that is usually worse than anything else.

    LibreOffice's Base fulfils the same role as Access. just as good, not as expensive.

  • SQLite Studio (Score:5, Informative)

    by e4liberty ( 537089 ) on Thursday May 15, 2014 @02:12PM (#47010837)
    Take a look at []
  • Re:OpenOffice? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Charliemopps ( 1157495 ) on Thursday May 15, 2014 @02:33PM (#47011059)

    Its friggen terrible. Really... try it out. I like most of Open Office but Base is a buggy joke.

  • by aerivus ( 1658465 ) on Thursday May 15, 2014 @02:36PM (#47011091)
    Filemaker Pro [] is the major alternative to Microsoft Access for small business. When you need to hand off this project to the staff members who don't do development full-time, its critical to that the system be as simple to learn for the layperson as possible. I'm guessing this is why you're asking as opposed to going with the pure OSS solutions that you are most familiar with. Like Access, both frontend UI and the backend database are managed from one integrated IDE. Unlike Access, Filemaker Inc. is wholly owned by Apple (its been around for over 20 years), has versions for both OSX and Windows, can be used with a MySQL backend, and doesn't tie you into Microsoft's web of licensing. Also, there is a free app for IOS devices (Filemaker Go) that makes it easy to add iPhones and iPads to the mix. The mobile copies of the database can be designed to sync over USB or WIFI, enabling usage without relying on Senegal's probably spotty 3G coverage. Disclaimer: I've developed several custom Filemaker solutions for small business and then trained the end users on how to use the solution and modify it their needs change. Good luck!
  • by praxis ( 19962 ) on Thursday May 15, 2014 @02:55PM (#47011313)

    But it's not going to work for anyone trying to do anything moderately complex, and to recommend it as a solution for a use case you know nothing about and will not end up testing or supporting is just wrong. ... SQL Server Express is free and comes with limitations, but it should easily handle what they need.

    So, recommending a solution to a problem that wasn't specified "is just wrong" according to you. Yet you claim that StarOffice won't work for that unspecified problem but SQL Server Express will work for that unspecified problem. Your bias undercuts the recommendations you make.

    To answer the original poster's question: I don't know of any analogues to Access in the open source world. What sort of use-cases are you looking to support?

  • by drew30319 ( 828970 ) on Thursday May 15, 2014 @03:03PM (#47011383) Homepage Journal
    Rather than discuss alternatives I wanted to let you know that many charities are eligible for deep discounts on MS products. is a clearinghouse (of sorts) for charities and tech companies, allowing for very deep discounts on hardware and software. For example Office Professional Plus 2013 is $32 and Windows 8.1 is $12. In the past I've paid around $125 for Adobe Creative Suite 6.

    In addition to discounts techsoup also has a wealth of articles on tech-related issues for nonprofit management. []
  • Re:Pff Good luck (Score:4, Informative)

    by paugq ( 443696 ) <pgquiles&elpauer,org> on Thursday May 15, 2014 @04:57PM (#47012631) Homepage

    Kexi has worked on Windows and Mac for more than 5 years already and latest builds are available as part of Calligra

  • by greenfruitsalad ( 2008354 ) on Thursday May 15, 2014 @05:59PM (#47013203)

    libre/openoffice base can both be used as a frontend to a mysql database. i'm surprised so few people know about it.

    http://extensions.libreoffice.... []

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