Difference between Microsoft Excel and Access

Key Difference: Microsoft Excel and Access are two different application software from Microsoft. They both deal with tabular data, but still there are numerous differences between the two. Excel is a spreadsheet application program, whereas Access is a database program. Both are structured in different ways, and thus serve different purposes.

Microsoft Excel is a spreadsheet application by Microsoft. It deals with the tabular data by using spreadsheets. These spreadsheets are efficient in tracking the data. One can also create charts based on the data provided to the spreadsheets. It is also capable of performing some complex calculations. Like any other spreadsheet program, it also uses a collection of cells which are organized in the forms of rows and columns. This structure assists in data manipulation. Its main application lies in financial related activities.

User can also define custom formulas for the desired calculations. It is also widely used in scientific and statistical analysis. An Excel document is referred to as a Workbook and each of these workbooks must contain atleast one Worksheet. It also maintains a library for the standard formulas like the calculation of Net Present Value. One can also take the benefit of visualization of data by using charts prepared by Excel on the basis of input data. It is a part of the “Office suite” of Microsoft.

Access is primarily a database program from the Microsoft. It is used to collect, manipulate and sort data. It falls in the category of Relational Database Management Systems. It is suggested for home or small business purposes. It is included in the Professional and higher editions of Microsoft Office suite. It is preferred over Excel when the work involves lots of queries and reports. The database created in Access is saved with a .mdb extension. Data is stored in the tables. Each field of a table can be associated with certain constraints like only allowing an alphanumeric value. Like any other relational database, it works on the principles of tables, fields and relationships. It supports different kinds of numbers, dates, texts, etc.

Both Access and Excel are capable of running queries to sort and filter data. Both have similar aesthetic components. Inspite of these types of similarities both are quite different from each other. Excel only allows non-relational or flat worksheets, whereas Access is capable of creating multiple relational tables. Excel is also better for creating charts than Access. Excel is quiet easy to learn than Access. Excel systems take lesser time to develop than Access systems.

Comparison between Microsoft Excel and Access:


Microsoft Excel

Microsoft Access


Microsoft Excel is a spreadsheet application by Microsoft. It deals with the tabular data by using spreadsheets.

Access is primarily a database program from Microsoft. It is used to collect, manipulate and sort data.

Main Purpose

For spreadsheets and financial calculations

For storing and manipulating large amounts of information


Similar to paper spreadsheets

Consists tables, queries, forms, reports, modules and macros


Comparatively more

Comparatively less

Data Model

Non-relational or flat worksheets

Multiple Relational tables

Data Storage

Comparatively less

Comparatively more








  • Easy to use and implement
  • Ideal for creating one time analysis
  • Easy to generate custom output
  • Data structure and normalization through multiple tables
  • Scalability: adding more records is free
  • Data and Referential Integrity
  • Queries and Reports
  • Automation through Macros and VBA Modules

Microsoft Office suite

Included in all basic editions of Microsoft Office suite.

Included in the Professional and higher editions of Microsoft Office suite or sold separately.

Programming concepts

Not required

Required to exploit most of the features

Image Courtesy: omnitechsupport.com, news.techgenie.com

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