What is Microsoft Access?

The fact is, most people don't understand what Microsoft Access is. That includes most developers. This fact struck me in particular at the start of a recent project overhauling a collection of legacy Access applications. Naturally the end users were pretty murky on what Access was, they just knew they had to open Access to get to their applications. The business analyst who had been managing a lot of configuration and building queries and reports was certainly not a developer, and was not well versed in how Access applications are (or can be) architected. My colleague and lead on the project, a competent and experienced developer in both .Net and hardware control languages, also hadn't really seen Access since college, where it was just presented as a "little database" for teaching RDBMS concepts.

I ended up spending a hour and a half giving my developer colleague a crash course in what Access really is, from my perspective, and how Access application development should be done. That gave us a much better common foundation to begin planning our project. Despite the ubiquity of Microsoft Access I believe this understanding is as rare as it is useful. And so I begin a series here on Access fundamentals from a developer's perspective. We'll start today with the most basic question: What is Microsoft Access?

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Microsoft Access Field Data Type Reference

This page lists every possible field data type that a native Access (Access Database Engine) database can contain. It also shows which methods can be used to create fields of the given type. The information here applies to Access 2007+ (the ACE engine) but most information holds true for earlier versions as well.


List of Microsoft Access Data Types

Types of Types

Officially, there are 13 primary data types in Microsoft Access. See SQL Data Types. There a number of subtypes, however, depending on how an individual field is configured. Some data types add behaviors or formatting, and others allow multiple values to be stored in the same field. Read more