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Excel and Databases

Working with Excel and Access

Excel can be extended very effectively by using a database, and Access as part of the Office family is often a good candidate. Other (relational) databases such as Oracle and SQL Server may offer more power, but may be less convenient to target, this is an organisational issue rather than technical though. OLAP databases such as Oracle Express, Hyperion Essbase and SQL Server Analysis Services represent a superb solution when combined with an Excel front end.

There is some confusion about the role of Access in an Excel oriented solution. It is important to understand what Access is; its a front end to the JET database engine, rather than a database engine itself. JET is part of Windows and generally updated in Office and Internet Explorer updates. JET can be used without Access installed on the machine. Having Access certainly makes working with JET easier and is to be recommended on the developer machine, but is generally unnecessary on the client.
There are several ways to work with JET and Access from Excel. The simplest is to just point a pivot table at either a table or a query in the Access database. The most powerful is to use VBA to create and manage a fully featured database management system from Excel. We have worked right across this continuum and are happy to advise on what level may work best for your organisation.

Working with Excel and Other Databases

Relational databases certainly have their place, and to a large extent that is at the transaction processing end of the business. Many Excel users are actually more at the analysis and reporting end of the business. OLAP technology is specifically designed to support this category of user.

Microsoft Analysis Services comes with SQL Server and is an excellent OLAP database tool. Working with AS from Excel is very straightforward and very rewarding. There is some overhead involving designing the OLAP cubes (roughly tables), but once that is done, very powerful and very flexible analysis is possible. There are also plenty of third party tools to make working with AS even easier.

Another great product in this space is Hyperion Essbase, in many ways they are probably ahead of AS. The product comes with a powerful add-in that exposes all of its functionality to VBA developers in a very simple, intuitive way.

Check back soon as we publish more content

Please contact us with any questions.


Upcoming Events:

25 January 2012 - UK Excel Developer Conference - London

Products for sale:


Office 2007 FileSearch replacement logo

New information about the missing FileSearch feature in Office 2007 and details of our pragmatic solution (Current price GBP 30.00)


worksheet password remover logo

Instant Excel worksheet protection remover and password recovery (Current price GBP 15.00)

Classic Ribbon Tab

classic ribbon for office 2007 logo

Add Excel 97/2000/2002/2003 compatible menu structure to Excel 2007
(Current Price GBP 10.00)


Products coming soon:

Link Manager

(Find and control external links in Excel Workbooks)

Due by Q1 2111.

XLAnalyst Pro

(Excel VBA based spreadsheet auditing tool)

Due before the end of 2111.

This page was last reviewed on December 21, 2011

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