What's a good database program?

For running on Win XP, that is…

My wife is in the home loan business, and wants to be able to easily track her clients from some good database software; unfortunately, I know nothing about database software. I’ve been doing a bit of research online, and have identified a few programs that might work for her, but not having used them myself, I have a hard time deciding what might be best.

She wants to be able to sort clients by various criteria, including names (of course), dates, addresses, loan amounts, loan programs, etc.

Does anyone have any recommendations for her? Thanks in advance!

Assuming she’s just keeping the data for her personal use, MS Access is probably good enough.

Yes, I assume that it’s for personal use; meaning that she won’t be sharing the data or networking with it at all.

Is Access easy to learn? Also, can you inport/export to and from Excel with Access?

(off to do a little research on Access)

Access and Excel play pretty well together, and it’s pretty easy to learn to do basic stuff with it.

I’ll second MSAccess, especially if you’re wanting to convert from/to Excel. It’s good for beginners doing simple things (lots of wizards & automatic setups).

IMO, stay far, far, FAR away from MSWorks, however. It does a little of everything, very poorly.

Another vote for access here; you can easily exchange data with other applications and it gives you the possibility of developing front-end forms for your databases - it’s actually possible to write quite respectable, functional and even quite complex small business applications entirely in MS Access (that’s not to say that everybody respects them, in fact many database professionals vociferously despise Access - I mention this only to prepare you).

Thanks all!

So Access seems to be popular so far… what do you guys think of FileMaker? Has anyone used it at all, and have any feedback?

FileMaker will run circles around Access in ease of use, learning curve, and multi-user capacity, and is cross-platform. And for a non-Microsoft app, it’s reasonably interoperable with Excel (although more so on the Mac platform).

Access is probably faster for a single user, where it’s pretty fast (although it scales up really badly), and if (as is unlikely to be the case described here in the OP) there’s much possibility of eventually converting the database solution to run on a SQL Server, you can port (albeit awkwardly) an Access database to SQL, something FileMaker doesn’t do.

For creating a database of loan-applicant clients and doing searches and sorts based on dates and status and amounts and locations and names and that kind of thing, FileMaker is so easy she won’t have to crack the user’s manual.

Access is harder to learn and modify, and unless you’ve already got Office Professional, i.e., you have to shell out for either one, you’re best off going with FileMaker.

This board has many Access users ranging from casual to professional-calibre, which somewhat offsets the learning curve and greater user-hostility of the app compared to FileMaker.

I’m admittedly biased, I’m a FileMaker geek for a living, it’s what I do. (That’s not an indicator of its ease of use, that thread, though — don’t fret).

btw, there’s a lot of know-how involved in setting up a good database that’s independent of the application you end up using. Things like normalization, indices, etc. are important and aren’t app-specific.

I’ll second that; database design is far more important than platform (notwithstanding that it would be a really bad idea to run a huge company system on a desktop db solution).

Access is pretty standard. For the need you discribe, it should be a decent tool for the job. Some “real” DB programmers scoff at Access as a “toy DB”

I will reccomend a book:

“Grover Park George on Access” by George Hepworth. He goes into some detail on basid DB design, Which, if done wrong will become very important about the time it will be too painful to fix it. He starts out with an example that sounds pretty much like what your wife needs, so it might be fairly cookbook.

The MS Wizards can introduce some landmines, such as allowing spaces in lable names, which will eventually cause trouble (spaces are delimiters by default). Hepworth warns that wizards need fairly advanced users to avoid such pitfalls, which of course runs counter to thier raison d’ entre.

For non microsoft free software I would suggest Firebird as being robust, portable and a good standard SQL implimentation. For one person use Access is fine especially for someone allready used to Excel, but it is only realy good for simple uses and you should ensure the xls file is regularly backed up as Access is not good at keeping data consistent. I don’t know filemaker, but have heard good things about it. I wouldn’t suggest MySQL as its current version is less robust and less standard than Firebird with more room for implimentation errors.
Design is at least as important as the database software you use. Read up on simple relational database design. About dot com has a few decent articles or here is a longish explanation of normalisation .

Thanks again for the replies, all!

Based on the input in this thread so far and what I’ve gleaned from the bit of searching I’ve been doing on the net between work sessions I’ve gotten some good ideas. I’ll run the options past the wife tonight and let her decide…

Your link on normaisation seems to be dead, Sounds like something I should read.

I think this page is a good introduction.

Why not just buy software for what you need to do?

There is so much software available there really isn’t much reason to re-create the wheel.

Here’s a link from the first page of Google for “small business loan software”

Err… that is rather the point! :wink:

I’m just trying to find out what to buy that’s going to meet her needs…

Off to take a quick look at your link now.

I think he’s implying that you should buy customer management/loan software that already has the queries and forms built in. Still basically a GUI database back end, but just does some of the leg work for you. Might be a solution, but 90% of the time those options are more expensive ad require so much customization that you’ll be just as good building an Access Apps that you can scale to your exact needs. Worth doing a little shopping though.

One point to consider is that Access has, by far, the largest user community of any of the consumer DB apps. This can be helpful should you ever want someone else to look at and/or consult on it. Plus it’ll make digging up instuctions, tutorials, and online help easier. Just one factor to consider.

I use Access at work FAR more than I’d prefer. I’m a delevoper by trade with a pretty strong database background. I did all my learning and early work on enterprise solutions like Oracle, Sybase and SQL Server, which I find much, much more intuitive and easier to use. Access had, for me, a really steep learning curve. The query builders, reports, and macros/modules are simply something I had a lot of trouble changing my thinking to accomodate. I hated this software for a long time. However, it does alot of very useful things for what you’re looking for, moreso than even the heavy weights like SQL Server. SQL Server would probably require a web interface or other application to do your data entry and reporting. Access rolls it all into one.

My advice would be to use Access, if you do not have previous experience working with other databases and consider yourself an advanced user of Excel, you’ll probably be in good shape to learn this smoothly. IMHO, it doesn’t lend itself well to just jumpng in and sorting it out yourself however. Some type of structured learning program, be it a step by step book or a class of some type, would be a asset so you understand whats going on from teh top down. This is the biggest issue with all DB programs and DB structures, you cannot operate with a cursory understanding, you’ll cause more trouble and have more frustration than it’s worth.

Ah! OK, I got it now… shows how little I know about databases that I misread what RaftPeople meant! :smack:

I think that Raft may be on the right path, too… having discussed it with my wife, it appears Access is not the direction she wants to go (she already uses Access for some other things, so is quite familiar with it). Apparently, she wants something more along the lines of what Raft is proposing: something custom-written for the use she has for it, with some scheduling and reminder notifications included as well.

I’ll have to do some more Googling now that I have a better idea what she’s looking for.

From the first page choose “Data Modeling Section” from that page choose “Rules of Normalization”. That said much of Normalization is just common sense (don’t hold the same information in two different places, hold information that often repeats in a look up table rather than repeating the info many times in a main table…) and also you can get too into normalization and make a system more complicated than necessity dictates.
I agree that buying accounting software may be easier though probably more expensive. A thought does your friend have knowledge os visual basic? If so that is built into MS Access and could make MS Access a natural choice for them.