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Video:Learn About Databases

with Don Schechter

Databases are important tools for data collection and analysis. Learn about databases, structured query language and different database programs.See Transcript

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Transcript:Learn About Databases

Hi. I'm Don Schechter for About.com. Today I will talk about databases.

What is a Database

First, what is a database? A database is a useful tool in helping you store and retrieve information. If you have ever used a spreadsheet program, such as Microsoft Excel, a database is a similar idea, except that your data storage capabilities are much greater with a database.

Much like a spreadsheet, a database contains rows and columns in a table form. Let's say you wanted to create a list of your family and friends mailing addresses. We would need a column each for their first names, last names, street address, city, state, and zip code. These columns would be assigned LastName (because you want their last name first for easy retrieval), FirstName, StreetAddress, City, State and Zip, for a total of 6 columns. Next, we would add rows for all of the data that we are going to insert, for example, 75 rows for 75 family members or friends.

While it seems like this is just like using a spreadsheet, a database is much more powerful when it comes to manipulating data. For example, you can retrieve records in bulk, change records in bulk quantities, and complete complex calculations. In addition, you can access databases on a network, meaning you can access them multiple computers, not just the one you originally created the database in.

Structured Query Language Databases

You might have heard the term SQL used with databases. SQL stands for STRUCTURED QUERY LANGUAGE that is specifically used in databases. It helps you write search queries for when you need to retrieve complex types of information, for example, how many of my 75 friends and family have the letter S in their names, and live in New York state on an avenue? Kind of a wacky example, but if you wanted to find information like that, SQL will help you do so.

Software for Databases

So which database software is right for you? It depends on what you'd like to do with your data. Will you be updating your data often. Will you be retrieving your data often? Is the data simple (such as family and friends addresses), or will you be performing complex mathematical equations with your data?

For personal use, simple desktop database software would be the most appropriate choice. Microsoft Access is an affordable, easy-to-use database software, which can be used on both PCs and Macs. FileMaker Pro is also a popular choice for Mac users. Other choices are Alpha Five, Paradox, and Lotus Approach.

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