The Seattle-based software giant's long-beloved database tool
Windows 8 / Windows 7
Microsoft Access is a database program that includes both the container of the information as well as the interface to the information.
Microsoft is known for building programs that allow nearly anyone of nearly any level to get started with them. The learning curve for Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel is fairly limited. Microsoft Access is a bit of an exception to that rule, but when compared to more enterprise solutions, is fairly easy to use.
To explain what Microsoft Access does, we first need to explain what a database is. Imagine this is a container of various information. Within the container you can have other smaller containers. Like a storage shed can have shelves, and each shelf can have a tote on it. Microsoft Access is much like a pre-built shed with empty shelves. It is up to you what kind of information you want to fill it up with, and how you want to organize that information on the shelves.
The big difference between Microsoft Access and other databases is that Microsoft Access has a forms component to it. So re-using our shed example, this forms component would be like the shed had a touchscreen and robotic arm built in. You use the touchscreen to decide which information you want to see, and the robotic arm finds it for you. The same idea for Microsoft Access is that you build a custom form that goes into the storage of information, searches for a particular "bin on the shelf" and gives you that information. You can also use these forms to input information.
One of the major drawbacks to Microsoft Access is when you want multiple people using the information at once. While this is possible, the software is not designed to facilitate this. Since larger databases need to read/write a lot of information from many people at once, Microsoft Access is often overlooked. Furthermore, Microsoft Access only allows their own form development tools. A larger database may not come with the form development tools, but the larger database makes itself available to a large variety of third party tools. This means more design choices when building a user interface.