Dealing with Microsoft Access Files and OS X

Recently, someone asked me how to use Microsoft Access files with OS X. Like Visio, Publisher, Project and to some extent, Outlook, Microsoft Office for Mac isn’t 100% the same as Office for Windows.

Since officially Access is not part of Office 2008 (or 2004), what should someone do when they need to access something in Microsoft Access with OS X?

The Four Options:

To use Microsoft Access with OS X, there’s three options. A read-only driver, a third party solution, virtualization or converting the Access database to a more cross-platform friendly solution such as MySQL.

Option One – The Read Only Driver:

Actual Technologies has written their Actual ODBC driver for Microsoft Access that will directly connect to an Access database to retrieve your data. However well this driver works, it’s read-only. This basically means that you can pull data from an Access file but you can’t edit, change, update or add any data to it. If all you need to do is read from an Access database, this is a good option for you.

Option Two – The Third Party Solution:

RazorSQL is a database browser, SQL editor, query tool, and database administration tool. It has Windows, OS X, Linux and Solaris versions. RazorSQL also works with many other databases besides Microsoft Access and will let you read, edit, change and write to the database.

Option Three – Virtualization:

What do you do when something Windows-only just won’t work with OS X? Load up Parallels, VMWare Fusion or boot into Boot Camp and run it from there. The downside is that Boot Camp requires that OS X is completely shut down and Fusion / Parallels takes up resources if you have a lower spec machine. It may not be optimal but it works.

Option Four – Conversion:

If you’re going to be moving to a Mac or heavily working with Windows Machines and Macs together, you may want to consider the better long-term solution – Converting your Access Database into something more cross-platform friendly such as MySQL. This eliminates the Access problem rather than working around it.

To do this, load up your MS Access database within Windows (either from an actual PC or Fusion / Parallels) and export the data via SQL Dump or CSV. Then import it into either Excel or MySQL.

You can also convert the database to Filemaker if that’s what you use, however Filemaker is a proprietary format (like Access) and you could run into the conversion issue again sometime in the future.

2 thoughts on “Dealing with Microsoft Access Files and OS X

  1. […] Using Access with Apple OSX. Cool little article about how Access can be used on a mac. […]

  2. With Microsoft Office 2010 for Windows, there will be a new option:

    Option Five – Sharepoint 2010 with Access Services:

    Although development will require Access 2010 running on Windows (virtualization included), publishing a web database to Sharepoint 2010 will be accessible on Internet Explorer, Firefox and Safari and give full read/write access to the web database and created by the developer. It’s certainly a good option for multi-platform client access.