Microsoft Access for Mac doesn’t exist so we’ve taken an in-depth look at the best alternatives to access for Mac including apps that can open MDB databases on Mac. You’ll even find a few apps here that can perform basic editing of Microsoft Access files on Mac although for full editing and opening of password protected Access files, we also show you how to run Microsoft Access on Mac using Parallels. Note that Microsoft has never released a version of Access on Mac and there is no such thing as a free trial for Mac users, Student Edition or the 2010 edition for Mac either. Here then is an overview of the best database software for Mac and MS Access tools including for OS X 10.11 El Capitan, macOS 10.12 Sierra and 10.13 High Sierra.
How To Install Microsoft Access On Mac
Before proceeding to look at the best database software for Mac, it’s important to be aware that nothing beats the real thing. If you’re working with Microsoft Access files regularly, your best bet by far is to run Microsoft Access on Mac using Parallels which allows you to install Windows apps on your Mac. Another major advantage of this is that this also allows you to open password protected Access files – there are no Access for Mac alternatives that can open password protected MS Access files. There are also several other advantages to going down this route too. If you rely on ActiveX object macros, you also need Access on your Mac. Microsoft ActiveX object macros will only work in a Windows environment so installing Windows version is your only option anyway. In addition, there are no third party apps which can open Access forms, reports or VBA modules. Installing MS Access on your Mac will also give you the freedom to create tables, queries, forms, and reports that you can connect with macros. If you know what you’re doing with Visual Basic, it will also allow you to create apps for advanced data manipulation just as if you were using Access on PC.
To help you install Microsoft Access on Mac, we’ve provided full instructions on the best way to run Windows on Mac. You could also install Windows On Mac using Boot Camp but we don’t recommend this as it means you’ll need to reboot your Mac each time you want to use Access on your Mac whereas Parallels allows you to use OS X and Windows in tandem at the same time so you can switch between them easily.
If you do install Windows on your Mac, remember that you’ll also need to purchase a copy of Microsoft Access or Microsoft Office (or at least your company will have to give a license for one if you’re in a corporate environment) so that you can install it on your Mac.
Note that you cannot install Access on Mac using Crossover. There are tutorials videos that claim it is possible but they are misleading as Crossover specifically states on its website that it is known not to work with Crossover.
Microsoft Access For Mac Best Alternatives
If you just need to open and perform basic editing of non-password protected Access files on Mac, then all of the following apps will help you (apart from Ninox Database which can’t import MDB files). Note however that none of them allow you to view forms, reports or VBA modules but most of them allow you to view tables and export them to other formats such as CSV and SQL. Some of them even allow editing of Access files although most require in-app purchases to do this.
Here then we take a closer look at the best Microsoft Access for Mac alternatives.
- 1 Wizard ($79.99 Mac App Store)
- 2 MDB ACCDB Viewer ($18.99 Mac App Store)
- 3 Access Database Manager ($9.99 Mac App Store)
- 4 MDB Tool – For Microsoft Access ($5.99 Mac App Store)
- 5 MDB Explorer ($4.99 Mac App Store)
- 6 ACCDB MDB Explorer ($19.99 Mac App Store)
- 7 MDBLite ($3.99 Mac App Store)
- 8 FileMaker Pro ($329+)
- 9 Actual ODBC Driver For Access ($39.95. Free Trial)
- 10 LibreOffice – Base (Free)
- 11 Access Database Viewer ($2.99 Mac App Store)
- 12 Tap Forms ($49.99 Mac App Store)
- 13 Ninox Database ($34.99 Mac App Store)
Wizard for Mac is a superb alternative to Access on Mac that makes it incredibly easy to analyze data on a Mac. Wizard can import Microsoft Access MDB files along with DBF, Excel XLS/XLSX, Apple Numbers, RData/RDS, JSON, SQLite and text files. It can also connect and import MySQL and PostgreSQL files. You can also import SPSS, SAS and Stata files although you must upgrade to the Pro version for this.
Wizard is excellent for data analysis, statistics, visualization and making better business decisions via predictive modelling. If you’ve just carried out a survey and need to crunch the data, it can reveal trends in a few clicks. Other ways Wizard for Mac can be used are for applying statistics in medicine, marketing or public policy, instant summaries for market research and making it easier for teachers to visually display statistics for students. Wizard can be used for simple linear models but with a few clicks, you can get much more out of it. For instance, you can use Wizard to predict probabilities via logistic, negative binomial or proportional hazard models. If you’re doing Sales or Marketing, you can predict consumer choices in a few clicks with a multinomial logit or ordered probit.
Wizard is a refreshingly non-technical alternative to Microsoft Access on Mac and is both easy to beginners to grasp but also powerful enough for professionals to get deep down into their data. For example, when you start Wizard, you’re encouraged to use an interactive tutorial which takes you through the basics of the app and shows you how to perform the most common functions.
You can analyze data within minutes of importing it into Wizard for Mac in the form of graphics, correlations, p-values and models. Modelling data is surprisingly easy and you can see changes to regression estimates in real-time as you change data and values. The graphics have been designed with OS X in mind and Wizard produces attractive scatterplots, histograms, survival curves and charts of all shapes and sizes. There are no limits to the number of columns and rows you can use and you can import databases from R. You can export graphics and data to PNG, PDF, Excel and LibreOffice format for sharing with colleagues on PC and Windows. As a result and most surprisingly of all perhaps, Wizard actually makes number crunching reasonably effortless and fun.
One of the other things about Wizard is that it’s extremely fast. MS Access feels sluggish in comparison and you can instantly compare means with a t test or check for normality with a Shapiro-Wilk. If you’re used to programming in R on PC, you’ll particularly notice how zippy Wizard feels.
Overall, Wizard is an extremely good alternative way to open and edit MS Access files on Mac. The developer Evan Miller is responsive to problems and issues and there’s also a lively Google Group Wizard support forum where you can find the answers to most common issues or get help from other users.
The developer claims that Wizard is the “first statistics program designed to make multivariate data analysis easy and fun” and while that’s a tall order, it’s hard to disagree. You can buy Wizard Pro direct from the Mac App Store or get the Standard version of Wizard and upgrade in-app by going to the Wizard Menu and select “Unlock Pro Features”.
This is a very brief Wizard for Mac review but you can see more of it in action below:
MDB ACCDB Viewer opens Access files in both the old .mdb format and newer .accdb format at no extra cost or hassle. MDB ACCDB Viewer is also extremely quick compared to the other options and handles large databases with ease. You can search your data and it comes with extensive documentation for exporting to other apps such as Numbers and OpenOffice. SQL exporting can be a bit messy but other than that, MDB ACCDB is one of the most powerful tools available for opening database files on a Mac.
Access Database Manager not only allows you to open MS Access files but even edit them although you have to make an in app purchase to do the latter. It supports Access 2000 files and upwards and allows you to filter, sort, export data and more. The real attraction is the ability to edit MDB files on a Mac though and for in-app purchases starting at $4.99, you can unlock the editing features. These include the ability to update table row data, add new tables, create databases, import CSV data and even build a customized user interface for your database. If you need maximum control over your database files, then Database Manager is probably your best option.
MDB Tool – For Microsoft Access allows you to export data directly into SQL or CSV and open it in Excel. It’s one of the simplest ways to open database files on Mac but does have several serious limitations. It only works with Databases in Access 2007 or below format – it does not work with 2010/2013 files and above. It’s also only suitable for small databases because although it can open large databases, it’s extremely slow. And although you can view tables, it does not support queries, forms or reports.
MDB Explorer is a clear and simple tool that opens both MDB and MDE files on Mac and supports exporting to SQLite, CSV, TXT, XML, XLS and XLSX to open in Excel. MDB Explorer supports Access 97-2003 (.mdb) files but if you want to use 2007-2013 files, you must pay extra and upgrade from within the app itself for an extra $12.99. However, MDB Explorer has limitations. You can only view and export tables and forms, queries cannot be displayed and you can’t modify database data using MDB Explorer. You can try a free trial of MDB Explorer first before deciding whether to buy.
ACCDB MDB Explorer is by the same developer as MDB Explorer but is more powerful as it allows you to access tables from multiple ACCDB, MDB, ACCDE and MDE databases without Access on your Mac. It can convert databases to CSV, TXT, XML, XLS and XLSX and SQL for use in applications such as MySQL, Oracle and SQlite. It also reads all formats from 1997-2013. However, note that ACCDB MDB Explorer is only designed for viewing and exporting tables – forms and queries cannot be displayed and you can’t modify data. There’s a free trial of ACCDB MDB Explorer so you can try it for yourself first.
MDBLite is the simplest but most limited option of the lot. It only works with Access 2003 files – it does not work with 2007 or higher. The only way to open Access 2007 files with MDBLite is to export them to 2003 format and convert that file instead. MDBLite is however very easy to use. Just drag and drop MDB files into MDBLite and it automatically converts MDB databases to SQLite. You can then export the database as a CSV file or raw SQL statement. And at only $3.99, you haven’t got much to lose.
FileMaker Pro is one of the bestselling and most powerful database creation tools on Mac (and also works on Windows). Filemaker is actually owned by Apple and as a result looks and works great on Mac. FileMaker Pro is suitable for a wide range of database needs such as managing clients, employee databases, managing projects, tracking inventory etc. It’s a very elegant looking application and the latest version looks great in OS X.
Over the years, FileMaker has been made increasingly user friendly and you there are now lots of slick template wizards to make your databases look good both on your Mac and iOS device.
It allows you to customize databases however you want, produce reports, publish to the web and share databases over a network with up to 9 other FileMaker pro users. Filemaker Pro is also complemented by the FileMaker Go iPad and iPhone app which allows you to collaborate on projects and modify databases on the move or manage stock more effectively in the workplace instead of using lots of Excel sheets.
However, FileMaker is not as “transparent” as Access in the way it creates databases. For example, the tables in Filemaker are basically hidden from the user whereas in Access, it’s much easier to access them. The other main criticism of FileMaker Pro is the upgrade policy. Upgrades to the next version can be extremely expensive although many users happily stick with older versions until compatibility issues with newer versions of OS X mean they have no choice. It’s also quite dated now and even the latest version hasn’t been updated to take advantage of the features in Lion, Mountain Lion and beyond. Some users that manage very large databases may also find that it’s not quite as good at number crunching and processing huge amounts of data as Microsoft Access is. You can’t quite manage data with advanced queries as easily as you can with Access.
Filemaker Pro is still about as good as it gets on Mac for database creation but remember you’ll need to use one of the tools featured above to convert your Access database files first before importing them into FileMaker as it does not support direct importing of MS Access files. However, it can import Microsoft Access databases if used alongside Actual ODBC Driver For Access (see below).
Filemaker Pro for Mac costs $329 for an individual license although the Advanced version costs $549 and includes more development and diagnostic tools to create and manage custom apps. There’s also Filemaker team pricing starting at $888 for up to 5 users self hosted or you can also opt to go for Filemaker Cloud hosting with Amazon AWS.
There’s a 30 day free trial of Filemaker Pro for Mac users. You can watch a very good overview or how easy is to use Filemaker Pro on Mac below:
Actual ODBC Driver For Access allows you to connect Microsoft Excel on Mac or Filemaker Pro for Mac to Microsoft Access databases. If you’ve already got Microsoft Excel or Filemaker Pro on your Mac, it’s an excellent way to get Access on your Mac. There are other applications that it works with – such as OpenOffice and NeoOffice – but it’s most effective when combined with Excel and Filemaker Pro. A simple setup wizard helps you connect Access databases to Actual ODBC Driver for Access and there’s very little to configure as all you need to give it is the name, DSN type, description and location of your Access database file.
It works with Access 97 databases or higher and supports standard SQL “select” and “join” statements although note that read-only “insert” and “update” SQL statements and password protected databases are not supported. You can even try it for free and see how well it works in accessing and retrieving data from your Access database.
LibreOffice – Base is a free open source solution to create databases on Mac and part of the excellent LibreOffice free office suite which is a free alternative to Microsoft Office on Mac. It’s nowhere near as powerful or as glossy as FileMaker Pro but it packs a lot of features into a free package.
LibreOffice Base supports opening of Access files as well as MySQL/MariaDB, Adabas D and PostgreSQL. There’s also support for JDBC and ODBC drivers meaning you can connect to most other databases as well. However, you will need an ODBC driver in order to connect to Access databases such as Actual ODBC Driver For Access (see review above) which costs $39.95. Even if Base doesn’t fit your needs, by downloading the LibreOffice suite, you’re getting an office suite absolutely free. LibreOffice Base is surprisingly powerful for a free package although has nowhere near as many features as FileMakerPro and unlike the latter isn’t designed specifically for Mac.
Finally, Access Database Viewer is a very simple and inexpensive app to view both older MDB and newer ACCDB files on your Mac. Although its very basic, it does allow you to view and export data including Access database formats from 1997 to 2013. You will be able to see all of your stored data but you can’t modify data and you cannot see forms or queries.
Although it can’t open Access files, Tap Forms is definitely worth a mention. Tap Forms is a user friendly database manager designed specifically for Mac. It’s ideal for those that can’t handle the complexity or learning curve of Access but want to make databases or forms easily. Tap Forms makes it easy to create databases for accounts, recipes, inventories and more. You can include things like images, audio recordings and links to other database files. Tap Forms has filled the gap left by the demise of Bento on Mac and if you can import Bento files, CSV, text and other formats. You can also sync Tap Forms with iCloud, IBM Cloudant, WiFi networks and Apache CouchDB Sync Servers.
If you’re looking for an easy way to create databases on Mac without MS Access complexity, Tap Forms is worth a look. You can try a free trial of Tap Forms before you buy. You can also watch how to migrate to Tap Forms from another app and see what’s new here.
Finally, if you’re looking for a database creation software on Mac that’s powerful, good looking and yet still easy to use, Ninox Database is definitely worth taking a closer look. Ninox is a slick database creation software for Mac and iOS and although it can’t import Microsoft Access file on macOS, it has taken the complex mechanics behind database creation and made it more accessible than Microsoft Access. It goes beyond just database creation though and can easily be used as a powerful but easy to use CRM software for Mac and even as a project management software for Mac.
Compared to most database software on Mac, Ninox makes it very easy to create databases and tables, customize layouts and collaborate with other team members on creating databases. One way it does this is by providing templates for different tasks such as timesheet tracking, real estate databases and even listing recipes.
The other thing about Ninox is that it’s incredibly fast – compared to the time it takes Microsoft Access to setup and create databases, Ninox feels very quick indeed. Even when handling tens of thousands of entries, Ninox handles things superbly for a database software in this price range. Other nice touches to Ninox are the ability to build reports and charts within databases and even generate invoices automatically. You can also sync Ninox with iCloud so that you can buy one license and install it on multiple devices so that you can work on your databases on any Mac or iOS device.
On the downside, you can’t import MS Access files and the Ninox user manual can be a bit limited at although the German based developers are very responsive. The other thing to be aware of is that Ninox can get a bit expensive if you start adding additional users via Ninox Cloud. Although Ninox is very good value for money at $34.99 for single users to add up to 5 users with 10GB of storage space on Ninox Cloud costs $29.99 with a maximum of 25 users costing $99.99 per month. However, there are many satisfied users that will vouch that Ninix is well worth it, and if you want an alternative to Access for Mac that’s powerful, easy to use and looks great on both Mac and iPad/iPhone, it’s a fantastic database application.
You can see a quick overview of how to create a database in Ninox for Mac below:
As you can see, there’s still life after Microsoft Access on OS X although we’ve still found there’s nothing better than using Parallels to install Windows on your Mac and use the real thing. However, Wizard Pro serves as a very good Mac oriented equivalent to Access for Mac that can import MDB files although it still falls short in many areas compared to Microsoft’s product. Although there really isn’t much data analysis and statistical software for Mac in general on Mac compared to PC, Wizard is the best, most powerful and user friendly we’ve tried. Ninox Database meanwhile is one of the easiest database applications we’ve ever used on Mac and if you want something powerful but simple, it’s an amazingly impressive alternative to Microsoft Access on Mac without the high cost or learning curve. However, if you just need to view an Access file on Mac, MDB ACCDBD Viewer is probably the most powerful and flexible tool you’ll find.
We hope this article shows you that there are plenty of ways to live without Microsoft Access for Mac. If you have any other questions, problems or experiences you’d like to share using Microsoft Access files on Mac, please leave them in the comments below or get in touch directly.