Base

Base is an M$ Access equivalent of Libre and Open Office.

LibreOffice and OpenOffice are (or rather is since they’re the same thing) free office suits. That’s why I’ll just be saying LibreOffice from now on. Since I’ll be talking about LibreOffice Base, in case Base you’ll read here about differs from your own in a way, it’s because you have Open rather than Libre Office… or you simply have a different version of LibreOffice.
Dunno, since LibreOffice is supplied with Linux distributions like Ubuntu and Knoppix, I use Libre.

LibreOffice has equivalents of M$ Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access and Visio (i.e. Writer, Calc, Impress, Base and Draw). In addition, LibreOffice has a program for formulae (Math), but features of Math should be scattered through M$ Office, so no point in counting it in😉

Since M$ Office ain’t available for Linux (unlike Libre which can probably be installed on any machine), Linux users depend solely on Base when it comes to (relationship) database management. Furthermore, Access is not provided in home editions of M$ Office, so if you wanna keep it legal and not waste too much money, you’ll buy an M$ Office edition without Access. True, the program is available on M$ Office 365 Home Premium, but licence of Office 365 is limited to one year (I guess, it’s one day less in a leap year😉 ). So Base is often the only database management solution.

Unlike the rest of LibreOffice programs, Base cannot save databases in Microsoft formats (neither .mdb nor .accdb). It can import, though, .mdb (the default M$ Access format up to Office 2003) databases, but it cannot import .accdb (the default M$ Access format since Office 2007) databases. Other LibreOffice programs can handle M$ Office formats (i.e. Writer can handle both .doc and .docx; Calc can handle both .xls and .xlsx and Impress can handle .ppt, .pptx, .pps and .ppsx). That might change in the future and I hope it does, but for now, not handling M$ Access format is a big handicap of Base [likewise, Access can’t handle Base format (.odb)… for now, at least] since M$ Access is so widespread.

Base
LibrOffice Base on Windows 7 (click on the image to enlarge it)

Okay, you can’t work with .accdb databases, so you’re probably most interested how to import an .mdb database:
Open Base. A database wizard will start. Mark Connecting to an existing database. Choose Microsoft Access from the drop-down menu. Despite being labelled Microsoft Access 2007, choosing that option, does the same thing as Microsoft Access (i.e. Base still looks for an .mdb database and cannot load an .accdb). Click Next >>.

Import Acces Base

Click Browse now to find your .mdb database. After finding your database and telling Base that is the database you want to open, click either Finish or Next >>. Base will now ask you where you want to save your new database (in Base native format this time – .odb). You have to do this because, as I said, Base can only save in .odb format, so once you import an .mdb database, all the changes you make to the database will be saved in the .odb database you’ve just created. Yeah, M$ Access users won’t be able to work with your database any more😦 You’ll have to ask them to install Libre or Open Office. Since both suits are free, no one should object to that. In adition, an expirienced M$ Access user should grasp Base pretty quickly, especially one who worked on Access 2003 and/or older versions. When an M$ Access user is sending you a database, either ask him to send you a Base database or an .mdb database (yeah, M$ Office 2007 and above are able to save in .mdb format), but you should really warn the user that you cannot save the database in an M$ Access format.

I’ll write about differences I spotted between M$ Access and Base. Some things are just differently arranged while Base lacks some other M$ Access features.

The Ribbon

As you can see in the screenshot of Base above, Base doesn’t have a ribbon (yet). Just like other LibreOffice programs, Base still uses classic menus (that’s why LibreOffice is pretty much like M$ Office up to 2003). Whatever you’re opinion of the Ribbon might be; tabs, groups and commands are well organized on M$ Office Ribbon and you virtually can’t get yourself lost if you have a fringe of M$ Office knowledge. Basically, the Ribbon is much user-friendlier than classic menus and the lack of the Ribbon is a con of Base, and LibreOffice as a whole.

Exporting a database table to a different program (e.g. Calc or M$ Excel; Writer or M$ Word)

Unlike M$ Access, Base has no builtin tool to export a database table to another program. If you want your table copied, here’s what you do:
Quite simple. Open the table in Base; select the data you want copied and copy it. Open the program you want your data transferred to, Calc, for example. You can quickly open Calc through Base main window in File \ New \ Spreadsheet. Just paste the data to Calc. Here you have it, your data in Calc. You can now save the spreadsheet, to .xls if you want to (an M$ Excel format). If you want to copy the whole table, you can just select the table in the main Base window and go to Edit\Copy… or just select the table and use Ctrl+C shortcut. Unfortunatelly, the cell formattings you made in Base ain’t gonna be be transferred to Calc, so you’ll have to do the formatting again. The same thing works for copying to M$ Excel.

Moving columns in a Base table

Unfortunatelly, I have’t found a way to move table columns in Base.

Primary key

Primary key is used to enable analyses of tables of your database. It must be unique to prevent confusion. While M$ Access warns you when your table doesn’t have a primary key, because you won’t be able to do any analyses, Access allows creation of tables without a primary key. That is totally okay if you ask me, because sometimes you just create a table in Access which you’re not going use for analyses. You just store some data in such tables. While Base warns you when you don’t have primary key in your table and creates the table nevertheless just like Access, you cannot add data to such a table. Basically, your newly created table becomes useless. You have to create a primary key field in Base despite the fact you’re never going to use it.

AutoNumber

AutoNumber is the best data type for primary key. It generate a unique number, a number not previously used in a record. All you have to do in M$ Access to set the data type to AutoNumber is choose AutoNumber from the drop-down menu when creating a field of a database table.
In Base, however, you gotta chose Integer in the drop-down menu. Then you have to set AutoValue to Yes in the field properties in the bottom of the screen.

AutoNumber
Click on the image to enlarge it

CURRENC¥ field type

Currency is the table field type you want for money. The type displays input data as a currency (e.g. you type “1”, but Base produces €1).
Unlike M$ Access, Base doesn’t offer the currency field type in field type drop-down menu when you’re creating fields of your table. In the Field Type drop-down menu, you have to choose Number (because currency is a number and the currency symbol is only for show). Then click on button right of the the Format Example box in Field Properties. In the popup window, select Currency. Personalize the format as you wish (e.g. whether you want Base to display £, € or $) and hit Enter.

Currency
Click on the image to enlarge it

Input Mask

Input Mask is the thingie that allows you to enter only certain things (e.g. only caps despite you typing small letters). In M$ Access you can use the thingie in tables. And it’s quite easy to start using input mask, since it’s right there when you create a field. So far, however, I was able to find input mask only for forms in Base. For more info, watch this video.
Moreover, mask codes are different in M$ Access and Base. You can find Base codes here.

Queries

The true power of M$ Access lies in queries. The same is with Base.
Working with queries is pretty much the same as in M$ Access, so no point in writing about it.
Well, you don’t have to enable anything to use functions (stuff like sum and average) in Query Design. Function row is right there! Just click on the desired field in the function row and choose a function you want from the drop-down menu or leave (no function) if you don’t want a function [you can remove the function by choosing (no function) later].

Query Base
Click on the image to enlarge it

In the end, I’d like to suggest that you always use Memo field type for text whatever the length of the text you plan to write might be. Computer programs, including Base, might have an issue of text length even when everything is fine. Basically, with Memo type, there’s no trouble. You can freely enter one character or 2147483647 characters.

Have more questions about Base or LibreOffice in general?
If you do, browse LibreOffice forum or email for help (either users+subscribe@global.libreoffice.org in English or look for a local help).

In addition, you can browse OpenOffice forum or check OpenOffice support.

LibreOffice homepage
List of local LibreOffice websites


Posted on October 4th, 2013 at 16:56 GMT
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