Database: Databases vs. Spreadsheets

Databases provide many advantages over spreadsheets for storing and analyzing environmental data (as well as other types of data).


  • Widely used for environmental data
  • Conceptually easy to understand rows and columns of data
  • Can relate data between worksheets in the same workbook (Microsoft Excel terminology)


  • Data stored in “tables” -- conceptually similar to a spreadsheet with one row for each observation and different types of data in each column
  • A well-designed database can handle data that does not fit nicely into spreadsheet-like tables since relationships (links) between tables are the essence of databases. A good example is being able to easily handle observations where the number of values can vary between observations.
  • Repetitive data entry is reduced, along with the risk of inconsistent data
  • Greater analytical capabilities - sorting, grouping, basic calculations and statistics are inherent in modern databases
  • In the worst case, generally relatively easy to export the database into a format that can be easily processed in spreadsheet software or other special purpose analytical tools

Small screen capture of database user interface

Simple data entry screen for fish reference data.