To the computer, a database looks like one or more files. In order for the data in the database to be read, changed, added, or removed, a software program must access it. Many software applications have this ability: iTunes can read its database to give you a listing of its songs (and play the songs); your mobile-phone software can interact with your list of contacts. But what about applications to create or manage a database? What software can you use to create a database, change a database’s structure, or simply do analysis? That is the purpose of a category of software applications called database management systems (DBMS).
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DBMS packages generally provide an interface to view and change the design of the database, create queries, and develop reports. Most of these packages are designed to work with a specific type of database, but generally are compatible with a wide range of databases. For example, Apache OpenOffice.org Base (see screen shot) can be used to create, modify, and analyze databases in open-database (ODB) format. Microsoft’s Access DBMS is used to work with databases in its own Microsoft Access Database format. Both Access and Base have the ability to read and write to other database formats as well.