Introduction to Databases
LibreOffice Base is a database creation and management application. To understand Base, you must first understand databases.
What is a database?
A database is a collection of data that is stored in a computer system. Databases allow their users to enter, access, and analyze their data quickly and easily. Databases are everywhere. When you are searching for a book in the library computer or when you buy something from a store you use a database. Databases are everywhere on the web too. Articles, pages, videos, images or products you see on various websites are all stored in databases.
The easiest way to understand a database is to think of it as a collection of lists. Think about the library database we mentioned above: The database of a library contains a list with all the books and a list with all library members.
In databases those lists are called tables. LibreOffice Base and other Database Management Systems store all the data in the form of tables. A table contains all the data of a list with more detailed information. In the table below, the Books list in the library database example has been expanded to include other relevant information.
If you are familiar with other programs of LibreOffice suite, this might remind you of Calc, which allows you to organize data in a similar way. In fact, you could build a similar table in Calc.
Why use a database?
If you can build tables in Calc, then why do you need a real database in the first place? Calc is a spreadsheet application and is mainly designed to store and analyze numerical data. Base is far stronger at handling non-numerical data, like names and descriptions. Non-numerical data plays a significant role in almost any database, and it's important to be able to sort and analyze it. Furthermore a database system like Base is optimized to handle large amount of data.
A database can have multiple tables that model the real world application. In our library database example if we want to keep track of the books that every member has loaned then we will add a third table called loans.
A database with tables that relate to each other is called a relational database. A relational database is able to understand how tables and the objects within them relate to one another.
In our example the Loans table instead of storing the book and member information it simply relates or points to the entry in the Books and Members Table. Relational databases help us eliminate data duplication and keep data integrity.
The fact that relational databases can handle information this way allows you to enter, search for, and analyze data in more than one table at a time. All of these things would be difficult to accomplish in Calc, but in Base even complicated tasks can be simplified and made fairly user friendly.