How do I Use a Database Management System?

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  • Written By: Vanessa Harvey
  • Edited By: M. C. Hughes
  • Last Modified Date: 03 November 2019
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A database management system (DBMS) is actually a software program that allows users to view, edit, sort, and run reports on a specific data set. These programs may also be called applications, interfaces, or clients. The uses of a database management system are specific to the functions for which it was developed: systems may be designed to meet a variety of user needs. To use a database management system, users should either learn the commands associated with the system or become familiar with the graphical user interface (GUI) tools that have been developed to accomplish tasks such as creating and modifying tables and adding, editing or deleting records.

If the database management system you use is accessed via a "command line" — a typed command that executes a program — you will have to become proficient with the conventions of what is known as Standard Query Language (SQL). This requires that you type specific commands in order to communicate your requests to the database itself. For example, the command "CREATE TABLE customers" would create a table named "customers" in an existing database. Such a simple command does not make any columns in the table nor does it populate it with data. Additional commands can add complexity and depth to the new table.


Other database management systems may be accessed through web-based portals. These are generally maintained by a web-hosting company and have a user-friendly GUI that allows users to view and select possible commands. To use this type of database management system, you need to familiarize yourself with the menu options that allow execution of tasks such as adding tables and setting up columns, as well as adding, editing and deleting data in those tables. When working with this type of database management system, there is no need to learn SQL. Some experts, however, advise that learning the rudiments of SQL can assist in solving problems and writing queries.

A third type of database management system allows a GUI to be installed on a computer, making it possible for users to run the program from their work stations. As in web-based systems, menu options vary, but the tasks necessary to manage the database do not require knowledge of SQL. Management systems within a GUI require learning specific menu options. Although you do not have to write in SQL, a general understand of database functions is critical so that elements of the system can be set up properly.


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Post 4

@allenJo - I have a different take. I believe you first need to know who the end users are. Not everyone needs to write powerful queries, or master SQL so that they can work with a variety of data management system applications.

We have to separate the power users from those who simply want quick reports, like managers or business analysts. These people don’t need the raw power that SQL affords, so I think that a GUI is ideal for them.

That’s why you have business intelligence software that brings powerful querying capabilities with a wizard driven interface. The software interface has kept up with usability demands, in my opinion, so that it’s no longer necessary to pull people into the nuts and bolts of writing good queries and reports.

Post 3

@MrMoody - My first work with databases hearkens back to Unix and command line interfaces. I can guarantee you that most beginners would stay a million miles from these interfaces.

However, working at the command line forced me to use SQL commands to retrieve the data. There were no pretty interfaces, no wizards of any kind. If I really wanted to automate my SQL commands, I could put them all in a text file and run in them in succession, in batch mode.

I don’t recommend the command line for people just starting out, of course, but I do encourage you to transition to database management system SQL as soon as you feel comfortable with queries. Not only does knowing SQL make you more flexible, as stated, but it also makes you more powerful.

I believe that there are some things that you can do in SQL that you simply can’t do with a GUI.

Post 2

@hamje32 - I agree in principle with the importance of theory, but the theory needs to be kept to a minimum, in my opinion. You can get really deep with that normalization stuff.

From my experience, however, I’ve found that even the most basic database management system tutorial will touch on the concepts enough to give you a good head start.

Such a tutorial may even give you a basic understanding of SQL. I think that if you learn SQL from the start, you’ll be able to work with different kinds of data management systems, not just one that belongs to a particular vendor.

Post 1

While I do agree that the best way to learn how to use database management system software is through the GUI interface, there is something that I’d like to point out. I think that if you’re going to use a database effectively you need to understand a little bit of theory – like normalization for example.

Normalization means that when you set up your tables, you put information in the appropriate buckets. For example, contact information should be in a separate table, orders should be in a separate table, companies should be in a separate table.

I’m a just using these as examples. Once you set them up in separate buckets, you can then relate the tables together using queries. Beginners sometimes don’t understand normalization and try to put stuff in the same tables, like names and orders for example. This leads to data repetition and an inefficient database.

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