Choosing the Right Program in Microsoft Office

With a multitude of programs out there, how do you know which one is right for the task you are working on? One of the most common suite of programs used in business is Microsoft Office. So which programs in office should you use for what? Let’s break down the three most commonly used components of the Microsoft Office suite.

Word to your Mom.

Word (your modern day typewriter)

Word should be used for, well, words. Anything that is in a narrative form, such as letters, memos, outlines, simple signs and fliers, etc. Word also has the capability for mail merges, where word is used for the document portion of your merge and pulls in your information from a database source, such as Excel or Access, to create multiple letters and envelopes or labels.

Excel (a super fancy calculator and simple database program)

Excel should be used for “flat” data or anything that requires computations to be performed. What do I mean by flat data?

Who you calling flat?

Any data that is not related to other data, such as a single table of data, would be flat. So, for example, if you have a list of customers that you need to maintain, excel would be a great option to maintain that data. Additionally, Excel does have many advanced features, including the ability to perform complex computations as well as some simple database functions.

This party is getting crowded!

Access (data as far as the eye can see)

Access is used for “relational” data, this is the right option if you are maintaining large quantities of data that needs to have relationships set up. So if you find yourself with a file folder full of excel files containing data tables related to your customers, it might be time to maintain that data in Access. But I don’t just want to store my data, I want to extract useful information from my data, you say. No problem! Access also has the capability to run reports and queries on your data, helping you gather information quickly and easily.

Knowledge is Power

Did you know that Microsoft offers free tutorials online for the office suite of programs? Visit their learning center at

Reader Interactions