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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.