Make lists in Word, Excel, and Access

Applies to
Microsoft Word 2000
Microsoft Excel 2000
Microsoft Access 2000

Have you ever wondered which Office program to use to make a list? Word, Excel, and Access each have advantages, depending on what type of list you want to create - a text list, flat file list, or relational list. So which program is best suited to your task?

Text lists in Word

Word gives your list a lot of flexibility with a variety of formatting options, such as custom tabs and hanging indents. It also offers several ways to create and organize your list.

Use AutoFormat to create a list

With the AutoFormat options in Word, organizing your text list is easy. On the Tools menu, click AutoCorrect. On the AutoFormat As You Type tab, select the Automatic numbered lists check box. Then, if you type 1. followed by a tab or space and some text, and press ENTER, Word will automatically continue numbering your list for you.

Create a bulleted or numbered list

You can select the items you want to add bullets or numbering to and then click the Numbering or Bullets button on the Formatting toolbar.

Use a table to organize your list

Just click the Insert Table button on the Standard toolbar, select the number of columns and rows, and type one item per cell. If you don't want the borders to show, on the Table menu, point to Select and then click Table. On the Format menu, click Borders and Shading. On the Borders tab, select None. If you have existing text that you want turned into a table, on the Table menu, point to Convert, and then click Text to Table.

Sort your list

On the Table menu, point to Select and then click Table. On the Table menu, click Sort. You can sort by columns in ascending or descending order. Word can handle number lists in a table and perform simple calculations and sorting as well. You can also sort lists not in a table by selecting the entire list and using the Sort command on the Table menu.

Flat file lists in Excel

Excel is a good choice when you want to analyze or organize data in a "flat file" kind of list (a group of rows and columns with similar information, such as names and telephone numbers or clients, products they sell, and weekly sales amounts), or when you're going to do analysis on a small set of numbers.

Format, filter, and sort your number list

Excel is most useful for formatting numbers, such as times and dates, and rounding to decimals, especially for number-intensive lists that require complex calculations. Excel also provides filtering and sorting, whereas Word only provides sorting. Filtering temporarily hides rows that you do not want displayed; for example, you would use this feature to display sales figures only for the Midwest, instead of for all regions. Sorting just rearranges the order of the list.

Organize your text list

While Excel works well with a complex number list, it also allows you to do a text list in a worksheet. For example, if you were listing items in a bibliography, you could make column headings for the elements in each entry (author, title, city of publication, publisher, date). You don't have to worry about having too many characters per cell; the print limit is now 1,024. However, Word has more flexible print layout capabilities if you have strict formatting guidelines, such as for a thesis or project plan.

Relational lists in Access

Access is a good choice if you need full relational database capabilities. A relational database stores information in tables (rows and columns of data) and conducts searches by using data in specified columns of one table to find additional data in another table. You can use a relational database for tracking customer orders or maintaining a music collection.

Manage and secure your list

If the list is fairly large (thousands of rows, dozens of columns), if there is a lot of maintenance (changes and additions), if you want good per-user security for access to the list, and if you want multiple users to be able to work on a list at the same time - a significant benefit to workgroup settings - then Access should be your choice.

Control fields in your list

Access also allows you to control what fields are available with list boxes and provides a visual "form" where you can enter records, but it requires a time investment to build your database.

Feature comparison

Word Excel Access
Automatic bulleting and numbering X    
Complex calculations   X  
Complex relationships     X
Filtering lists   X X
Flexible formatting X X  
Flexible print layouts X    
Multiple users working on a list at the same time     X
Simple calculations X X  
Sorting lists X X X
Text lists X X X

More information

For more information about creating lists, type list or managing lists in the Office Assistant or on the Answer Wizard tab in the Word, Excel, or Access Help window, and then click Search.