I'm seeking a relational database type software. I am studying nutrition support for disease so I need to document concepts such as disease, symptoms, diagnostics, substances, drug interactions, etc. with all cross referenced to appropriate relationships. For instance, I may have data on a disease (Scurvy) which is vitamin C deficiency; so Scurvy would have a link/relationship to vitamin C. Vitamin C may have a link to Drug Interactions. Thus if I was performing a lookup on that drug, I might find that the drug causes a decrease in the levels of vitamin C which might manifest as Scurvy. Also from vitamin C I would find links/relationship to food sources of vitamin C or specific vitamin companies that carried vitamin C. I may have started this entire look-up because I was looking into the symptoms of a patient that presented with bleeding gums which linked to Scurvy and Vitamin C; along with other possibilities for the symptom of bleeding gums; and maybe then a link to dental procedures, ad infinitum.

I want to spend time studying, not building a database. Most of my searches for software end up at CRM programs. I could probably use MS Access but have never found Access to work intuitively for me. I'm willing to put in a reasonable amount of time learning the software but I am trying to avoid working through the initial learning curve only to realize it is not the product I need.


  • 2
    please can you explain what you mean by "with all cross referenced to appropriate relationships" perhaps with an example (best to edit your question)
    – Jon Scott
    Commented Nov 3, 2017 at 15:56
  • Can you code? If so, the standards would be MySql or Sqlite
    – Mawg
    Commented Nov 4, 2017 at 11:39
  • 4D.com Commented Nov 6, 2017 at 4:24

5 Answers 5


I think Airtable can be a very good solution for you.

It is a very easy solution to create tables with the minimum of knowledge and, at the same time, it gives you a very versatile tool.

Also you can share your work with coworkers, and it is free.


The approach I would take is to use google docs with an addon such as http://collavate.blogspot.co.uk/2016/04/tagging-within-google-docs.html

that way you can collect all of your data inside your google drive as any kind of document, spreadsheet etc and then add tags such as "vitamin c" or "scurvy" to each document.

you can then easily search for one or more tags and retrieve all related documents with those tags.


Your knowledge base sounds like something that could be based on a lightweight wiki to me, rather than a relational database, because it involves all manner of links to topics that don't belong in tables with similar headings. Picking one is a matter of personal taste. The one I use is the zim desktop wiki. There was no coding to learn. Items of information can be linked on the fly, and it's quite easy to produce neat, readable bits of text if you want that.


I think that Knack is one of the simplest and most intuitive programs for this use I've come across, and I did a lot of research on this topic recently.


Only downside is the cost - $80/month - but you gotta pay to have them take off the learning aspect of database management for you to focus on your work. I think it could be worth it in the right case, for sure.


Do we have an "XY problem" here? From the use case described by OP, I have a difficult time seeing how a relational database could be easily set up to accommodate the sorts of enquiries given as examples—and yet, "I want to spend time studying, not building a database" (OP)! But the question is about building a very complex database to permit queries and explore and display connections that have not been anticipated.....

There is a solution for exploring unanticipated connections, and that is the (in)famous "Zettelkasten" method. A web search will bring up oodles of information about this approach and tools available in order to use it. Two possibilities (there are others):

  1. Zettlr – a sophisticated markdown editor with built-in Zettelkasten features; or
  2. Zkn3 – a dedicated Zettelkasten app


  • both are fully cross-platform (Windows, OSX, Linux)
  • both are FOSS, GNU GPL v3 licensed

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