I'm looking for something that can store, manage and display a fairly simple set of data and their relations. But since these are n:m relations, obvious solutions like Excel don't work well. What I have:

  • data sets A, B and C
  • n:m relations between A-B and B-C
  • just a few columns for each data set

The most important part here is the relations. I'm looking for 3 lists, obviously, and then a display where if I select an entry from set A, it will show me the related entries in set B, for example. (or it could show them inline in the table, like a set of tags).

Regular users must be able to use it, and at best it's Free Software. I'm ok with having to write a bit of code to make it all work. It can be web-based or an application. In that case it would be great if it were multi-platform (Windows, macOS, Linux).

I've looked at a number of possibilities, such as airtables, NocoDB, Kexi, Symphytum and none of them look like they will give me what I need without considerable work. I'm thinking that maybe a graph database frontend would be best.

2 Answers 2


You've mentioned Excel. So I assume you are a MS Office user, on a Windows or Mac.

Traditionally, MS Access used to be the tool from the MS Office Suite for doing what you are asking for. Access has a "Design View" for Querydefs (= persistent SQL Query definitions, or "bookmarked queries"), where you can visualize relationships between tables. You can also manage them, e.g. set constraints.

You need to know a bit about Relational Database Theory to use it productively.

MS Access is of course not free, it has been a bit neglected over the years in favor of MS SQL Server. But Access used to be a good product, esp. for small desktop databases. It does not have a web-based frontend though.

  • I thought about Access, but your last paragraph is the thing. I've used FileMaker a bit as well and it could do that - but both require that I spend considerable time developing an application for something that's a pretty simple use-case. I'm hoping there is something else that's much closer to my goal.
    – Tom
    Apr 15, 2022 at 9:40

Do you need a multiuser editing capabilities?

If not, looks like TiddlyWiki could fill your requirements.

It is web based free and open source, but doesn't rely on clouds, internet connections or third parties.

It may be installed locally in a node.js server, or distributed as single file web application or static flat files.

It has a builtin non hierarchical tagging system which naturally allows establishing many to many relationships in a graph structure. It's native filtering syntax allows writing expressions akin to queries that display sub selections of data based or rules.

Using display templates you can draw lists, tables or any complex form of data presentation based on custom fields and tags. These can be integrated in views for elements from tables, or saved as new pages that show pre-established list of relevant items.

  • Thanks. I've thought about a Wiki as a solution as well, but my experience with Wikis tells me that they are a lot less non-techie-user friendly than we assume.
    – Tom
    Jan 9 at 8:18

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