Fork me on GitHub


This cookbook will attempt to familiarize the reader with the various nooks and crannies of the Jackcess 2.x API. The API is large due to the large feature-set that an Access Database provides, so this cookbook will by no means be exhaustive. However, this will hopefully give the reader enough useful building blocks such that the rest of the API can be discovered and utilized as necessary.

This cookbook is a cross between a tutorial and a reference, so the reader should be able to skip to relevant sections without needing to read the entire preceding text.

While this cookbook strives to present best practices for both the Jackcess API and Java programming in general, at times, the code may be trimmed for the sake of brevity. For the same reason, pseudo-code may be used in places where the actual code is not relevant to the example.

The Basics

Opening an existing Database

So you have an Access Database and you want to do something with it. You want to use Java, and you may not even be running on Windows (or you tried the JDBC/ODBC bridge and it failed miserably). Through some Google-fu, you landed here at the Jackcess project. Now what?

Well, the first thing you need to do is open the database. The entry point class in the Jackcess API is, surprisingly enough, the Database class.

  Database db = File("mydb.mdb"));

That's it, now you have a Database instance (maybe this isn't that difficult after all).

Important note, always make sure you close a Database instance when you are finished with it (preferably in a finally block like any other important resource). Failure to close the Database instance could result in data loss or database corruption.

Reading a Table

Okay, so you have a Database instance, now what? Since pretty much everything in an Access database lives in a table, grabbing a Table would be the logical next step.

  Table table = db.getTable("Test");

Where's the data? While a Cursor is the best way to interact with the data in a Table, for the sake of simplicity when just getting started, we will use the simplified iteration provided by the Table class itself. When reading row data, it is generally provided as a Row where the keys are the column names and the values are the strongly typed column values.

  for(Row row : table) {
    System.out.prinln("Look ma, a row: " + row);

So, what's in a row? Well, let's assume your "Test" table is defined in the following way in Access:

Field Name Data Type
ID AutoNumber (Long Integer)
Name Text
Salary Currency
StartDate Date/Time

Then, given a row of data, we could inspect the various Columns and their values like so:

  Row row = ...;
  for(Column column : table.getColumns()) {
    String columnName = column.getName();
    Object value = row.get(columnName);
    System.out.println("Column " + columnName + "(" + column.getType() + "): "
                       + value + " (" + value.getClass() + ")");

  // Example Output:
  // Column ID(LONG): 27 (java.lang.Integer)
  // Column Name(TEXT): Bob Smith (java.lang.String)
  // Column Salary(MONEY): 50000.00 (java.math.BigDecimal)
  // Column StartDate(SHORT_DATE_TIME): Mon Jan 05 09:00:00 EDT 2010 (java.util.Date)

As you can see in this example (and as previously mentioned), the row values are strongly typed Java objects. In Jackcess, the column types are represented by a Java enum named DataType. The DataType javadoc details the Java types used to return row values as well as the value types which are acceptable inputs for new rows (more on this later). One other thing to note in this example is that the column names in the row Map are case sensitive strings (although other parts of the API strive to mimic Access's love of case-insensitivity).

Adding a Row

Awesome, so now we can read what's already there. Of course, lots of tools can do that. Now we want to write some data.

The main hurdle to writing data is figuring out how to get the data in the right columns. The primary method for adding a row to a Table is the addRow(Object...) method. This method should be called with the appropriate, strongly typed Java object values in the order of the Columns of the Table. The order of the Columns on the Table instance may not be the same as the display order of the columns in Access. (Re-read those last two sentences again, as it will save you a lot of grief moving forward).

Additionally, when adding rows, we never provide a value for any "auto" columns. You can provide a value (any value in fact), but it will be ignored (in the example below, we use a useful constant which makes the intent clear to any future developer).

So, assuming that the order of the Columns on the Table instance is "ID", "Name", "Salary", and "StartDate", this is how we would add a row to the "Test" table:

  String name = "bob";
  BigDecimal salary = new BigDecimal("1000.00");
  Date startDate = new Date();

  table.addRow(Column.AUTO_NUMBER, name, salary, startDate);

There you have it, a new row in your Access database.

Starting from Scratch

Creating a new Database

While updating existing content is nice, and necessary, many times we want to create an entire new Database. While Jackcess doesn't support everything you may need when creating a new database, it does support a wide range of functionality, and adds more all the time. (If you started using Jackcess a while ago, you should definitely keep tabs on the release notes, as your knowledge of what is possible may be out of date).

As of version 2.1.5, Jackcess supports:

  • Creating databases for Access all versions 2000-2013
  • Creating columns for all simple data types
  • Creating tables with single-table Indexes
  • Creating tables with (index backed) foreign-key constraints (i.e. relationships with integrity enforcement enabled)

Some notable gaps:

  • Cannot currently create tables with "complex" columns (attachment, multi-value, versioned memo)

As long as your needs fall into the aforementioned constraints (or if you can fake it), then let's get started!

The first thing we need to choose is the desired FileFormat of the new Database. Armed with that information, we can start putting the pieces together using the appropriate builder classes. Notice that the result of creating the new Database is an open Database instance.

  File file = new File("test.mdb");
  Database db = new DatabaseBuilder(file)

Creating a Table

An empty Database isn't very useful, of course, so we probably want to add a Table or two. The following code will create the table that we have used in the above examples. Notice that, like Database creation, the result of the Table creation is an open Table instance.

  Table table = new TableBuilder("Test")
    .addColumn(new ColumnBuilder("ID", DataType.LONG)
    .addColumn(new ColumnBuilder("Name", DataType.TEXT))
    .addColumn(new ColumnBuilder("Salary", DataType.MONEY))
    .addColumn(new ColumnBuilder("StartDate", DataType.SHORT_DATE_TIME))

That is a very simple Table. In the real world, we often need Indexes to speed up lookups and enforce uniqueness constraints. Adding the following to the previous example will make the "ID" column a primary key and enable speedier lookups on the "Name" column.

  // ... new TableBuilder( ...
    .addIndex(new IndexBuilder(IndexBuilder.PRIMARY_KEY_NAME)
    .addIndex(new IndexBuilder("NameIndex")
  // ... .toTable( ...

Don't forget to close the Database when you are finished building it and now you have a fresh, new Database on which to test some more recipes.

Finding Stuff

Cursors, what are they good for?

Actually, a lot! Now that we've covered the basics, let's move into some intermediate level topics. The first and foremost is the use of the Cursor. As mentioned earlier, Cursors are the best way to interact with the data in a Table (beyond trivial data entry). If you are familiar with databases in general, then cursors should be a familiar idea. A Cursor is, in essence, the combination of a Table and a "bookmark" pointing to a Row of data in the Table. The various Cursor operations either move the bookmark around within the Table or provide read/write operations on the current Row. While caching and re-using Cursor instances will provide benefits with respect to both speed and memory, they are "lightweight" enough to be used in an on-demand capacity.

The simplest case involves a normal, un-indexed cursor for a given table. The cursor will traverse the table in no particular row order but it can still be used to find rows where column(s) match specified values. For example...

  Table table = db.getTable("Test");
  Cursor cursor = CursorBuilder.createCursor(table);
  boolean found = cursor.findFirstRow(Collections.singletonMap("ID", 1));
  if (found) {
      System.out.println(String.format("Row found: Name = '%s'.",
  } else {
      System.out.println("No matching row was found.");

...will search for the row where "ID" == 1. Since the cursor does not use an index it will perform the equivalent of a "table scan" while searching.

Cursors can also use an existing index on the table to (1) control the order in which they traverse the table, and (2) find rows faster. Since we defined the "ID" column as our Primary Key we can also perform the above search like this...

  Table table = db.getTable("Test");
  IndexCursor cursor = CursorBuilder.createCursor(table.getPrimaryKeyIndex());
  boolean found = cursor.findFirstRow(Collections.singletonMap("ID", 1));
  // ... proceed as in previous example ...

...or by using the CursorBuilder.findRowByPrimaryKey "convenience method" like this:

  Table table = db.getTable("Test");
  Row row = CursorBuilder.findRowByPrimaryKey(table, 1);
  if (row != null) {
      System.out.println(String.format("Row found: Name = '%s'.",
  } else {
      System.out.println("No matching row was found.");

Either of the two previous approaches will use the Primary Key index to locate the row where "ID" == 1, potentially making it much faster to execute.

As mentioned above, an index-backed cursor will also retrieve rows in index order, so if we wanted to retrieve all of the rows in alphabetical order by "Name" we could use the "NameIndex" index to create a cursor and then iterate through the rows like this:

  Table table = db.getTable("Test");
  IndexCursor cursor = CursorBuilder.createCursor(table.getIndex("NameIndex"));
  for(Row row : cursor) {
    System.out.println(String.format("ID=%d, Name='%s'.",
                                     row.get("ID"), row.get("Name")));

Or, if you wanted to iterate through all of the rows where "Name" == 'bob' you could do:

  Table table = db.getTable("Test");                                                                        
  IndexCursor cursor = CursorBuilder.createCursor(table.getIndex("NameIndex"));                             
  for(Row row : cursor.newEntryIterable("bob")) {
    System.out.println(String.format("ID=%d, Name='%s'.", row.get("ID"), row.get("Name")));