A flat file database is a database that stores data in a plain text file. Each line of the text file holds one record, with fields separated by delimiters, such as commas or tabs. While it uses a simple structure, a flat file database cannot contain multiple tables like a relational database can. Fortunately, most database programs such as Microsoft Access and FileMaker Pro can import flat file databases and use them in a larger relational database.
Flat file is also a type of computer file system that stores all data in a single directory. There are no folders or paths used organize the data. While this is a simple way to store files, a flat file system becomes increasingly inefficient as more data is added. The original Macintosh computer used this kind of file system, creatively called the Macintosh File System (MFS). However, it was soon replaced by the more efficient Hierarchical File System (HFS) that was based on a directory structure.