Well, this has been a busy week. Earlier (Tuesday) in the week I declared that personal databases on the Mac were all but dead (here and here). Most traditional database apps have become behemoths or died off.
Apple’s FileMaker Pro is still around, but the Bento personal database for Mac, iPhone, and iPad is mostly dead and gone. Why? Databases are difficult to build for personal use. Well, a few Mac users pointed out that Mac, iPhone, and iPad users still have personal database choices. Here’s a good one.
It Ain’t dBase II
My earliest foray into database development began with the once proud and powerful dBase II running on a noisy, large, and expensive CP/M machine which also doubled as a personal computer of sorts.
When booted up, dBase II stared back at you from the green screens of the day with nothing more than a little green dot. Everything was command line back then so comparing a personal database from the 20th century to the likes of Tap Forms today is totally night and day.
Tap Forms? Yes, this is the 21st century equivalent to a Mac (and iPhone and iPad) personal database; in other words, a database where you do some of the development work to organize your data, rather than relying upon a pre-built, generically designed database where one size fits all.
Tap Forms is a personal data organizer. As in a true personal database, including Bento, you have the option to create a custom layout design (in the Mac version), the entry forms, with ease, and build in up to 20 different field types.
To get you started there are a few dozen included forms, basically database templates, for financial accounts, credit cards, email account lists, health insurance information, and much much more.
Each can be used as is or customized to match your personal database requirements. Tap Forms even comes with a way to import Bento databases.
In many respects Tap Forms is better than FileMaker’s Bento. It’s more customizable and secure but has fewer templates (forms) to get started (Bento’s template community was extensive, but many can be used in Tap Forms on the Mac by using the import function).
The app comes with AES-256 bit encryption for both field-level and full database encryption. Data files can be imported and exported with ease, and it even features barcode scanning built in which is a boon to anyone doing an inventory (using EAN-13, UPC-A, UPC-E, EAN-8, Code 128, Code 39 and QR Codes).
Just to show you how advanced Tap Forms has moved the personal database into the 21st century, it comes with built-in web and FTP transfer capability so you’re not stuck with keeping database files on your Mac, iCloud, or Dropbox (but not full Dropbox support yet). Database backups, though, work on and between Mac, iPhone, and iPad versions (separate version for each).
Tap Forms is not the least expensive personal database you’ll find, but it works well on OS X and iOS devices, has enough forms (templates) to get you started, and it’s a good way to learn how databases work while using it. This one is nicely done, looks great on Mac, iPhone, and iPad, and proves that while we have fewer personal database apps to sink our teeth into, a customizable database can be useful even in the 21st century.