iDatabase 2.3 review: A no-frills database for the Mac
By Jeffery Battersby
At a glance
Apimac’s iDatabase 2.3 is a basic flatfile database application that offers 22 templates and 14 different field data options for handling a variety of data types. While it doesn’t go deep in terms of features, iDatabase does offer enough in the way of basics that it may fill your low-end database needs.
iDatabase is an app that, like the discontinued Bento, uses a single window for creating, editing, and managing your databases. At the top of the window are three tabs titled Open, Use, and Define. The Open tab is used to create new databases, Use opens the database you’ve selected in the Open tab for editing, and Define is used to update, add, or remove database fields.
When creating a new database, iDatabase offers the option of starting from a pre-defined template or from scratch using a blank file. Among the included templates are forms for book and CD collections, class lists, computer inventories, and exercise logs. All of the the templates provide a good foundation for creating databases that suit your specific needs, but as they are they lack necessary fields and need further configuration to be truly useful. For example, if you use the built-in movie database you’ll notice that, among other things, it is missing pick lists for movie genre and lacks a release date field. These are easy enough to add to the template and once you’ve made these changes you can use your updated database as the basis for a new template. But, out of the box, the templates that ship with the app are not complete enough to be useful.
iDatabase offers 14 field types for handling the different types of data you may want to enter. Small Text fields offer a single line of text you can use to enter something like a name, address, city, or state. Large Text fields handle an unlimited amount of text, which you can use for notes or other multi-line text. Calculation Fields take the data entered into two Number fields and perform a basic calculation using the data in those fields. Password Fields offer a way to hide and secure the data you enter and, if you secure all your databases with a password, can require the entry of that password before someone is allowed to view or copy the information stored in the field. While all the fields handled the data they were designed to, I found the calculation field to be limited, only offering options for basic math. Also, iDatabase’s media field only allows for image files, not video or audio files—a limitation that makes the field less useful than it should be.
When it comes to making changes to your forms iDatabase offers little in the way of customization. You can move fields up or down on the form, but it’s not possible to put fields side by side. iDatabase also makes the first field you create a key field, which means it must appear as the first field on your form. It’s possible to make a different field the key field after the fact, but because this field must be the first field it limits how you can place fields on the form.
I found some oddities when naming my databases files. When creating a new database I named it using a forward slash in the name—Classes 2013/14—then clicked the Create button. The app didn’t create the new database and it didn’t give me any error messages. A little digging revealed that iDatabase couldn’t handle the slash in the file name. To be fair, the / character is used in the UNIX underpinnings of the Mac OS to designate a directory switch, but it wasn’t obvious that this was the reason iDatabase couldn’t create the new file. A simple message stating that a slash character isn’t allowed would have eliminated my initial confusion and offered a solution.
Printing is the final sore point for iDatabase. The app does offer printing options but they’re not all that useful. You can either print the form view for each of your records, which, depending on the size of your database, could be a rather large print job, or you can print the list view of your records. Unfortunately the list view offers no customization options and, oddly, it prints from the bottom of the page up rather than from the top down.
If your needs are basic, iDatabase offers a good way of creating personalized databases and collecting the information you want, but it doesn’t go deep enough. Limited customization and poor printing options make iDatabase little more than a way of collecting digital records of your data.