There are many reasons to create a personal database, and even more tools that can help you do just this. The problem, however, is that most of these apps have been built with big business in mind, and therefore can be overwhelming to the average user. Enter Records for Mac
, a brand-new $50 Mac App Store offering looking to solve this exact problem. Sporting a WYSIWYG design philosophy, a range of configurable form fields, and full text searching, Records looks like a great solution on paper, but how does it hold up in real world usage?
Records' interface is broken up into four main sections, featuring three toolbars surrounding a blank space that acts as the core of the database. Starting on the left, you will find a list of all created databases, while the top bar offers controls for managing entries, and the right toolbar holds all of the different data types you can integrate into your database.
By default, a new database will have a green background, however, this can be changed by selecting from one of the six included themes. We feel that "theme" might be a strong word, as it really only changes the background color from green to either blue, gray, purple, white, or yellow, but we appreciated the option, nonetheless. Surely everyone will have their own preference in this regard, but personally we gravitated towards the simple white option.
Before entering any data into your new database, you will first need to build a form to hold all of the information. This is done by selecting data fields, such as text, dates, images, and check boxes, from the right toolbar and then simply dragging them into the central workspace. After adding an item to the form, it can be freely repositioned and resized to suit your needs. For the more OCD-minded like ourselves, the app uses an invisible grid to help line up all of the different data fields. This WYSIWYG approach makes form creation extremely easy, allowing anyone to put together a form that can hold all of the necessary information in no time.
Once you are happy with the layout of your form, a lock button found in the top toolbar can be used to prevent any further changes. This is not a necessary step, but one we would recommend before you begin to enter data. From this point forward, entering data is simply a process of filling out your created form. Data is saved automatically as it as added, while the Add New Record button at the top of the app lets you create new entries. If at any point you decide your database is missing an important bit of information, the form can simply be unlocked and edited without compromising any existing data. The new field will automatically be added to any existing records, meaning all you have to do from this point is go back through each entry and add the new data.
Now comes one of the most important features for a database management app: searching. As your database grows, it can quickly become frustrating to find specific entires by flipping through one at a time. Thankfully, Records features a fairly robust search feature that helps solve this dilemma.
Search is activated by pressing the search button in the top toolbar, or alternatively by hitting the keyboard shortcut (Command + F), which brings up a small text window, reminiscent of Apple's Spotlight search. As text is entered, any matching results are displayed and updated live, letting you quickly jump to anything that matches. Search results in our testing were always quick and accurate, though we can't help but wish there was some implementation of filtering built into search.
For example, in one situation we hoped to use our Movies database to help create a list of the movies we purchased in 2015. A good starting point for this process would have been to perform a search for all entries with a purchase date in the year 2015. While this can be done with the existing search feature, the results window merely returns a list of date fields that contain the string "2015." We could then click through each entry and build out a list this way, but this would be a rather time-consuming process that could be simplified with a method of filtering.
This minor complaint aside, we were really impressed with what Records
has to offer. The software is dead simple to use, and opens up the world of databasing to a much less experienced user group. Records has certainly taken notes from big players in this market, such as FileMaker and Access, but has managed to whittle down the features to a much more manageable set.
Who is Records for:
Anyone looking for a simple tool for cataloging information.
Who is Records not for:
Anyone looking for a more complete database tool with advanced searching capabilities.
Until February 24, enter to win
one of five copies of Records!