This past week I have been beta testing the soon to release, Dabble DB. Dabble DB is a powerful web-based system that lets you store and manage just about any kind of information and share it over the web. The way it works is much like a Database Management System, such as phpMyAdmin, except a whole lot more inviting and user-friendly because of the easy to use structure, beautiful user interface, and the use of terms that the average person can understand. The idea is that you create your own applications storing information the way you want and viewing it the way you want. My first feelings of the service was honestly pretty intimidated but after viewing the LispVan Video and making my first application, I became comfortable and aware of just how powereful Dabble DB can get. Imagine creating an application for just about anything at all. Create your own todo list, bookmark manager, project management system, etc.. You can make it all yourself with Dabble DB. There is a lot to go over, so lets get started!

I was very excited when I received the beta invitation and signed up right away. You signup just like any other service, but you also get your own sub-domain along with it (you.dabbledb.com), so make sure you know what you want to call it first. Once I created my new home at Dabble DB, I was directed to the main Applications page, which will show a list of all your applications. When it is your first time, there will not be any applications, but to get you started, Dabble DB gives you instructions on creating your own and also provides a few pre-made applications that you can choose from. So, lets start off by creating an application. An application can be anything that you want really that involves the storing of information. As you can see, I have created applications for a todo list, bookmarks manager, and a work application to store projects and my work hours. If you know database management, you can picture an application as a new database that you can create tables in and store the information. Except with Dabbled DB a new database is called an Application, tables are Categories, and data are entries. These terms are much more understandable for the average person. After you create your application, you will be asked to create a category. For example, I created an application, Todo, and a category, Tasks. Also note that you can create multiple categories in your application which helps you build a pretty advanced application and definitely increases the capabilities with Dabble DB.

Once you have created an Application and a Category for the application, you now create the structure of it and add entries to it. This is where it gets interesting. Dabble DB makes it very easy for you to create a create a structure for your application that allows you to store the information the way you want. You can add as many fields as you want with up to seven different data types. At default, a field will be set to the data type of plain text, but you can change this once the field is created. You can create fields with data types of text, number, money, date/time, choices (selection list), and also two types for linking to another category or listing of entries in a category (confusing at first). For my todo application, I wanted to store the date, status, priority, project, and finally additional notes. What I liked was that you really aren’t limited to only those data types because each type has secondary options to make it exactly how you want it. For example, the type text allows you to select the amount of lines you need so really it could make a text area. You can also choose if the text type is for a web address, email address, or even street address.

Eventually, once all your fields are created and you start adding entries to your application, you can end up with something similar to the above, which is my Todo application. You will notice that my data is split up in a nice looking table showing me exactly what I need to see how I want to see it. I also have it group tasks by completion so I can easily see what ones are incomplete or completed. This is all possible by what Dabble DB calls, Views. Views are a little difficult to explain, but I will try to explain clearly. You can have a view in the format of a table or calendar. Every field that you store you can easily pull up into a view and show it how you want and where you want it. In the table format, like you see above, I have added the fields I want to see in my view which adds the field as a column in the table. You can then choose to sort and other options on any field by clicking on its heading and selecting from the options available, which you can see in the screenshot. So, for my example, I added all columns and decided to group the status field resulting in a nice organized table splitting up the completed and incompleted tasks. So, in short, a view allows you to show any data that you store in your application in a nice organized structure the way you want to view it.

I also mentioned that you can set a view to a calendar format. Above is an example application that Dabble DB has created that uses a calendar format. The view will automatically place your data on the calendar depending on if you have a date/time field. It will then will show a maximum of five entries on one day and provide a link to view all the rest if there are more then five. The calendar view also allows you to easily add data to any date, browse through months, and skip to specific days.

I also have to mention that you are not limited to one view. You can save as many views as you want under any category. When you hover your mouse over the category name on the top menu, it will drop down a list of your views for it. You can save any view that you create, rename it, perform a “save as” to duplicate it, and of course, remove them. Being able to save views is excellent. For example, for my todo application, not only can I view all my tasks sorted by completion, but I can also view them in a calendar format, sorted by project name in a table, and more all saved how I want making it easy for me to get back to. The views really make it feel like you created an application of your own.

Something that really impressed me with Dabble DB were all the import/export options. You can import any Excel document (xls), Comma Seperated Values (csv), and even vCard formats (vcf). I tested the Excel importing and it worked perfectly. But, what I liked even more were all the options for exporting your data. You can grab an RSS feed for a view of your application, save it as an PDF, CSV, ICAL, HTML, and even OPML. Now that’s a lot of options. Definitely a major plus and especially when you can export any view from any application. So, if you want to make a backup, save it as a CSV because Dabble DB can import that format. I’m not trying to be greedy or anything though, but what about Excel format? Just wondering because you can import it, but you can export to it.

So, lets sum this up. You can create an application, have multiple categories, as much data as you want to store how you want, create views to view data how you want, and even export it in six different formats. That is pretty powerful, but there is more. You can even share your applications with anyone you want. That’s right, these can be collaborative database/applications so anyone can use your application. All you have to do is open your application, go to the sharing options and fill in the email addresses for anyone you want to share with. You can give them access to read and write (manage anything in the application) or just read only (only able to view the application). This is excellent. Working with a team on a project? You can make a project management system. Give employees read and write access and clients read only access. Sure, there are many more examples I can give, but that one seems to explain the possibilities.

That about sums up my review. I didn’t go over everything because there is just way too much to talk about. I suggest taking a look at the LispVan Video so you can see most of it in an easy to follow presentation. Now for my final thoughts on Dabble DB. I liked being able to select the type, Web Address, for text data types. But, I would also like to see that if you have a normal text format and type in a URL, it would auto link it. I can see this useful in todo lists, notes, etc.. Another thing I would love to see is for Number data types that you can insert some form of formulas, like in Excel. I was making an application to organize my working hours and figured, it would be really neat if I can insert a set amount to find the total earned for the hours worked. Then on top of that, calculate a tax estimate out of my earnings for each entry. Other than that, I don’t really have any feature suggestions or problems. I did not come across any errors at all and everything worked very smoothly (very impressed). Another thing that I really loved seeing throughout Dabble DB was the use of undo functionality. For example, if you deleted an entry or removed an application by mistake, just click on the undo link. I haven’t seen this type of functionality used in a web application before and I really found it useful. It is not available at all times though, only when a change is made – which is a good thing, in my opinion.

Dabble DB is currently in Beta and are beginning to pass out invites. So, go signup to the mailing list for the notification. In my opinion, Dabble DB is definitely a service to get excited about.

View Dabble DB.


13 Comments on “A look at Dabble DB”

  1. Library clips :: Dabble your fun! :: December :: 2005 says:

    [...] Library clips

    December 7, 2005

    Dabble your fun!
    Filed under: tools

    Solution Watch has offered a great explanation on his trials of a new yet to be released se [...]

  2. Smallthought » Blog Archive » Ob Buzz says:

    [...] on’t obsessively track every mention of Dabble on the net: There’s a detailed review of Dabble at Brian Benzinger’s Solution Watch. Brian highlights some of our f [...]

  3. tonetheman links » Blog Archive » says:

    [...] “bookmark” title=”Permanent Link: “> dojo – open source javascript toolkit dabble db – a look at ruby not on the rails 101 things you can do with mozilla and not with [...]

  4. IT|Redux » Office 2.0 Directory says:

    [...] I initially started with Zoho Creator, which I had reviewed in the past. I then discovered Lazybase, following a very nice email from its creator, Toby Segaran. But I finally opted for Dabble DB, trusting the advice of my friend Pascal, and having read the excellent review from Brian Benzinger. Going straight to the point, Dabble DB is the most amazing Office 2.0 application that I have ever seen. [...]

  5. Lazybase - Instant Online Databases » Solution Watch says:

    [...] Seeing services with the aim of simple database creation online has always struck my interest. Maybe it is because I work with databases everyday, or maybe just because I find them very useful. I have reviewed Dabble DB (very powerful), TracksLife (simple and more personal), tested ZohoCreator, and now there is a new online database service called Lazybase, that is so simple, it only takes a few clicks to get going. What I like about Lazybase is that its uses are endless and just about anyone can use it. It’s not better then Dabble DB and probably isn’t too good of an option if your looking to store sensative information, but it’s aim wasn’t meant to be. It’s aim was allow anyone to go to Lazyweb, instantly create a database by just entering a name, and record data for whatever you may need, whether it be for recording notes, saving a database of members, or maybe even for simple recording of expenses. What’s more is that you can share them with anyone, stick them on your website, subscribe to RSS feeds, and my favorite feature, creating custom bookmarklets to instantly save data on the go. For the most part, it works great, but there are a few things here and there that could use some work. Lets take a look. [...]

  6. Patrick Cormier says:

    Thanks for the detailed review! Have you found out if it is possible to include Dabble DB data entry forms and views on other web sites, similar to what ZohoCreator offers?

  7. gabinetedeinformatica.net » Dabble db, el principio del interface db en la web 2.0 says:

    [...] Puede sustituir los procesos básicos en una BD, diseño de tablas, formulario de gestión de datos, filtrado tanto por categoria como por el valor del campo, agrupación de campos, aunque parece más visual que efectivo. En principio funciona con el formato de hojas de calculo a la hora de la importación con un método pedestre de copia y pega, pero funciona. Lo que hecho de menos es que haya conectores a las verdaderas BD hechas en MySQL, Oracle, Access, etc. Con ello lo que quiero decir es que falta hacer sustituciones masivas en determinados campos o bases de datos. Creo que sería sencillo poder integrar y aplicar comandos SQL e incluso algún conector a la susodicha BD para hacer conectividad externa. Quizá este dando otra visión de la aplicación, ya que no es un gestor de BD plenamente por que le falta esto que comento. Pero tiene el aspecto de moda: lo social. Se puede compartir las aplicaciones creadas con otros usuarios dependiendo del plan que se elija: Personal (no se puede compartir), Basic (5 usuarios, 25$/mes), WorkGroup (15 usuarios y 25 aplicaciones, 50$/mes) y el Company (60 usuarios y 100 aplicaciones, 150$/mes). Esta apliación promete, para empezar está bien, solo funciona para probarla por medio de invitación de la empresa. Si alguien quiere probarla me queda un par de invitaciones antes de que se acabe el mes . Pero con la condición de que comente su experiencia aquí en unas líneas. También han hablado de esta aplición web: Diego+, econectados, Bicubic, Solution Watch (inglés) y OakLeaf Systems (inglés). Enlaces relacionados: Dabble db   [...]

  8. Dabble DB Launched » Solution Watch says:

    [...] A look at Dabble DBThis past week I have been beta testing the soon to release, Dabble DB. Dabble DB is a powerful web-based system that lets you store…Google Base is now liveGoogle Base has finally launched and is ready to help you let the world find your content. You can store pretty much anything (free) from…Lazybase – Instant Online DatabasesSeeing services with the aim of simple database creation online has always struck my interest. Maybe it is because I work with databases everyday, or… [...]

  9. Ganduri si idei » Tech realated says:

    [...] DabbleDB a fost lansat. Ce este dabbleDB? Probabil ei explica cel mai bine: "Dabble DB combines the best of group spreadsheets, custom databases, and intranet web applications into a new way to manage and share your information on the web.". Un review aici. [...]

  10. Telcotrash says:

    Stealth Start-ups, Part I of III…

    Well, and then again maybe not so stealth as some of them have been around for quite a while by now (some of them since 2005). At the recent Under The Radar Conference in June, some 32 companies presented. Here’s…

  11. Ross Parker says:

    Good review, thanks. I have just been messing about with Dabble. It is good as far as it goes – but I’d like to see you be able to build a full application on top of it, building in remote data-entry and views. Without this, it’s just a snazzy online version of Access.

  12. Eric says:

    Eric…

    The term is used colloquially for any kind of Linkback.It has since been implemented in most other blogging tools. This enables authors…

  13. Internet Website Design says:

    is there a Mac version? This is perfect for me as I need an online/virtual planner.