Many Pies

Many Pies

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Alternatives to dabbledb

(Update: I've come to a conclusion.)
I'm doing some work in my spare time for a local charity. They are using dabbledb, which has been acquired by twitter. The future is not certain, though they are supporting existing customers and say they will give 60 days notice before they shut it down.

I looked around for alternatives and came across this helpful article - migrating away from dabbledb. It lists a number of alternatives. I'm still investigating the alternatives, but I thought you might find it useful to know what I've found so far.

Zoho Creator
They are the only one I've found to have a specific dabbledb migration tool, which takes the schema and sucks it in. What it can't do is spot which tables link to what, but once you tell it that it brings all the data in. Once you've created your app joining two tables can be done, but not through the interface, you have to resort to the scripting language. Update: you can join tables. However, the fact that it has a scripting language increases its power. If you want to make forms available to non-users you can ask them to do that, it can't be done yourself. (Update: this is a one-off and you can do it with subsequent forms - see comment below.) As you'd expect with a web page, form layout is pretty basic, though you can put fields in a second column. The form editor has drag and drop. Reporting options are varied: you can have lists, grid, chart, calendar, HTML page, as well as pivot table and pivot charts.

"Creator" is one of many applications they offer.

Teamdesk
Teamdesk offer a Dabbledb migration tool, though unless I'm missing something, it's just an import tool that reads in all your CSV data. It's been around for 5 years, which is quite a long time in this business, but is probably a good thing. It looks a little outdated, but is quite capable. When I imported data it didn't recognise data that was a picklist, but by using the move column function you can convert an existing column to a picklist. It was easy to set up relationships between tables. As well as normal data table views you can have summary, chart, calendar and timeline views.

ForeSoft, the company behind Teamdesk, have a small number of other applications.

Infodome
Infodome is Flash-based, so looks a little more swish than the others. The import from dabbledb worked well. You can define table relations through the interface. You don't seem to be able to make forms available to non-users. Forms have free-form layout (probably easy because of Flash) and you can have subforms. It's reporting function allows you to do simple grouping and totalling, as well as just listing things, so less options than the other two.

Infodome is the company's only product.

There were three others that I'm not considering.

Caspio is another Flash-based one, but needs you to host it on your own site, even though you work on designing your database via their site. After I signed up for their trial I was contacted by someone wanting to help me, so that's good customer support. One gripe on the import - it couldn't recognise data types, like dates, by default, and made everything text.

Qrimp looks quite capable, but the company seems quite small. I asked for an account on their demo system and never got one. Although you get two free months (all the others have 14 day trials) you only get that by signing up with your Paypal account.

Intuit Quickbase is an order of magnitude more expensive than the others above.

MyTaskHelper had a lot of features in beta when I first looked, but since then the product seems to have matured - see the discussion below.

It's always hard to evaluate suppliers without having access to their financials. You don't want them to go under, or be too successful like Dabble and get bought out. Zoho boasts a large number of users. I couldn't tell much about the other companies.

Interim Conclusion
I had hoped that writing this would help me decide which to use, but I think I need to try and do more real stuff before I see if it fits what I want. I haven't mentioned features that they mostly or all have - separate applications, users, dashboards, email functions, sample/template applications etc.

The real conclusion is in another post.

14 comments:

Igor Petrushenko said...

Why there is no http://MyTaskHelper.com?

Paul Morriss said...

Too many beta features.

Igor Petrushenko said...

For example? Have you tried any? This 'beta' features works better then alternative features on competitors. Also, please, notice the price and easy-to-use. How you can suggest Zoho for DabbleDB users, do you want to learn dabbledb users to programming? I'm sure they want point-and-click interface as in MTH.

Ruben said...

Hello Paul,

Thanks for mentioning Zoho Creator here. I understand your concerns about making the forms accessible by the non-users. For this, you need to make the Forms public. Well, I understand that, for the first time when you try to make it public, it would ask you to contact support. Zoho Creator team have made these restrictions to prevent hacking. Once they enable access, you need not contact support to make your any other Forms public.

@Igor Petrushenko:

I understand that Zoho Creator uses Script. But, you need script only for complex requirements. If you want to discuss what you will need, send an email to support[a.t]zohocreator[d.o.t]com

Igor Petrushenko said...

Hi, Ruben

Yes, being able to do complex things is great. And most probably it's not possible to achieve without programming. But the thing is that most people don't need such complex things, most users just need it done very easely what is not always possible in Zoho and many features in Zoho moved to scripts when in MyTaskHelper it achieves with several clicks the same as it was in dabbledb. Users from dabbledb don't want to learn scripting language, they moved to online databases for being able to skip programming at all.

Paul Morriss said...

Igor: You seem to have redesigned your site since I last looked, and I can't find the page with a list of features which said which ones were in beta. However it does look like you've been working hard. Seeing as you're listening, perhaps you could tell me how many customers you have? Even if you have the best software, if your company goes out of business then we'd be looking at another alternative, again.

Ruben: thanks for the clarification about making forms public, I'll update the post.

However I wouldn't consider linking tables as something complex, as the other systems do it through the interface.

Igor Petrushenko said...

Hi, Paul

I glad to hear you took a loot at MTH again and I'm happy you seeing the progress. I'm not sure about which list of features you are talking about, but it really doesn't matter. Any feature will work or not work, you'll like it or no. So it's only up to you or any other user to consider how they like our functionality. And I can say for sure that we have something different from all of these competitors, because we trying to make it super easy top use, provide best support and price. However,
we keep working on our system and will introduce more and more very soon.

Regarding number of users, we have up to 20k at http://MyTaskHelper.com, but we have even more up to 50k at http://MyTaskHelper.ru I'm not sure if it helps you, but I'm sure that the number of users is not the main thing you should take a look on. It can has one user, but works the best for you and you'll use it instead of system who has million users. And only such users we looking for, who will really love our software the same as we love it.


Please, let me know if you have any other questions or suggestions.

Anonymous said...

We've gone with QuickBase - yes more expensive, but you want a company to be around in 5 years, not 5 months

Ruben said...

Hey Paul,

Thanks for updating the post. We understand your point. Our relationship works in a different way. We do not show click able links after you linked the Forms. Instead, we let you combine the tables and display them all in one place. https://help.creator.zoho.com/Create-a-Combined-View.html

The advantage of using Zoho Creator is that, we have multiple services which include CRM, Reports, Calendar, Invoice and so on. We are working on the tight integration between these services. We have started our initial integrations with CRM, Reports, Calendar and Invoice. More integrations to come.. And more features are coming along..

We are in business since 1996 (Zoho Corporation) and Zoho Creator was founded in 2005. We do not take any venture capital. (See our CEO's post at http://blogs.zoho.com/general/why-we-haven-t-taken-venture-capital ).

Maybe you can talk to me about this over the telephone. If you are interested, please send your telephone number to support[a.t]zohocreator[d.o.t]com. I will be happy to talk to you.

@Igor: Ah, I didn't know that you represent MTH. I have not played with your product. So, I cannot comment on that. Hope you get more users. Have you ever contacted Dabble DB guys? Seems like their servers are down for the past few days.

Igor Petrushenko said...

Hi,

By the way, in MTH we showing clickable links between related records. I'm sure dabbledb users will find it useful.

MTH started in 2005 also, but available for public 3 years, it's more then 5 months :) so I wouldn't say we have 'many beta functions'. Maybe you think so because system changed look & feel very much. But this is only usability improvement and not introducing beta features or defects. We do not have beta functions, beta things first works some time on stage servers and very well tested on http://MyTaskHelper.ru

Yes, we trying to contact dabbledb guys and we are ready to help in any way we can.

Thanks!

online said...

Word of caution and some updates:

- Zoho Creator is a good product if you don't need support. Try their support to know what I mean.

- Caspio has a special offer for Dabble users. Not sure where it is posted. Just ask their sales people. My import experience was smooth. Date data type was certainly on the list. Their interface is AJAX and is also accessible on iPAD. The ability to deploy the app on your own site is a nice feature.

- InfoDome as a product is OK, but seems like the company is a one man show. Make sure you are not abandoned the second time around.

Paul Morriss said...

Thanks for the info, Ruben and "online". I've updated my paragraph on Zoho and joins.

Kazak said...

Hey Paul,

Any updates on this topic? -- Dabbledb replacement, that is.

Thanks,
~John

Paul Morriss said...

I've rejected Zoho because it can't do child forms, I'm continuing to evaluate the others.