Bringing you the power of personal databases and the simplicity and usability of note taking apps.
I’m fond of organising my personal life, career, and businesses into lists. In my early days, I kept my lists on a simple notes app. That was fine as long as the items on the lists did not require any structure (e.g. things to bring, groceries shopping lists, names of people attending my party). But as my need to collect data got more complex, simple unstructured lists became increasingly inadequate. For example, I needed to record multiple associated attributes with each item on my lists. Sometimes, I needed to sort them according to the attributes. Or my lists became so big that I needed a way to search within my lists. In other words, I needed a way to organise structured lists.
Using a full-fledge database system like FileMaker or Microsoft Access was an overkill for my problem. They are powerful indeed, and can solve complex problems. But my problem was not that complex. A database system solution takes time to design, build and test. At the very least, they require a full-fledge computer to run. Some database system requires a server computer at the back-end. So, I ruled out powerful solutions like FileMaker, Microsoft Access and Oracle for this simple problem.
The most natural solution for this problem was a simple spreadsheet. Each list item resided on each row in the spreadsheet. Each column represented an attribute of each item. I could define the data type of each cell according to type of information to be collected (e.g. number, date, text). I could sort my lists and add headers to make my lists pretty.
But still, a simple spreadsheet was not ideal. Often, the need to collect data came up unexpectedly and I could not always have my laptop computer with me all the time. Entering data on a spreadsheet on a hand-held device was slow, awkward and inconvenient. It required scrolling up, down, left and right. That, however, wasn’t the biggest drawback. Spreadsheets are great for data that can be represented by text. It cannot store non-textual data on each cell (e.g. photos, videos, free-form drawing, maps, audio-recording).
So, I needed a better solution.
Finally, I found Boximize. This app is a structured note taking app that brings you the power of an iPhone database app and the simplicity and usability of an iPhone note taking app. With more than 20 different types of data, you can form your perfect structured note. Most importantly, it can store non-textual data that a conventional spreadsheet can’t:
- Multiple selection choices
- Photos and videos
- Maps (i.e. locations)
- Sketches and handwritten notes
- Voice notes and audio recordings
- Lists of items (i.e. lists within lists!)
Furthermore, its user interface allows you to enter the following data much quicker and easier than a conventional spreadsheet:
- Value Range (using a slider)
- Stop-watch (a stop-watch functionality is built into the app so that you don’t need a physical stop-watch or switch apps)
Of course, you can enter textual data that a spreadsheet can also:
- Web addresses
- Phone numbers
- Paragraphs of texts
The app comes with dozens of pre-defined database templates:
- Diet Log
- Demo Fields
- Time Billing
- Home Inventory
- Exercise Log
- Car Maintenance
- Student List
- Member List
- Products for Sale
- Issue Tracking
- Items Sold
- Movie Collection
- Task Assignments
- Audio Notes
- Member cards
- Business Cards
Setting up and defining a database is very quick and easy, even faster than setting up a spreadsheet. You can sort your items and do a lightning fast search. And if your database is confidential, you can easily set up a PIN code for your entire app. You can export your entire database into a visually attractive PDF file or a spreadsheet-friendly CSV format.
You can also easily back up all your database and export it to DropBox or email it to yourself. You can even export your backup via AirDrop into another iOS device that has Boximize installed. To restore the entire database, all you need to do is to open the exported file with Boximize and follow the prompts. In the case of AirDrop, Boximize will open automatically. You can also AirDrop the backup file to a Mac. If you are adventurous, you can rename the backup file into a ZIP file, extract its contents into a separate folder and look inside.
I love Boximize. But it is not perfect:
- For example, a conventional spreadsheet can do calculations whereas Boximize can’t. It is strictly for storing data.
- A spreadsheet allows other people to view and edit via the cloud (e.g. Google Spreadsheet, Office 365, Box, DropBox). Currently, Boximize is strictly personal. However, Boximize promised that collaborative features will be coming soon in later releases.
- Currently, Boximize is not able to sync your databases with all your other iOS devices. This is another promised feature to be released in the future.
Overall, I think Boximize is a slick, modern and easy-to-use app. Notwithstanding its imperfections, I’ll still recommend it because it is a very powerful organising tool. Download Boximize here now!