One reason we think Dabble DB is a good way to build a database is the way it allows you to make incremental changes to the database. You can start simple and build your way up to complexity rather than having to plan it all in advance.
This philosophy extends to the way we’ve developed Dabble DB itself. As we move ahead, we’re always looking for areas where we can make incremental improvements to the user experience and feature set. There will never be a Dabble DB 1.5 or Dabble DB CS 2008 Extended Edition that requires an upgrade disc and installation instructions. When we change things, we aim above all to avoid disruption. (Our version of disruption is telling you that we’re upgrading you, which is a screen our users have come to see with regularity.)
With that in mind, I’m happy to report on a few areas where we have recently improved and extended Dabble DB.
When we added formulas to Dabble, we made it possible to add, subtract, multiply and divide columns of numbers. We’ve now extended this to let you do formulas with constant numbers — arbitrary numbers independent of your data. One example use of this is adding sales tax to prices: simply multiply a column of product prices by 1.07 to figure out each price with 7% tax included. Then, when the government changes the tax rate to 6%, you can quickly change the constant number to 1.06 — or even add a second constant to compare the difference. We’ve prepared a video on the help page to demonstrate how it works.
There are lots of ways of adding filters to a view. One fast way that we felt wasn’t obvious enough is to simply type “field: value” (e.g. “Last name: Andrews”). We’ve changed the filter box so that it now pops up matching fields as you type. By the time you type the “s” in “Last name”, Dabble will notice and offer to let you filter that field (or any other similarly named one) with a click of the mouse. We’ve also improved global searches (across a database) to make search results more useful when they include multiple categories.
One of the pains everyone deals with during database construction is data input. How do you get the goods in to start, and then how do you keep them fresh later? To that end, we’ve spent a good deal of time making our import process more robust. More notably, we’ve added scheduled imports. That means you can set up an import from a web site (including an RSS feed) and then tell Dabble DB to fetch the data on a regular basis. You can set imports to occur monthly, weekly, daily, or even hourly to match the speed at which your data changes. Overall it should be much easier now to maintain a link between your Dabble DB application and an external data source.
We hope these improvements add even more incentive to put your data into Dabble. If you’re still not convinced though, we’ve got more plans for the months ahead. Stay tuned.