My experiences helping people manage their data has repeatedly shown that databases are poorly understood. This is well illustrated by the rampant abuses of spreadsheets for recording, manipulating, and analysing data.

Most people realise that they should be using a database, the real issue is the difficulty of creating a proper database. This is a legitimate challenge. Typically, you need to carefully consider all of the categories of data and their relationships when creating the database, which makes the upfront costs quite significant. Why not just start throwing data into a spreadsheet and worry about it later?

I think that DabbleDB can solve this problem. A great strength of Dabble –- and the source of its name — is that you can start with a simple spreadsheet of data and progressively convert it to a database as you begin to better understand the data and your requirements.

Dabble also has a host of great features for working with data. I’ll illustrate this with a database I created recently when we were looking for a new home. This is a daunting challenge. We looked at dozens of houses each with unique pros and cons in different neighbourhoods and with different price ranges. I certainly couldn’t keep track of them all.

I started with a simple list of addresses for consideration. This was easily imported into Dabble and immediately became useful. Dabble can export to Google Earth, so I could quickly have an overview of the properties and their proximity to amenities like transit stops and parks. Next, I added in a field for asking price and MLS url which were also exported to Google Earth. Including price gave a good sense of how costs varied with location, while the url meant I could quickly view the entire listing for a property.

Next, we started scheduling appointments to view properties. Adding this to Dabble immediately created a calendar view. Better yet, Dabble can export this view as an iCal file to add into a calendaring program.

Once we started viewing homes, we began to understand what we really were looking for in terms of features. So, add these to Dabble and then start grouping, searching, and sorting by these attributes.

All of this would have been incredibly challenging without Dabble. No doubt, I would have simply used a spreadsheet and missed out on the rich functionality of a database.

Dabble really is worth a look. The best way to start is to watch the seven minute demo and then review some of the great screencasts.