It's been nearly three years since Bento, an easy-to-use database app for Mac and iOS, joined the digital junkheap. During that time, I hadn't seen anything that can truly replace Bento — until I tinkered with Airtable.
Airtable is a free iOS app that recently received a big upgrade. It has the look and feel of a spreadsheet app, such as Numbers or Excel, but it has a relational database engine as well. (Airtable's Android app is currently in beta, there's a Google Chrome app, and you can use Airtable's website to create and edit your databases.)
New features include the abilities to share records via email, search the database template gallery, and create calendar events from date fields.
So why would you want to use Airtable?
1. It's easy to add images to database entries in Airtable
I recently began shopping for a car. Fairly quickly, I realized I needed to organize all the data I was gathering. So instead of adding the infomation to Excel, I'm using Airtable's car buying template, which lets me add photos I take or get from the Web for each car I consider.
2. Airtable lets you link tables for easy cross-referencing
The whole point of relational databases is the ability to link fields and entries between tables, such as linking a database of car dealers to the database of cars you consider. Cross-referencing lets you easily see all the cars you're interested in from one dealer, for instance.
3. You can collaborate in Airtable
You can easily collaborate on databases with other Airtable users, and your changes automatically sync across devices.
Airtable also has templates for business use, including templates for blog editorial calendars; sales CRM; expense tracking; and PR or media lists. You can create your own databases from scratch, as well.
Airtable may be overkill for some, especially if you prefer the more rigid structure of a spreadsheet. However, I see lots of potential ways to use this app, especially for business, such as creating product catalogs to show prospective customers. And the price is definitely right. The free Airbase plan lets you collaboration with other users and gives you unlimited "bases" (Airtable's name for databases) with up to 1,200 rows each. You can also attach up to 2GB worth of files per database. If you need additional functionality, premium plans start at $12 per user, per month.