Easy open-source database building software?
January 13, 2015 10:15 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for an easy-to-use, robust, free, cross-platform open source database building tool.

I often want to build a quick database - to track the books I've read, the movies I want to see, my favorite threads on Metafilter, etc.

I thought OpenOffice Base would be perfect for this, but the difficulty of getting the right version of Java installed on different platforms (especially various flavors of OS X) has just left me frustrated.

I could easily build something like this with Drupal, but I want something standalone, not something that requires a LAMP stack.

I'm sure I could learn how to build it using Python if I had the time. But I don't want to spend 6 months learning how to build and compile a cross-platform app; I just want a builder that lets me build all the databases I can come up with, quickly and easily.

(If all else fails, I MIGHT turn to Livecode, but even that seems like more coding and building than I want to do.)

So, ideally:

* free and open source
* stand-alone (no cloud, no web)
* easy to use
* cross-platform (OS X at a minimum, but including Windows and Linux would be better, and syncing with iOS would be great)
* no Java

Does a cross-platform database manager exist, or am I stuck doing this in spreadsheets?

posted by kristi to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

Sorry, wasn't clear - sqlite files are portable (put in Dropbox, etc.) and won't give you any installation issues.
posted by michaelh at 10:29 AM on January 13, 2015

I haven't tried it myself, but GCstar looks like it meets your requirements. Hmm, except that the Mac version requires X11, and I'm not sure whether it will work in the latest versions of Mac OS X.
posted by mbrubeck at 10:34 AM on January 13, 2015

And I know you said no web and FOSS, but http://airtable.com is great. I recommend it often.
posted by michaelh at 10:42 AM on January 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

And I know you said no web and FOSS, but http://airtable.com is great. I recommend it often.

It appears to be in private beta (no sign-ups).
posted by a lungful of dragon at 11:02 AM on January 13, 2015

You get in pretty quickly, though I admittedly haven't referred anyone for a couple months.
posted by michaelh at 11:08 AM on January 13, 2015

What is it about Excel that is not hitting the mark for you?
posted by mkultra at 11:35 AM on January 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'm a little surprised by your OpenOffice problems; I've been running LibreOffice and OpenOffice on Macs for years without a peep from Java.

OpenOffice Base isn't that pretty, though. Oh for a pretty SQLite frontend.
posted by scruss at 12:03 PM on January 13, 2015

Response by poster: mkultra: What is it about Excel that is not hitting the mark for you?

Well, it's not REALLY a database, so if I'm careless, I could break apart my "records" when I sort; it's not great with huge blocks of free-form text; I don't know if I can add images to a row/field; and I'm not aware of an easy way to do "forms" where I could display a better layout for entering and reviewing data.

I've just always been a total databasehead and, while I've used decent proprietary software on my Macs (Filemaker, Panorama), I long for something free and open-source, so I could share my database templates if I wanted to (and also just because I'm a fan of open source and would like to support that approach).
posted by kristi at 12:26 PM on January 13, 2015

I've not tried it myself, but Kexi sounds like it's the kind of thing you're looking for. It doesn't look like it's available on OSX yet, but it looks like that's planned.

If you're familiar with developing for LAMP, but don't want to deal with setting up the whole thing, then XAMPP could help - it's a development environment that provides the entire stack in a single install.
posted by xchmp at 12:32 PM on January 13, 2015

I used to use Rekall for this sort of thing. It's akin to what Lotus Approach used to be on Windows. I suspect it has petered out by now, though.
posted by wierdo at 4:09 PM on January 13, 2015

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