Intuits QuickBase Builds Solid Apps

 
 
By Michael Caton  |  Posted 2003-12-15 Email Print this article Print
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Intuit's hosted service helps sites build basic database apps.

Intuit Inc.s QuickBase does a good job of combining ease of use with robust customization options, thus giving corporations a quick and easy way to build database applications. The hosted service, which became available last month, costs an affordable $249 per month for 10 users.

QuickBase did particularly well in eWEEK Labs tests at providing the tools necessary for a workgroup to quickly put together a complete database application. We also liked the way QuickBase could be customized to provide fast access to applications and summary views of data. The ability to customize and save these views mitigates the major shortcoming of the product: limited reporting capabilities.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
QuickBase
Companies looking for a simple way to give workgroups access to database applications they can manage themselves will find a good solution in Intuits QuickBase, at a reasonable $249 per month for 10 users. The hosted application balances ease of use and customization with a decent range of templates for building database applications on the fly.

KEY PERFORMANCE INDICATORS
USABILITY EXCELLENT
CAPABILITY GOOD
PERFORMANCE GOOD
INTEROPERABILITY GOOD
MANAGEABILITY GOOD
SCALABILITY GOOD
SECURITY GOOD
  • PRO: Good templates and summary data views; easy to customize and use; broad customization capabilities.

  • CON: Weak reporting capability; some user interface problems, particularly when using Netscape 7.1 and Mozilla.
  • EVALUATION SHORT LIST
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    The QuickBase service has a number of strengths, but its biggest one is the ease of creating an application from the many prebuilt applications by importing from a spreadsheet or from scratch using a wizard. We could even copy an existing application, with or without the data, to create a new application.

    We found that these tools, particularly the seven project management templates, will give corporate workgroups an easy way to manage data for a project with little, if any, IT intervention.

    The project management applications, for example, have a number of handy features that simplify managing data for users who dont have the time or inclination to perform customizations in Microsoft Corp.s Access or Excel. These features allowed us to easily view and create dependencies in a project plan and tap built-in formulas that modify data, such as determining a project end date based on the start date.

    In tests, it was easy to customize both the applications and summary views of data. For example, we modified fields and form layout from within the application form. The applications support a decent range of data types. There is a range of options for customizing applications and integrating with external applications, including a formula language and support for XML and Extensible Stylesheet Language.

    Each applications overview page can be customized to include a number of summary views for prioritizing data. Theres a canned list of views as well as a design template for building new views based on expanding query forms.

    On the administrative side, users fall into three basic roles that we could customize based on specific data access and viewing rights. QuickBase includes an e-mail-based notification option to keep users up-to-date on changes in an application. This is really the only option for any type of administrative reporting. Wed like to see more robust reporting options, particularly for administrators charged with making sure the application is being used and accessed properly.

    One minor annoyance we ran into during testing occurred when customizing forms. In one view, we could not reliably generate a preview. We overcame the problem by saving the form and opening it again. Although QuickBase supports Netscape Communications Corp.s Netscape 7.1, we couldnt access form editing from within a form, as we could with Microsofts Internet Explorer.

    The product offers a couple of development options beyond XML and the formula engine, including an HTTP API and software developer kits for Microsofts Visual Basic, Perl and Java. In addition, Intuit has a network of developers that build custom solutions specifically for QuickBase.

    Technical Analyst Michael Caton can be reached at michael_caton@ziffdavis.com.

     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     

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