A startup called Blist is aiming to bring improved usability and functionality to Web-based databases.
Most people who have used Web-based office applications will readily admit that they don’t offer anywhere near the functionality or even ease of use of desktop office suites, but they do meet the most common everyday needs for these applications. While this is probably true for word processors, two types of Web-based office applications that haven’t done a good job of even meeting the common everyday need criteria are spreadsheets and databases. In most cases, Web-based spreadsheets and databases have provided only the most basic functionality. Trying to solve both of these problems at once is a new Web-based application provider called Blist. Blist, which launched at the recent Demo show, is a rich Internet application (based on Adobe’s Flex technology) that is designed to provide good functionality and ease of use for those looking for a Web-based spreadsheet/database that will meet most common everyday needs. I signed up for the current beta of Blist this week in order to give it a quick test drive. And I must say that it looks promising, providing a very rich interface and drag-and-drop usability. However, Blist is definitely beta (in fact, alpha might be a more accurate description) and a wide variety of the features were either grayed out or launched a “coming soon” message when I tried to use them. One of the biggest current weaknesses of the beta is that it can’t import existing spreadsheets or text files to get started. Even worse, I couldn’t cut and paste directly into a row or column. This means that right now the beta of Blist is really only suitable for starting new lists or retyping very short ones. However, once these limitations are addressed, Blist should become a very intriguing online option for data management. The product includes a lens builder that made it easy to filter our data set based on selected criteria, almost functioning like a basic database query. It was also easy to use a wide variety of data in the data tables, such as dates, Web pages, rankings, photos, and of course standard text and number data. Among the currently grayed-out capabilities are features such as reports, form building and the ability to share data sets with others. Since Blist is built in Flex it is also quite possible that in the future it will be available as a desktop-based Adobe Air application. Those wishing to try out the beta of Blist can find it at www.blist.com.