Updated: Feb 25, 2020
I first came across Tadabase a few weeks ago and have been using it for a little while now - starting to make a version of my KasCur Pro CRM app with it to see how it compares with other platforms I've used. I was intending to do a preview of the platform when, unexpectedly, it came out of 'beta' a couple of days ago and I decided that a proper review was in order.
Let me say right away that I really like Tadabase - and that right from the start I was pleasantly surprised by the similarities between it and Knack, about which I have written extensively here and continue to work with on behalf of my consultancy clients. Tadabase seem to acknowledge this because there is a specific comparison page on their website - https://tadabase.io/tadabase-vs-knack.
The comparison will immediately give you an idea about the capabilities of the product (if you are familiar with Knack). In many ways, Tadabase seems like a Knack V2 - more sophisticated in many areas but with some missing elements still (charting is currently pretty basic for example).
Like Knack, Tadabase differentiates between the 'Builder', used to create apps and the live apps which users interact with - so lets start by looking at the builder.
The Tadabase Builder
This is where the work happens - starting with defining your data structure you then move on to create pages and set up user specific menus and any security you may need.
When you open the Builder, you have a page showing your apps - together with a Help panel. The latter is available all through the Builder with context aware links to comprehensive videos and other content.
Opening one of the apps (we're going to use KasPer Pro, a CRM app I'm working on), takes you to the design surface for your app with key sections for Data, Pages, Settings and Users.
With any app you will need to start with configuring one or more Tables and this is achieved in the Data section:
This is where you define all the fields within your tables - and the screenshot above shows all the fields so far configured for Contacts in our app. You can see there are several types of fields already configured - and there are many more available:
Link fields, for example, mean that when you display information on details pages, tables, kabans, card views, etc., you will have a clickable link to the associated page:
While we're still thinking about defining our data, Tadabase is a fully relational system where you can create connections between tables. You may have noticed above that Contacts is connected to Companies through such a connection field.
The following page shows how this is represented in the Live app with pages which show 'Parent' records (in this case Opportunity) and associated 'Child' records:
You can also configure daily, weekly, monthly or quarterly tasks which will run at the assigned frequency and these can undertake several types of tasks including sending Emails, Texts, Updating the record, Inserting records and updating connected records. According to Tadabase, this is an area where they plan significant enhancements enabling it to automate a wide range of functions.
The Page Builder in Tadabase is extremely flexible, you are able to add rows and columns within an effective grid of width 12. This means that you can have up to 12 columns into which you can place 'components' such as tables, charts etc:
I've yet to explore all the options (there are a LOT) but it is possible to design very appealing apps with these tools. Here's an example of a page with two columns, a table and a chart:
At the moment the chart features are pretty basic - for example you can't change the above to a columnar chart or properly group data by month or year.
A feature missing from most equivalent platforms is the ability to import data through the live app (or 'front end'). This is implemented in two parts - the field mapping is set up in the Data area and then an Import component is added to a page:
This means that you can set the system up to receive regular updates from other sources and that this can be under user control.
If you enable Alpha Features in Settings, you will also see a PDF option - this is clearly still in development as at the moment you can define a print layout but not actually display it (the Print button above doesn't yet work). This is to be expected of Alpha features in general but the good news is that a properly formatted PDF option is on its way.
Layouts are created in a similar way to regular pages - but are effectively 'containers' within which your pages are displayed. Layouts can contain headers, menus, breadcrumbs etc:
Your app can have multiple Layouts which are generally used to reflect different use cases (for example a customer portal versus internal view of a CRM app). When a user logs on, it is possible to direct them to a particular layout depending upon their Role.
Mobile Use / Configuration
The Page builder includes a range of features designed to help make your apps responsive - for example you can change the width (or hide) columns in the page designer on different types of device:
This means that you can build your app to be usable on different devices where relevant.
Like Knack, there is a special table in the system for Users - with much the same basic functionality including the ability to add user defined fields to the user table. Each user can be a member of one or more Roles and, as mentioned above, this can be used to direct a user to the correct Layout when they sign in. You can also secure pages in the page designer but unlike Knack it won't remove the page from the menu if you don't have access to it. The intention is that you build Layouts for different groups of users.
One really useful feature is the Login Log which records every user login to the system with a host of other information (even location):
Like other tables, there are a range of settings - including some relating to the retention of Login Logs:
There are a huge range of settings for your app - including themes, file storage options (store files in Dropbox, AWS etc), Email (link to your own SMTP server), SMS (via Twillio) etc. You can even set your app up so that your users/customers can pay subscriptions to use it (i.e. create a SaaS service).
The email option seems relatively unimportant - but the ability to send via your own email account is huge. Other online databases use their own email server and this results in a large percentage of emails being sent to recipients junk mail. For me, this has meant that I've needed to use Integromat for most of these - I wouldn't need to do this in Tadabase.
Pricing and Options
Tadabase has a range of pricing options to suit most potential customers and, importantly, with the exception of the basic licence, there are no limits on the number of users. This is important because it means that the platform is suitable for creating customer / public facing apps - and is cost effective even if the amount of use per user is low. Here are the main pricing bands:
You can see all the pricing options here.
Tadabase is brand new (although has been in Beta for some time) and has real promise - and is already a fantastic choice for anyone wanting to build a web app for their business. The company has the ambition to build a really powerful no-code platform which will rarely, if ever, require any code to build out your application (there are already a huge range of options in terms of layout and presentation of your data).
If you are a Knack user you will probably find Tadabase quite easy to pick up and users of other platforms should also. I think this has real potential and have therefore added a Forum section dedicated to it (alongside my other favourites, Knack, Ninox and Airtable) on this site.
If you've been using Tadabase for some time I would love to see your thoughts and any other insights in the comments.
For a comparison of Tadabase and other online database solutions please click here.
For more information about Tadabase click here.