Software & Web Development

Tap Forms: Promising personal database is feature-filled

Tap Forms 1.5 is a personal database app for your Mac offering a number of useful tools for collecting and managing your personal information. The app makes it easy to create basic relational databases, offers iCloud synchronization, provides data encryption, and includes dozens of pre-fabbed databases you can use as they are or as a foundation for building new databases of your own.

Tap Forms uses a single window consisting of three columns to display all of your information. The first is a forms column displaying all available forms. The second and third columns display your data in list and form views. A small button at the top of the window lets you toggle the second column to a spreadsheet-like list of your data at the top of the window. At the top of the forms column is a small slider letting you toggle between a list of all available forms, including Tap Forms built-in templates, or a list of your forms. Your forms are automatically populated with new forms you've created or pre-existing templates you've added your own data to.

Forms and databases are synonymous in Tap Forms, so every form is a database. You create new forms by selecting Forms > New Form or by clicking the (+) that appears at the bottom of the form column. Choosing either of these options drops a New Form sheet from the top of the window, which you use to give your form a name and set form properties. You then click a field properties tab where you can create new fields for your form.

Tap Forms offers 20 different field types, most of which fall into standard categories such as text, number, date, and time, but the app also offers several options for special data types. For example, a Location field allows you to add a map location to a record, a Section Heading field is used to break your data into logically organized sections, and the Link to Form field allows you to create a relationship between the data in your new form and the data in another form you've created. So, for example, if you have an employee form that includes information about equipment you've given them, you can use the Link to Form field to add the equipment data to your Equipment form when you assign it to your employee.

Some of the form fields can only be used with Tap Forms apps designed for iOS devices. For example, you cannot record audio with your Mac using the Audio Recording field. It is intended only for playback of audio captured using the same field type on your iOS device. I also found that masked fields, fields that are supposed to hide the data you've entered, actually display your data in two of the three views.

There are several features that make Tap Forms a standout including iCloud synchronization capabilities and 256-bit AES database encryption options. iCloud synchronization lets you access the same data from multiple devices, including other copies of Tap Form on different Macs and the iOS versions of the app. (iPad and iPhone/iPod touch versions of the app are available for $9 each.) The app also offers encryptions that allows you to encrypt your entire database or only the data stored in specific fields.

Tap forms has a few limitations, some of which may make it a non-starter for some users. First up, the app offers very limited forms customization. You can change the order of items as they appear on a form and use the Section Heading field type to break your form fields into sections, but there are no other options for organizing your data. You are also limited to one form per database, so you can't create multiple forms that only expose specific aspects of your data. Next up, Tap Forms has limited printing capabilities. These are vastly improved from previous versions of the app, but you are limited to printing either a form or list view of your data. And, given that you have limited form customization capabilities, you have limited report printing options and no way of printing labels using the app.

Bottom line

Tap forms is a very good database application that shows a great deal of promise. iCloud integration and field and database level encryption options make it appealing as a business app. But limited forms customization capabilities and a lack of label and fully customizable print options may limit its usefulness for those with more sophisticated database needs.


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