Requires more mass field editing in forms and reports
No Windows client
The Ninox relational database is modern in appearance and easy to use, while providing all the power and functionality that most users will need. Best of all, it does it for a remarkably low price.
Price when reviewing
$34.99; in-app purchases
Best prices today
It’s not very often that I come across really impressive software. Ninox for Mac (and its other iterations) won me over. Not because it’s a powerful relational database – I’ve been there, I’ve done it. But it’s so pretty, easy to use and flexible. The kicker is that Ninox for Mac is only $35; the $540 FileMaker Pro is very powerful but requires a lot more maintenance.
If you want to spend more – or more likely, maintain a small, medium or large business – Ninox has an identical $10 monthly online version that Ninox for Mac interfaces with, as well as iOS and Android clients. Ninos also offers a server version for large companies.
Ninox is a relational database, so tables (sets of records, like rows in a spreadsheet) can access data from other tables for display and calculations. These are linked via “table references” in Ninox. For example, if you want to choose from a list of customers to insert their address, etc. in your billing table, you create a company table, add the company records, then reference them in your billing table.
Ninox provides a wide variety of field types: number, text, date, image, calendar, URL, phone number, color, icon, multiple choice, yes/no, etc. Additionally, there are formula fields that can perform a number of calculations on the data in said fields. For example, adding the cost of items on an invoice or concatenating first and last names.
Formula fields can also use simple logic functions such as “and”, “or”, “greater than”, “less than” and even “if-then-else”. For example, you can use if/then/else to hide a total if there are no numbers to add.
Fields are packed with options like display format, default values, conditional format/style and writability, and even events fired after data entry. You can use drag and drop in the visual editor to create formulas or spell them out in the text editor once you know the format.
Switching from visual to text can also help you learn the syntax of Ninox.
Jon L. Jacobi
Ordering, sorting and filtering is child’s play. Simply right-click on any header in a table and you are presented with easy choices for ascending, descending, and grouped order. The latter sorts the records into groups based on the contents of the field.
There is also a filter (eg Invoice number > 1000) and even a query transformation function f(x); type the same ‘Invoice #” > 1000 in that and the field will display a Yes or a No depending on whether or not it meets the condition.
Ninox only imports and exports .csv (Comma Separated Value) text files (essentially, the raw data). It creates the fields for you, but there’s no importing forms, views, reports, etc. Recreating these can involve a lot of drudgery, so it’s something to consider before switching. I found it to be well worth the effort.
As mentioned, Ninox also resides online where there is support for teams, including privilege levels (read/write). The local Ninox client for Mac reviewed here works standalone with local databases, but can also access Ninox Online – the interfaces are identical. This of course requires the $10 monthly account which also includes database storage.
Where Ninox is light years ahead of most competitors at equal power is in ease of use. It’s not perfect, but it’s a damn better sight than anything I’ve used. It’s also intuitive, although of course that depends on your experience. Attractive? In my eyes, very.
The interface is a single-window affair, with a hideable navigation column on the left and a back button at the top for exiting the main areas. There are a minimal number of icons, which are large and easy to read. They are also displayed contextually (only when you need them).
Ninox allows you to view your data and records in several ways: table view, default form view, user-designed form views, charts, maps, Kanban (production schedule), Gantt (project schedule) and under pivot table form.
Designing or modifying print views (reports) is largely a drag-and-drop, free-form affair, which makes the task quite easy. With form views, on the other hand, elements flow in a continuous track and position themselves automatically until you insert a “layout element” such as a line break or expandable space.
Alas, with forms, you can only drag one field at a time. This made recreating and moving all 58 fields in my imported database tedious at best. Print views allow bulk moves and deletions, although you can only format fields one at a time. In general, Ninox could use more bulk edit operations. A work in progress without a doubt.
Ninox: Not perfect, no white picket fence
Besides the need to do more bulk operations, I noticed a problem. All my dates are in month/day/year format, for example 04/01/2022 or 04/01/22–4 January 2022. They imported successfully because you can select the format used. Subsequently, however, by pasting 1/4/2022 into a date field, it became January 22, 0004. Yes, the year 4 AD
It’s not a big deal, but it might bite some. Most of the time, you’ll just use Ninox’s beautiful calendar-style date picker shown below. Note that this was an old recording with the date already in place – my clock was not set incorrectly. It’s good that it syncs.
Another thing that bothered me: When accessing any of the dropdown controls (yes/no, date picker, etc.), Ninox resets the counter/tab location (the tab key moves from field to field) to the first field in the form, forcing you to select the next field in the form with the mouse or cycle through all the fields again.
I should also point out that Ninox for Mac is an end user only database. There is no “white fence” (a term I’ve heard from Ninox), i.e. customizing the front-end with company logos etc. and hide the Ninox brand. For the price, I don’t care, but I don’t develop database applications for others anymore.
I found Ninox to be extremely fast, especially compared to Access on Windows, which recently got sluggish when opening forms. Imports, scrolling, dragging and dropping, loading images were all very, very fast, like a quick snap. Of course, I was only dealing with a thousand fairly small discs with no images etc. most of the time. I can’t tell you how far it’s growing, but Ninox has enterprise customers, so that should be a good sign.
At the end of the line
Making a rather complex and powerful database so easy to use and attractive is no small feat. $35? Wow, even if it’s a loss leader for the online version.
Ninox is my favorite database of all time – by far (if I don’t count Smart DB from the days of DOS). Although recreating my forms was a bit laborious. I threw the sidewalk access. ‘Nuff said.