Blist - A Flex database/spreadsheet in the cloud

Blist - A Flex database/spreadsheet in the cloud

Summary: A little while ago Mark Hendrickson posted about Blist [Screenshot Gallery] on TechCrunch. He described it as a web-based database application and gave it a pretty good review.

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Blist - A Flex database/spreadsheet in the cloudA little while ago Mark Hendrickson posted about Blist [Screenshot Gallery] on TechCrunch. He described it as a web-based database application and gave it a pretty good review. The Blist team is up here in Seattle and they are one of my favorite startups. As a result, when I saw the post on TechCrunch I was really happy but I couldn't say anything because they weren't ready to talk about the technology they're using. I finally got the okay to blog about the fact that they're using Flex. And they're doing great things with it.

BlistBlist really continues with the sophistication we're seeing from Flex applications and it does so with an office slant that I think intrigues people. We have a word processor (Buzzword) and a Power Point competitor (SlideRocket) but we didn't have anything close to a spreadsheet. Now we do. Blist is an advanced, web-centric spreadsheet because it takes some of the ideas and themes from Excel but with more of a database model. The application is very intuitive and easy to learn and their design team has put a TON of work into making sure the user experience is solid. It's one of the most well-designed Flex applications that I've seen and it's still in the early stages. Kevin Merritt, the CEO was very careful about choosing technologies. He has a solid technical background and the choice between Flex and Ajax was one he took a lot of time to evaluate. In the end, he said Flex simply got them closer to their main goals:

"We want to empower mainstream users with the ability to organize their own data. The only way to succeed is to create a new metaphor for modeling data, with new behaviors and new visualizations. If data matters, it's likely going to be shared and need to be accessed from anywhere, so we knew we were building a web application. Ajax could only get us about 80% of the functionality we wanted, and with a lot of browser specific hacks. Flash is ubiquitous, supports the richer interactivity we want and runs consistently across all browsers and operating systems. It's been a great decision and we're thrilled with the results."

Blist

As a rich Internet application, it's one of the best I've seen. They have managed to load a ton of functionality into an application that has a solid user interface. They've bitten off a big problem but by combining technical smarts with good design they have added features that make creating a database easy for every day users. Keep an eye on this application. I have a feeling I'll be writing a lot about them. In the meantime, check out the screenshots and sign up to be notified when invites go out.

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6 comments
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  • I like the idea

    Too bad it is glued to the web; they should allow one to download the flex application and run it using Adobes runtime tool which allows it to appear like any other desktop application.

    The problem with these vendors is that they have a fixation on the net, no one cares about the internet if they get told that they can't access their applications because they have no access to the internet.

    Yes, make it available as a service, but also allow someone to download and install it, so when they're no online, they can still use the tool.
    Kaiwai
    • You are just slightly ahead of the time...but not much

      If you are familiar with Flex, you would know that it is not a tough task to package a Flex app as an AIR application, with local database storage and syncing capabilities when the user is back online.

      The fact that they chose Flex, and Kevin's quote in the article, point to the fact that they are well aware of this additional "feature" and are probably working on it.

      The issue is that AIR is just starting to "breathe", so it will take some time work out the kinks. We know because we, too, are converting all of our HTML to Flex with an eye out for AIR apps on the desktop and even more exciting, Flash/AIR apps on any mobile device.
      Paul C.
    • agreed

      I agree. I'm not going to some web url to start/open a spreadsheet. These companies have to start realizing that the rush to put everything in the web browser is a dumb idea and it's taking one rare scenario (having to check your email from someone else's computer) way too far.

      There's a reason Windows and Mac have these things called *file associations* and *hard drives*. Anyhow, until they AIR it, this is just a prettier alternative to Google Spreadcheeks.
      einsteintech
      • RE: agreed

        Hey guys, thanks for the comments. You're right, this would make a great AIR app and for some people it's unusable without AIR. I think they'll release an AIR version. The other part of this is the service side. I think they're going to have APIs that allow you to create a database and store information then expose that data via those same APIs. I like that part of it as well as the slick interface but I know much less about it.
        ryanstewart
  • RE: Blist - A Flex database/spreadsheet in the cloud

    looks like a database modelled on iTunes, perhaps no bad-thing given iTunes universal popularity (and it is a database afterall).

    though despite all the hard-work done by developers coping with the deficiencies of browsers... it has to be said most browser-apps still suck :o(
    sj_z
  • RE: Blist - A Flex database/spreadsheet in the cloud

    Hi Ryan,

    don't forget to include Mindomo (www.mindomo.com) to the list of the advanced RIA applications done in Flex2. I think it deserves to be in the list even if MindMapping is not so widespread as a spreadsheet or a text editor.

    Regards,
    Zoltan Lorincz.
    zoltan.lorincz