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Few databases have a reputation for being easy, and I don't think of them as being entertaining. But Blist, a new free browser-based service, is both. The service lets you create Blists-that's short for Web lists-which are simple databases that can hold anything from an inventory of office supplies to a recipe collection. Better yet, Blists live on the Web, so you can share them either with a particular group of folks you specify or with the world.
Blist's standard gridlike view resembles a spreadsheet-and in fact, you can import an Excel file to get started. The interface, which requires Adobe's Flash Player, is slick and clever, and as snappy as a desktop app. Well-organized icons and dialog boxes let you quickly create fields for text, numbers, and graphics, then fill your Blist up with information.
One of the things that makes Blist fun is its social feel: You can publish a Blist as a widget to be incorporated into a blog or a Facebook or MySpace page. You can also browse through other users' Blists, or even use one as a template for your own Blist. Curiously, even private Blists show up in searches; you can only see their names and column labels, but this service isn't a good choice for databases that require true security.
Blist is labeled as being in beta, and it has other rough spots. The pop-up text editing window is ungainly, for instance, and the Reports icon didn't do anything when I tried it (the feature hasn't been implemented yet). I also found the service's white-on-gray color scheme a bit oppressive. Blist is clearly still a work in progress--but one that offers a promising blend of old-style productivity tools with Web-era collaboration and community.
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