Seed, Bulb, Plant Inventory Software

Jane McGary
Sat, 03 Oct 2009 10:19:20 PDT
Tom wrote,
At 01:59 AM 10/3/2009, you wrote:
>A couple of years ago I spent quite a lot of time investigating
>various relational database possibilities, aware that having made a
>choice I was unlikely to want to change my mind. In the end I went
>for Filemaker, a database program similar to Microsoft Access in
>concept but much easier for a layman to work with. It's available in
>Mac and Windows versions (important for me, because I'm a Mac
>devotee). Anyone who is contemplating purchasing a database program
>should at least consider Filemaker as an alternative to Access or the
>various open source alternatives. For what it's worth, the JC
>Raulston Arboretum database manager, who has long experience of both,
>told me recently that she regards Filemaker as vastly superior to
>Access for horticultural applications. Her boss, who dislikes
>computers, agreed.

I agree. I have used Filemaker for about 15 years ( I still am using 
an older version, and it has faithfully followed me from version to 
version of Windows). It is available from the Claris Corporation, but 
it's not cheap.
I haven't tried exporting the files to Excel, which I find awkward to 
use, but I do export them to Word documents sometimes, although you 
can print them directly from Filemaker in various layouts. I find the 
design of layouts pretty intuitive, and you can easily make several 
numbered layouts and then just switch with a single click to display 
the database in whichever one suits your present purpose. The only 
problem I have with it is that when you want to print in columnar 
format, it will not always print all the text in a field that has to 
wrap; perhaps a newer version will have solved this problem.

If you're wondering why I would bother to print it at all, I do so in 
order to have a paper copy that I can refer to when inventorying my 
bulb collection, something I'm doing right now. I actually lost the 
bulb database when my previous computer fried last December, but 
fortunately I had sent a copy of the database a few years ago to John 
Lonsdale, who, being the computer expert he is, still had it, and was 
able to send it back to me. (Another good thing about Filemaker is 
that the databases don't use much memory.) I had to re-enter it, but 
this has been instructive and I've been able to add information that 
I didn't anticipate wanting originally.

It's very useful to go back to the actual plants and inventory them 
annually, even if you don't have a nursery. You can think about what 
has survived or not, and why. And you can keep track of what you've 
moved for one reason or another (my database has a field for what 
section of my bulb frames each item is in), so if someone wants a 
certain dormant bulb, you can probably find it. Of course, when I 
move my bulbs to a bulb house next year, the location field will all 
have to be changed, but I can mark a paper copy as I plant them; I'll 
have to put stakes with an alphanumeric grid on the raised beds I'm 
planning in the bulb house.

Jane McGary
Northwestern Oregon, USA

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