Database Software for a Mac?

Here is the situation:

I am looking for a good, but inexpensive database software that could be used as a client management database. The keyword is inexpensive for now. I could go the route of Excel or Google sheets, but this could get pretty clumsy very fast. I have had extensive experience with Microsoft Access. Unfortunately this doesn’t seem to be available in a MacOS environment. And it would be nice to have mobile access as well.

I know a lot of you out there are running your own businesses. What do you recommend for someone just starting out?

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I enjoy using Ninox, but I’m using it for organizing personal stuff rather than managing a business. There are templates for client management. Ninox supports relations among tables. Ninox is quite scriptable via a built-in scripting language. The cloud version supports a REST API and Zapier, but I have not used those.


I use Tap Forms for my occasional database needs (for personal use, mind you). It has Mac and iOS versions that sync ok and is also scriptable now.

Google Sheets is not too bad for a database if it’s not too complex as it has some powerful functions such as filter, sort, unique, arrayformula, hyperlink etc.
More clumsy than a database, but cheap and passable (perhaps), and better suited than Excel in my experience.


I would make something in Airtable or Ninox and see what’s grabbing you. I prefer Airtable if I can keep it to the free tier because the design is so good and it’s easy to bring in another user. Ninox feels more like a spiritual successor to Access and I like that it’s all stored locally and apps are or were one-time purchases (more like the Omni model.)


LibreOffice has a database part to it, it’s quite a popular (and free) alternative to MS Office. If you’re comfortable with MS Access then that might work well for you.


I agree with Ninox. Whatever you go with keep scalability in mind. As your business grows you should be able to expand your software to meet your business needs. I speak from experience- software conversion is almost always a nightmare

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Consider FileMaker Pro its very flexible and relatively easy to use.

It’s $540 witch is peanuts for a business and the fact that you don’t have hire an expert to build a database for you…
If you don’t want to spend any money stick with Excel if you have it or Numbers and Google docks you can always import these formats into FileMaker or most other database applications.

Starting with some cheap database and having to convert it to something decent is going to cost you dearly…


I agree - was going to suggest FM as well, esp. with updates in v. 18. I am running FM 16 (finally upgraded from 10) and am tempted to upgrade again. It’s easy to get started and almost infinitely extensible. The only caveat is that they’ve changed the pricing so if you want a multi-user setup you’re gonna need to subscribe.


LOVE Airtable, and the free version is great


I’m quite happy with leveraging my Microsoft Access experience (Using Access since 1992) by running it inside Parallels on both my Macs. If you do this then you’ll have a quick/easy setup and you can focus on the database and not the new “system”. depends on what your priorities are.

In actuality, my database (essential for my business) runs on MySQL (free) on the Mac. I simply use Access some of the time to interface with it (using ODBC) from the local and networked machines for the pretty forms (nothing better than Access) and a very few reports/label printing. Sometimes I do quick management of the data and database via MySQL Workbench (free).

Over the years I’ve built up some very-useful automation–but in instead of using Access VBA (which I don’t really like and never did!) I use Python (free) with a Django (free) connection to the database with Pandas as the main analysis tool. Terrific graphics from that via Matplotlib (free). All this Python stuff installed inside an Anaconda (free) environment–which again is a fantastic simplification that allows a quick install and setup and allows me to focus on the data/business and not fiddling with the computer. [Important not to mess with the native Python setup on a Mac as OSX depends on it.]

Bottom line. Far as I know there is no real replacement for Microsoft Access on the Mac, but keep looking if you must. Instead of learning about and growing into yet another “tool”, I found great success continuing my use of Access (for pretty forms and a dwindling number of reports/queries) connected to a database server (MySQL) then using the powerful professional tools available in the world of Python/Pandas/Django, etc. Using the MySQL server opens a lot of opportunities that if using Access (or something like it) exclusively simply would not be available.

Finally, you’ll find a huge number of online resources available Access, Python/Pandas/Django … my hunch is there will be fewer online resources available for these other “Mac” databases–but maybe that not important to you. For me, the quick online “answers” are invaluable.


How powerful of solution do you need? Reading the previous replies, I second AirTable as reasonable choice. However, if you need to write a lot of data (100k’s of records on up) or write data very fast (>5 records per second) then you may need to look at other options. I use MySQL and MS SQL for structured data and Google’s firebase for unstructured data. MySQL and MS SQL are available hosted and stand alone. Naturally there are pros and cons for each.

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I’m jumping in a bit late on this discussion but another database program to consider is Panorama X. Caveat: I’m the author of Panorama X so obviously I have a biased view. But I’ve been doing this for over 30 years so must be doing something right!

Panorama’s basic interface is a lot like a spreadsheet, so it’s easy to get started, but it also has full graphical capability for creating your own custom layouts - shapes, icons, buttons, etc. It includes a programming language so it can be fully automated, and even has a “watch me” mode where it can record your actions and write short programs for you automatically.

If you visit our web site, there is an introductory video and a free trial you can download.

Those of you that have been using the Mac for a long time may remember older versions of Panorama going all the way back to 1988. If you’ve looked at previous versions of Panorama, I hope you’ll look again – we released an all new AppKit version, Panorama X, in 2018. Up until then Panorama was still a Carbon app, and frankly quite out-of-date (though still very functional for many long time users). The new version, which was almost 7 years in the making, is a completely modern Mac-first app (in fact Mac only, we also dropped the Windows version of Panorama when Panorama X was released).

If you’re intrigued, check out the video and the free trial, and if you like it, here’s a $25 discount code for Panorama X, good thru June 15 - MPUTALKSPECIAL0519. Also, if anyone reading this is going to the Orange County Automators meetup tonight, I’ll be there, please say hello!


Thanks for jumping in here, and for the coupon code. :heart_eyes:

I remember that you used to have a spinoff(?) app called Panorama Sheets, which IIRC was a little like Soulver - was its functionality folded into the current app?

Panorama Sheets was a pure subset of the full version of Panorama. It just had the data sheet, with no custom graphic layout and no automation. Also, it only allowed a limited amount of data, I think up to 5 or 10 thousand records. The hope was that a low price version could pull in more new users. However, we may not have picked the right subset of features, it didn’t attract much attention. So we dropped it when doing the rewrite. As it turns out, doing a modern Cocoa users is attracting a lot more new users than Panorama Sheets ever did :blush:

I’ve actually been on this Discourse forum almost from the first day. I love Discourse (we’ve been using it for a Panorama forum since 2016, see below), so when I saw MPU was switching to that I was one of the first to join (I’m not on Facebook). But there hasn’t been much discussion about database software on this forum, so I’ve not really mentioned Panorama here before.

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Thanks all for the input. I have looked at several of these suggestions and I am pretty impressed. I am currently testing Airtable, and will see how it goes. The functionality is pretty good, It has some features that are not in Access, with others that are much easier to use.