Datasette Desktop (macOS application)
September 14, 2021 11:50 AM   Subscribe

Datasette Desktop (macOS application)
This is the new Mac desktop version of my Datasette application, which helps people explore SQLite databases and CSV files and install plugins to visualize them, clean them up and more.

I've been working on Datasette for a few years now - it's an "open source multi-tool for exploring and publishing data". It's a Python web application and growing collection of tools and plugins for working with SQLite databases - importing data into them, exploring that data and publishing it elsewhere in different formats.

You can try it out online here: Global Power Plants is Datasette - that's a demo that lets you explore every power plant in the world.

I built the desktop application because I want people to be able to run this on their own computers - for analyzing data which they don't want to upload to the internet, such as personal analytics or data used for investigative reporting (data journalists are a key intended audience for my software). Previously you could do this if you installed Python 3 or Homebrew first, but that's still a pretty solid barrier to entry for many people!

The application is open source, and is my first time using Electron. I've been writing up what I've learned along the way on my blog.
Role: Creator
posted by simonw (8 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

A classic challenge I'm having with this project is figuring out how to explain it to people - I've been so close to it for so long that it's difficult to work out the right elevator pitch for it.

So questions about what it's for and suggestions for how I can better help explain the value would be very welcome!
posted by simonw at 1:41 PM on September 14, 2021

I saw your posts on this project elsewhere and am happy to see your noting it here.

I have a similarity difficult time describing why I love Jupiter Lab so much. The best I've come up with (and only really works if you already know what it is) "self hosting it on a VM means anywhere I am that I might use google docs I can have a notebook instead". That's a win for me but, again, if it's not an obvious win for my audience I get stuck.

In that vein though I might start with:
The SQLite projects says "SQLite does not compete with client/server databases. SQLite competes with fopen()." This means that, while you don't need to know what fopen() is lots and lots of applications do. Datasette is to SQLite files as excel is to spreadsheet files. Oh and it reads CSVs too. And it's prettier and webbier (and less terminal-y) than visidata"
Yeah. This is hard.
posted by mce at 3:04 PM on September 14, 2021

"Datasette is to SQLite files as Excel is to spreadsheet files." is interesting - it's not quite true enough for me yet though, since Datasette still mostly operates in read-only mode.

I'm stewing on whether I should go for it and add full edit mode (add and edit rows in any table) to the core product at the moment, at which point it becomes almost an Access alternative. That would be a bunch of extra work but it could unlock a LOT of value for people, and make the product easier to understand too.
posted by simonw at 3:15 PM on September 14, 2021

This sounds like a really neat tool, and I'm looking forward to trying it out. I've been trying to work with the FoodData Central dataset (which comes in CSV or Access formats) for a while now using LibreOffice Base, SQLite Browser, and other tools, and none of them are quite there yet.

If it becomes something that's actually comparable to Access, that would be amazing.
posted by sibilatorix at 10:45 AM on September 17, 2021 [1 favorite]

This is phenomenal! Thank you for making such a valuable tool open source. I'm a huge fan of Django, the web framework you co-created. Equally impressive to these outstanding and useful tools is the extensive and clear documentation your projects provide. You're a great asset to the open source community.
posted by mundo at 9:53 AM on September 18, 2021

If any of this is helpful feel free to use: "Datasette lets you view and examine SQLite and CSV files as tables and lets you perform SQL queries on one or more table's data and display the results. It makes SQLlite databases simple to explore, and allows you to do complex queries on CSV files."
posted by Chrysopoeia at 11:03 PM on October 5, 2021

Nice! It's good that you're got a memorable project name. Sure beats the impossible-to-find-or-remember q. And it's way faster than a Commodore 1530.
posted by scruss at 8:38 AM on October 9, 2021

Hi Simon,

Thank you for all your valuable contributions to the web ecosystem, and your presence her on MeFi.

One way approaching the "explain it" problem is to figure out 'why this' compared to the universe of other solutions:

- Sheets / Excel + Pivot Table + Charts
- / dash
- others?

What traits drove you to this solution, that those don't have / this enables more easily.

One thing I *super like*, the autogenerating filter queries ('fast breadcrumbs') for 'common' elements in 'important' columns (countries, largest owners, etc.)
posted by gregglind at 6:03 AM on November 12, 2021

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