I am currently an Electrical engineer and I have been tasked to set up a database(outside my realm of expertise) that will be used by multiple users over a networked drive. There will only be a couple thousand data entries with images as well. I have currently thrown together a quick access database (I know access is frowned upon) to use as a temp until I figure out what is the best thing to do at this point. I know SQL enough to manage writing the backend, but I have no idea how to begin writing the program for a frontend, and quite frankly I think it will be much better if the front end was written by a profession to allow for proper security and functionality. I am not a CS guy, I can manage, and I do know a few languages(C, Java, VB), but I don't have the background to present something that I think would be adequate. I need some help finding a frontend program that would be very secure and easily manageable to allow for proper functions like: searching, exporting to excel, emailing, and displaying images from records. I'm thinking about using SQL server to do the backend, but that is subject to change based on what people would suggest.

I'm am storing part names/SN, ID addresses, website urls, and the part pictures.

So long story short what would be the best frontend program that would preferably work with SQL and allow for the functions I specified? A little explanation as to why you think a specific program is best for the job would be great!



  • Your Question would be better if you listed the items of data you would be storing. Or describe an analogous business example if your particular data is too arcane for us to understand. – Basil Bourque Jun 7 '16 at 7:20
  • I'm am storing part names/SN, ID addresses, website urls, and the part pictures. Hope that helps! – asloss Jun 7 '16 at 11:53

Does your project have simple needs? Is it is a ‘flat file’ or ‘single table’ meaning a single list of items? In other words, could you implement on paper with a single set of index cards where each card has the same fields of data?


If so, look at FileMaker. Combines a database server with a form-building tool and a proprietary programming language. Very simple to get up and going quickly. Has built-in features for user to do data-entry, exporting, reporting, and printing.

FileMaker has always been aimed at being a flat-file database, containing mainly one list of records. You can do some "look-up" tricks, but FileMaker is not a full-blown relational database. But when flat-file is all you need, FileMaker is the best in the biz.

Example of a flat-file database: A list of customers, or a list of church members, or a list of art works currently in inventory in an art gallery.


If not, if you need multiple tables, consider 4D. Similar to FileMaker in that it combines a database server with a form-building tool and a proprietary programming language. Also similar in that it has built-in features for user to do data-entry, exporting, reporting, and printing. But different in that the database engine and server are more powerful, built for hundreds of tables rather than one, and for many simultaneous users.

In contrast to FileMaker, 4D is a full-blown relational database.

Example of a relational database: A list of customers, each of whom has one or more invoices, and each invoice has one or more line items, and each line item is linked to a product, where each product is owned by a supplier record. Each of those relationships is One-To-Many. Another classic example: A publisher company with a stable of authors, each of whom may have written one or more books, so you need an Author table, a Book table, and an Authorship table bridging between the two to represent a Many-to-Many relationship.

Vaadin & H2

If you really want to work with SQL and your Java skills, look at the pure Java database, H2 Database Engine. H2 can be used as a database server or it can embedded within a Java app. H2 is open-source, free of cost, and actively developed.

For building the user interface, I strongly recommend Vaadin. This open-source free-of-cost toolkit is quite powerful, relatively easy to learn, and uses pure Java to build and run your app on the server-side. Vaadin automagically renders your desired user-interface in the user’s web browser using standard web technologies, so no JVM or Java applets on the client-side.

To deploy Vaadin you need a Java Servlet server (“container”). Either Tomcat by Apache or Jetty by Eclipse would work equally well and require only Standard Edition of Java rather than the more complicated Enterprise Edition.

  • Thanks! I'll look into those. But yes, it is one giant table with a bunch of fields – asloss Jun 7 '16 at 11:55

I have done something similar using Drupal content management framework running on a company's intranet.

  1. By default it gives you a multi-user environment. You can even expand it with its LDAP module to enable login using Active Directory/LDAP accounts.
  2. It uses MySql database. You can email users, add images, files, etc
  3. You can create "content types" for your information, and use the Views module to create simple queries/display of the information.
  4. The Views Data Export module can enable export views data to csv, xls etc.
  5. The Search modules with search_api_db, search_api_solr etc can enable you create simple or sophisticated searches

Of course, there is some learning curve to put it all together. I believe other content management environments can provide similar.

  • Thanks! I'll take a look at that! It sounds promising :) – asloss Jun 6 '16 at 20:21
  • No problem. If you want to try it out, my advice is go with version 7 for now. – Z Z Jun 6 '16 at 22:22

I suggest JBoss for Java, it allows to build a complete master-detail CRUD interface for your database. Fields in the detail page can be organized in tabs and accordions. A bit of coding will be needed in the future, if you will have to apply modifications to the legacy system.

I strongly suggest Evolutility (www.evolutility.org) written in C# for MS SQL Server, that is a turnkey solution in effect, as it doesn't require coding at all and you won't even need to know C# or install a copy of Visual Studio (to edit .aspx files you can use any plain text editor). If interested in Evolutility, or if you need responsive layout for mobile devices, please also consider its recent rewrite, Evolutility.JS, in pure JavaScript wth backends available for PostGreSQL and MongoDB.

In this case, probably Evolutility will be your best bet. Just describe the existing DB structure with an XML file (more details in documentation) and you're done. You'll need a Windows server with IIS and SQL Server (Web edition is enough) to run the production system, but Evolutility can run on any shared Windows hosting with the above specs. To save money you can also begin with a shared Windows hosting plan cloud instance for a bunch of € per month.

  • Thanks! I'll be taking a look at these! – asloss Jun 8 '16 at 12:05
  • @asloss Why didn't you hire a pros (or a web agency) for that? It shouldn't be a pricy work – Marco Marsala Jun 8 '16 at 12:18
  • That's honestly a good question I wish management had, I guess they don't want to pay for someone else to manage it. They don't really have an idea what goes into setting up a proper system – asloss Jun 8 '16 at 12:23
  • In this case, probably Evolutility will be your best bet, in fact it is a turnkey solution. Just describe your DB structure with an XML file (see docs) and you're done. I love it. You'll need a Windows server with IIS and SQL Server (Web edition is enough). To save money you can start with a Windows Server cloud instance for a bunch of € per month. For more info feel free to contact me in chat. – Marco Marsala Jun 8 '16 at 12:43
  • Thanks for the information! I really do appreciate the input! This honestly looks like the easiest/best solution. I already have the backend all set up through SQL server as well as most of the data just sitting in and excel file so this will be a 1, 2, 3 solution :) – asloss Jun 8 '16 at 13:07

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