Databases are, of course, powerful tools for organising information. But the standard method of searching through data has, in most cases, barely evolved since the first appearance of Windows.

Omniscope works with databases and spreadsheets to provide filter and search capabilities that also allow you to visually explore information. We tested a beta of the software, but the full version will be up and running on the site by the time you read this. The program works by importing spreadsheet files, such as Excel, or databases, including Access, Oracle and SQL, which can then be analysed via nine different views.

For example, the Chart View sorts data into coloured fields and blocks, and the Pie and Bar Views are similar to those in Excel. More interesting is the Tile View, which creates a map of every item in a database that can be clicked on to drill down for information.

In addition to organising data into different views, Omniscope also provides two different types of filter. You get an Instant Query option which will sort data when the user selects different categories - mobile phone manufacturer, for example - and the much less intuitive Power Query. This allows you to specify a much more rigorous set of search criteria, but is frankly
too complex to use for anyone who does not regularly work with databases.


The program works as a front end to allow you to search through data and map it visually, but there are niggles. At first it's simple to use, but getting the most out of it requires expertise. And while the data maps created can be worked with via a free viewer, this is just one more plug-in to download. This program would be better restricted to the server.