Review – Home Inventory for Mac and iOS

According to the makers of Home Inventory (Binary Formations, LLC. ), September was “National Preparedness Month” and as such they made their flagship product “Home Inventory” available for 50% off.  I got the opporuntity to do a review of the Mac product, along with both iOS companion products – Mobile Backup and Photo Remote.  Binary Formations was founded a little over four years ago, but the product shows a level of maturity of feature set, that comes from building a product that is truly needed by the developers themselves.  The Mac App has a PDF user manual that is over 150 pages, and I admit I had to go to refer to it a few times to understand how to access some of the features – but more on that later.

What is Home Inventory?  Well it’s name describes it perfectly, it is an inventory that any home owner should have, for insurance purposes, of the items in their home.  Most insurance policies require some sort of inventory in order to reimburse after a disaster, and Home Inventory puts the tools in your hands to make sure you have what you need.  Given the completeness of this application, I won’t be able to cover all aspects of the program, and will instead focus on data capture.

I have been meaning to do a home inventory for insurance purposes for some time, but I never really have had the time to do so.  Writing a review of the app is a perfect opportunity to give it shot. Being a realist, however, I knew I would never be able to do a full inventory in time to make a meaningful review, so I decided to do a much smaller inventory, i.e. the things on my desk in my home office.  This still became a bit of a daunting task.  Should I do everything, or only those things which are relevant and expensive.  I again took the shorter path.  I would only do electronics gadgets, and there are plenty of those!! My plan was to enter 10 items, and see how it goes.

First I needed to install the Mac App, not a problem as it is available on the AppStore, so a quick click got it going.  I created the initial data file during the launch, and was presented with a screen to define some basic home information, including a picture of the home, a Maintenance Schedule and Assessment History.  You can also include detailed information about when the house was built, the lot size, age of the home, and purchase price.  This level of information is great for an insurance assessment, probably not so much for a review on the web.  So I have blocked out most of that information and included a random house picture for this review.

The First thing I entered was using the Photo Remote to take a picture of the DockIT Air case I reviewed recently (see that post).  The iPhone App requires that you are on the same wifi as the Mac running the software, that the Mac version of the application be running, and that you select the Menu options Inventory -> Photo Remote, or press Command-R.  You are walked thru either scanning a Barcode (which I did with another item) or taking a picture.  If you scan the barcode it will do a look up on Amazon (or perhaps other services) and pre-fill in much of the information about the object.  You are then walked through a series of items to select the location, make, model, serial number, price, etc.  If you don’t hit “save” you will lose the data you have entered.  Also, if you close the window on the Mac the connection will be broken and you will lose your information.  You cannot add all the information on the Remote Photo app, and will find yourself going back to your Mac to complete the process.  The good news is, that while some of the views have visual prompts to accept new value (for example – a Click to add receipt button), drag and drop seems to be working fine.

The following pictures show you how the iPhone App works, and include a few screen shots of the Mac App.

1) Define Inventory File

1) Define Inventory File

2) Define your home info

2) Define your home info

3) Add Picture and Address

3) Add Picture and Address

4) Add Assessment History and Maintenance

4) Add Assessment History and Maintenance

After getting your basics setup, the following screens show how I added a item via my iPhone using the Photo Remote app.

1) Connecting to Mac

1) Connecting to Mac

2) Choose how to add

2) Choose how to add

3) Add a Photo

3) Add a Photo

4) Add a Value

4) Add a Value

Given the goal of this application to make sure you are prepared in case of a catastrophic event, I like that they support storing the data on DropBox and for those who are a bit more worried about privacy and security (you will, after all want to include all of your policy and assessment data in the program), you can do a manual backup to your iPhone via wifi.  Having multiple ways and locations where you can store the data is critical for ensuring that your inventory is safe in case of an emergency.

Overall, this is a very complete, if somewhat complex, program.  I do not knock the complexity at this time, as the objective is to truly be ready for a complete inventory of your assets for an emergency, and that is a complex goal.  The program includes the ability to print many different reports, including a move report – which I thought was a great use of all the data you collect.  I hope that overtime they continue to simplify the interface and make it much more iOS and Mac like in its interface.  A single example of how this would work would be to allow the Photo Remote to be able to capture the pictures and basic information without having to connect to the mac.  Right now if you exit the app on the phone, before a “save” action, you lose the data you’ve been entering on that item to that point. iOS apps should be able to handle a loss of network communication without losing data.

I can’t say I am looking forward to completion of my Home Inventory, but I am certainly glad that this tool exists to ensure that I have captured all the things  I need to be prepared should I ever need it.