Bonsai Album

I’ve had a bunch of questions about the app that aren’t answered either on the website or on the Facebook page. The following will hopefully address any questions or concerns you may have about Bonsai Album. I’ll be updating this post as new questions arise. Let me know if I’ve missed anything!

1. Is Bonsai Album available for my Mac, PC, Android phone, or other platform of choice? If not, when?

Bonsai Album is currently available on the Apple iTunes App Store for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. There’s also a Mac version available on the Mac App Store, with a trial version downloadable from my site. The Mac version may also be purchased direct from my site. You can learn more here. There’s also a PC version. An Android version is currently under development – sign-up here to be notified when the app launches. I currently have no plans for any other platforms.

2. I have an iPad and an iPhone. Do I have to buy the app twice?

No, Bonsai Album is a universal app, so provided you use the same iTunes account on all your devices, you only have to buy the app once, and it can be installed on all your iOS devices.

3. I’m not sure if Bonsai Album will suit my needs. Is there a free trial version available?

Yes, Bonsai Album Lite is also available on the App Store, for free. This contains all the features of the full version, other than the database import and restore. It’s also limited to 3 bonsai, 3 pots, and 3 log entries with 3 photos each. That should be enough to give you some idea of whether the app will work for you.

4. Will Bonsai Album (盆栽アルバム) be localized into my language soon?

Possibly. Bonsai Album is currently localized in English, Japanese, Spanish, Italian, French, German, and Portuguese. If there’s interest, I may also consider Simplified Chinese (盆景相册) or Traditional Chinese (盆景相冊). Let me know!

5. Can I export photos from the database?

Yes – see question 20. Also note that the originals are left undisturbed in the photo library on your device. Photos taken within the app are saved to the camera roll on your device.

6. Is it possible to sort the bonsai by species, rather than name?

Tap the Settings button on the Tools screen and select the “Sort bonsai by species” button under Sort Options. Tap Done, and you’ll find all bonsai are now sorted by species. Repeat these steps to sort by name again.

7. What is the purpose of the button next to the plus button on the bonsai and pot screens?

This button is used to toggle between the table view and the photo grid view. The photo grid displays larger versions of the thumbnail photos seen in the table view, with empty cells for those bonsai or pots without a stored photo. With a large collection, the photo grid view is scrollable, and it should be easier to locate a particular bonsai or pot than with the table view. Tapping a photo in the grid will display the information associated with that photo.

8. What is the purpose of the Type field on the Log Info screen?

The type field is used by the app to determine what should be displayed in the Logs list for that log entry. For instance, selecting Bonsai will show the bonsai name selected in the Bonsai field, selecting Pot will show the Pot name in the Pot field, and Note will show a brief summary taken from the Notes field. Select either Bonsai, Pot, or Note in the Type field depending on what information that particular log entry is recording.

9. How do I re-order the photos on the Bonsai Info, Pot Info, or Log Info screens?

After the entry has been saved, tap on it and then tap the Photos button in the upper-right part of the screen. This will show all the photos associated with the Bonsai, Pot, or Log. Tap and hold on the photo you’d like to move on the Info screen, then drag it to its new position. When you return to the Info screen the photo slots will reflect the new order.

10. How do I add text captions to my photos? How can I hide them to take a closer look at the photo?

Tap on the photo you’d like to add a caption to. Tap the word balloon icon at the bottom of the screen (the one in the middle), then type in the text caption you’d like to associate with that photo. Tap Done. The new or modified text caption will now be displayed. Note that only the first few lines of the caption will be superimposed over the photo. To hide the captions along with the icons and navigation bar, tap once on the photo. You can scroll between the photos by swiping left and right, and zoom-in by making a pinching gesture, or double-tapping.

11. How do I capture sold, stolen or dead trees, broken pots, or other events?

The place for capturing these events is on the Log Entry screen. Create a new Log entry, tap the Event field followed by the Add New Event button. Type in the new Event (Sold, for instance) and tap Done or outside the field (on iPad). The new Event will now be available for use with this and other log entries. Select the Event, then on the Bonsai field (or Pot field), select the corresponding tree. Set the Type field to Bonsai (or Pot). Set the date the Event occurred, and add any relevant photos or notes. Tap Done, and the new dated Log entry will appear in the list. Now when you tap the Log History button on the Bonsai Info (or Pot Info) screen, you’ll see the complete history of the tree (or pot).

12. How do I backup the Bonsai Album database to my computer?

To transfer the data to your computer, you’ll need all devices on the same local WiFi network as your computer (Mac, PC, or other). Note that all the data is still saved on your device and backed-up whenever you do an iTunes backup.

To transfer to your computer and also to a spreadsheet, follow these steps:

(1) Tap the Backup Database button on the Tools screen within the app. If you only want to backup bonsai and pot data, tap Export Data instead. The app will display a message with the IP address (some numbers) of your device on your network. It might look something like this:
(2) Enter the address displayed by the app into the web browser on your computer. You should see a Bonsai Album page appear. This is actually from the app on your device.
(3) Download the Bonsai Album DB to your computer. You might also want to download the CSV file. This CSV file can be imported into a spreadsheet program on your computer, while the DB file is only readable via the app. Note that only the DB file contains the bonsai, pot, and log photos.

13. I have a Bonsai Album database on my computer. How do I transfer it back to my device?

As with database backup, you’ll need all devices on the same local WiFi network as your computer (Mac, PC, or other).

(1) Tap the Restore Database button on the Tools screen within the app. If you don’t want to completely overwrite the database on your device, you might want to select Import Database instead. Note that if you’re importing, you may see duplicate entries on your device after the import is complete. The app will display a message with the IP address (some numbers) of your device on your network.
(2) Enter the address displayed by the app into the web browser on your computer. You should see a Bonsai Album page appear.
(3) Within the web browser, select the Bonsai Album DB file on your computer. Click the Restore (or Import) button in your browser to send the database to your device.
(4) Your device will receive the database and will ask for confirmation, displaying some info about the database.
(5) Tap the Restore button on your device and the database will be processed. If you’re importing instead, you’ll see another screen where you can select what you want to import (All, only Bonsai, only Pots, or Bonsai and Pots).
(6) Once complete, the app will display a popup letting you know the transfer is complete. The data from your computer will now be on your device.

14. I have an iPad and an iPhone. How do I keep the databases in sync between them? Does the app have iCloud support?

Bonsai Album currently doesn’t have a simple means of keeping databases synchronized on separate devices. However, it is still possible to transfer the database between devices manually:

1. Select Backup Database on the first device.
2. Enter the address into the web browser on the second device.
3. Tap the “bonsaialbum.bdbi” link and wait for the file to download.
4. Tap the Open in “Bonsai Album” button.
5. Bonsai Album will load. Tap Restore to transfer the complete database.

Bonsai Album does not currently support syncing via iCloud. This could be technically difficult to support, since the app was designed before iCloud launched.

15. I have Bonsai Album Lite and just bought the full version. How do I transfer my data from the Lite version?

After you’ve purchased the full version and run it at least once, load the Lite version and tap on the tools icon on the bottom-right of the screen. Tap the “Export to Full App” button, then “Open in Bonsai Album.” When the full version appears, tap the Restore button to transfer the database.

16. I have a whole spreadsheet of data I’d like to import into the app. How can I do that?

Provided your spreadsheet program can export to CSV format and allows you to specify comma separators and dates in a particular format, you should be able to import it into the app. Bonsai Album expects to receive CSV data according to the CSV template file, available in the Downloads section of the site. This template file can also be downloaded when connecting to the app via your web browser.

17. Can you incorporate some new fields into the app? Can I change the names of any of the data fields?

Incorporating new fields may be possible, but keep in mind that screen real estate is very limited on the iPhone and iPod touch. I’ve tried to select fields that would be useful for most bonsai enthusiasts, and have tried to minimize clutter as much as possible. The notes fields may be used to store additional data for each bonsai, pot, or log. Sorry, the names of the data fields cannot be changed.

18. My bonsai tree doesn’t look so good, or they keep dying. Help!

Unfortunately it’s normal to lose some trees, especially if you’re just starting out. Read as much as you can before making a purchase! That said, there are some basic things you can do:

  • Is the tree indoors? It’s a common misconception that bonsai should be kept indoors. Where possible, they should be kept outside to obtain the most sunlight, to reduce disease or pest problems, and for better humidity. Depending on your climate, certain trees will need to come inside during winter, or should be kept in a sheltered location. Here in Illinois I put all the deciduous trees (like maple, pine, juniper etc) in our unheated garage during winter, and only water them maybe once a week or two, or even less. I don’t water them at all when the temperature drops below freezing. All the tropical trees go into our basement under fluorescent grow-lights for winter when it drops to 30/40F outside at night. They don’t like spending winter indoors, but they don’t have much choice! The air is so dry and they’re only getting a fraction of the light they would receive outside. The deciduous trees come outside again around April, and the tropicals not until mid-May (after the danger of frost has passed). When you relocate your trees very much depends on the climate in your region.
  • There are plenty of good bonsai books available for information on caring for your trees. I like The Bonsai Workshop by Herb L. Gustafson. I also highly recommend the Bonsai Conversations, put out by Dallas Bonsai.
  • Ask questions on one of the bonsai forums online, like Bonsai Nut, or Bonsai Tree Forums.
  • If you’re truly interested in learning more about the art of bonsai, I highly recommend you attend a meeting of a local bonsai club. You’ll learn more than reading in books, and the locals will know the best way to care for trees in your particular climate. If you live in the US, there’s a good listing of bonsai clubs on the American Bonsai Society website. In Illinois, you can attend Midwest Bonsai Society club meetings held monthly at the Chicago Botanic Garden.

19. How do I use the reminder feature?

First, pick a log entry or create a new one. Select Yes next to the Reminder field, and a popup will appear asking if you want to add a reminder to the calendar. Tap Add and another screen will appear where you can create a calendar entry. If there’s already an entry, it’ll allow you to edit it (or delete it). If Reminder is set to Yes, changing the date will also show a popup asking if you want to add/edit on the calendar. If you leave the app and check your device calendar, the entry should be recorded against the date/time you set.

The idea is you set a future date, set Reminder to Yes, and the log entry will be highlighted on and after that date. The number badge at the bottom of the screen and on the app icon will be updated to reflect the number of Reminders Due (ie highlighted on or after the stored dates). The Reminders Due statistic is also updated. Once you’ve taken care of the task (fertilizing, repotting, etc), set Reminder back to No.

20. How do I use the bonsai report feature? How do I view the bonsai report?

The bonsai report feature is enabled by default. To change the report options, tap the Settings button on the Tools screen. From there you can scroll down to the Database Export settings and configure the following options:

(1) Generate bonsai report – tap this to turn bonsai report generation On or Off.
(2) Small photos / Medium photos / Large photos – tap this to select the size of the photos that will appear in the bonsai report. Small photos will display thumbnail versions of each photo, while Large photos will display full-size photos, as they would appear on an iPad. Medium photos are half the size of the large photos.
(3) Clear cache – tap this to clear the photo cache. This setting is usually not needed.

Once set, the options above will apply whenever the bonsai report is generated. There is no need to change them every time.

To generate the bonsai report, tap the Backup Database or Export Data button on the Tools screen. The database may take several seconds or minutes to be prepared, depending on the speed of your device and how large your collection is. Once the database has been prepared, a popup with an address (numbers) will appear. Enter this address into your web browser exactly as it appears. Click on the Bonsai Report link at the bottom of the web page that appears in your browser. The bonsai report shows a summary of your collection, followed by the data and photos for every bonsai, pot, and log entry in your collection. This report can be useful for inventory or insurance purposes, and may be saved or printed from within your web browser.

21. How do I save or print the bonsai report?

To print the bonsai report, use your web browser’s print feature. To save the bonsai report, you can use the web page archiving feature of your web browser. Most web browsers allow you to create an archive of web pages, including all images, for saving to your computer.

In Safari, select the Save As option in the File menu. Ensure the Format or Save as type field is set to Web Archive. Enter the filename and click Save.

In Internet Explorer, select the Save As option in the File menu. Ensure the Save as type field is set to Webpage, complete or Web Archive, single file. Enter the filename and click Save.

In Mozilla Firefox, select the Save As Page option in the File menu. Ensure the Save as type field is set to Web Page, complete. Enter the filename and click Save.

In Google Chrome, select the Save Page As option in the File menu. Ensure the Format field is set to Webpage, Complete. Enter the filename and click Save.

22. When I view the bonsai report in my web browser, why are some of the photos different to those shown in the app?

The bonsai report feature uses a cache, which is another way of saying it stores the photos for fast access later. Sometimes the cache may be out of date, causing the app to become confused and start displaying old photos in the bonsai report. While this is unlikely to occur, you can fix the problem by tapping the Settings button on the Tools screen. Scroll to the bottom of the list to the Database Export settings. Tap Clear cache, and the photo cache will be cleared. Regenerate the bonsai report to confirm the photos are correct.

23. I just bought the full version of Bonsai Album, but the app only allows me to store 2 photos per tree (iPhone / iPod), or 5 photos on the iPad. Why don’t you increase this limit? How can I show the complete life of my tree with such a limitation?

While it is true that you only see this limited number of photos on the main Info screen for each Bonsai (or Pot, or Log), there is actually no hard limit on the number of photos you can store, other than the space available on your device. There is limited screen real-estate available, and the small number of photo slots are designed to both fit in the available space and allow you to quickly add a few photos for the tree.

To add more photos, tap the Photos button in the top-right corner on the Info screen for the Bonsai (or Pot, or Log). This will present you with a scrollable photo grid displaying all of the photos for that particular Bonsai. To add more, tap the + button in the top-right corner of the Photos screen.

You may also decide which of your photos best showcase your tree for display on the main Info screen. To choose these photos, tap on any photo, swipe between them, and tap the button on the bottom of the screen that looks like two squares with a ‘1’ contained within (2nd button from right). A popup will appear, where you can select from “Set to 1st Photo”, “Set to 2nd Photo”, etc. Repeat for all of the other available photo slots.

24. I have questions, feature requests, or concerns that aren’t listed above. How can I contact you?

You can reach me via email (, on the Bonsai Album Facebook page, or on Twitter (I’m @andrewnicolle). I can usually respond to queries within 24 hours. If you like Bonsai Album, please spread the word! Share your thoughts with other bonsai enthusiasts by rating or reviewing the app on the App Store. I use this feedback to gauge continued interest in the app and to plan future updates.

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