Q&A for Windows. (database management software) (Software Review) (Evaluation)
by J. Blake Lambert
Q & A 4.0 for Windows includes a database manger and word processor and is aimed at the needs of individuals and small businesses. It's designed to be easy to use, but it's still a powerful product. As you might guess, the two programs together are particularly adept at mail merges (using Q & A, dBASE, or Paradox files).
Early DOS versions of Q & A let you type in questions using ordinary English to get answers. The Windows version requires you to use a certain syntax, but helps you build the phrases as you go.
Queries end up being fairly normal sentence-like constructions such as find the records where ZIP begins with "274" and the LastMailing is before 10/1/93 sorted by ZIP. This is often easier than filling in a query form, but you can use a form if you prefer. Q & A also lets you string together several requests into a script.
Once you get an answer table, if you edit the records, the changes apply to the original database. For example, you could type find the records where zip is blank, then enter the ZIP codes into the answer list where it's easiest. Many database managers require extra work to make these changes transfer to the original file.
You can view your data as a form or as a table (spreadsheet style) and can create custom forms with graphics and even buttons that run scripts. Q & A has plenty of tools for designing forms, labels, and single or multipass reports.
While Q & A doesn't claim to be a relational database and has no procedural programming language, it still has plenty of programmability. For example, navigational programming lets you define how the cursor moves from field to field on a form--including conditional jumps.
An excellent database structure table lets you easily view and change settings for each field's name, type (including graphics), format, restrictions, indexing, initial value, custom help, programming (using spreadsheetlike @ functions) and masking. You can even use another database as a lookup table. Q & A also makes it easy to perform mass updates and deletes.
Q & A provides good networking and security features. It offers concurrent access among multiple users with record locking and automatic screen refresh to protect the data from corruption.
Q & A Write is a good midrange word processor. It's highly customizable, it has a nice thesaurus and spelling checker, and it has hyphenation, text and graphic frames, document statistics, send fax and mail options, a table generator, OLE/DDE support, and an outliner.
If you're looking for a good flat-file database and word processor with easy mail-merge capabilities at a reasonable price, Q & A fills the bill.