SUpER DATA BASE 1-2-3
REViEW by Rolly HERMAN
[AC expresses its appreciation for permission to reprint this review from the WAND Newsletter, May 1989.]
Not Your Normal Database
From the title- Super Data Base 1-2-3 (henceforth called SDB)you could assume this is another database program, right? Well, yes and no. SDB isn't a database program in itself. It's really a trilogy of programs which write the code to create databases, reports, and menus which then become self contained and operate without SDB. When you're finished using SDB, you have created one or more data base and report and menu programs which you use. SDB is put away and not used again until you have the need for some new custom data base program. SDB comes on three double-sided (flippy) disks accompanied by a very nice manual over 135 pages long. It's produced by I.M.P. Software, of Ozark, Missouri (USA), and costs $59.95 from American TechnaVision (see ATV's ad elsewhere in this issue).
Here's an inventory of the contents of the three disks:
Disk 1, Side A is entitled File writer Data Entry System.
Disk 1, Side B is Menu Writer and Menu Creation System.
Disk 2, Sides A and B are Report Writer and Report Creation System.
Disk 3, Side A is a Tutorial for Super Base 1-2-3.
Disk 3, Side B is Addendum, Motes, and Screen Layouts.
This all looked quite impressive, but somehow it also looked vaguely familiar.
I delved into the manual, and again some parts looked familiar and others did not. Had I seen this somewhere before?
Deja-Vue From Commodore
I finally figured out the answer to the puzzle. SDB is a new title, and I.M.P. is the new owner of an older program that has been partially revised, reworked, and enhanced. [Editor's Note: I.M.P. stands for Industrial Machine Products, not exactly the name of a company you'd associate with computer software. Maybe the market for locomotive drivewheels and journals got a little too slow, so they diversified into Atari 8-bit software. Who knows? Stanger things have happened! -BP] The manual has been partially revised and enhanced, and partly rewritten. SDB is a reworking of Codewriter.
CodeWriter originally came on flippy disks for the Commodore: Commodore on one side, Atari on the other. The original manual was terrible, because it was written for the Commodore and had asterisks all over the place to note changes for the Atari. It was full of mistakes, omissions, directions unworkable on the Atari, etc. The Report section was so bad that it was practically useless. In this new version, the manual has been revised so that it is for Atari only, and the Report section has been completely rewritten.
SDB is a three-part program which allows the user to design his own databases, design his own report systems, and his own menus. SDB will actually write the code in BASIC for the new programs which will then run and be independent of SDB. With the use of SDB, a user can create custom databases and reports for payables and receivables, sales analysis, mailing lists, customer and personnel files, invoicing, inventory, production tracking, order entry, and other business uses. Disk #3 has 26 ready-made screens of sample and typical records you can use outright or custom-modify to your application.
Here are some of the specifications of the File Writer program: Allow Screen heading, field descriptions, reminders, notes, and complete editing. Fields can be "numeric" or "money-type" and can be included in calculations. There's a choice of keyboard entered, program calculated, date and grand total (global) fields. A maximum of 50 fields per record, and 500 records per file (depending upon record length) is available. Full data validation is permitted. Key fields and search of records are supported.
The Report Writer program supports these specifications and more. Here's a sampling: a 40 column screen scrollable horizontally to 80 columns and vertically to 56 lines. A maximum of 99 reports, each may consist of up to 15 sections. Output to screen or printer (Atari or Epson Compatible). You have the option of section and/or overall summaries, and summaries may include totals, averages, maximum and minimum values for "money" or "numeric" fields; grand total fields may be included in the summaries. Data-entry fields may be included in the reports and additional program calculated fields are supported.
Reports are designed on the screen; up to 16 records may be printed across the page. Supports address labels, pay slips, advice notes, even checks. You have the options of entering text, including dates, page numbers, report titles and headings. Rapid sorting before printing of any selected field is permitted. There's a comprehensive selection routine for choosing records to be included in, or excluded from, the reports. You also have the option of using different names, numbers, and dates to select records for printing on each occasion the program is run.
Here are just a few of the things you can do with SDB's Menu Writer module. A main menu and submenus may be created and linked with a 21 maximum. Other features are a three line title, editing, adding/ deleting programs, changing the order, a copy routine to collect files on a new disk. Additional options are permitted such as; Format Disk, Exit to BASIC, Exit to DOS, Directory, Return to Main Menu, etc.
The overall specifications and capabilities of SDB are quite impressive. The programs work well and do create the new data bases, report programs and menus as detailed. The creation of the new programs is fairly rapid- about five minutes. These are created in BASIC, and the program lines are listed on the screen and can be printed out.
Nits And Stuff
I liked the fact that the completed File Writer screens can be saved, edited, reused, modified, etc. and that Disk #3 has the 26 sample File Writer screens you can use. This allows creating an unlimited number of different data bases each custom tailored for a particular use. However, I was greatly annoyed by the fact that the report screen format you've created can't be saved, edited and modified once it has been finished and codified. The report you create on the screen can be edited as much as you like while you're working on it, but when it's finished iy gets directly translated into the BASIC code for your new Report program. If you find that when you now run this Report program, you aren't satisfied with the way the report comes out, or there are mistakes you made, there's no way to just load the report back onto the screen and edit it. You have to go through the entire process of creating a new report from scratch.
There are still a few minor errors in the manual, some of which are noted on Disk #3 in Notes and Addendums. Others, such as certain formulas that only work with upper case and the manual shows it in lower case, are reasonably self evident. I also found a "bug" in running the newly created report program. There's an option to print out a test page before the final hardcopy. The test page didn't work, but the final hard copy was fine.
All in all, everything else works quite well. If you have need of one or more tailor-made database and report programs, you would do well to purchase SDB. At $59.95 it's a little expensive as 8-bit software goes, but for what you get I think it's a fair price.
[Editor's Comment: I briefly evaluated Super Database 1-2-3 last year when I was trying to decide which database would be best to use for AC's subscriber list. One of the traps I fell into with File Writer is that when you're creating your database file you have to tell File Writer how many records you'll be putting into it (so it can calculate whether you'll have sufficient disk space). I already had 800 records and had no idea how many more I'd be adding. There was also no way to port them into SDB from the TurboFile database originally created by Jef McWillams. Nevertheless I was much impressed by the enormous flexibility of SDB, especially for small business management for which it was obviously designed. The SDB program disks aren't protected, so it should theoretically be possible to run SDB from a hard drive or RAMdisk. It would be very interesting to get some reader feedback as to compatibility of SDB with different DOS's, RAMdisk utilities, and hard drives. Anybody...? -BP]