Classic Computer Magazine Archive COMPUTE! ISSUE 138 / FEBRUARY/MARCH 1992 / PAGE S11

How to use your spreadsheet as a conversion program. (Compute's Getting Started with Spreadsheets)
by Richard O. Mann

Remember the Rosetta Stone? Discovered in 1799 in Egypt, it was the key to the eventual deciphering of the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic script. It held the same royal decree engraved in the Greek, hieroglyphic, and demotic languages. Because scholars could still read the Greek, they were able to puzzle out what the hieroglyphics meant. From that, they were able to translate the entire hieroglyphic language.

Lotus 1-2-3 can serve a similar function with computer data. Sometimes when you want to convert data in program A so that you can use it in program B, there's no direct conversion utility available. In these cases, program A's data can often be converted to 1-2-3's data format and then converted again to program B's data format.

Lotus 1-2-3 is so popular that virtually all programs that handle basic field and record data can read 1-2-3 files. Many also write data into the 1-2-3 file format. Those that don't write 1-2-3 files usually can output ASCII text, which can be imported into 1-2-3 and massaged into shape.

Routing to R:BASE

Many home computers come bundled with Microsoft Works; a lot of us started with Works as our beginning database, spreadsheet, and word processor. (Works includes basic programs for all these functions.) For our example, assume that you eventually moved up to Lotus 1-2-3 because you use it at work. You have a fairly substantial database built up in Works, perhaps your family mailing list or Cub Scout Pack membership records.

Now you decide it's time to move up to a more powerful database, but you don't want to lose all that data you've carefully entered into Works. You can use 1-2-3 to make the necessary translations.

Start in the Works database. Using the Works menus, copy the database data into a Works spreadsheet. Then tell Works to save the spreadsheet file in Lotus 1-2-3 format, a normal Works function.

Next, go into your new high-powered database. It might be R:BASE for DOS, which I use, or FoxPro or dBASE IV or whatever. They all read 1-2-3 files directly. In R:BASE for DOS, importing the work sheet file is absolute simplicity. It even gives you a running count of records onscreen as it reads them in and converts them to its own format.

The job is done. It was that simple.

Use 1-2-3 for Remote Data Entry

Because database programs all read 1-2-3 files easily, you can use 1-2-3 work sheet files for remote data entry or for data exchange with other computer users.

A small business hired a temporary employee to enter names and addresses into a mailing list, but the business couldn't let the temporary use the primary computer, where the database resided. It was already in use throughout the day. Rather than buy another copy of the database program, the company used 1-2-3 as an input engine.

The temporary entered the names into a simple spreadsheet. Later, the work sheet was merged into the other computer's database.

Other Uses

1-2-3 is a versatile data handler. I've downloaded mainframe data into a PC text file using Procomm Plus, imported the text into 1-2-3, parsed it into columns and fields, and then imported it into a database for further use. 1-2-3's Data Parse command converts text strings into fields. It looks complicated, but it's easy to learn and use. Though we think of Lotus 1-2-3 as a spreadsheet, its data-translation capabilities make it as useful as the Rosetta Stone to the savvy user.