Classic Computer Magazine Archive COMPUTE! ISSUE 25 / JUNE 1982 / PAGE 175

Software Arts Establishes Data Interchange Format

Software Arts, Inc., the creator of the VisiCalc microcomputer program, has established a standard for exchanging data among personal computer programs by making available DIF, a data interchange format. The DIF format was originally developed by Software Arts for use with the VisiCalc program.

Software Arts has also created a DIF Clearinghouse to provide the technical information necessary for other program developers to access DIF format files with their own application programs.

The DIF format, already supported by a variety of commercially available programs, eliminates the need for time consuming re-entry and modification of data that was previously required. For example, DIF is invaluable where several different programs use the same information for financial planning, billing, and inventory. Another advantage of conforming to the DIF file format, and a major goal in its design, is the ease with which it can be used by novice programmers as well as experts.

The DIF file format has sufficient power for many applications, is easy to use and understand, and is independent from the features of any one particular computer. It also is independent from any one programming language: DIF files may be used with any language. Some of the programs currently available that can use DIF to share data with one another include VisiPlot, VisiTrend/VisiPlot, CCA Data Management System, Trend-Spotter, DB Master, and most versions of VisiCalc. Other supporting programs are planned for the future.

Two examples of uses for the DIF file format are:

  1. A payroll program can use DIF to store personnel information from week to week. Then the data can be accessed by such other software as report-generating programs, without additional programming.
  2. If a school keeps student records in a DIF format file, the staff and faculty can use various programs to manage and summarize information without having to re-enter the data each time.

Software Arts established the DIF Clearinghouse to coordinate and distribute information about DIF and the commercially available programs that use it. Anyone adopting DIF will have his or her program added to the list of DIF-compatible programs if they notify the Clearinghouse. Additional information about DIF, including the technical specifications and list of programs supporting DIF, is available for $6.

DIF Clearinghouse
P.O. Box 527
Cambridge, MA 02139