Classic Computer Magazine Archive ANTIC VOL. 2, NO. 3 / JUNE 1983

Data Base Survey

Full-Scale Systems

by Ken Harms

Full-scale Data-Base Management Systems (DBMS) are the most capable and flexible of all the systems surveyed. Generally, they have more features and are the most complex, but they are not necessarily the hardest to use. Only four systems qualified as "full scale" products in our survey: CCA, DataPerfect, File Fax, and FileManager+. The best of these are excellent, and all had some excellent features.

To qualify as "full-scale," a DBMS had to handle at least 500 records of 100 characters each, allow at least 20 fields per record, and sort on at least three of those fields. These systems also generate reports designed by the user.

Although each of the four programs meets the minimum requirements, they differ considerably in ability, ease of use and features. Before buying, carefully study the charts and narrative to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of each system.


Each system was evaluated for over 180 characteristics, features and functions. Our comparison chart shows the most important of these. The following narrative represents my best judgment after using all the systems on several data bases. All data, and most of the judgments in the table, were discussed with each vendor, but you should verify our findings before you buy.

Comparisons of time requirements and use capacities are based on a consistent record of 100 characters containing nine fields in a 48K machine. Features common to all programs (or missing from all) are generally not included in the chart, but are covered in the narrative.

The chart presents the features roughly in the order you would encounter them as you use the system. If you purchase one of these, make sure you get a version equal to, or higher than, that shown on the chart.


All systems require at least one disk drive. The number of drives "supported" indicates the maximum number of drives which can be accessed during an operation. In other words, although FileManager can access files on any one of four drives at one time, only File Fax will allow records from a single data file to be entered on more than one drive.

"Need for second drive" is a personal judgment of how difficult the DBMS is to operate with only one disk. Since CCA and FileManager load only part of the master program at a time, a single-drive user must occasionally"swap" data disk for system disk to access some functions. Although Data Perfect loads the whole program at the start, it does require two disk swaps for each record in some rarely-used operations. Both of these situations increase the need for a second disk drive.


Each system can accommodate only a certain number of fields, and no matter how few fields are used, a record cannot exceed a certain maximum length. Although every field also has a maximum length, the maximum record length is seldom the product of number of fields times field length.

Each product has different limitations. For instance, if you need 30 fields, only Data Perfect or File Fax will work. If, however, you need fewer, but very long fields (descriptive text, for instance), only FileManager will suit.

The number of records a system can handle in a single data base is limited by memory and disk space. The chart reports the maximum number of records for a file of 100-character records with a four-digit numeric key. Since entirely different schemes are used by each of the four systems, they will not behave comparably if the record format is changed. CCA and File Fax store keys on disk and are, therefore, insensitive to the length of the key. Data Perfect keeps all records in memory and also doesn't care what size the key field is.

FileManager keeps keys in memory, but records on disk, making it difficult to calculate a maximum file size. Once the key field becomes longer than about one 25th of the data record, FileManager becomes memory-limited very rapidly. For example, all systems were originally configured for a numeric key field. With this key, FileManager would accept only 255 records since it assumes that all numeric fields are 14 characters long. Under its scheme, a 14-digit key limits the system to 255 records no matter how short the full record is. I had to reconfigure the test data to use an alpha field four characters long to get more than 500 records with FileManager. A further warning: since FileManager sorts by changing the index fields, you may not be able to sort files on longer keys. For example, if a data base contained 400 records with a four-digit key, an alphabetic sort on last name (even limited to five characters as FileManager suggests), plus first name, would expand the index up to 10 characters. Since FileManager can only handle 319 records if the index has 10 characters, you would not be able to sort the file.

You probably wonder how File Fax stores 1000 records of 100 characters (100K total) on a disk which stores only 88K. They "pack" data with a special encryption scheme. Very neat!

Most DBMSs generate an internal "pointer file" which tells where a particular record is located on a disk, without reading the entire file. These pointers work on "key field" (or "index field"). Access to a record is much faster using key fields, so you'll want to choose as key fields the ones you use the most; the last name, for instance, in a name and address file.

The CCA system automatically uses the physical position of the record (the record number) as its key. File Fax automatically assigns key-field status to the first field in the record. Neither of these schemes is as flexible as the Data Perfect method (allows any single field) or the FileManager approach (three fields-but limited to 24 characters). All the systems search for duplicates. A search will get the first record which matches your "call" in the key field. If two or more records match the criteria, you skip to the next record manually. (Duplicate keys are not applicable to CCA's record number system.)

To optimize disk use, some systems permit only one data base per diskette. With backup, this costs two diskettes per data base. If you anticipate many small data bases, your disk cost would be reduced by using CCA or FileManager. Only File Fax can handle thousands of records-over 4,500 records of 100 characters! This could be crucial feature.


The first ten items in the chart make a system generally easy or hard to use. A single-load system installs the entire program into the computer when the system is started. Other systems, that do not load completely at boot, cause delays and disk swapping during operation.

A careful system will require confirmation to perform a "dangerous act." File Fax is generally very good here except that a [CONTROL] [Q] key press will return immediately to the menu without saving keyed-in data. The [ESCAPE] key also destroyed form designs without asking confirmation.

Prompts on the screen are reminders of available actions. Help screens show pages of explanatory text. File Fax's help screens are nicer than prompts for a new user, but an experienced user will probably prefer Data Perfect's excellent prompts.

Vendor support seems good, and all companies have full-time employees who answered my questions knowledgeably. CCA, a well-established system, is the only one I know of with an active user group. This could be important if you chose to modify the system.

Keyboard consistency means the same key always does the same thing. Data Perfect's consistency was generally very good. After I got used to its two-step method of doing some operations, the system was very logical. A system should reject unallowable key presses--an alpha character in a numeric field, or an incorrect choice. File Fax does this very well. A system that remembers your choices reduces typing. Both Data Perfect and File Fax are excellent here.

Some people like unusual screen colors. In my opinion, blue and white is the easiest to read. I found File Fax's black and white difficult to get clear on my screen. If you like colors (and large letters mixed with small ones), you'll love FileManager. FileManager uses different colors for different sections of the program. Some may find this helpful; personally, since the screen brightness kept changing, I was annoyed. Data Perfect uses an excellent two color scheme to separate choices and prompts from data.

Only CCA allows an experienced programmer to modify its code. This could be a real advantage for a user with specific applications. Many CCA users, for instance, have produced special reports. The BIT3 80-column card could be supported. Modifications are available to use the double density mode on Percom drives (contact John R. Babson, 106 Berwick Dr., Pittsburgh, PA 15215). The double-density mode was not tested.

All labels from File Fax will have a computer look since it does not allow lower-case letters. Both Data Perfect and FileManager can merge data with form letters in a word processor. This is a very nice feature!


Unfortunately, while most of the products show a lot of thought, only File Fax includes a good manual--and even that does not include an index! CCA's presentation is aimed at readers very familiar with DOS and computer lingo. FileManager's entire manual is tutorial that does not give enough information about what's happening unless you are actually doing their example on the computer.

Although Data Perfect is a friendly program, the manual is very hostile. If you use standard English, you'll be offended by silly errors, poor sentence construction, and confusing word choice.


To define a data base, give it a name and then describe each of the fields in its data records. CCA and FileManager ask for definitions one line at a time. Essentially, they prompt you to name fields and set field lengths, one after the other, down the screen.

Data Perfect and File Fax, on the other hand, lay out a form on a full screen. Each field is placed where you want it and the length and characteristics of the field are displayed as they would be on a paper form. File Fax allows field names or any other descriptive data to be placed above, below, before or after the field. Data Perfect requires the exact field name immediately before the field. Although both systems are very good, I prefer the flexibility of File Fax's layouts. These layouts can be edited. Data Perfect allows you to insert a new field anywhere in the layout, but when you want to enter data, you must work on the inserted fields after completing the original fields.

If your application requires a lot of complex data entry, File Fax's outstanding screen would be very useful. An easy system should permit you to build a new data definition by modifying a prior one. Two of these DBMSs allow this.

Finally, you will probably want the ability to reorganize an existing data file into a new file by adding, deleting or rearranging fields. Only Data Perfect and FileManager allow you do do this automatically--with the others you must retype the data.

Data Perfect reorganizes files one record at a time. This is all right if you have two drives, but with a single drive you must swap disks twice for each record-an intolerable inconvenience!

Data Perfect will merge files created under the Letter Perfect word-processing program, or Atari DOS files created by BASIC programs. The manual doesn't describe this adequately, however.

Overall, File Fax's data definition is outstanding. However, lack of a "reorganize" function severely limits overall flexibility. Data Perfect's definition screen is also very well done, but you'll need access to a second drive to use the reorganize function easily.


All systems allow alphabetic and numeric fields. In the chart, "decimal positions" specify exactly how many decimal places a number will have. File Fax and FileManager do not provide this feature, but allow automatic dollars and cents fields specified to two places. With CCA and Data Perfect, decimal placement is fully variable.

Constant fields always contain the same data until specifically changed, for example, state names, in a list predominantly for a single state. File Fax doesn't provide this on a field-by-field basis, but, on a data-base-wide level it allows you to recall data from a prior record by a blank return. A "require field fill" does not allow blanks--what does one do with a 6-digit telephone number, for instance?

A date field holds MM-DD-YY numbers and sets up sorts so that 12-01-82 is less than 1-1-83, very useful if you plan to sort by birthdays. It also prohibits month 13, etc. A noneditable field does not allow update--whatever is entered first remains forever.

Computed fields automatically calculate results from values entered into other fields in the same record. For instance, if you entered "units sold" and "price per unit," a computed field could show the total sale. This is a very powerful feature. Data Perfect carried it one step further to allow access to the internal record number. This lets you automatically increment a field value for each record--check numbers could be calculated automatically, for example.

File Fax presents nice prompts for field attributes and has some unusual field types such as right justified, Y/N, and alpha-only. Overall, however, lack of computed fields will probably limit File Fax's usefulness for many applications.


One major purpose of a DBMS is to enter and update data at will. All these systems do this, but some are considerably easier and faster than others.

The nicest screens for data entry are by Data Perfect and File Fax, both paper-like forms. These screens use the ATARI editing features such as up, down, insert and delete. File Fax presents a more creative form and is the easiest to use.

CCA an d FileManager show data entry screens as a list of fields. Both allow insert, delete, and right and left arrows for editing within a field. FileManager allows up and down arrows to edit different fields. CCA allows "going back" to edit a field, but you must retype the data in that field.

Several special editing functions in Data Perfect and File Fax automatically enter parts of a field without retyping the entire field. Both Data Perfect and FileManager allow entry of data beyond the limit of an alphabetic field, but truncate the input without warning.

The auto-next-field feature moves the cursor to the next field when the current field is full without requiring a return. This speeds data entry for fields such as phone numbers, zip codes, etc. Automatic-next-form saves the record and brings up a new form when the last field is completed. Data Perfect doesn't do this because it allows the user to choose whether the next form will be blank or will include data from the previous form. File Fax can remember data from a prior record on a field-by-field basis, which is helpful on many applications.

We have seen File Fax's generally logical presentation, and data entry is no exception. The designers have, however, made several unfortunate decisions by locating editing choices in the data-definition module rather than in entry/update. For instance, you generally would choose to "verify record before input" to be sure you were familiar with a new form. After entering a few records, you would often like to change to auto-next-form. Doing so with File Fax is a frustrating procedure.

The math-calculation feature allows you to see results of computed fields before saving the record.

Some of the systems incorporate all the desirable features (see chart), but File Fax's outstanding screen makes it more efficient for large-scale data entry operations. Data Perfect, a close second in screen quality, will be better for records which are very similar from one record to the next. FileManager's record-saving routine is extremely slow and would handicap users with large numbers of records.


After entering data, you'll want to find particular records and either read ("review") or change ("update") them. You specify what you want, and the program searches for that information. CCA does this for only one field at a time. Other systems permit specifying a range of values for several fields. Some systems find records by record number. This is handy when you compare records to the "hard copy."

If you specify multiple criteria, the programs require that the record satisfy all criteria. This is an AND search ("Both field 1 AND field 2"). FileManager allows NOT searching ("Do NOT select if age is less than 26"). Wild cards allow you to specify parts of a field as a criterion-this is similar to "*" and "?" options in DOS.

Once you've found a record, what can you do? You can see the next record which meets the criteria. Some allow you to see the previous record which meets the criteria. Some print the record with a single key press, helpful when building a hardcopy file. (File Fax's print option does work; use "CTRL ," rather than the key given in the manual.) Data Perfect and FileManager allow you to find and change a record in one operation. In the others you search for a record, write down its record number or key field value and then go to a change / update module to change the data in that record.

Only Data Perfect will change or delete in a single pass all records which matched specified criteria. This is a very powerful feature. Suppose our Little League roster includes players' ages. If the data base includes a birth date field, you could run global changes once a month to say "If birthday is greater than 1/1/83 but less than 4/1/83 increase the age by one." Global delete will prune your customer list by removing all records with a total sales amount below a certain amount. Powerful!

The programs vary considerably in speed of searches. The chart shows speeds in a test search through a file of 50 records on the key field, which is the fastest way. Time required to search on non-key fields is given on a per-record basis. Data Perfect's searches are instantaneous because all records are in RAM. The others must read a disk for every record. Data Perfect's extra power, speed and design make it clearly superior for reviewing and updating.


Suppose you've entered records for 200 pieces of art and want to see the list sorted by artist, and for each artist, by year purchased. This is a two-level sort. Data Perfect sorts to four levels. This is adequate for most applications. FileManager is limited to three levels, and permits only 24 "criteria" characters. Worse, memory limitations will restrict many sorts.

Some systems do only ascending sorts (1, 2, 3 . . .). Only CCA will mix both ascending and descending sorts (1 . . . 3, 2, 1). A sort on only the first few characters of a field is permitted by some of the systems. All programs accept sort criteria easily, but File Fax's sort criteria are awkwardly placed at the file-definition level.

Sort speeds differ remarkably. For sorting 50 records on a non-key field, FileManager's 54 seconds was very fast. Data Perfect was slowed down by disk swapping because it reads records from the old file, sorts them, and outputs them to a new file. Since all records fit in Data Perfect's memory, I consider this a design fault. File Fax sorts so slowly the vendor suggests you let it sort overnight! And, since it writes the new file over the old one, you run a substantial risk of data loss (keep that backup handy).

I think Data Perfect's flexibility is worth its slower sort speed, compared to FileManager's fast, but very restricted, sort. If you really need more than four levels, CCA sorts very capably.


You'll often use your DBMS to produce labels or lists of records. The report-writer section of a good DBMS should let you design reports the way you need them.

Reports can reorder fields, omit fields, and, on some systems, compute new fields. Data Perfect and File Fax give you a full screen layout similar to the final printed report. Both have horizontal scrolling so you can see all columns (40 at a time). File Fax's layout system for reports is superb. Using "page flipping" (an ultra-fast way to change screens), you skip between the file-definition screen and the report layout screens, tagging fields as you need them.

When computed fields are used in reports, but not included in the file, they don't consume valuable disk or memory space. Unfortunately, two systems omit this powerful feature.

Similarly, a subtotal feature gives a subtotal on any numeric field whenever a specified field changes value (a "control break"). Systems which restrict subtotals are often inappropriate for a given job. A really flexible subtotal system allows you to print blank lines when a subtotal appears, change pages at subtotals (e.g., a new page for each department) and print a description on the subtotal line.

The maximum report width is shown in characters-per-line. Some systems will save only a few report layouts per data base. This could restrict you if you plan many alternate reports.

Headers are lines at the top of each page which identify the report and contents of each field. Auto-page number and system-date put these values in the header. A center-line feature puts your headers in the center of a page for a professional look. Some DBMSs automatically print field names at the top of each column. CCA and FileManager do this but do not allow you to design special column headings--inflexible.

Some systems will print a record on more than one line, a feature necessary for reports from long records. Truncating an alphabetic field squeezes more on a line, and suppressing trailing blanks prints fields without gaps.

All the systems except FileManager allow you to choose the number of decimal places printed on a report. File Fax carries this further by expanding the size of the "total" field as required to hold larger numbers and to change its decimal position. A nice touch.

Although part numbers, Social Security numbers, phone numbers and similar data are generally printed with dashes and parentheses, these symbols are rarely kept on the file. A good report writer will insert them easily. Data Perfect's conditional-data-print prints different constants in a field depending on the value in another field. For instance, a report comparing budget to actual could print "overspent" if the cost exceeded budget.

Most systems preview a report for you by printing it on the screen. With FileManager, you can choose to see only the first 40 columns and, therefore, prevent wraparound. Only CCA will print deleted records, a nice audit feature.

Print speed tests for the four systems were not strictly comparable because different reports printed subtotals differently. CCA prints about half as fast as an Epson printer can go, and FileManager at a bit less than printer speed. File Fax kept up with the printer. The real speed demon was Data Perfect. Feeding my Microbuffer, it output a two-page report in 10 seconds!

All of the systems make it easy to run a second copy of a report. Bold text, emphasis of a particular field, is a nice feature found on Data Perfect. That system, however, restricts page lengths to 11 inches per page. All of the systems did a good job of printing labels in a format designed by the user, but labels could not be produced more than one across.


Each of the systems manipulates files several ways. Extra copies of the program and data disks, known as "backups", should always be available to protect from loss. The CCA disk can be backed up with standard DOS commands. Data Perfect can be backed up with sector-copying programs such as Superdup. Although you cannot back up File Fax, the vendor will sell you a backup copy for $20. FileManager is copy-protected, but friends report that Synapse has always supplied a duplicate disk when the original, damaged disk was returned. The FileManager disk contains a copy of the system on the flip side, so you already have one backup copy.

Only CCA lets you automatically reinsert deleted records without retyping the records. Most of the systems will take two versions of a file and merge them into one file. Data Perfect's system almost requires two drives to do this, however.

It is often useful to create a subfile containing a specific part of an original file, to keep the file from outgrowing your computer. Most of the systems generate subfiles. Only Data Perfect allows you to delete the copied records from the original file in a one-pass operation. The other systems require you to delete the records individually.


All potential errors were not tested, but some observations are possible. Even when errors were detected, the error messages on some systems didn't clearly explain what you did wrong. Requesting a printout without making the printer ready, could "lock up" some programs. Some systems locked up completely on disk errors, requiring a complete power off/on cycle and loss of some input data.

Generally, the systems present little risk of data loss due to power failure. File Fax, however, writes records to the disk as you enter them but doesn't build a "pointer file" until you exit the module. Power failure during data entry therefore loses all the records added during the session. The other systems lose only the current record.


Although it's impossible to provide specific guidance, a selection process can be suggested.

Prepare tentative file definitions and estimate record and field sizes for the applications you expect to automate. Examine the charts to see which systems match your jobs. After eliminating clearly inappropriate DBMSs, compare detailed features to choose a specific program to test. Make sure that it will do what you wish, operate the system for several hours at a dealer. You may also wish to consider some of the smaller DBMSs if they would fit your need.

Differences between the systems lead to some conclusions based on my personal judgments after using each system on several test files. Assuming that the program provides the basic capabilities you require, several outstanding advantages/disadvantages of the systems are:

CCA--Consider this especially if you are an experienced BASIC programmer with some specialized needs, or if you wish to use Percom double density drives.

Data Perfect--This is the most powerful and flexible DBMS reviewed, yet one of the easiest to use. Its outstanding report features, global change capability, and computed fields probably outweigh its frustrating manual, especially if you have access to a second disk drive.

File Fax--Outstandingly easy to use, this is the system for applications requiring large numbers of records. However, be sure you don't have to change your data-base definition (you'll have to retype the data) or sort your data often (you'll grow old waiting).

FileManager+ --Consider this system if you plan to merge data-base records with the Text Wizard word processor or plan to use the RAMDISK. Otherwise, its limited record capacity and dearth of features suggest purchasing Data Perfect instead.


Custom Electronics, Inc.
238 Exchange Street
Chicopee, MA 01013
List price $99.50

LJK Enterprises, Inc.
P.O. Box 10827
Saint Louis, MO 63129
List price $129.95

TMQ Software, Inc.
82 Fox Hill Drive
Buffalo Grove, IL 60090
List price $129.00

Synapse Software
5327 Jacuzzi Street-Suite 1
Richmond, CA 94804
List price $99.95

                              FULL-SCALE DBMS
                             CCA         DATA         FILE         FILE
                             DBMS        PERFECT      FAX          MANAGER+
VERSION                      4.1         1.3          Release 2    4D
Drives Supported             2           2            4            2
Need for second drive        High(a)     Moderate(b)  Low(b)       High(a)
Special hardware supported   Percom(i)   80-columns   None         RAMDISK
Minimum Memory               40K         32K          48K          40K
Number of fields             24          32           31           20
Record size (characters)     249         511          880          2000
Field size (characters)      110         127          40           100
Number of 100 character
records                      800(d)      696          1005(t)      512
Data bases per diskette      Many        1            1            12
Number key fields            N/A         1            1-first      3
Key field length             N/A         127          40           24
Number of data file drives   1           1            4            1
Single Load                  No          Yes          Yes          No
Confirm destructive acts     Good        Excellent    Fair(g)      Fair
Prompts                      Good        Excellent    See help     Poor
Help screens                 No          No           Many         No
Vendor support               Good*       Good         Good         Good
Keyboard consistency         Good        Good(h)      Good(g)      Excellent(i)
Unallowable key rejection    Good(j)     Good(j)      Excellent(k) Good(j)
Retains user choices         Seldom      Often        Often        Seldom
Screen colors                Blue        2-color      Black        Various
User Modifications           Yes-Easy    No           No           No
Lower case                   Yes         Yes          No           Yes
Merge w/word processor       ?           Letter       Not Now      Text 
                                         Perfect                   Wizard
Tutorial                     Advanced*   Yes          Yes(l)       Fair*
Index                        Partly      Fair         No           No
Presentation                 Fair        Poor         Excellent    Poor
Full Screen Layout           No          Yes          Yes          No
Easy re-editing              No          Yes*         Yes          Yes
Build new specifications
from prior                   No          Easy         Easy         No
Print out file definitions   Yes         Yes          Yes          No
Reorganize data base         None        Excellent(m) None         Good*
Decimal positions            Yes         Yes          No*          No*
Constants                    No(n)       Yes          No*          Yes
Require field fill           No          No           Yes          No
Automatic Dollars and Cents  No(o)       Not(o)       Yes          Yes
Date                         No          Yes          No           No
Non-editable                 Yes         No           No           No
# Computed Fields            Any(p)      16           None         5
Complex Math on
Computed Fields              No          Yes          No           Yes
Auto Incrementing            No          Yes          No           No
Full Screen Form             No          Yes          Yes          No
Atari Editing                No          Yes          Yes          Yes
Special Editing Functions    None        Excellent    Excellent    None
Excess Field Length Warning  Yes         No           Yes          No
Auto Next Field              No          No           Yes          No
Auto Next Form               Yes         No*          Yes          No
Verify record                No          Yes          Yes          Yes
Keep data from prior record  No          Full record  By field(q)  By field(r)
Input Editing Ease           Fair        Excellent    Excellent    Excellent
Prompts/help                 Prompts     Prompts      Help screen  None
Math calculation             No          Yes          No           Yes
Review by how many
fields                       1           4+key        All          4+key
Review by range              No          Yes          Yes          Yes
Review by record number      Yes         Yes          No           No
Logical searches
(and, or, not)               No          And/Or       And          And, Not
Wild Cards, part of field    None        Excellent(s) Excellent(s) Good(t)
See prior record             No          yes(u)       yes(u)       No
Print reviewed record        No          Yes          Yes          Yes
One-pass find & update       No(v)       Yes          Nor          Yes
Find and change              No          Yes          No           Yes
Selective global change      No          Yes          No           No
Selective global delete      No          Yes          No           No
Search 50 records by
key field                    2-3 sec     Instant      2-3 sec      2-3 sec
Search by non-key field
(per record)                 1/2 sec     Instant      1/2 sec.     1 sec
Number of sort levels        10          4            8            3(w)
Ascending, descending, both  Both        Both         Ascending    Ascending
Mix ascending & descending   Yes         No           No           No
Outputs a new file           Yes(x)      Yes          No           No
Time to sort 50 records      2.2 min.    1.3 min.(y)  4.5 min.     0.9 min.
Full screen layout           No          Yes          Yes          No
Report layout re-editing     No          Easy         Easy         Easy
Report layout ease           Fair        Better       Best         Good
Number of computed fields    Many(z)     16           0            0
Number of subtotal fields    1           4            1(a1)        0(a2)
Blank lines at subtotal      No(a3)      Yes          No           No
Page breaks at subtotal      No          Yes          No           No
Text on subtotal line        No          No           Yes          No
Maximum report width         132         127          132          132
Number layouts per file      Many        4            4            Many
Number of header lines       1           7            4            1(a4)
Auto page number             Yes         Yes          Yes          No
Auto system date             No          Yes          No           No
Center lines                 No          Yes          Yes          No
Variable spaces after header No          Variable     0-9(a5)      No
Automatic column headers     Yes(a6 *)   Yes          No           Yes(a6 *)
Number of lines per record   1           2            9            1
Blank lines between records  0           Variable     0-9(a5)      Variable
Truncate field data          Yes         Yes          No           No
Suppress trailing blanks     Yes(a7)     Yes          Yes(a7,a8)   Yes(a7)
Number fields include comma  Yes         Yes          No           No
Text in detail lines         No          Yes          Yes          No
Conditional data print       No          Yes*         No           No
Prints to screen             Yes         No           Yes          Yes*
Prints deleted records       Yes*        No           No           No
Speed                        V. slow*    V. fast*     OK*          slow*
Rerun ease                   Good        Best(a9)     Good(b1)     Good
Bold in text                 No          Yes          No           No
Variable page length         Yes         No           Yes          Yes
Backup system                Yes         Yes*         No*          No*
Recover deleted records      Yes         No           No           No
Merge from other files       Yes         Yes(m)       No           Yes
Create subfiles              Yes(b2)     Yes          No           Yes
Error message clarity        Good        Excellent    Nice         Fair
Recover from printer errors  Poor(b3)    Excellent    Poor(b3)     OK
Recover from disk errors     Good        Excellent    Poor(b4)     Fair(b5)
Recover from power failures  Excellent   Excellent    Poor*        Good


(*) See text.

(a) Requires swapping system and data disk.

(b) Requires data disk swapping for backup or file conversion.

(c) Supports Percom double density mode. Could use BIT-3 80 column with user modification.

(d) Computed by reviewer.

(e) Second and additional drives hold 1135 records.

(f) With 4-digit key field.

(g) Escape kills data except in report design.

(h) Return used to select some choices but "S" used in other areas.

(i) Uses Function keys in different ways but always well prompted.

(j) Checks for allowable data after return.

(k) Checks for allowable data at key press.

(l )Manual designed for non-Atari users--requires some translation.

(m) Requires two drives or 2 diskette swaps for each record.

(n) Allows numeric constants via computed field.

(o) Can be done by specifying field with two decimal places.

(p) Maximum 254 characters in all formulas.

(q) Requires setting parameter for full record at data base level--inflexible.

(r) Requires setting parameter for specific fields at data base level--inflexible.

(s) Supports position-specific and "anywhere in field" wild cards. Similar to DOS's e and - functions.

(t) Supports "anywhere in field" wild card and "not in field " similar to DOS z function.

(u) Next and previous records shown which match criteria.

(v) After finding record, can update in another mode.

(w) Limited to 24 characters total.

(x) Can add results of a sorted file to the end of another file. Requires DOS manipulation of sorted file.

(y) Required several disk swaps.

(z) Up to 254 characters of formulas.

(a1) Must be key field only.

(a2) Produces totals, no subtotals.

(a3) Prints a line of dashes to set off subtotals.

(a4) Limited to 37 characters.

(a5) Set at data base level.

(a6) Prints field names as column headers.

(a7) For label reports only.

(a8) Once set, trailing blanks removed from all fields-inflexible.

(a9) Can choose to rerun only specific pages.

(b1) Resorts pointer file for each run. Usually fast sort.

(b2) Limited to 30 records per pass.

(b3 )Can't escape without readying printer or cold boot.

(b4) Some disk errors require cold boot.

(b5) Cannot escape from some file name