Classic Computer Magazine Archive ANTIC VOL. 5, NO. 4 / AUGUST 1986



Important dBase III workalike

In the world of business computing dominated by the IBM PC, dBase III is the king of database software. This high-powered, versatile, relational database-like its successful predecessor dBase II-is complex and not easy to learn.

dBMAN, short for dataBase MANager, is a dBaseIII-compatible database that was originally developed by VersaSoft for the IBM PC. Now available for the Atari ST, dBMAN is a true relational database that can access records in up to 10 different data files at once. This makes it easy to transfer information between files, such as posting a transaction file from a batch entry file.

Like dBase III, dBMAN is actually a programming language controlled by a large repertoire of commands that you will need to learn. It does not use the ST's GEM interface or the mouse. Experienced dBase III users will feel right at home, but novices may well be advised to purchase at least one independently published dBase III tutorial book. The dBMAN manual does not contain a significant tutorial for beginners.

(As this issue went to press, Antic learned that Atari Corp. has obtained the exclusive worldwide marketing rights to dBMAN. This move could potentially give dBMAN tremendous penetration of the Atari market somewhat on the level that AtariWriter had in the 8-bit word processor field. According to Atari, developers will be able to use dBMAN to create commercial "runtime" applications that operate without the database. A GEM version of dBMAN will appear later with inexpensive upgrades available to owners of the earlier version.-ANTIC ED)

The upper part of the dBMAN screen is used to type in commands and display status information, including error messages, the current file and record, and a HELP line with prompts for active keys. From the command line, you perform the basic actions of creating and updating a database. Data files can be indexed on one or many fields, as can calculations using fields. When data won't fit in the lower display area, the arrow keys are used to scroll pages horizontally or vertically.

Among the best features of dBMAN and other dBaseII/III programs is the creation of command files which can automatically execute a series of dBMAN commands and allow programmers to control all user interactions. Command files allow turnkey applications to be created for novices.

dBMAN's ability to "filter" a database is mostly used with command files. Filtering allows the user to see only relevant data records. Outdated or inappropriate records are filtered and never shown.

The command names in dBMAN and dBaseIII are almost alike. But unlike dBase III, there is no command file text editor in dBMAN, so you must use a separate text editing program to create a command file, and then enter dBMAN to debug it.

If you are accustomed to using abbreviations in dBase, it is annoying that you cannot abbreviate dBMAN command keywords. dBase only requires the first four letters of a command keyword. It may turn out to be more difficult to transport dBase applications because the commands must be spelled out.

Sending information to a printer seems unnecessarily difficult. There are two choices. First, the command Set Print On sends to the printer any values displayed with the ? or ?? commands. This approach is not useful for printing lists, mailing labels or reports. The second approach is to define a report format using the Create Report command. This is complex and poorly documented. There are no examples of creating a report in the manual or on disk.

dBMAN is not copy-protected, making it easy to keep and maintain backups of the program, an important consideration to advanced users taking full advantage of the product. The program should also benefit from its ability to easily transport runtime applications to the ST from the IBM PC. And the wealth of excellent third-party books and classes teaching dBase III should prove helpful to beginning dBMAN users.

Atari Corporation
1196 Borregas Avenue
Sunnyvale, CA 94086
(408) 745-2000