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  • Free-form database wanted

    Topic Resolution: Resolved

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    • This topic has 37 replies, 15 voices, and was last updated 1 month ago by anonymous.
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      • #2348040
        areader
        AskWoody Plus

        Years ago (probably pre-Windows 95) I had a relational database that was not laid out like a spreadsheet. I could define my fields and place them where I want on the page. Is there such a thing these days? My personal library is growing and I want a custom database to track purchases and keep track of books in a series. I also want to make databases of my CDs, DVDs, and cassettes.

        Additionally, I really would like something free or very cheap: I’m retired on a fixed income.

      • #2348055
        Richard Merchant
        AskWoody Plus

        Not a database expert so I’ll be interested in what others say.   I used to use Borland Reflex which I think is a bit what you are describing but of course someone bought it and it died.   Mind you, apparently it still can be run quite successfully in a DOS box so perhaps it would work.

        I think all databases are a collection of tables, which is sort of a ‘spreadsheet’ layout that you refer to.  The issue of being able to build a “form” in which fields can be placed where you want is a bit different than the actual database design.  I think what you want is a database program with a versatile form generator.

        I still use an old version of Alpha5 which is that – unfortunately they have developed the program to the point where it is too unwieldy for me and certainly not inexpensive – industrial pricing (which they claim supports industrial strength, which I don’t need).

        You might look at GS-BASE  https://citadel5.com/gs-base.htm   It is pretty inexpensive and looks like it might do forms but I have not tried it (yet).   There is a free trial.   I’ve got GS-CALC which seems to work fine.

         

        Richard

         

         

      • #2348057
        Phil F
        AskWoody Plus

        You could check out LibreOffice, which includes a database component, Base. It’s free to download, so you could easily give it a try.

        Hope this helps.

        • #2348189
          areader
          AskWoody Plus

          I tried. I went to the “Form” component and it’s so over my head I just quit. I will try again.

      • #2348066
        Paul T
        AskWoody MVP

        A spreadsheet will do all you need at no cost.
        There is plenty of help available, here and on the web in general.

        cheers, Paul

        • #2348190
          areader
          AskWoody Plus

          But I said I *don’t* want a spreadsheet with dozens of fields showing all the time. If I need 10 fields, total, and the ability to place them in specific places on the page, a spreadsheet is unable to do that.

      • #2348074
        NaNoNyMouse
        AskWoody Lounger

        A spreadsheet will do all you need at no cost. There is plenty of help available, here and on the web in general.

        In the bad old days, when I had to work for a living, I spent my whole life trying to stop my colleagues from using spreadsheets in situations where a database (MSAccess in that instance) was more appropriate

        It’s true that for trivial home use, a spreadsheet will usually do the job, and is certainly easier to comprehend for a non-techie, but it’s no substitute for a properly designed database

        For my own use (games-writing, so, unsuitable for the OP) I use an SQL-ish package in Unity, but as has been mentioned LibreOffice has an included database system, as does Apache OpenOffice. Both are free. Install, play around, if they don’t fit the bill just uninstall and move on

        • This reply was modified 1 month, 1 week ago by NaNoNyMouse.
        • This reply was modified 1 month, 1 week ago by NaNoNyMouse.
        • #2348193
          areader
          AskWoody Plus

          Thank you for understanding. As I said in my 2nd post, Base is way over my head. I don’t even understand how to start. I will see if the Handbook is dumbed-down enough for me. At least I’m used to using LibreOffice Writer, so I know some of their conventions.

          As for a spreadsheet being easier to comprehend for the non-techie — Hah! Only if you have used spreadsheets. In the pre-computer days, you saw lots more databases and forms in daily life: the library card catalog is a database and each card is a form. Your checkbook is a database and each check is a form. And so on. In my job as an Occupational Therapist in the home health setting, we never used spreadsheets but we did impromptu databases, if only mentally, to keep track of things because every patient’s home and needs were different.

      • #2348094
        DanE1234
        AskWoody Plus

        I use Lotus’ Approach.  The last version is dated 1999.  I use it on a up to date Win 10 Pro.  I’ve used it for my business with up to 150K records, and 20 some data fields.  And relational to 3 different support databases.  It easily makes fine forms and reports, easy to sort fields with just a click or 2, exports queries to a modern Excel spreadsheet and merges queries into Word templates.  There is also a large international user group for help when you need it.  You can easily find a copy on some of the archive websites.   Access was always a mystery to me and Approach allows me to sort and do multiple exports in just a few minutes every week for 24 years after importing over 3000 new records every week.  And spreadsheets would not be able to handle my needs.  The only limitation for me is it doesn’t play well with networks.  But than, maybe I didn’t try hard enough.

        • #2348196
          areader
          AskWoody Plus

          “Approach” sounds very familiar.  As for getting a copy from an archive site, the only archive I know of is “the Wayback Machine” and I don’t think that’s going to help!

        • #2348214
          PaulK
          AskWoody Lounger

          I’ve used Approach for over 20 years, not for business, but for church and personal. At one time someone said that Approach was about a quarter as hard to learn as Access. There are some quirks that will drive one batty, but functionally it is fine. The major problem that I experience is that printer interfacing can be exasperating: it is tedious to have to fine-tune the layout of a report (and its fields) if a very precise printer format is required. In this connection, changing a printer between color and black/white may cause a problem.

          Approach is (in my estimation) great for what you have listed as your requirements. Access, I understand, has the considerably greater functionality that is needed for industrial applications. The Lotus Smart Suite is not supported, so there is no formal recourse for bugs and ‘gotchas’.

          There are many pre-defined Templates included. Here is an Open, along with a list of the additional templates offered via pull-down.

          1
          3

          Attachments:
          • #2348222
            areader
            AskWoody Plus

            I remember that screen! So I did use Approach; I now just have to find an archive to download it from.

        • #2348666
          anonymous
          Guest

          Quite agree with you about Lotus Approach. I used to use the complete Lotus Smartsuite, incorporating 1-2-3 spreadsheet, Word Pro word processor, and Approach Database. I thought all were superior to the Microsoft equivalents. Microsoft Access is a complete nightmare for the amateur, though I did manage to develop an Access database of some complexity for a local firm I worked for, but it took me months (not exaggerating) to put it together, and up and running in a way that any colleague could use it. I had to buy a book called “Teach Yourself Access” to help me along. Lotus Approach, on the other hand, seems intuitively easy to set up and operate.

      • #2348224
        dg1261
        AskWoody_MVP

        From the description in post #1, that sounds a lot like the old Symantec Q&A 4.0, which still seems to be available on archive.org. Q&A let you type text anywhere randomly on the screen and turn it into an input form for an instant database. Q&A was flat-file, though, not relational.

        It was a DOS program, so I wouldn’t recommend anyone try it unless you’re already invested in it. If you’re already familiar with it, though, it still works in Win10 x64 with vDOS.

        I still use Q&A for quick databases and even the family contact list, which I can quickly export from Q&A to .csv and import to google contacts for the family to access. Over more than 30 years, it’s been much easier to maintain with Q&A than with Excel.

         

        • #2348230
          areader
          AskWoody Plus

          If I remember correctly, I wasn’t doing databases in DOS days, only word processing. But as I said in my previous post, I used Approach. And now I’ve downloaded it so I’m all set.

      • #2348259
        Tom in Az
        AskWoody Plus

        A couple of years ago I bought a legit CD of Lotus SmartSuite 97 from Amazon, which contains Approach. Bought it mainly to play with 123 as it was slightly before my time. Approach looks like it might be far simpler than Access for most of us. Amazon currently still has several flavors of SmartSuite on offer, but not standalone Approach.

        HTH,

        Tom in Arizona

      • #2348323
        Rick Corbett
        AskWoody_MVP

        Lotus SmartSuite 9.8 is still available. As a test I’ve just downloaded it (including the Fix6_1 update) from archive.org. Note that it is a slow download speed.

        lotus_files

        I used the Custom Setup option to install just Approach and its smart templates:

        approach_custom_install

        Here’s it running in Windows 10 20H2:

        approach_on_20H2

        Hope this helps…

        Attachments:
        • #2348416
          areader
          AskWoody Plus

          I didn’t know about the update, so I’m downloading that. And the templates are one of the things I liked. This will allow me to keep track of things so I’m not buying 3 copies of something!

        • #2348422
          areader
          AskWoody Plus

          I tried downloading the SmartSuite 6.1 fix from your link but it stalls out at 11-something M, not the 100+ that the 6.0 version is. Suggestions?

      • #2348365
        DanE1234
        AskWoody Plus

        I’m the one who first suggested Approach as a good option for a full feature database manager.

        One of the issues for using Approach is support for questions and how to do queries & scripts.  There is a very active support group that is posting constantly with very helpful users participating.

        There is an email address for info and questions about how to access and ask for help.

        I’ve been very impressed with the amount of questions and helpful participants that use Approach for sophisticated business applications.  Something is posted most everyday.

        It’s truly a hidden internet treasure.  It’s got me out of jams several times over 20 years.

      • #2348375
        Rick Corbett
        AskWoody_MVP

        I’m the one who first suggested Approach as a good option for a full feature database manager.

        One of the issues for using Approach is support for questions and how to do queries & scripts.  There is a very active support group that is posting constantly with very helpful users participating.

        There is an email address for info and questions about how to access and ask for help.

        I’ve been very impressed with the amount of questions and helpful participants that use Approach for sophisticated business applications.  Something is posted most everyday.

        It’s truly a hidden internet treasure.  It’s got me out of jams several times over 20 years.

        With all due respect, I don’t think it’s a good idea to post email addresses in a public forum these days.

        It’s obvious that your intentions are good. Unfortunately the intentions of bots scraping forums for valid email addresses are not.

        I hope the forum mods amend your post.

        Hope this helps…

      • #2348438
        Tom
        AskWoody Plus

        I’ve used Paradox for Windows (originally Borland, then Corel) since 1995. It’s capable of very simple forms or complex applications. It is currently part of Wordperfect Office Professional, but if you want nothing else you can just install Paradox. There’s also a very loyal and very helpful user group.

        • #2348605
          areader
          AskWoody Plus

          WordPerfect. Wow, does that take me back. The choice was a DOS computer or a Mac. The Mac was more expensive, but the reviews were great. Then I read an article that said to find the program that could do what you need to do, and buy the computer that could run it. I needed word processing, and WordPerfect did everything I need a lot cheaper than whatever the Mac program was. And the DOS computer was so much cheaper than the Mac that I could afford a wide carriage, tractor-feed printer and still have a bit of money left from my $5,000 loan. I gave up on WP 8 or 10 only when it would no longer run under whatever version of Windows I upgraded to. Now that I use LibreOffice (free) and a free version of Lotus Approach, and I’m on a fixed income, I won’t go back to Corel programs.

      • #2348646
        oblivion
        AskWoody Plus

        The database functionality in the old Psion Organiser was perfect for this kind of application.

        The machine is no longer with us, but emulators exist…

      • #2348645
        anonymous
        Guest

        This may not be the most helpful post.

        Back in about 1995, I was approached by an Ophthalmic consultant for advice about software that might be used to replace the freeform database used by his recently lost Psion Organiser. We found that Microsoft Access couldn’t do what he wanted (minimal structure and the ability to find any word anywhere) and I suggested he try something that there was a demo of on a magazine cover CD I’d recently seen.

        Long story short, he tried it, loved it, huge success, many patients helped.

        And I don’t remember what it was called.

        I DO remember that it was produced by Blackwell, a company better known as book publishers. But my research so far hasn’t produced a name or any indication that it still exists.

         

        I would also say that I think Approach is one of the best bits of database software ever made but I couldn’t make it work under Windows 10 (and I’m not convinced it’s the best fit to this need.)

        • #2348702
          anonymous
          Guest

          The program was IdeaList – a brilliant little free-form database. I used it commercially for a few year, till I moved on to another product. It still have it on a 3.5-inch floppy.

          • #2348725
            Rick Corbett
            AskWoody_MVP

            The program was IdeaList – a brilliant little free-form database. I used it commercially for a few year, till I moved on to another product. It still have it on a 3.5-inch floppy.

            SourceForge has a free-form database called Qercus which was apparently “inspired by Blackwell Scientific Software’s IdeaList“.

            Hope this helps…

            • #2348737
              oblivion
              AskWoody Plus

              Idealist! That was it!

              I never used it myself (I did some of the technical jiggery-pokery required to make it work in multi-user mode for the relevant department) but they absolutely loved it. So I may have to research Qercus myself 🙂

      • #2348693
        AussieBoy
        AskWoody Plus

        I’m a financial planner (a one-man-band!) and I have used ACT! since 1992. I settled on Version 6 which was the final version that was completely stable before the ‘new and improved’ platform came in and caused major headaches for everyone for many years. ACT6, however, just “kept on keepin’ on” and never gave a day’s problem. That APPROACH Database printscreen above looks absolutely IDENTICAL to my ACT6 database program – the screens, fields and words – even font! I’m really thinking one copied off the other but I don’t know which – and it doesn’t matter at all now. ACT was owned by Symantec at the time but has changed to SAGE ownership or some-such now. Bottom line – if APPROACH works as well as ACT and how well it has served me over the decades then grab a copy with both hands! I currently have it running on Win7 (it isn’t supposed to do that!) very happily AND I have read multiple times that it can run on Win10 just as happily. Apparently the auto load EXE program doesn’t work on 7 & 10 but it is easy to navigate to the particular folder and manually evoke the EXE porog and all is good. I have detailed instructions if you ever need them. Good luck and stick to your guns – database over spread sheets for us home and small business users!  Cheers from Australia!  🙂

      • #2348747
        oblivion
        AskWoody Plus

        Just as an aside, my most recent use of Approach before it stopped working for me was so key to my existence that I went looking for alternatives — specifically, alternatives that could handle super-big .DBF tables and — particularly — large memo fields within that format. I stumbled across GS-Base and although in some ways it is a bit spreadsheety, and it’s not free, it’s very affordable and can do some extremely smart stuff.

      • #2348784
        anonymous
        Guest

        The best relational data base I ever used was DataEase.   It was a dos based products.  I could knock out data bases and queries in no time.  Go to their website

      • #2348790
        anonymous
        Guest

        I’m retired now, but worked as an IT manager.  I set up several database applications while working and agree with the comments about using spreadsheets as databases.  My favorite was Alpha5-V10, but it’s no longer available and the newer versions are way to expensive and complex.  I moved from FileAmigo toAlpha5 when the database requirements became to complex.  FileAmigo [http://www.fileamigo.com/Overview.htm] offers a free version and might meet your requirements.  I’m always on the lookout for a free and simple database application.  I found download links to several of the applications mentioned:

        https://download.act.com/support/downloads/ACT-v6-Product-Downloads.html

        https://winworldpc.com/product/lotus-smartsuite/9-8

      • #2348819
        Bob Blum
        AskWoody Plus

        You might try Symphytum. It is available for both Windows and Linux. Simple to use: GUI, and you can import from spreadsheet or set up database manually. Still needs more development to add functionality, but it is very usable.

      • #2348836
        anonymous
        Guest

        I have been using Avantquest / MySoftware Database Professional for years and it might serve your needs. You can create a free-form input form and then create all sorts of reports to extract and manipulate fields and data. You can also see all the data in a grid form on the screen and can add/delete/edit the data there, too.
        It’s not a true relational DB. There are data format limitations, such as date format or numerical formats, but not a deal killer for me.
        It’s not expensive.

      • #2348878
        anonymous
        Guest

        +1 for Lotus Approach, Millenium Edition (release 9.8.2). Works great for me under Win10 without any tweaks or compatability issues. Been using it primarily as flat database for years. The best replacement I’ve found for Symantec Q&A.

      • #2349200
        Daniel Wolfe
        AskWoody Plus

        If you are familiar with SQL, I have successfully used SQLiteDatabaseBrowserPortable which is free product and readily available (i.e. through portableapps, etc)  You can create simple tables and run fairly queries against them for ad hoc analysis.  It has worked well for my home projects.  (I am a former professional Oracle SQL developer now retired)

      • #2349245
        anonymous
        Guest

        For library functions, I use TinkCat, it’s part of LibraryThing. Works great for me.

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