Clarion Offers Versatile Databases
One of the most difficult challenges for any software developer is to create a program that is as good for the beginner as it is for the seasoned computer professional.
Clarion Software Corp. of Pompano Beach, Fla., has done exactly that, however, with a pair of database programs: Clarion Personal Developer, $169, and Clarion Professional Developer, $695.
Clarion’s products have a dual use, just like the better known programmable database packages such as dBase III and IV, Rbase for DOS or Paradox.
The Personal Developer is great for managing your own database lists of addresses or inventories or whatnot, or as a tool for designing prototypes of more elaborate database applications, including sophisticated relational databases. Those can then be polished and enhanced with the Professional Developer and turned into commercial applications that can be given or sold to others--all without paying any fees to Clarion.
Database software is used to keep track of lists of information, from a simple name and address list to something as complex as a payroll management system or a full-fledged accounting system.
When the program is able to work with only a single list at a time, it is known as list management software. When it can keep track of information in two or more lists simultaneously, it is a relational database.
Programming Code Hidden
For instance, think of the many kinds of lists that could be built using the names of company employees as the single common denominator. There could be an address and telephone list, a departmental assignment list, a pay scale list, an insurance benefits list and a tax withholding rate list.
A relational database program would allow you to print reports or view on-screen data displays and entry forms combining elements of information from any of those lists. List management software, on the other hand, would restrict you to dealing only with data from a single list at a time.
The beauty of Clarion’s products is that beginners, using Personal Developer, can easily create simple data lists without even knowing that at the same time they are writing a real program that will be used to manage that list.
Programming code is hidden from computer beginners. But more experienced users--either a beginner after a few months of working with the software, or a real database programmer--can use the code to create a more elaborate relational set of data to accomplish important business tasks.
Whether you are a beginner or experienced, Clarion easily creates very attractive applications, with pop-up menus to guide the user, multicolor screens, customized help instructions to aid in filling in the blanks and much more.
One good use of Personal Developer would be to distribute it among the employees of an office who need to work with different kinds of data lists. They could use it to create prototypes of the databases they needed. Then, these files could be given to a more experienced developer, who could enhance them and perhaps tie them together into a master program accessible to each user over a PC network.
The Personal Developer has the option of starting out in the “quick start” mode in which a data record (a single complete entry in a list of data) could be composed with up to 10 individual “fields” of data, such as last name, first name, address, city, state and ZIP code.
If users tell Clarion Personal Developer that they would like to gain access to the list by the last name field or the city field or the state field, the program will automatically create three indexes and screen displays. Those would allow the user to choose the order in which the information would be displayed: alphabetically by last name or by city or by state.
Much more complex database applications can be built with Personal Developer if the user takes advantage of the prompt-driven features that allow a simple database to be elaborately customized. If that is done, there is little practical limit to the number of fields of data that can be contained in the list, and multiple lists can be used simultaneously.
Nowhere in this process does the user have to learn how to write a single line of programming code. All you do is make selections from menus of choices that are presented at each step along the development course. But anyone with even a smattering of programming experience in some other language will begin to learn how the database application is constructed.
Real programmers probably will want to start out right away with Clarion Professional Developer, a full-featured database programming language with which you can build applications as complicated as they get.
Even with Professional Developer, the neophyte programmer can start out in an easy mode called Designer that works like Personal Developer, but without the very simple quick-start feature.
You are never very far away from the actual programming code in Professional Developer, with access to a text editor with which you can write or revise code just a couple of keystrokes away.
When you use the Designer feature, Clarion Professional Developer is writing the programming code to execute the design choices you make. The language is similar to the popular C programming language (in which both versions of Clarion were written), but it is easier to understand and is blissfully free of the rigorous punctuation requirements that make languages such as Pascal difficult to work with. The Clarion code developed by the Designer mode is fully annotated to explain what it does.
Clarion has three language extensions available for Professional Developer, priced from $30 to $50 each, that allow you to add communications capabilities, specialized financial math calculations and the ability to use and create dBase-format files.
In short, if you need to develop your own database applications or, better yet, if you are an expert developer or would like to become one, Clarion’s programs are very attractive tools.
Computer File welcomes readers’ comments but regrets that the author cannot respond individually to letters. Write to Richard O’Reilly, Computer File, Los Angeles Times, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles, Calif. 90053.
CLARION: THE SPECS
Clarion Software Corp. has published a pair of database programs, Personal Developer and Professional Developer. Personal Developer’s “quick start” mode automates creation of simple database applications. They can be modified and expanded into full relational database systems by making choices from a series of development menus. Applications can be distributed to others for free or modified more extensively with the other program, Professional Developer. Professional Developer’s Designer mode allows novices to create fully commented programming code that can be modified and expanded with built-in editor. Experts can bypass Designer and write code directly in the editor. Compiled “run-time” and .EXE versions of the program can be distributed for free. Language extensions add communications, financial calculations and the ability to use and create dBase files.
IBM PC/XT, PC/AT, PS/2 or compatible computers with at least 512 kilobytes of random access memory (RAM) and hard disk storage. Color monitors are helpful, but not required. Applications that users develop can be used on computers equipped with floppy disk drives.
Clarion Software Corp., 150 East Sample Road, Pompano Beach, Fla. 33064. Phone: 1-800-354-5444. Suggested retail price: Personal Developer, $169; Professional Developer, $695.