Reviewed by Alan Goldsbro


Issue 25

Jan/Feb 87

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DB-Calc is a Database with a difference, that is if you believe the sales blurb of the manufacturer. Gem based, it uses the friendly facade of Drop down menus, windows and those irritating error messages that keep appearing every time you press the wrong key or swing the mouse by its tail!

DB-Calc's claim to fame is the possibility of calculating mathematical formulae to take the difficulty out of producing stock lists, financial costings and statistics. Calculating Databases are nothing new, household names as DBase II on 16 Bit and Synfile+ on the 8 Bit cater for calculations. There are other programs such as VIP Professional which primarily is used as a spreadsheet but is more than adequate as a calculating database.

The first advantage of DB-Calc is a choice of two files, DB-Calc for 520 (half meg) and DB-Plus for 1040 (1 meg) owners. The first file can hold up to 10,000 lines of data and the latter 40,000. Working on four lines per record it is possible to have a file of 2,500 records or 10,000 records respectively.

Setting up your database requires a template to be constructed, e.g. name, address, town etc, or even Item, Number, Stock, Quality required, Quantity left etc. All the fields are created in the Data Window and are easily edited or deleted. As soon as you have created your fields you are at liberty to start entering your data. Sorting the database is so fast that if you blink you'll miss it! DB-Calc will sort both alphabetically and numerically from A to Z, Z to A, 1 to xxxx - xxxx to 1.

Search has a greater range than Sort. Selection can be equal to, not to equal to, less than or more than and wildcards of '*' and '?' are allowed throughout. Data is selected one section at a time. If for example you wanted to select from a customer accounts database you must firstly decide on which field the selection will be made, for example Town and then select which town you require. Selections that pass the chosen criteria will be placed in a temporary file and from that selection you may to narrow the choice down by selecting one particular area of the town. If you wish you may select individuals who have more than 100 to their credit and so on. This data selection can be saved under a separate file name for future retrieval. All the selection criteria is shown in a separate window adjacent to the data window.

Calculations are performed through another window called a 'Model'. Information from the selection window will be used only. From here the program takes on a different approach and the formulae for the calculations must be typed in manually as opposed to selecting from a menu. The resultant information from the model can be dumped to screen, disk or printer. If you require a hardcopy then the model allows you to enter printer commands in decimal to have total control over the output.

Files may be saved, loaded or appended together provided they have the same number of fields and the same field names.

A number of good points can be made about DBCALC, GEM Environment, Windows which can be active or not, sizeable windows, calculating capabilities, tremendously fast sorts and searches, functions, keys, reporting facilities, total printer control and price (49.95) however there are unfavourable points.

DB-Calc was written in Holland and whilst the program is excellent in its operation, there are extremely difficult sections to grasp fully, especially for review purposes. There are a few sample files with which to work with but they are limited in depth and value. The manual of twenty four pages unfortunately looks as though the translator learned English as a third language. Some of the instructions on screen are different to those in the manual, for example, the manual says 'Add field' whereas the screen menu says 'Insert field'. This only adds to the confusion as much of the manual is not easy to follow and none of it is in logical order. It constantly jumps from section to section and very little help is given. Screen pictures shown in the manual consist mainly of error messages and much of this space could be used in providing clearer instructions.

DB-Calc would be immediately recommendable for its capabilities and its price tag if it wasn't for the totally inadequate manual and lack of tutorials. I think the program has good potential and, given its price tag, could be a market leader. I hope the British distributor will take note of these comments and produce a really comprehensive manual to go with what is obviously a quality database.

The disk comes packaged in a video type plastic box and is well protected against copying. This will obviously cause some problems if you have a hard disk or are concerned about backups. At 49.95 a good buy but only if you can decipher the manual and are prepared to spend some time to get the best out of it.