TweetFollow Us on Twitter

Reflex Database
Volume Number:4
Issue Number:1
Column Tag:Editorial & Letters

Reflex Plus, a Mac-Friendly Database

By David Smith, Editor & Publisher

Tool Design the MultiFinder Way: An Editorial

Last month we began a series of editorials hi-lighting products in each category that conform to the new way of doing things on the Mac, required by MultiFinder, AppleShare, new menu types, and the Macintosh II.

We offered Write Now as an ideal word processor that meets our expectations for Mac software under the ‘new rules of the game’. Except for the fact that Write Now blasts it’s ruler on the desktop, instead of in a window, Write Now conforms very well to the MultiFinder friendly design rules that software should follow. Before we look at the database category of software, let’s review why Write Now is a good example of the new way of doing things:

• multiple windows work correctly

Write Now can open multiple documents in re-sizeable and moveable windows, one of the chief requirements for MultiFinder friendliness. Windows are very important in the new way of doing things, because the user must be able to make the window small and shove it out of the way or to another screen while his attention is temporarily diverted to another application. Fixed size or immovable windows are a no-no!

• Single-minded tool

Write Now does one thing only, and does it well. It does word processing! It is simple, straight-forward in use, has no hidden feature functions that are not immediately obvious and does it’s job very reliably. It has two nice features, a built-in spelling checker that is very convenient to invoke, and an easy to use leading feature which is particularly important for Pagemaker, which can also import it’s files directly and respects the leading setting of Write Now paragraph by paragraph. There is no ‘purpose clutter’ from a program that can’t make up it’s mind whether it’s a word processor or a layout program.

• Small size and cost

Since tools must now share the resources, it no longer is considered ‘fair’ to be a big system hog and take all the memory (and the money!) with large, high-priced software. Write Now is inexpensive (under $100), fast and small (80K versus 357K for MS Word), so it can co-exist with other tools without requiring 5 megs of memory.

• Easy to Learn

There is a growing trend toward tools that come with six inches of documentation and 300K help files! The Mac look and feel, if properly implemented, should result in an obvious and easy program to learn and use. The Write Now manual is reasonable in length and the program uncomplicated, but flexible and powerful for the task it was intended. This is good tool design, the Macintosh way.

Fig. 1 The Reflex Plus Database window shows our Church Membership or Geneology database example

FileMaker Plus: The Best ‘Flat’ Database

In the application world of databases, Filemaker Plus has always been regarded as the best flat database product on the market for any computer. It too follows the new way of doing things. The very first version works on a Macintosh II; not many programs can make that claim. They have never had to revise the program to meet Apple’s changing system! I don’t know of any other significant Mac program that can say that. It is interesting that when Microsoft bought PowerPoint from Forethought, they didn’t buy FileMaker Plus! Is it because FileMaker Plus is far superior to Microsoft File? FileMaker Plus is inexpensive, fast and small in size (260K), uses windows properly and does a single minded job very well and with great flexibility. Nearly anything can be imported or exported from the program. FileMaker Plus typifies the new way of doing things for a flat database product. What we have said for years is that the world needs a relational FileMaker. We think we have found it. Read on.

Reflex Plus: The Ideal Relational Database

Goldylocks sat on the Hypercard chair and said “This chair is too soft”. Then she sat on the Fourth Dimension chair and said “This chair is too hard”. Finally, she sat down on the Reflex Plus chair and said “This chair is just right”, and she finished her database design and fell fast asleep.

Borland’s new relational database, Reflex Plus, is the best Macintosh database that conforms to the new way of doing things on the Mac. It is simple to use and operate, very flexible in design, low cost (only $275 compared to $500 for dBase Mac), and small in size (250K versus 730K for Fourth Dimension). It completely solves the generalized relational problem between arbitrary files in a flexible way that makes the generation of complex database applications a snap. We converted an Omni 3 database that took two weeks to design into Reflex Plus in two days, and that includes time to unpack and glance at the manual! On the third day, we had added more reports, fields, and files to the design that we never did get around to figuring how to implement in Omni 3. All the information in our Omni 3 database was easily exported and imported into our Reflex Plus design. An outline of the design for a Church membership system or a genealogy system, where families and members of families must be tracked, is shown in figure 1. This type of application is particularly good for checking out database products because it is so obviously relational.

Mac Friendly

One of the best features of Reflex Plus is the ability to use the Macintosh way of doing things to design the database file, record and field relationships. Opening a new database file, results in a graphic box in the overview window. Each entry in the box represents a field in each record. Relations between the fields of different records in different files are established by drawing a line from one field to another! What could be more Mac’ish or easier than this? The over-all visual effect of being able to always see the total database design is both stunning and effective. You immediately see new things to add or change in the design, so that very quickly you can create the most sophisticated relationships. Fourth Dimension also has this ability, but Reflex Plus is much easier to set up. In fact, Reflex Plus makes a great template designer for Fourth Dimension, but after quickly creating something in Reflex Plus, you may not want to bother porting the design to Fourth Dimension, unless you want to protect your design and sell it.

Export Function for Reports Needs Help

Reflex Plus has both an import and export facility, but the export function is slightly brain-damaged. It can’t export a report to a text file arbitrarily. If the report is relational, that is it uses nested repeating collections, only one repeating collection at a time can be exported, in effect, flattening out the database. We think any database program worth it’s salt should be able to take anything it can create on paper and send it to a text file so that reports can be merged into other corporate communications electronically, with page layout programs. This is one of the strong features of Omni 3 and we would like to see it added to Reflex Plus. Other than this small problem, Reflex Plus wins our award as the best Macintosh relational database, exemplifying the new way of doing things in a Multifinder universe. There doesn’t seem to be any kind of database application we can’t create with it in just a few hours. I can’t even figure out how to get Fourth Dimension booted up in much less time than that!

Printing in Columns Supported

One tricky task we wanted to do was to print a report in columns. Loree Flescher of Borland showed us how to easily add a few fields to our report to compute the number of lines used by the nested repeating collections, and to divide the records into left and right side so that the report correctly prints records up and down in two columns. Figure 2 shows how this is done, by making a ‘calculation report’, and then a second, ‘honest-to-gosh’ report that copies the fields of the calculation report into double columns.

Make Any Database Print in Columns

A neat trick to make any database program print in columns is to modify the postscript code when the document prints. Press cmd-F just after clicking PRINT in the print dialog box and a postscript file image of your report will be created. Scan this file with a text editor and you should see two lines at every page break:

F T cp
%%Page: ? 2

By deleting these two lines on the even pages and inserting a translate command on the odd pages, after the cp command, your report will be automatically formatted into columns, when you dump the postscript to the LaserWriter:

Even pages: replace with
280 0 translate

Odd pages: use the following
F T cp
-280 0 translate
%%Page: ? 2

The cp command is ‘LaserPrep’ shorthand for a macro which is defined in the LaserPrep file. Within that macro is a show page function, which ejects the page. The translate command moves the origin to the middle of the page, so by removing the show page, the next page gets printed on the same page, right side. On the odd pages, you move the origin back, so the next page comes out on the left side. Simple! You might also want to adjust the %%Page command with the corrected count of pages as well as the last %%Page command in the file which has the total page count, now half what it was. It is amazing what a little postscript knowledge can do for you. (We would really like to see a definition article that explains most of the postscript macros contained in the LaserPrep file. This file can be dumped out by pressing cmd-K instead of cmd-F at print time. This would greatly help in decoding cmd-F postscript dumps.)

Get a Big Screen, or Multiple Screens!

One point of advice, and this probably applies to any database product, you should have a large monitor or multiple monitors if possible. Working with two monitors on a Mac II was a real joy in setting up Reflex Plus applications because there was room for the many windows created for the files, entry forms, and report forms, all of which are very flexibly implemented. In preparing this editorial, I moved the program to a Mac SE and the small screen felt very uncomfortable.

Things We Would Like To See

A few improvements we would like to see, besides the repair of the export function for reports already mentioned, is some additional built-in functions, particulary one to convert a string into a number. This seems oddly missing, since the converse function of making a number into a string is included. The other area of concern, and again this might apply to other products as well, is that the Apple date routines are used. As a result, dates are limited to something like 1904 to 2039. Well, my Grandmother is still living and she was born in 1899 so I can’t enter her birthdate into a birthday file! Also, I plan to be around after 2039 so what happens then? A few more formatting options for dates would be nice also. We used a LOOKUP function to read the string label, ‘JAN” for a month and use it in our reports, so it is possible, but it could also be built-in to the product as well.

Differing Philosophy

There are two approaches to building a general database program. You can make it programmable so developers can create commercial templates and sell them to vertical market applications. Or you can make it user friendly so the end user can constantly adjust, change or modify the design in a Mac-like friendly way. This eliminates the need for database programmers in many applications. Borland has taken the latter approach with Reflex Plus, while programs like Fourth Dimension and dBase Mac have taken the former approach. (Some might argue that you can do both in one program.) We think Borland is right on target with their approach. A well-designed database program should not have to be programmable to be flexible. There is however, a legitimate need for database designs that are programmable and unchangeable. For some applications, the ease with which you can change a Reflex Plus design may be a problem (a protect object menu item is provided, but no password protection). And it is not clear how suitable Reflex Plus would be for a multi-user application over AppleShare, where more than one Mac user must work on a common database at a time. It appears the product is best suited for the single user category. In any case, the program best exemplifies good use of the Macintosh user interface, and conforms to the expected Mac behavior and ease of use most of us love about the Mac. After using it, I am convinced I can create any database application in a matter of hours with this product. And with my busy life, the speed with which I can ‘figure it out’ and get the job done is very important. (Too bad MPW can’t be like this product!)

Step 1: Define a report to print out all the family records, with the family member records for that family nested within the family. This is a nested 'repeating collection' on the records of the family file and the linked records of the member file.

To get the report to print in columns, we define extra fields. The first is a constant showing how many lines per column we want, placed outside the family repeating collection.

The second, shown selected here, is a count of the number of member records linked to this family. We add four to the numbe because our report has four printed lines per family for family information.

Step 2: The column number for the family record is computed modulo 2 from the total line count used so far in comparison to the lines per column.

Step 3: The total line count so far is computed by adding the lines of the current record (family + members) to the previous value and checking to see if we still fit on the page. If not, we keep the count the same, otherwise, we add these lines.

Step4: The 'real' report is made by duping the 'calculating report' and copying the fields on the left and right side of the page. Those families which have a 1 in their colmun number in the previous report will appear on the left; those families which have a 0 in their column number will appear on the right. The five 'calculating' fields on the dummy report are not printed.

Fig. 2 Making Reflex Plus Print Reports in Columns

Other New Products of Interest First MPW Book Arrives!

Joel West has released his new MPW book, published by Bantam Books, titled Programming with Macintosh Programmer’s Workshop. This book immediately puts Bantum Books at the head of the class in Macintosh development support. This is a fantastic work Joel has produced. Run, don’t walk to the nearest bookstore and buy this book! After seeing this, I may become an MPW convert after all!

Mac Technical Mag Bites the Dust

Another Macintosh technical magazine has gone down in flames. Mac A.P.P.L.E., which was the Macintosh version of the old Call A.P.P.L.E., the finest technical Apple Journal ever published, has changed its name and identity. It is now called Macintosh Horizons, and plans on concentrating on office applications, and less on the technical Macintosh user. This change leaves only MacTutor and Nibble Mac currently attempting to address the technical Macintosh user community. Fluff wins again! Contact A.P.P.L.E. Co-op at (206) 251-5222 for more information.

Vertical Market Hypercard Stacks Arrive

The CAD/CAM Journal for the Macintosh Professional, a magazine covering only CAD/CAM applications on the Mac, has announced Hypercard stack libraries for CAD/CAM applications. This is probably the first of what will become a growing trend: re-packaging information into Hypercard stacks and selling them like books. Contact the CAD/CAM Journal, c/o Sunny Services, 950 Willopenn Drive, Southhampton, PA 18966.

The Women Break into the Market

Two cute products produced by women have made it to market. Kay Weiger has released “The Grandmother’s Guide to the Macintosh”, self-produced and published on a Mac, for the benefit of those of us not blessed with the technical background to understand computers, but nevertheless, want to use them. This is a very easy and gentle introduction to the Mac that helps a person get going with MacWrite and MacPaint, who doesn’t have any computer background. Ideal for children too. Contact Kay at Box 217, New Vernon, NJ 07967. Her little guide costs $9.50 plus $1.50 shipping.

For those wives who must compete with the Mac for their Husband’s attention, Sarah Tenebaum and Pam Novy have created MacWidow, a comforting publication for wives and lovers of MacAddicts who would enjoy some humor waiting for their love ones to burn out. The publication includes an advice column titled Dear Macky, to advise those seeking to either reclaim their Husbands, house space or both from Mac encroachment. The first issue is $3.95 and can be obtained from MacWidow, 10 Rio Pinar Trail, Ormond Beach, FL 32074.

Borland Releases Eureka

Borland has formed a new Macintosh group to get serious about Macintosh product development. On the heels of their Reflex Plus product, comes Eureka, an equation solver in the same vein as the old TK! Solver! that was so popular, but has since disappeared from the market. Look for more information on this product in the future, as we loved TK! Solver! and am glad there is now a new product to fill the void. Contact Borland at 408-438-8400.

Borland has also announced the long-awaited upgrade to Turbo Pascal, version 1.1. Can it return a RECT from a function call? No, our Tear Off Menu article in Dec. won't compile!

MacTutor welcomes press release information to share with our technical readership. Are we on your Press List? Send info to MacTutor, PO Box 400, Placentia, CA 92670.

 

Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

1Password 6.8.1 - Powerful password mana...
1Password is a password manager that uniquely brings you both security and convenience. It is the only program that provides anti-phishing protection and goes beyond password management by adding Web... Read more
EtreCheck 3.4.4 - For troubleshooting yo...
EtreCheck is an app that displays the important details of your system configuration and allow you to copy that information to the Clipboard. It is meant to be used with Apple Support Communities to... Read more
GarageSale 7.0.8 - Create outstanding eB...
GarageSale is a slick, full-featured client application for the eBay online auction system. Create and manage your auctions with ease. With GarageSale, you can create, edit, track, and manage... Read more
Backblaze 5.0.0.116 - Online backup serv...
Backblaze is an online backup service designed from the ground-up for the Mac. With unlimited storage available for $5 per month, as well as a free 15-day trial, peace of mind is within reach with... Read more
Parallels Desktop 13.0.0 - Run Windows a...
Parallels allows you to run Windows and Mac applications side by side. Choose your view to make Windows invisible while still using its applications, or keep the familiar Windows background and... Read more
Mellel 4.0.0 - The word processor for sc...
Mellel is the leading word processor for OS X and has been widely considered the industry standard for long form documents since its inception. Mellel focuses on writers and scholars for technical... Read more
Adobe Muse CC 2017 2017.1.0 - Design and...
Muse CC 2017 is available as part of Adobe Creative Cloud for as little as $14.99/month (or $9.99/month if you're a previous Muse customer). Adobe Muse 2017 enables designers to create websites as... Read more
WhatsApp 0.2.5862 - Desktop client for W...
WhatsApp is the desktop client for WhatsApp Messenger, a cross-platform mobile messaging app which allows you to exchange messages without having to pay for SMS. WhatsApp Messenger is available for... Read more
WhatsApp 0.2.5862 - Desktop client for W...
WhatsApp is the desktop client for WhatsApp Messenger, a cross-platform mobile messaging app which allows you to exchange messages without having to pay for SMS. WhatsApp Messenger is available for... Read more
Things 3.1.3 - Elegant personal task man...
Things is a task management solution that helps to organize your tasks in an elegant and intuitive way. Things combines powerful features with simplicity through the use of tags and its intelligent... Read more

KORG iMono/Poly (Music)
KORG iMono/Poly 1.0.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Music Price: $19.99, Version: 1.0.0 (iTunes) Description: *** Special Sale for a limited time to celebrate the debut of KORG iMono/Poly (33% OFF) until Sep 30! *** Reviving a... | Read more »
Super Phantom Cat 2 beginner's guid...
Super Phantom Cat 2 presents a whole new world of fun platforming challenges and perplexing puzzles. It's a well-designed platformer with a bright, neon aesthetic that brings the genre up to date. [Read more] | Read more »
Shadow Fight 2 Special Edition (Games)
Shadow Fight 2 Special Edition 1.0.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0.0 (iTunes) Description: ** New story chapter! **** No Ads! **** No energy! ** The best fighting series on mobile has returned and... | Read more »
4 RPGs like Final Fantasy XV that deserv...
Square Enix announced another Final Fantasy XV spin-off today - Final Fantasy XV Pocket Edition. This mobile, episodic version of the hit RPG gives the game a chibi-fied makeover. The first episode will be free, followed by 9 more premium episodes... | Read more »
Guild sieges and soul gems in latest upd...
Webzen’s MU Origin hit app stores last year, giving fans of fantasy hack-n-slash MMOs like Diablo a new fix to fixate on. This latest update introduces a competitive guild battle, a fresh dungeon challenge, a mini-game and some elemental gems to... | Read more »
Little Red Lie (Games)
Little Red Lie 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: ARE YOU MORE AFRAID OF POVERTY THAN DEATH? Little Red Lie is a narrative-focused, interactive fiction experience that reduces... | Read more »
You can now apply to be Clash of Clans...
Earlier this month, word got out that the Builder, the trusty handiman who tirelessly built every single building inevery singleClash of Clansbase had called it quits. Sick of seeing his work destroyed endless, the Builder has set out for our world... | Read more »
Meshi Quest beginner's guide - how...
Meshi Quest is Square Enix's newest free-to-play release, and it's a real charmer. You start off as the head of a sushi restaurant, upgrading your food and equipment as you serve visitors heaping helpings of your delicious meals. As you progress,... | Read more »
BUST-A-MOVE JOURNEY (Games)
BUST-A-MOVE JOURNEY 1.0.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0.0 (iTunes) Description: BUST-A-MOVE Features:- Shoot bubbles and match 3 or more bubbles of the same color to make them pop!- Complete your... | Read more »
The best card combos in Clash Royale
Clash Royale is all about building a deck of units that synergise well. To help you get off to a flying start, we've put together a list of unit combinations that are incredibly effective. Looking for some choice 2v2 combos? Check out our guide. [... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Low Cost Subscription Graphics App Alternativ...
I’m not a fan of the subscription software model, I don’t use any subscription apps. Used to be that you paid your license fee and the app was yours to use indefinitely, or until one opted for a paid... Read more
Clearance 2016 13-inch MacBook Airs, Apple re...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 2016 13″ MacBook Airs available starting at $809. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each MacBook, and shipping is free: – 13″ 1.6GHz/8GB/128GB MacBook Air: $... Read more
2017 13-inch MacBook Airs on sale for $100 of...
B&H Photo new 2017 13″ MacBook Airs on sale today for $100 off MSRP, starting at $899: – 13″ 1.8GHz/128GB MacBook Air (MQD32LL/A): $899, $100 off MSRP – 13″ 1.8GHz/256GB MacBook Air (MQD42LL/A... Read more
Sale! 13-inch 2.3GHz MacBook Pros for $100 of...
B&H Photo has 13″ 2.3GHz MacBook Pros in stock today and on sale for $100 off MSRP including free shipping plus NY & NJ sales tax only: – 13-inch 2.3GHz/128GB Space Gray MacBook Pro (MPXQ2LL... Read more
2016 MacBook Pros, Apple refurbished, availab...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 2016 15″ and 13″ MacBook Pros available starting at $1189. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each model, and shipping is free: – 15″ 2.7GHz Touch Bar Space... Read more
Apple offers Certified Refurbished iPhone 6s...
Apple has Certified Refurbished unlocked iPhone 6s’s and 6s Plus’s available starting at $449. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each phone, and shipping is free: – 16GB iPhone 6s: $449, $... Read more
Apple offers Certified Refurbished Pencils fo...
Apple has Certified Refurbished Apple Pencils available for $85 including free shipping. Their price is $14 off MSRP, and it’s the lowest price available for a Pencil. Read more
2016 15-inch 2.6GHz Touch Bar MacBook Pro ava...
B&H Photo has clearance 2016 15″ 2.6GHz MacBook Pros in stock today and on sale for $500 off original MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY & NJ sales tax only: – 15″ 2.6GHz Touch... Read more
21-inch 2.3GHz iMac on sale for $999, save $1...
Amazon has the new 2017 21″ 2.3GHz iMac (MMQA2LL/A) in stock and on sale for $999.99 including free shipping. Their price is $100 off MSRP, and it’s the lowest price available for this model. Read more
Free Instant Translator 2.0 App For iOS Relea...
Mobile application development company, Neoappz has announced the release and immediate availability of Instant Translator 2.0 for iOS devices. Instant Translator is a user-friendly application which... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions - Apple,...
Job Description: Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, Read more
Development Operations and Site Reliability E...
Development Operations and Site Reliability Engineer, Apple Payment Gateway Job Number: 57572631 Santa Clara Valley, California, United States Posted: Jul. 27, 2017 Read more
Frameworks Engineering Manager, *Apple* Wat...
Frameworks Engineering Manager, Apple Watch Job Number: 41632321 Santa Clara Valley, California, United States Posted: Jun. 15, 2017 Weekly Hours: 40.00 Job Summary Read more
Development Operations and Site Reliability E...
Development Operations and Site Reliability Engineer, Apple Payment Gateway Job Number: 57572631 Santa Clara Valley, California, United States Posted: Jul. 27, 2017 Read more
Frameworks Engineering Manager, *Apple* Wat...
Frameworks Engineering Manager, Apple Watch Job Number: 41632321 Santa Clara Valley, California, United States Posted: Jun. 15, 2017 Weekly Hours: 40.00 Job Summary Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.