Paradox for Windows. (data base management system) (Software Review) (Evaluation)
by Clifton Karnes
Paradox for Windows is a beautifully designed database program that has something for beginners and pros alike. With its intuitive design fools, tyros can get databases up and running quickly without writing a line of code, and pros have a powerful built-in language at their disposal for demanding tasks.
The first thing you'll notice when you open the Paradox for Windows box is the program's extensive documentation; the package boasts six manuals. Three of these manuals cover basic aspects of Paradox: Getting Started, a fast-paced guide to get you up and running; Quick Reference, which covers common commands; and User's Guide, which is thorough.
The other three manuals, devoted to ObjectPAL, Paradox's built-in development language, are Learning ObjectPAL, ObjectPAL Developer's Guide, and ObjectPAL Reference. Overall, the documentation is excellent. I'd prefer more tutorial material and more examples both in Getting Started and in Learning ObjectPAL, but these are minor criticisms.
In addition to the manuals are four high-density installation disks. You'll find that installing Paradox is fast and painless, but you'll need about 14MB of hard disk space to get your database party going. This isn't an extravagant amount of hard disk real estate, however, when you consider what Paradox can do.
When you run Paradox for the first time, you'll see what looks like a typical Windows application with a menu bar and a toolbar (Borland calls its toolbar SpeedBar) with buttons for opening a table, form, query, report, script, or library, as well as ones for opening a folder and adding and deleting folder items (more about folders later).
To open an existing table (table is just another name for a database), click on the Open Table button. You'll see a File-Open dialog box from which you can select the database you want to load. Paradox can read dBASE 111, DBASE IV, Paradox 2, and Paradox 3 databases. When your database opens, you'll see it in a tabular view (hence the name table) where each row is one record and each column is one field in the record. This table view is like DBASE'S Browse view.
You'll notice that when your table loads, the toolbar changes and several buttons are added. Since these buttons give a good idea of just what you can do with Paradox and your table, I'll run through some of the most important ones. Moving from left to right, you'll see buttons for cut, copy, and paste; print; search and search again; navigation for moving to the first and last record in a file, moving forward or backward by pages, and moving forward or backward by single records; editing; and switching to a forms view. There are also Quick Form, Quick Report, Quick Graph, and Quick Crosstab buttons.
If you haven't designed a form for your table (a form shows a single table record), you can press the Quick Form button and create a respectable form on the fly. And, as you probably gathered from the buttons described above, you can also generate reports and graphs at the press of a button.
Before moving on, I want to mention the Folder button. Press it, and Paradox displays icons for all the database files (including forms) in the current working directory. The folder view is like a mini-Program Manager just for your database files. It's a very nice front end that makes managing your databases much faster and easier.
That's a quick look at Paradox. Now, let's go through some of the program's features that you'll encounter when you design a database from the ground up. Designing a database from scratch with Paradox is much easier than you might think. If you've done this before with other database programs, you'll be familiar with the steps. You may be surprised at how easy Paradox makes most of these steps, however.
The first thing you need to do when you create a new table is define its structure. By structure, I mean the items your table will hold. If, for example, you're designing the classic address-book database, you'll have fields for last name, first name, address, city, state, ZIP code, phone number, and perhaps several others.
You need to tell Paradox which fields you want to use, their type, and their size. To open a new table, you simply right-click on the Open Table button and choose the table type from the dialog box.
You'll see an empty table. To create your fields, you simply fill in the blanks for field name, type, size, and key. If you don't know, for example, what types are available, you right-click on the field, and you'll see a menu of choices.
Right clicking is something you can do almost everywhere in Paradox's windows to inspect fields and objects and to get help. It's one of the things that makes using the program so easy and so much fun.
After you've created all of your fields, you save your table. You can work with your table by using the table view and the program's quick forms, or you can create your own forms. Since Paradox has such excellent design tools, let's look at form design.
To create a new form, you right-click on the Open Form SpeedBar button. The program will ask you which table to use for the form; you supply the name of the one you just created.
You'll find yourself in form design view with fields laid out for your table showing each field's label and its data area. Now, the real fun begins. You can move and resize all of these fields, and more important, you can change their properties.
To change a field's properties, right-click on the field. You'll see a pop-up menu with the entries Color, Pattern, Frame, Design, Runtime, and Methods. Each of these entries is a cascading menu, so choosing one calls a submenu.
Choose Color, for example, and you'll see a grid of colors to choose from. If you want to keep the Color grid handy, its title bar has a snap-off button. Click on this, and the Color grid snaps off the menu and stays on your Paradox desktop. Many of the menus have this snap-off feature, which I've found indispensable.
One of the most important entries on the menu is Frame, because it lets you choose the overall appearance of the object. You can place a shadow behind the object or give it a 3-D indented or a 3-D out-dented look, to name just a few choices. The Frame option combined with the Color selection gives you the tools to create dazzling-looking forms.
After you discover how easy it is to design a great-looking form with Paradox, you'll probably want to spend an inordinate amount of time in the designer. I know I did.
If you do get out of the designer, however, you'll have a chance to look at some of Paradox's other excellent features. Here's a whirlwind tour of some of the most important. The program's report designer is as easy to use and as powerful as the forms designer--you can create crisp reports in minutes. Paradox is fully relational, too, and it supports a graphical query-by-example tool that's the easiest to use I've seen.
Of course, I've only been able to touch the surface of this powerful and feature-packed program. But the message is loud and clear: Paradox for Windows is a winner. It's not only easy to use and very powerful, it's also fun.