askSam for Windows. (database application development software) (Software Review) (Evaluation)
by J. Blake Lambert
If you've ever used a word processor to manage a database, you know it's a pleasant walk down a dangerous road--one that often ends in trouble. A new information manager, askSam for Windows, seeks to bridge the gap between word processors and databases, providing basic features of both in one product.
You can use askSam to manage structured databases, but it has special features for working with free-form text. You can even combine free-form and structured data in the same file. Each askSam file consists of one or more documents of up to 16,000 lines in length--files can be up to four gigabytes in size!
For example, you could import E-mail messages, memos, and letters into askSam as separate documents in one file and use askSam to find, view, and print them. If you already have the information you want to manage in electronic form, you'll be glad to know that askSam imports ASCII text, Rich Text Format, WordPerfect 5.x, and dBASE files.
This product gives you useful options for importing long texts. It can automatically split a book (by paragraphs, pages, or using a special delimiter character) into many separate documents. Then you can easily use askSam's searching and viewing features to cross-reference and analyze the text.
With askSam, youc an perform Boolean, numeric, date, field and proximity searches (finding where two separate words or phrases both appear in close proximity in the text). You can highlight a word on the screen and search for it, or you can use the Show command to produce a new document that lists which passages contain the search word or phrase.
The word processor included with askSam is far better than what many databases offer, but it's not as powerful as top-ranking dedicated word processors. It doesn't offer macros, a spelling checker, or a thesaurus, but it does let you dress up your output.
Unfortunately, askSam for Windows 1.0 shows promise but lacks polish--I did encounter a few fatal crashes, and the program failed to recognize all the available fonts on my system. If you can work around the quirks in the current version, though, you'll find that askSam provides unique information retrieval power.