Technical notes index

ABANDONING APPLEWORKS


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            CONTENTS
1. INTRODUCTION
2. WORD PROCESSING
3. DRAWING
4. SPREADSHEET, PRESENTATION
     & PAINT
5. DATABASE
6. FILEMAKER PRO
7. RESOURCES

Databases

The most problematic area of conversion from AppleWorks is databases. The database module in AppleWorks is far more powerful than it looks at first sight, allowing the full range of field types - text, numbers, dates, calculation and so on - and multiple highly customisable layouts using a graphic interface. It's possible to run large and complex databases easily: its main restriction is that it is a flat-file, not relational, database, which may limit it for business users.

The bad news is that nothing will open an AppleWorks database. In order to transfer its contents you have to save it as ASCII text (or select all and copy your records and paste into a plain text document, which comes to the same thing). Obviously in the process all layouts, text formatting and calculations will be lost. There is no workaround for this: you can transfer data but you will have to build the database itself again from scratch.

There is really only one choice as a replacement: FileMaker Pro, now in version 13 and requiring OSX 10.8 minimum ($329 basic), which is pretty well the industry standard; though another possibility is 4D which is highly powerful and complex ($369 basic, rising rapidly for advanced versions) - I've not looked at it in detail but it would seem to present a very steep learning curve including SQL. There are some Unix-based systems which are difficult to understand and use: and the free Office programs OpenOffice.org and its close relation NeoOffice both have much the same database module, which is again difficult to use and does not offer anything like the same flexibility with layouts/reports.

'Panorama Sheets' from Provue is a simple version of their full 'Panorama' database ($39.95 and $299 respectively): the 'Sheets' version does not generate reports, working only in List view, though it will print Avery Labels. The version from their website will run on Tiger upwards. As to the full version, though it's powerful, FileMaker Pro is the same price and is a better bet.

iData3 is a basic but reasonably flexible database which will run on 10.5 up (plus an earlier version for 10.4); it's $69.95 and there is a version for iOS. There is a simplified 'Lite' version for $29.95. Both can be used in a trial version for 30 days of actual use.

All the above work with Snow Leopard and later. Tap Forms ($24.99) is a multi-featured database, though apparently with some limitations according to user reviews. It is only available from the Mac App Store (OSX 10.7 required) and there is no free trial.

FileMaker's simple database, Bento, has now been withdrawn from sale.

For serious users, FileMaker Pro is the most obvious option. Its main disadvantage is that it is expensive; and being designed for business use it is very complex and presents a steep learning curve. However, being widely used in business (and available for Windows as well as Mac) there is no likelihood of it following AppleWorks into the 'end-of-life' abyss. It offer many more facilities for those who want them, including web usage, very high configurability, accounts with multiple users, relational databases using multiple tables.

The next page looks at the process of converting to FileMaker Pro.


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Roger Wilmut. This site is not associated with Apple.