KEEPING YOUR CARDS UNDER CLOSE CONTROL
DATABASES vary in complexity from the simple card index type to the full relational database. Keyfile from Keysoft is of the card index type for the 48K Spectrum. The program is compatible with microdrive and the first option on loading from cassette is to save the program to microdrive.
Each record (a set of data on a subject) consists of one screen (the card) which can contain up to 40 different fields (individual pieces of information). At the start the layout of the screen must be established using option 1. That is done by setting the colour of the card and the ink used first. Text can then be entered at any point on the screen. The cursor keys are used to position the cursor prior to entering the text and the delete key - CAPS SHIFT and 0 - is used to correct any mistakes. Moving a piece of text involves deleting the original and then retyping at the new position. When you are satisfied with the layout pressing ENTER confirms and it is then impossible to use a different screen layout without reloading the program.
Once the card layout is ready the next step is to mark where the data will start for each field. You do that by using the ENTER key to mark the start of a field and E to return to the main menu when all the fields have been marked. The on screen instructions are unclear and you might find yourself back at the main menu having marked one field. If that happens it is impossible to further edit the layout. If a mistake has been made the whole program must be reloaded.
Once the card layout is satisfactory the data for individual records can be entered using option 3. The program prompts for each field in the order in which the starting points were fixed. The prompting makes entering data very easy. There are two restrictions on the data used. A field will only extend for one line - a maximum of 32 characters - and the first field entered must be unique as it is used as a reference for the record.
The file can be searched to find and display any record, although a search can only be done on the first field of your records. If you cannot remember the contents of the first field you can use the index option to list all the first fields or you can specify only those beginning with a particular character. You are given the choice of sending the list to the screen or to a ZX-type printer. The search is very fast and it takes virtually no time at all to produce the index, even for large files, although the names are listed in the order in which they were entered. Keyfile also distinguishes between capital and lower case letters.
Once your records have been stored it is almost certain that you will want to amend or delete one of them. That is easy, provided that amending a record does not involve having to use a different screen layout. Before a record can be amended or deleted it must be found by a search on the first fields. A prompt for the contents to be sought is given and when entered the record seems to appear in no time at all. If no record exists then you are informed by a loud beep and a flashing message. You are then prompted to either amend or delete the record. Deleting the record requires confirmation before it is deleted while amending the record prompts for each field in turn. Old entries are kept the same by pressing ENTER and amendments made by typing in the new field.
A search and copy option is also included in the main menu. That works in the same way as the search from the amend/delete option. After the record has been displayed on the screen you are given an opportunity to print it out before searching for another one or returning to the main menu.
Finally, you can load and save your records file to microdrive or tape or end the program. Both the saving and loading options ask for the filename first and then ask for a number from one to eight for a microdrive or "T" if you are using tape. Ending the program carries out a NEW command and returns to Basic.
The program will hold about 33,000 characters at one go. To help you plan how many more records you can enter a count of the number of bytes available is shown at the top of the main menu.
Your first impression of Keyfile is likely to be one of disappointment, although it appears easy to use. The problem lies only partly in the program. Getting the record layout correct, the positioning of the text and start of fields, is the difficult part. Your inability to return and amend the layout becomes a constant source of irritation, especially as the program has to be reloaded each time. However, once past that stage, Keyfile is simplicity itself to use. The speed of the machine code search is impressive as is the high degree of protection from silly responses to prompts. This is certainly a card file program to consider buying, but it is a pity that setting the layout was not more flexible.
Keysoft, Freepost, London N17 6BR