capsule review

HanDBase 2.5

Databases are at the heart of every Palm-based device. Whether you're tracking time-billing information, keeping your automobile's mileage stats or calculating personal expenses, your handheld makes simple work of collecting, retrieving, and reporting this information. Unfortunately, if you're not a programmer and there isn't an existing database to suit your specific needs-such as one to collect player stats for your baseball league-you might find building a database to be a daunting task. Enter HanDBase, which allows you to create powerful databases with a minimal amount of effort. It works well on the Palm, but unfortunately, its Mac component is a good deal less powerful.

Data in the Palm of Your Hand

HanDBase database files can consist of up to 30 fields, which can contain 15 different types of data-from text and images to calculated fields to pop-up menus containing linked data from other HanDBase databases.

When you create your new database, each of the 30 available fields is set to a Not Used status, which means that it isn't yet available for use in the database. When you name a field and select its data type the field becomes active and appears in HanDBase's two layouts, which are rather limited. The first is a list view that allows you to scroll through your records. You can sort it by any of the visible fields, and you can show or hide existing fields. The second layout is for data entry. Unfortunately, compared to other Palm-based database programs, such as thinkingBytes ' thinkDB, HanDBase lacks versatility in designing forms and building layouts. For better or worse, you're stuck with the two templates that HanDBase gives you by default.

Meanwhile, Back on the Mac

HanDBase includes a program called HanDBase Desktop that has some severe limitations, chief of which is its complete inability to create HanDBase databases, or sync them with any existing Mac applications. All HanDBase Desktop allows you to do is upload comma-delimited files to HanDBase on your handheld or download the same to your Mac. Downloaded files can be automatically imported into FileMaker Pro, Microsoft Excel, AppleWorks, or BBEdit. But no matter what program you choose, the fields in your files lose their properties; the program exports everything, including your calculated fields, as standard text. If you plan on using a desktop application to edit or update your database, you'll need to completely recreate the database in FileMaker Pro or Excel. Even more irritating, the Windows version of the Desktop application allows you to create, edit, update and sync your database files all from the comfort of your desktop computer.

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