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DTFDATA  can be used to generate wide picklists from Q&A 5. It now has additional features to simplify its use - for example, it will create a default specification file (the QAX file) so you only have to make changes to it rather than create it from scratch. For those who merely want to export their data into another database or spreadsheet, it has new options to make this task very very easy, and it will even export the field names as the first record.

DTFDATA can also be used from Q&A 4 for DOS if you use the DTFDEMON program. That program is free and can be downloaded from here.

DTFDATA is a Q&A data extraction program AND posting program. Included with it, free of charge, is DTFTALK, a program that makes nice looking dialogs possible.

DTFDATA is the real work horse of the pair. It can do the following:

  • Extract data for recovery or to copy to another database (similar to but more powerful than QEXTRACT);

  • Extract data in real time for use within another application;

  • Do multi-column and wide column picklists in Q&A version 5;

  • Do predefined queries in under 1/2 second;

  • Retrieve instantly the number of records in a database.

  • Post (that is, update another database).

DTFDATA has a built-in feature to create the control files that you use to tell it what to do (which fields to extract, which records to select, what format to use, and so forth). You can use this feature to create a control file, called a "QAX" file, and then adjust it to meet your specifications. This feature, added in January 2001, greatly simplifies the use of DTFDATA.

The program extracts to a file using several formats for its output, including the universally understood comma-delimited format. It can extract all data, but it can also extract selected fields from selected records. It honors Q&A's password protection scheme, including field level security. The demo for DTFDATA and DTFTALK is a simple order entry system. After you install the demo, you use Q&A 5 and open the ORDER database to add a record.

The first thing you have to do is select the customer who is placing the order. Toward that end, this is what appears when you open ORDER to add a record. You can press N to search by customer number (a dialog, not shown here, will ask for the customer number). You can also press S to search by customer name.

This is what you see if you press "S" and then type "mc" because you what to fine a customer whose name begins with "Mc".

In the blink of an eye, literally, this pick list appears, showing customers whose names begin with "Mc". During that eye-blink, DTFDATA went into the CUSTOMER database and exported the appropriate information for customers whose names begin with "Mc" and DTFTALK put up the pick list. This is, of course, all under the control of the programming in the Q&A database. I have pressed the down arrow to move the cursor down to the name I want (McCloskey). To make the selection I only need to press the Enter key.

The advantage of this type of picklist (over the Q&A 5 XUSERSELECT) is that you can see not only the name but also other information, including (in this simple demo) the age, birthdate, sex, and hobbies. You could easily display other information. In fact, DTFDATA and DTFTALK make it possible to have a picklist that's so wide it requires horizontal scrolling. (In this case, if you added additional hobbies for  customer McConomy you would make it necessary to scroll horizontally to see some of them.) You can have a person's name, full address, birthdate, two or three telephone numbers, social security number, date of last purchase and amount, etc etc.

As this next screen shows, you finally see the Q&A database itself. Up to this point, you've only seen dialogs generated by DTFTALK under the control of the database. Now finally it's time to actually enter the order. As you see, the customer selected above, McCloskey, has been filled in. That happened under program control. Having done the popup list box, the information about McCloskey was returned to the program and it filled in the fields.

At this point, we're ready to enter the first item. The help text says to enter a stock number or to do a search. We'll enter the word "ALL" and press Enter to see all items in stock. Here's what happens after entering "ALL" and then moving the cursor down to select what appears to be the healthiest item on the list, veggie burgers.

After pressing Enter to make this selection, the next step in the order entry process is to enter the quantity this customer wants. This shows the quantity "5" entered and the price and extended cost computed from the quantity.

At this point, if you press Enter without entering another item, the program assumes you're done with the order. However, it asks for confirmation. Here is a standard Q&A 5 message box asking for permission to post.

After replying "Y", the program posts to the STOCK database this order. Unlike Q&A 5's posting, DTFDATA can post multiple fields in multiple records at once. It also, as a by product, can return information from the posted records showing the result of the posting. This last screen shot shows that display. It shows the status of Veggie Burgers in the STOCK database after applying the order for 5. The number on hand has been reduced to 995 from 1,000 and the number sold so far has been increased from 0 to 5.

While this obviously isn't a fully functional order entry system, it demonstrates the various capabilities necessary for such as system. That includes the ability to put up messages (larger than Q&A 5's 3 lines) with menu selections, dialogs to prompt for values, multicolumn popup list boxes, and posting. While some of these things can be done other ways remaining strictly with Q&A 5, the DTFDATA/DTFTALK combination provides power and flexibility that makes a significantly nicer user interface.

Click here to download the demo.

Last modified:7/11/2012