Editorial Feature - Free Form Databases

Part one of an editorial series on free form databases. Check it out!
Published: Mar 5, 2007
Author: Michael E, Callahan
Related OS: Windows
Tucows Editorial Feature

Free Form Databases

What Are They?

by Michael E. Callahan aka Dr. File Finder

Part of the editorial series on free form databases

Database Basics

From the time of the first personal computers, users like you haveneeded to organize their data. As a result, some of the first programscreated for the PC were databases. A conventional database usesfields to create a template for entering data. You would defineeach field by setting certain parameters. For example, you could saywhether a field was alphanumeric, a date, a response, and so on. Youwould also define how many characters a field could hold. Fields wouldnormally have names that would indicate what they were for. As anexample:

  • FNAME would be for "First Name"
  • LNAME would be for "Last Name
  • ADDR would be for "Address"

and so on. These databases were great for storing all kinds ofinformation. These types of databases did have some inherent problems.For example, if you forgot to include fields you couldn't just add them.Rather, you'd have to create the database over again. In addition,conventional databases were better suited to people who were moretechnical in nature. Databases have improved greatly over the yearsField names, for example, don't have to be oddball designators like theyused to be.

The screen shot is from a database in Microsoft Office Access 2007. Asyou can see the field names are plain English. Despiteimprovements in databases, however, there is often data that doesn'tneed to fit a particular form. This fact resulted in thedevelopment of free form databases.

Organized Chaos?

By definition, a free form database doesn't require any of thestructure needed by traditional databases. You can put all kinds ofinformation in a free form database and not have to worry aboutfields or other details. Some free form databases let you includeWeb links, Word documents, Web pages, and much more. This type of datawould never be allowed in a traditional database.

In many ways a free form database is a way to bring organization tochaos. You can put in names, addresses, serial numbers, passwords, andlots more without having to worry about format. Some free form databaseslet you use enriched text so you can have text in bold, italic,highlighted, and so on.

Summing It Up!

Free form databases give you the capability of storing a widerange of data and being able to find that data quickly!Part of the beauty of these databases is that you don't have tounderstand how they work in order to use them. So, over the next severalweeks we'll be looking at some of the more popular free form databasesand pointing out great features in each. Stay tuned!

About Michael E, Callahan

Michael E. Callahan, known around the world by the trademarked name Dr. File Finder, is regarded as the world's leading expert on shareware. Dr. File Finder works with software programs and developers full-time, and in the average year he evaluates 10,000 programs. Since 1982 he has evaluated over 250,000 software and hardware products. Mr. Callahan began evaluating software online in 1982 and no one has been at it longer. He currently works doing online PR and marketing for software companies, and is the Senior Content Producer for Butterscotch.Com.

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