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Developing a Database Application: The dBASE™ PLUS Tutorial Ken Mayer, based on work by Michael Nuwer and Ken Mayer Phase I: Introduction Getting Started with The Tutorial The database application that we will be creating in this tutorial is a step-by-step type project. The project will progress from designing the tables to the forms through to the reports, before getting into the application's startup program and its deployment. Not all developers follow this path, so if it is not one you are used to, don't sweat it -- it's just one method of accomplishing the task. Please do not skip a step. There will be a combination of hands-on work, and explanations of why you are doing these things.
After you have performed some steps at least once the directions may not repeat the next time you need to do those same steps -- the idea is to get you used to doing them without hand-holding, and to also get you used to the idea that when all-else-fails, you can look things up. When done with each section there is a link back to the menu, or you can continue to the next section directly (links to the next section are included at the bottom of the different html documents). There are a lot of notes (indented text with lines on the top and bottom) -- you should read these. They are attempts to explain the whys and wherefores, or to explain bugs and bug workarounds (if it's a bug, we call it a bug in the tutorial -- there's no reason to 'Beat around the bush' here). Many of these were added during the initial 'beta' cycle of this tutorial, where a group of developers ran through the tutorial and pointed things out to the authors -- these notes expand on the rest of the tutorial. Don't skip them!
Keep in mind that this is just one way to create an application. We can pretty much guarantee that no two applications are going to be exactly the same -- each client you have will have different requirements, and the more you learn about the software, the more your own development techniques are likely to change. Auxiliary and Supplemental Reading There are many documents in the dBASE Knowledgebase -- and a note where to find the same information in Ken's The dBASE Book, that you should review as supplemental reading for this tutorial. It is strongly suggested that you read these documents or chapters of The dBASE Book. The material in them would take too long to cover in detail here, so it is a good idea that you read them along with this tutorial.
They cover many of the same issues but in greater detail. (Ken wrote a good portion of the cited articles, and they were the foundation for The dBASE Book, just to put this into perspective. The files you need to download for the tutorial are here: • -- see instructions below • -- optional: you can download this and unzip to a folder, working through the files locally, useful if your internet connection is a bit spotty, although some of the Bootstrap elements used by these pages may be a problem in that case The simplest way to do this is with Windows 'File Explorer' in Windows 10. A 'Folder' is the same as a 'Directory' and throughout this tutorial we will use the terms interchangeably. • Click the 'New Folder' button (circled in red in the screen capture above) • Change the name of the new folder to 'dBASETutorial' (no spaces) and press Enter Unzip the file (above) 'dBASETutorial.zip' to that folder.
In Windows 10 in the Windows File Explorer, double-clicking the zip file will open it, you can then copy and paste the contents (+A to select all, then +C to copy; then navigate to the new folder 'C: dBASETutorial' or whatever you called it, and press +V to paste the files and folders into it), which will give you your starting files and folders. What you should see: • final_code -- folder -- contains the full application. If you really need to 'skip' a step (see below) the files are all here. • original_tables -- folder -- you will be needing this to populate your tables • Mugs.ico • preview.wfm • tutoriallogo.bmp You will be creating everything else that you need, including the folders necessary for the project. An Explanation of the Project This project is going to be a fairly simple Customer Order and Invoice system.
This will require several tables, several forms, at least a couple of reports. The tables will include a couple of lookup tables, relational tables (Invoice Inventory, etc.), and more. There are aspects of a 'real-world' Inventory system that will not be included in this application. This is a learning application; consider it to be one with training wheels.
Once we take the training wheels off, you can add whatever flourishes you need to. To start we will create some tables, but ultimately we are going to copy some of the sample tables that ship with dBASE™. By copying them, we don't have to worry about modifying the original data. If you follow along in the order shown in the tutorial menu (above), by the time it is complete you will have created an application from scratch, tested it, and deployed it. This should give you a good grounding to go out there and start building your own applications, which is the idea of this tutorial. Project Specification This is a very brief specification of the details for this project. (If you are a professional developer and do a lot of contract work, you should be familiar with the specification process -- this is not going to come close to what you would need from your customers for a paying gig, it is just here to give you, the student, an idea of what we will be doing for this project.) The application will be a multiple-document interface (MDI) application, with a menu (but no toolbars).
This will allow the user to open multiple forms at once, including the same form multiple times. There must be: • customer mailing labels, which will require a customer table (which, in turn, will require a form to add new and edit or delete older customers); • an inventory report, which will require an inventory table (and a form); • a supplier report, which will require a supplier table (and a form); • an invoice report for orders, which will require an invoice table (and a form); • because we will normalize the data, a lineitem table (and a form); • also to normalize the data, some lookup tables (state and country, which will require forms to add, edit and delete records). This is not a very complex application, but we will take advantage of a few special features of dBASE™ PLUS as we go. In order to make customization easier, we will be using custom forms, custom reports, custom datamodules, and custom controls. Caveat: We cannot emphasize enough that the techniques shown here are simply one way of coding an application, and that there are many more methods of doing the same things, and of course, no tutorial application can possibly cover every situation that every client you may have will need.
This is a learning tool only, and as such cannot possibly cover every possible contingency. Have we put enough disclaimers into this project yet? Walkthrough the Tutorial 'Working' Version While it is a good idea for you to see this application working before creating your version, I have chosen in the rewrite for 2017 to not include a compiled version of the application. The reason for this is simple: every time there is a major update to dBASE™, the executable starts to fail because it was not compiled under that version.
The amount of maintenance required to constantly update the executable (rebuild, recompile, upload, etc.) is enormous, with dBase, LLC putting out a major version of dBASE™ approximately every year, with minor updates in between. Hence, the 'walkthrough' has been removed from the tutorial. Before You Start Coding The dBASE™ PLUS IDE Environment This project assumes that the Navigator and the Command windows are both on screen. If they are not, you should go to the 'View' menu, and select the missing windows, so that both appear on screen. Their locations are not important -- you can move them and/or resize them as you like. (You may even want to use the 'Window' menu to 'Tile' these windows so that they are next to each other. Our personal preference is to have the navigator on top and the command window on bottom.) It is, however, important to have both available at all times.