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Palm OS Database Review: Database Professional, HanDBase, MobileDB and SmartList To Go
Posted December 2004 by Tanker Bob

Page 2: DDH HanDBase for Palm Professional 3.0k

DDH Software’s HanDBase has accumulated quite a following in the community. There are hundreds of free databases available for it on the web. This review provided a convenient opportunity to see how HanDBase has progressed.

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I found HanDBase to be a rather simple text list-type database. Successive screens do not drill down through the database structure. Databases are really just tables. In fact, this proved true for the remaining apps in this review as well. HanDBase makes extensive use of pop-up lists for filling fields when editing records. While that makes sense in some contexts, they seem to apply it to every single field. That results in the user being unable to ascertain which fields have populated pop-up lists and which don’t without physically trying them. I would have counseled moderation on this point in the design.

 

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HanDBase provides for a database’s structural modification through a central Details screen. From there, the user can change field, form, and view structures, syncing status, set alarms and authorship, as well as security. These settings and preferences can be quite extensive, giving the user innumerable options. The alarm function stands unique amongst the offerings. Colorful icons access these features, adding an attractive appearance to the program. HanDBase works with forms through a separate application that links to the primary app or can be separately executed.

Security provides a good example of the flexibility available. It will not only restrict access with a password, but also encrypt. These encryption settings aren't limited to the entire database, but also work on individual records and fields. Or, you can disable encryption altogether. Security can be set on actions that the creator wishes to restrict, like opening, adding, editing, deleting, beaming, or even changing properties.

HanDBase has a 100-field limit and a 200 database maximum. It also sports a quick search capability and can now access databases on the card. It supports 14 different field types, including relational joins to/from other databases, and can nest cascading pop-up lists. HanDBase can create reports, but only on numeric, date, time, calculated, and checkbox fields.

 

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The accompanying desktop app almost exactly parallels the handheld functionality. The desktop provides the primary means of import/export capability. HanDBase desktop directly exports to Word, HTML, XML, CSV, and Excel. It only imports through CSV files, though. The Pro version I tested also exports to Access. I tested the latter. As might be expected, the simple table formats exported to Access just fine. Direct conduits for HotSyncing are available as plug-ins for a variety of formats, including images, TextFormat, Access, etc.

HanDBase’s HotSync conduit provides more than just the standard possibilities. It will automatically backup changed databases if so requested. The user can also execute a command after database syncs, including triggering on a particular user’s sync, and keep a verbose log of actions.

HanDBase has well-earned its popularity. Its combination of simplicity and flexibility invite a wide range of authors to produce useful lists for the user community, many available on DDH Software’s website. The tested HanDBase Pro with Access support sells for $39.99, with other levels selling from $29.99 to $99.99 for the Enterprise Edition. Mac and PPC versions are also for sale. In addition, HotSync conduit capability for images, TextFormat and other simple formats sell for $9.99 each, and more complex ones like Access and FileMaker Pro go for $19.99 each, ODBC compatibility for $29.99.

 

Pros:

Highly flexible security settings

Encryption of tables or fields

Relational capability within a table

Easy to use

Nice selection of export formats

Cons:

Quickly becomes very expensive if you need multiple add-ins

Must drill though several screens to get to forms and views

Doesn't support queries

Only imports CSV files

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