Wednesday, July 1, 1998

Importing JFile databases


By Jason Perlow

Have you ever wanted to put your own custom database on your PalmPilot? Perhaps you collect and trade comic books or baseball cards and you'd like to be able to randomly query information about an item in your collection, such as price data, descriptive information and the condition of the item. Or how about keeping a company directory of phone extensions, beepers and other custom data handy, but you don't want to go through the pain of importing them into your Pilot using Address Book? What about your Christmas card or gift list? All of these things can be difficult to manage on the PalmPilot without using a real database program. Fortunately JFile 3.0 from Land-J Technologies fills this void.

Some readers who frequent the PalmPilot software and document distribution Web sites such as MemoWare and PilotGear may already be familiar with JFile and the various public domain databases that have been published. Maybe you've wanted to make a database for JFile yourself, but the thought of programming and data entry scared you away from doing so. Fear not, Piloteer! Making a JFile database is easy!

JFile 3.0 is a simple database program which allows you to take information from text files, PC spreadsheets and PC databases and import them into your PalmPilot using a data conversion program called JCONVERT, as shown in Figure A. With version 3.0 of JFile, JCONVERT now comes as a Windows 95 program, so you don't have to worry about mucking around with the command line utilities if you don't want to.


Convert your Windows 95 database to JFile format with JCONVERT. (click for larger image)

So where do you get data to import? Presumably, you've already got a spreadsheet or a database on your PC that you'd like to get on your PalmPilot. Or maybe you saw some data on a web page that you'd like to import. For our example, I copied some baseball pitching data off of the CBS Sportsline web site.

You'll notice that it's just a simple text document, with statistics laid out in a table. To make the data for our database file, I copied a large block of baseball pitching stats from the web page and pasted it into Windows 95's Notepad. After I pasted it into Notepad, I saved it as a regular MS-DOS text file, DEMO.TXT.

The next step is getting the data into a format that JCONVERT can understand. JCONVERT can understand data in one of two ways, either using Comma Separated Variable (CSV) or Semicolon Separated Variable. If you're using a database program or a spreadsheet on your PC such as Microsoft Excel, Microsoft Access, FoxPro, dBASE or Delphi, all you have to do is to save your program as a CSV file and convert it to a JFile database with JCONVERT. But be advised there are some things you might need to change in your PC database, because JFile has certain limitations, such as: