Rough edges snag Paradox 9 upgrade

Rough edges snag Paradox 9 upgrade

Paradox has long been a robust end-user database, but the product has struggled with usability issues and the demands of fluent integration with other WordPerfect and Microsoft Office 2000 programs. With Paradox 9, Corel has tried to respond with an easier-to-use database, but with limited success.

One triumph of Paradox 9 is more refined integration with the rest of WordPerfect Office 2000. This includes a common toolbar, easy output of data to WordPerfect or Microsoft Word merge files, output of reports and forms to WordPerfect or Word documents, and shared access to the WordPerfect spell checker for use with database files. Experts (similar to wizards) define, configure, and facilitate common database operations. Two Experts - Find Duplicate Record and SQL Query - are new in this version.

Paradox also provides a database control centre, the Project Viewer, which is similar to Access 2000's Database Window but lacking Access' adroitness. For example, there are no Experts built into the Reports section of the Project Viewer, so if you want to open a new report, you have to use the Perfect Expert toolbar, docked on the left, or work through the menu system. Access 2000's handy, context-sensitive controls at the top of the Database Window are far preferable by comparison. This might sound like a small thing, but it saved me lots of time when working with Access compared to Paradox.

Paradox 9 includes Java features that enable you to design and publish intranet and Web forms easily in a pure Java environment. The HTML Expert lets users publish Dynamic HTML forms that display up-to-date data in Paradox tables and reports on a Web page. The Paradox Java Database Connectivity driver gives users a direct connection to the Borland Database Engine from Java programs.

Compatibility with other file formats is impressive. You can connect to any ODBC-compliant database application. The import/export utilities worked fast and flawlessly.

Building queries

You can create SQL queries in any of four ways, depending on your skill level and predilection. The Query Expert, which takes you through a systematic process to model commonly used queries, is the best way for inexperienced users.

The Visual Query Builder produces SQL queries quickly and easily by selecting tables, fields, and other options through a graphical interface while the SQL code is simultaneously generated in the SQL editor. This is a great way for budding power users to painlessly learn SQL syntax. Direct coding via the SQL Editor is an advanced technique for experienced SQL database developers.

At first, it may seem like smooth sailing with Paradox 9, but seething just beneath its placid surface are some rather serious bugs and design flaws. Unlike Access, Paradox 9 couldn't connect to and display a SQL Server 7 table that used SQL Server 7's default data types until I manually modified the data types to more closely mimic those typically found in Xbase and Paradox tables. Although Corel touts that Paradox 9 will now access Microsoft Excel and Access 95 and 97 files (and it's about time), it still doesn't work with Microsoft Office 2000 formats.

I had a lot of trouble previewing reports before printing and formatting for final output. Plus, every time I opened Paradox, it automatically associated Xbase files with itself - an especially irritating trait if you use more than one database manager.

Given the scope of the task, Corel has improved Paradox 9, but the design flaws and missing competitive features show signs of a rushed release. As an end-user database, it's lacking. Current Paradox users might hold off for a more polished release.

The bottom line ***

Paradox 9

Summary: This relational desktop database reaches new heights of integration with Corel's WordPerfect Office 2000 and an Access 2000-like interface, but design problems make it more of a work in progress.

Business Case: Paradox 9 increases productivity for new and experienced users by providing connections to other desktop databases and adding Web enhancements, but current users might wait for a polished upgrade.

Pros: Improved interface; Works directly with Xbase and Paradox files; Fast, easy import features; Simplified database creation, modificationCons: Numerous design flaws still present; Problems with SQL Server 7 connections; Graphics problems in print preview windowsCost: $329 or $249 as an upgrade.

Platform: Windows 95/98, Windows NT 4.0.


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