What Is A Computer Database?

A word processor lets you create a document much like the drawing program, except mainly with words. Again,you can print it out, paste the information into another document or save it.

A spreadsheet allows you to create a template that you can enter numbers in and other results can be computed. You may occasionally go back and enter new data and a new results calculated. But, like the drawing program and word processor it too is fairly inert.

A computer database is, as the name implies, a collection of data stored within a computer. It is like an electronic file cabinet full of documents. What makes computer databases useful is the ease with which the data can be entered, stored and manipulated.

Unique data needs to be entered only one time. From then on it can be used to create lists, summaries, reports, letters, labels and many other things limited mainly by the imagination of the user.

Before data can be entered into a database, the database must be designed. A layout or set of layouts, some times called templates, are created. Within these layouts are data fields. Usually a label is associated with each data field. The data fields can be text type, number type, date type, time type, picture/sound/movie type, calculation type or summary type. The calculation and summary fields result from other data and data cannot be directly entered into these fields.

A computer database is a unique animal. As Guy Kawasaki says in his book DATABASE 101, "You may find this weird, but there is one more way to define a database. It's like an electronic pet&emdash;like a loyal and affectionate cat or dog. Unlike most other computer programs, a database is a living organism. It grows and requires nurture and care." He concludes with "When you are "one" with your database, you'll enter information into it every day. It will make you more productive and creative. You'll come to think of it more as a pet than as a thing&emdash;Zen and the Art of Database Management."

What are some of the powerful things you can do with a database.

As mentioned above, you can store all kinds of data including pictures, sounds and even movies. Let's say you have an employee database. You could take each employee's picture, scan the image or use a digital camera and store the employee's photo right along with the rest of the information on the employees. Mailing labels are a snap. It's also very easy to find a piece of data or data record by merely knowing a few bits of information. A set of records containing specific information can be quickly found and searched. Then a particular record from that set can be easily found. The more criteria used for the find, the fewer records will be found, but the records found will be a closer match to what is sought. In addition to finding sets of records, the records found can be sorted by many different options (by different fields, the selected fields can be sorted alphabetically, numerically, ascending or descending order).

Why FileMaker Pro?

Many people will argue that there are more powerful databases than FileMaker Pro, however, they may be missing the point. For more than 90% of all database requirements, a database developed with FileMaker Pro will be more than sufficient. The big advantage will be the quick development, ease of making changes, ease of use and superior look. In summary, using FileMaker Pro for your database development will most likely be the most cost effective approach.

Present Page Version

as of
4 May 2003

Jeff Hopkins