Introduction

Description

Welcome to the Alpha Anywhere Tutorial. This book provides lessons to introduce you to the major desktop features and functions of Alpha Anywhere, and helps new users get started using Alpha Anywhere. This chapter provides an overview of Alpha Anywhere and some of its major features, and some important preliminary steps to take before you begin the lessons. It also tells you how to access Alpha Software resources, such as Documentation, web sites, and technical support.

 What is Alpha Anywhere?

Alpha Anywhere is an enterprise relational database management system for planning, creating, and distributing database applications. Alpha Anywhere provides you with a rich environment to easily create sophisticated databases, design efficient methods for data entry and output, and build applications to enter, process, store, and retrieve large volumes of data. Alpha Anywhere lets you perform many data management tasks, that traditionally required programming knowledge, with substantially less expertise, time and effort. The menu structure of Alpha Anywhere makes it easy to learn and use, and includes online Help, that is always available to assist you. Alpha Anywhere has many features that appeal to users of all skill levels. Genies make Alpha Anywhere easy for less experienced users and major advances in Xbasic appeal to experienced users. In short, Alpha Anywhere offers something for users of every skill level.

 Why Use Alpha Anywhere?

Alpha Anywhere helps you store, organize, and manipulate important information in databases. Most importantly, Alpha Anywhere makes it easy to derive meaningful information from stored data, through automating complex tasks like finding information, performing procedures, and generating reports. Alpha Anywhere is useful for wide variety of applications. Some typical uses of Alpha Anywhere include:

  • Inventory

  • Customer invoicing

  • Mailing lists

  • Membership information

  • Accounts receivable

  • Employee information

  • Rental properties

 Alpha Anywhere Features

Alpha Anywhere is a feature-filled database and application development tool that lets you track, report, and manage information. Alpha Anywhere is easy to learn because it is menu-driven. The menus are self-explanatory; novice and expert alike can quickly make use of Alpha Anywhere's many features.

 Data Views and Entering Data

Alpha Anywhere offers two flexible ways to view your data. Forms display one record at a time, while browses display multiple records at a time, in a tabular format. An especially convenient feature of Alpha Anywhere is that you can instantly switch between the data views. Alpha Anywhere lets you work with your data in ways that are familiar to you. You can easily design custom forms that look like the paper forms with which you currently work, and use them to enter and view your data. Alpha Anywhere offers many techniques for making data entry faster, easier, and more accurate. Using field rules, you can specify predefined formats and restrictions for data entry. For example, you can specify that Alpha Anywhere capitalize proper names and only accept numeric data values for zip codes and telephone numbers. You can specify that Alpha Anywhere calculate certain values from other input data, and populate designated fields in your database with the resulting values. In addition, you can define error checks to help prevent data entry mistakes, and have Alpha Anywhere fill in repetitive information for you.

 Ordering and Searching Data

A key function of a database management system is the ability to select specific records and put them in a particular order. Ordering records puts them in a specified sequence, like ordering last names alphabetically. Ordering is also referred to as sorting. Alpha Anywhere provides a variety of tools for finding, selecting, and ordering records. Like a web search engine, Alpha Anywhere looks through tables to find one or more particular records. You can perform powerful and complex searches to group your data into lists that match your specific criteria.

 Selecting

Selecting is choosing particular records while filtering out others, like selecting out-of-date products from a product list. Selecting is also referred to as filtering. Filters are sets of criteria that you specify to restrict the display, printing, or searching of your database. Filters let you quickly partition your data into subsets for instant analysis or perusal.

 Indexes

Indexing speeds record sorting and querying your database. You define an index by entering field names and expressions into the Index Builder. Alpha Anywhere builds the index, after you define it, and maintains your data in sorted order for quick access and manipulation. Additionally, Alpha Anywhere updates the index, adjusting its ordered list of selected records, as you add, change, or delete records.

 Reporting Capabilities

Alpha Anywhere helps you generate professional layouts with your data. Reports, letters, and labels give you the flexibility to perform many common printing tasks.

 Reports, Letters, and Labels

You use reports to collect and output data. Alpha Anywhere reports are a versatile type of layout for printing data. In reports, you can group related records together, perform calculations, order and select the records that appear, divide pages into columns, and design reports with page headers and footers, graphics, and more. Letter templates and reports are layouts used for printing traditional mail-style letters. You can merge record information with text layouts to create personalized letters. Label templates are generally used for printing mail labels for envelopes. Labels are also useful for generating file folder labels, identification cards, and name tags, based on data from a table or a set. Alpha Anywhere gives you complete flexibility in designing your labels, along with several common pre-defined formats, which speed your work. Alpha Anywhere is ideal for handling large, diverse mailing list management tasks.

 Relational Capabilities

Alpha Anywhere features advanced relational capabilities. In Alpha Anywhere, you can combine tables into a set, which are logically related tables linked together according to a specified criteria. For example, you might link a table of invoice orders to a table of customer names. Using sets, you can search, report, and view data from component tables, as if they were a single table. A set reduces the storage of redundant information, making your data easier to update, less prone to errors, and more efficient. Sets also offer options not available with single tables. In almost every case, Alpha Anywhere treats sets exactly like tables. You can create layouts and perform and save operations for a set. When entering data into a form designed for a set, the information is automatically placed into the correct table along with the necessary linking information.

 Developing Applications

Applications are a linked collection of forms and other layouts used together to accomplish a set of tasks without using the Alpha Anywhere Control Panel. Alpha Anywhere has a special system that lets you develop custom menus. You can design menus with choices that are specific to your use of Alpha Anywhere, specifying commands that perform any Alpha Anywhere operation. Applications are often designed by developers for users with little or no Alpha Anywhere experience. Using buttons and forms, you can build a navigational system that might print layouts, run operations, and open other forms.

 Using Action Scripting

Action Scripting is an easy, graphical way to automate and customize your Alpha Anywhere applications. Action Scripts can be as simple or complex as you want, from a script performing a single, simple action to more complex scripts with multiple actions, some of which are only executed if certain conditions are true. Action Scripts are, in effect, just easy ways to create Xbasic scripts. That is, because, when you create an Action Script, behind the scenes Alpha Anywhere is actually storing the Xbasic code necessary to execute the actions. Action Scripting includes over 200 different actions. It is one of the most significant features of Alpha Anywhere, because of the power it puts in the hands of non-programmers. Programmers can also benefit from Action Scripting because they can use the Action Script Genies to insert Genie-generated code directly into the scripts that they create in the Xbasic editor. Of particular importance is the fact that Action Scripting is extensible. Developers can add their own actions to Action Scripting.

 Using the Documentation

Alpha Anywhere documentation provides support for all Alpha Anywhere users. The printed and online versions are organized to let you quickly locate the information that you need. Alpha Anywhere documentation is provided in HTML and Adobe Acrobat formats (PDF). You can access the following Alpha Anywhere documents from the Alpha Anywhere Help menu and the Alpha Anywhere Documentation page.

 Tutorials

 References

 Using Alpha Anywhere Help

Alpha Anywhere comes with a comprehensive online assistance resource, the Alpha Anywhere Help Center. In the Help Center, you can find answers to questions about Alpha Anywhere, procedural information for how to perform various tasks, and information that assists you in solving problems that you might encounter while using Alpha Anywhere. You can access the online Help system from anywhere within Alpha Anywhere, in three ways:

  • Pressing F1

  • Clicking the Help button in any program dialog box

  • Viewing on-line WebHelp

 Sample Databases

Alpha Anywhere provides the following sample databases in the Samples directory of your Alpha Anywhere program folder.

Application
Description
AlphaSports

A commercial application for a company that sells Sporting Goods.

OLE Automation

Provides four OLE automation examples.

Learning Xbasic

Provides examples for the Xbasic Reference Manual.

 Support Resources

The following support resources are available from Alpha Software.

  •  Technical Support

    • Provides product information, downloads for patches and updates, help files, FAQ, and more.

    •  Link:

      http://www.alphasoftware.com/support/

  •  Alpha Anywhere Message Board

    • Provides access to other Alpha users through participation in online message forums, where you can post messages and read replies on many subjects relating to Alpha software.

    •  Link:

      http://msgboard.alphasoftware.com/

  •  Consultants

    • Find a consultant near you to assist you in Alpha development.

    •  Link:

      http://www.alphasoftware.com/services/consultants.asp

  •  Customer Service

    • For account information or to order Help, contact customer service: online, using the Alpha website, by email ( ), or by calling (781) 229-4500, during regular business hours.

    •  Link:

      http://www.alphasoftware.com/about/contact.asp

 Before You Begin

To do the tutorial lessons, you must have Alpha Anywhere installed on your computer. For instructions on installing the program, see Getting Started with Alpha Anywhere. Also make sure that you have the latest Alpha Anywhere updates and patches. After starting Alpha Anywhere, go to the Help menu and select Check for New Version. Alpha Anywhere opens a link to the Alpha Software Updates Page and validates your build number and whether you have the most current product version. Follow the instructions to download and install the updates and patches you need.

 Using This Book

You can use this book at your computer, performing the lessons in Alpha Anywhere, at your own pace. The lessons are designed as step-by-step instructions for each section. Although you can use each section independently, first time users will benefit the most by performing the lessons sequentially. You are now ready to start the tutorial lessons.

See Also