With Access facing an uncertain future, Alpha Five might be a worthwhile alternative for your smaller database apps.
You may recall Alpha Four, a multi-user relational database for DOS. Well,
you can still buy Alpha Four, but not Alpha Five, a native Windows application,
is the flagship product for the company. With version 5, they've overhauled
and improved the product considerably, and are now aiming to take business away
from Microsoft Access.
Version 5 includes a ton of new features (see the full list at http://www.alphasoftware.com/products/a5v5/newfeatures.asp).
Some of the most significant include the ActionScript scripting language for
fast automation, the ability to interoperate with Microsoft Office or other
OLE applications, e-mail integration, a new form designer, and excellent customizability
for the user interface including some spiffy toolbar editing tools.
After spending time with Alpha Five, it does seem to live up to the reputation
of being easy to use and fast for straightforward databases. The profusion of
"genies" (Alpha's answer to Wizards) lets you hook things together quickly,
and the table, form, and report designers all work adequately well. If you want
to tweak anything, you can generally get into the XBasic definition and play
to your heart's content.
So, will it replace Access? For high-end applications, I doubt it. But there
is certainly a chance of Alpha Five gaining some market share. You may recall
that I recently wrote about the end of life for Access 97. I know a lot of developers
who've stayed with that version because they don't need the high-end features
of later versions of Access. For building bread-and-butter applications for
typical small or medium businesses, Alpha Five may provide an attractive alternative
Mike Gunderloy, MCSE, MCSD, MCDBA, is a former MCP columnist and the author of numerous development books.