AUTHOR'S MAIN SITE   > > > > >   TABLE OF CONTENTS for version 2 OpenOffice database tutorials.

OpenOffice 2 Base (database) Tutorials
Registering Databases
Backing Up ooBase Databases

You may find that the database being shipped with OpenOffice (ver.2 and higher) delights you as much as it has me. This page tries to help you use it.

Forget anything you may have heard about Adabas, which came with Star Office, the commercial version of Open Office 1. The current Open Office's database, "Base", aka "ooBase", is unrelated. And remember that Open Office, including ooBase, is free! But don't let that fool you. And it's not new. Big organizations, government and civilian, are adopting it as their standard office suite... and saving million$, but still Getting The Job Done.

There's more about ooBase in the main index to this material.

This page is "browser friendly". Make your browser window as wide as you want it. The text will flow nicely for you. It is easier to read in a narrow window. With most browsers, pressing plus, minus or zero while the control key (ctrl) is held down will change the texts size. (Enlarge, reduce, restore to default, respectively.) (This is more fully explained, and there's another tip, at my Power Browsing page.)

This page is more discoursive than is usual in my tutorials. It is not typical of the pages in this website. Towards the end, there is a bit of "How To" that you may want to check out, even if you can't be bothered with the rest. It tells you how to back up elements of your database. (And how to do what we'd do with "Save As" in most applications.)

First- What is a database?...

Sometimes when people speak of "a database", they are just speaking of a single table, a grid of columns and rows. But if you're not going to at least use a form also, you might as well put the data in a spreadsheet.

A better use of the word "database" implies a collection of one or more tables (one can be fine) and queries, forms and reports designed to make accessing the data in those tables easy and user friendly. In this sense, "the database" is the entity that contains those elements.

Generally, the tables, etc, in "a database" should all be concerned with a single task. Examples of "a task": Managing a directory of the people in an organization, inventorying assets, tracking orders and stock, phonebooks, school lists, etc., etc.

While you are trying to improve your ooBase skills, you may find yourself with "a database", a collection of tables, etc, which has unrelated things in it. If you are just "playing around", just trying to see if you've understood something, then there's no need to start a new database each time you want to, say, make a table and a create a report to display data from it. Just be careful to give any such databases sensible names. Use names like "ScrappyExperiments". If in doing some of my tutorials you choose not to open a new database for each one, that will usually be okay. Just be a careful that there is no overlap in the names of tables, forms, etc. I have a database called "Tmp". It contains a truly awful mishmash of scraps of projects in it. But if I just want to set up a table to see what values can be put into a "BigInt" field, I can create that table within "Tmp" with no consequences. When you are building a set of tables, forms, etc to address some real need, it would be wise to put them all, and only them, in their own database. Starting a new database is not difficult; if in doubt, do it.

(A further note on the name "Tmp": I never start a file's name with "Tmp" unless what I am saving there is not important to me. Because I have followed this rule, any time I come across something named "Tmp...", I know I can delete it, without even having to see what is in the file. Very useful for temporary saving of no end of things, not just databases.

With every gain: some pain

OpenOffice's database module, "Base" is a very satisfactory and capable answer for many people's needs. Partly in order to make it a servant of as many people as possible, a complexity was introduced that we won't benefit all of us, but which all of us must manage... or shirk.

Base is capable of working with tables, queries, etc, originally created by other RDMSs. This will be a great boon to some people. Working with it's own tables, queries, etc, is always going to be more reliable, though.

The complexity we must manage is the system of "registering" the database which normally takes place at the time the database is created. It's not hard. More a distraction than a difficulty.

I've recently (12/08) been experimenting with not registering my databases... I've shirked it. So far: No nasty consequences! But then, I like things simple, tend to do things "by hand". Skip registering, if you like. But remember you've done it, and if something "doesn't work", ask yourself if maybe registering would help. Registering may be of greater interest to people trying to get ooBase to work with data not held in databases created by ooBase. You probably do need to register any database you want to use as the source of labels.

Databases may be registered at a later date if you haven't done it when the database was initially created. If you copy a .odb (database) file from someplace else, you will need to register it before it can be used for labels, etc.

Don't, by the way, be alarmed by the question "Do you want your database registered with" The registration process does not involve going online, it does not tell the providers of OpenOffice about you or your database, and it does not give them access to it.

What "registering" does do is to put an entry into a data structure maintained by the OpenOffice application on your computer. (The data structure is a bit like the infamous Registry run by Windows.... but is not part of it.)

And aside: Remember I told you at the top of this that it is different from most of the pages in this set of tutorials. If you just what to know "How do I do it?", and are growing impatient with this discourse, do try a different tutorial. But what I'm writing here has a point, too... just not a "How to...?" point!

More on the data structure

The data structure is shared by all of the OpenOffice modules. You don't need to, but if you wish, you can explore it via (from the menu) Tools | Options. After you've clicked those menu items, a window covering your options across the whole OpenOffice suite will open, with a tree in the left hand pane. Base is the name of a first level subdivision. Click on the + sign in front of it to see its sub-divisions. Click on the Databases branch to open a view of all registered databases.

A database called "Bibliography" is installed on your machine when you install OpenOffice. I'd be inclined to leave that, as it is probably used in various demonstrations bundled with OpenOffice.

Especially if you are a beginner like I was, trying out various things, the list of registered databases can grow, and it can acquire some strange entries.

The first step towards keeping your sanity, throughout your computer work, not just with OpenOffice, is to use folders intelligently. Base respects your use of folders. A separate folder for your databases would be a good idea. You can put it somewhere beneath "My Documents", or in another place if you prefer. Putting it anywhere under "Program Files" is a Bad Idea. That part of your disc is for the programs that operate on your documents and data. Keep your creations separate.

Within your "My Databases" folder, you could create a new folder for each database. Then when you are finished with something, you just delete the folder. Close any files from it that are open first. In fact, ooBase "packages" all of the tables, folders, queries and reports of any database into a single file, so you may not need sub folders under the "My Databases" folder. Having a folder for each database can help, though, if you create machine readable output from the database, or machine readable notes on the database, e.g. a ooWriter document describing the fields in the database's tables.

But! Even if you delete a folder, the entry in OpenOffice's data structure's list of registered databases remains! You can (and should) delete it, using OpenOffice to access it.

You can get into a situation where different names in OpenOffice's data structure's list of registered databases refer to the same database. Probably best avoided.

If you thought you'd got rid of, say, FDB003 by (only) deleting it's folder, if you try again, and set up a "new" FDB003, then OpenOffice's data structure's list of registered databases will make up a name for the database, perhaps "FDB0031".

(By the way: I generally avoid creating folders with names beginning with "My", e.g. "My Databases". Not only do I find the name twee, but it is also hard to distinguish between those which I've created myself, and those created by the system which may need to be respected. I'm lucky in my initials, "tkb". They don't seem to crop up in computer file names, so I can use names like "Databases- TKBs". Note the "Army speak": Noun first, then adjective. When I sort the contents of a folder by name, I don't want a whole bunch of "TKB... " entries. Also note that I have to eschew the possessive apostrophe, the name can't be in the correct form, "Databases- TKB's", as the apostrophe isn't legal in a file name.

Consequences.. and Backing Up Your Databases

When you register databases, the following acquire complications. Just do things through OpenOffice, and all should be well.

All of the above can be done. Just be careful to do them correctly, via the tools built into OpenOffice. The parts of a database are interconnected, and when you make a change in one place, the ripples from that change must be taken care of.

In connection with all of this, I should mention (again) that you will not see separate files on your hard disc for each table, form, query and report in your database. They... and other things... are all "zipped together" into the database's ".ODB" file.

If you want to back up, say, a table, proceed as follows. It isn't as bad to do as it looks in the blow-by-blow account, which follows shortly. Don't overlook the "obvious", though: You can also back up the whole database, all of the tables, etc, just by using Windows (not ooBase) to make a copy of the ".ODB" file.

That's it! You have a copy of the table. Similar things can be done with forms, queries and reports.

The same techniques are useful for creating new tables, etc, from existing ones. The same sort of copy/ paste, within OpenOffice that I've just described provides the "Save As" mechanism.

An aside: This is probably the spot to mention what you may need to be told: When you are actually working with your database, editing data, as opposed to setting the whole thing up, there is no "Save" in the sense that is normal in most computer applications. Each time you leave a record, ooBase tries to save that to your hard disk. The "Save" process is almost instantaneous. Only when (and every time!) you try to shut down the database, or a table in it, when you have changed what's on your screen for a record, but not left the record, are you asked "Don't you want to save the change you made?"

Lastly, there's one other way to protect your data you might want to consider. At one point, I had to say here "But I have to confess that I can't tell you how to do it!".

Happily, since then, I have figured out how to back up data via an export to .csv. What does that mean?

If you already know what CSV data is, you can skip the rest of the page you are reading, and go to my tutorial on how to export to CSV.

If you "export a table to csv", you are left with a plain text document with all of your data. This isn't a "perfect" backup in several respects... but sometimes it is better than none. And, as a plain text document, it is pretty robust. At worst, you can simply copy it by hand back into a new computer, one that replaces whatever was lost. Being able to get back to where you were before is, after all, the point of a backup!

This sort of backup is called "CSV" from the words Comma Separated Values.

Suppose your database held......

DOB       Credit($)   Name-Family  Name-First
10/12/53   150         Bird         Henry
22/12/51   250         Brown        Lucy
05/05/55   120         Bach         John
A .csv file of that data might or might not include the headings. It would be very unlikely to hold information about the type of the data in each field. In any simple text editor or wordprocessor it would come up as follows. (Most spreadsheet programs include a way to import .csv data so that each field ends up in a separate column. ooCalc certainly does. There are related discussions in my ooBase tutorial about moving things from other RDBMSs to ooBase.)

Concluding remarks

Don't let OpenOffice's data structure's list of registered databases be a cause for concern. I doubt you'll often think about it. It is there in the background, doing what it does, but it doesn't need to "talk" to you.

I hope one day to add a section to this page telling you how to "install" a new database (i.e. collection of tables, queries, forms, reports) on a machine. I presume it is not much more than copying the .odb file across to the new machine, and telling the ooBase on that machine where it is.

Remember the types of backups we've discussed:

That's it! I hope. Do feel free to contact me with advice on what questions you have been left with.

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