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Open Office Database Tutorials-

Introduction to database work- to prepare you for LibreOffice / Open Office "Base" (LOBase / ooBase) Tutorials

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.

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Page contents © TK Boyd, Sheepdog Software ®, 2/06-5/200.

For many years, this was an introductory lesson at the start of tutorials by me relating to Open Office's "Base", which I usually refer to as "ooBase". Spring 2020: I am "making the switch", migrating to LibreOffice's Base. This essay has been editied to reflect that.

First: What is meant by "database"?

Unfortunately, the term is used for two quite different things.

A "database" can be some data, e.g. the names and addresses of some friends or customers. When I speak of a "database", I will normally be using the term this way.

"A database" is also a term used, some would say improperly, for the programs (i.e. applications) which manage the data in the collection of data. I will generally refer to the programs as "the program to manage your data", or as the RDMS. ("Relational Database Management System"). Examples of RDMSs are LibreOffice's "Base", ooBase, MySql, Access, Paradox and Oracle. The last is for big corporations. The Access is expensive, and supports Mr. Gates' hegemony. Paradox's day has pased, I fear, but was once an excellent choice. You could once get Paradox on eBay as part of the Corel Wordperfect suite, but I wouldn't recommend that today. There was a run-time package which you could give away so that people could use tables/ forms/ etc which you developed for them, sparing them having to buy and install the full package.

The good people at Open Office incorporated the HSQL RDMS in version 2 of the free, multi-platform, Open Office office suite, and that was carried with the product when LibreOffice split away to create it's own fork. In 2019, LibreOffice switched to Firebird. HSQL was similar to MySQL, and remains an option for LibreOffice users. I would guess that Firebird is too, but can't tell you for sure. I would suggest "going with the flow", and using Firebird if you are new to LibreOffice.

An RDMS cannot cope with any data you may wish to manage... but it will do many important jobs.

Most of us use a wordprocessor almost without effort. Spreadsheets are relatively simple to use in a basic way. (And can be used for simple data management tasks! Both wordprocessors and spreadsheets, of course, are also capable of advanced things. But those applications have more gentle learning curves than databases do.)

Getting started with databases is harder... but worth the effort!

(Apart from the acronym "RDMS", words in IN CAPS in what follows are being used in a narrow way, as a database engineer would use them.)

What are the basic components? What is it good for?

The data an RDMS is good for is data which can be put in one or more TABLES. They are put together as follows. For the moment it may sound as if all you would need is a spreadsheet. Bear with me.

A TABLE is a grid of rows arranged in columns. The rows of a TABLE will contain data about one person, event, item of warehouse stock, book, etc, etc. Each column will give information about a single entity.

A telephone book is a simple example of the sort of data that a RDMS can manage well. (Although RDMSs really come into their own with more complex data.)

The elements of each row of the TABLE, taken together, constitute one RECORD. The columns are called FIELDS.

My RECORD in a phone book might be:

TK Boyd....1 Main St....919-555-1212

A simple phone book table like that would be said to have three FIELDS: Name, Address, Number. (The "Name" field might well be split into NameFirst and NameLast fields, but the principle is the same.)


Once you have data in tables, you can do various useful things with it....

Instead of working with the data in its "raw" form, instead of working directly with tables, you will set up FORMS. They may display the data looking almost as it does when you access a table directly, but they also allow you to display the data in other layouts. Layouts which may better suit the user in some circumstances.

You can present the data to the user in different formats and with different SORTING or FILTERING schemes. (Filtering screens out some of the data. For instance, a phone company knows all of its ex-directory customers, but it would be a sensation if the phone book was accidentally published without filtering those records out! In some countries, if you know a phone number, you can consult a "reverse look up". Before computers made the product redundant, you could buy a copy of a phone book with the numbers listed sorted by number rather than by customer name. The first table described in these tutorials will let us explore sorting and filtering further.)

You can EDIT the data, i.e. add new records, delete obsolete ones, change the data in some of the fields of a given record, e.g. revise my telephone number and address if I move.

You can run QUERIES: Suppose you want a list of all the people in the phone book who live on Main St... you could use a query. (There are other ways to find the Main Street residents, too.) (Filtering restricts what is displayed. A query fetches a collection of records into a copy of a portion of the database. A query creates a new, usually temporary, table. It isn't always a mere subset. Sometimes each record in the query consists of fields from more than one table.)

You can design and run REPORTS: A report design says "Print out bits from the database in the following way....". Sheets of address labels are produced with a report. Mailshots with "Dear "Mr. Smith, You and two other people in Middletown have won..." are produced with reports. Often, you will want to generate the same report from time to time. To answer this need, RDMSs give you a way to save your report specification so that you don't have to repeatedly explain what you want. A report can also do arithmetic with suitable data. (Suppose your database covers your stock market portfolio. If one field were "Number of shares", and another were "Price per share", you wouldn't need a "Value of holding" field in the table.... any report could give you the holdings' values by multiplying the contents of the "Number of.." and "Price per..." fields. The report could also calculate the total value of all your holdings.) From the telephone numbers database, you could print a report of how many customers lived on Main St, on River Drive, on Mountain Way, etc. Reports can be created on the results of a QUERY, for times when you only want to include records meeting certain criteria.

You're welcome...

You are welcome to use the material here free of charge. But if you want to show your appreciation, you easily can make a gift to me or contribute to a charity I would like to help... I've listed several to choose from. (The link will open in a new tab or window.)

You're Ready!

With that basic database vocabulary, you are ready to return main menu, or just jump straight into the first tutorial about LibreOffice Base and ooBase. (I've also written some notes on installing OpenOffice. Something similar is planned for LibreOffice, but the process is pretty much the same. Do be careful to install the right Java RTE. If you have the 64 bit LibreOffice, you need the 64 bit Java RTE. If you have a recently installed setup, which seems to work, but sometimes behaves oddly, see that.)

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