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by Brett Sheppard- GUI Computing
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VSData is another new product from Videosoft, the manufacturers of VSView and VS-OCX.

In a nutshell, VSData is a small but fairly powerful database engine. This 32 Bit OCX looks like a very handy tool, especially for those who require a database for multimedia and Internet applications.

Some of its listed features include variable-length records as well as locking record and field level support as well as allowing search and sorting functionality. Basically all the basics you would require and a little bit more. But the real trick is in size and performance. At just over 200k, VSData is pretty tiny. At something like 10 times the speed of Jet, it's also designed from the ground up to be quick. Both features, of course, make it ideal for Web deployment. Part of this speed comes from the fact that VideoSoft have designed VSData to maintain record order by index internally - which means (they claim and I believe after trying it) that sorting is instantaneous. Sound unbelievable? Try itů this is one fast beast.

So, what's it like to program with? Well jumping into the quick tutorial provided with the manual proved that this control can do some funky stuff. The only thing I found weird was the property that represents the database format. This creates little gems like "X$*30$XDX@" - not my cup of tea at all. Don't panic too much, though, as this can be generated by VSData and, anyway, doesn't take too much brainpower to decipher once you get the hang of it.

The tutorial itself is fairly informative and does supply quite a few segments of code that will set you off in the right direction. Examples range from creating a new database to specifying indexes etc. Nothing overly complicated, but a good basis to work from. For more complicated examples there is always Videosoft's webpage. This will provide you on subjects such as how to use VSData as an Active Server Component - which has some real potential for multimedia server-side work.

One of VSData's better functions is its ability to store and play .wav and .avi files as native. Even better, VSData is smart enough to decode these from its database when you actually need to play them. This is obviously quite handy when you require multimedia functionality in your program and you also want performance. Web support is also provided by storing your URLs in a database. This provides a nice neat way of accessing the net by first firing up the user's browser as well as the corresponding web page from just one method. Not bad at all.

VSData also has several nifty features that make programming with it quite easy - one of which is that you can set the DebugMode property to true during development which generates and sends accurate error messages to the developer as to what has gone wrong. Then when you are ready to distribute your application, you set the property to false and, voila, no more messages to your end user. Handy to say the least.

Overall, I think that this is one of those products that at least, deserves a look. You can check it out by downloading the control off Videosoft's web page (complete with annoying nag screen) and seeing for yourself whether it is suitable for your needs.

There's a lot of things VSData isn't - like relational, industry standard, etc. But that just won't matter in some situations. If you absolutely need speed, this is as quick as they come, especially if you're dealing with large multimedia files.

Written by: Brett Sheppard
May '97

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