Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

New Databases Make Updating Rolodex a Cinch

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

New Databases Make Updating Rolodex a Cinch

Article excerpt

The old Rolodex is stuffed and disorganized. As you flip through it, trying to remember where you filed Ms. Smith, you wonder: Wouldn't it be easier to put all this on computer?

It's a dangerous thought, because databases can quickly become complex. But a new crop of databases is making the task less daunting than it used to be. And if you keep it simple, the rewards of computerizing your list of contacts can be great.

The simplest way to computerize your Rolodex is to get a flat-file database. These are straightforward products found in most personal-information managers, calendar, and contact-manager software, as well as most of the business-software suites now available. It's hard to pick one program's database over another, because users typically choose such programs for other features. In any case, all their databases use the same approach: each record contains all the information about each individual or item.

Say John Jones is in your database. His record has his name, phone number, title, company, address, and so on. The flat-file database is easier to use than the Rolodex because you can search on any part of a record to find someone. Can't remember Sandra's last name? Search on Sandra instead and you'll find all the Sandras you've typed in. Having trouble spelling Bueurengetti? Search his company name instead. You can even search your database to find all your contacts in a particular state or area code.

This is pretty powerful stuff, and anyone can do it. The challenge comes as your database grows. For example, suppose Mr. Jones's company moves, and it turns out that you have nine other people from that company in your records. With a flat-file database, this means you have to find each person's file and type in the new company address 10 times.

Or maybe you're running an electrical-supply store and want to keep track of who orders what. …

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