Tips for users

M-Pro and Windows
Character sets
Printing and Web pages
Making Web pages
Converting DOS characters

M-Pro and Windows

Masterfile Professional runs happily under Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows XP and so on. Has anyone tried it with Vista? The "DOS prompt", which some previous versions of Windows such as 95 and 98 had, is still available in Windows XP but less obviously and it is referred to as the "Command Prompt" instead. To get to it follow this route:
Start > All Programs > Accessories > Command Prompt

However, there is no need to do this to run M-Pro. You can put an icon (see below for how to make it) for the program on your desktop and/or on the strip of smaller icons normally at the bottom of the screen. When you activate the icon for M-Pro (either left-click it once and press or quickly double-left-click it), Windows automatically recognises that the program is a DOS one and opens a DOS window for it.

The first time you try this you are likely to find that the DOS window you get is much too small. Don't worry - this is easily remedied. But first take a step back and think about making an icon as this is the easiest way to run M-Pro conveniently.

First make a very small and simple "batch file". A "batch file" is a small text file that contains instructions to DOS or Windows and that acts like a tiny program. Use a text editor to write your batch file. Assuming you can't yet use M-Pro, use Windows Notepad. Make a file with the following line (this assumes you've installed M-Pro in the default folder c:\mpro):


Now save this one-line file, AS A TEXT FILE, in the root directory, and give it for example the name MPRO.BAT or mpro.bat (use any name you like, so long as you use the correct suffix) where the ending ".BAT" or ".bat" tells DOS/Windows that this is a batch file containing instructions.

Providing you installed M-Pro in the default directory/folder, the one line is all you need in your batch file though you can later add extra instructions if you wish (see the M-Pro online user manual). Close the file (and Notepad).

Now use Windows Explorer to find the file you've just made, and copy it to the Desktop. Then go to the Desktop - you can either click the small desktop icon near the bottom left of the screen, or press the Windows key and the letter M key simultaneously to minimise all programs. Right-click the icon for MPRO.BAT and you will get a menu. On the menu left-click "Properties" (the last item) and you will get a window with a small menu along the top. As you choose each item of the menu you get various options.

Choose "Options" and under that choose "Full screen". Click the small box "Apply" at the bottom of the window, and then "OK". The next time you start M-Pro using the icon you should find that the program fills the screen.

Instead of the basic icon Windows provides, there is a nicer one for M-Pro which you can use instead. It was supplied with the program, unless yours is a very early version. See the online manual for how to make use of it.

More knowledgeable users might add to these instructions - please say if you can do so.

Character sets

All the characters we type are represented by numbers when they are stored and used within a computer. They are shown as characters on the screen for our convenience, but computers store characters and symbols as numbers.

However, DOS and Windows differ to some extent over this. They both use the same character set (known as ASCII) for all the basic characters (numerals, letters and so on), which are numbered from 32 to 127. But they differ over what numbers to use for other characters, such as the pound sign and accented letters, which have numbers above 127.

To put it slightly differently, the basic alphabet, numerals and punctuation marks are represented by the same numbers (32-127) in both DOS and Windows character sets. However, DOS and Windows differ over which number represents which character when it comes to the pound sign, accented letters and so on.

What this means in practice is that text written using a DOS program is liable, if it contains any characters besides the basic ones, to be misread by a Windows program, and vice-versa. However, many Windows programs can read DOS text correctly, so long as they are told what sort the text is.

Open a text with WordPad (Write.exe, a basic word processor that comes with Windows) and you have the choice of treating it as Windows text or as DOS text. When you save it you again have the choice. So text of either sort can be saved as text of the other sort.

Another method is to use M-Pro to convert your data either to Rich Text Format or as a Web page. In either case a standard method of dealing with the pound sign and accented letters (etc) is used, and it does not matter what type of program (DOS, Windows, Linux etc) or computer produced it.

So the fact that M-Pro is a DOS program is a minor inconvenience compared with its many advantages.

Printing and Web pages

Modern computers and printers mostly use USB connections and many have no parallel connections though some have both. DOS cannot readily use USB, though there are ways of getting it to do so. A further problem is that some cheap 'brainless' printers nowadays depend on Windows telling them what to do and cannot understand instructions from DOS programs.

An easy solution is to use a Windows program that enables DOS programs to overcome these problems. Programs advertised as doing this include
DOS Printer
Their webpages will open in a separate tab or page. These programs might not all work with all versions of Windows, so check if you can and use the option all give for a free trial. Some of the programs include a useful ability to preview the result on screen before printing.

A solution if you have a suitable printer and a desktop computer is to get a "card" which can usually be fitted into it to provide a parallel port. Some printers currently available have both USB and parallel connections, so there is still a demand for the latter.

A third solution is more complicated but useful in some circumstances. Set up, for each database you use, a special format (or you can use a DPL program) to create a file which a Windows program can read and print. You then "print to disc" from that format, so that a file is made from your data. There are at least two sorts of file you can make. One can be opened and printed with a word processor, and the other with an Internet browser.

One uses Rich Text Format (the filename should have the suffix "rtf"), and it can then be used by a Windows word-processor such as Microsoft Word, WordPerfect, OpenOffice.org Writer, or even old Ami Pro (which has a macro language conveniently similar to M-Pro's DPL).

The other is an HTML file (the filename usually ends with the suffix "htm" or "html"), which can be used with a browser such as Microsoft Explorer, Mozilla Firefox or Opera or even with a modern WP program. This is the easier option, since there are good webpages which explain how to make HTML files. M-Pro can create trimmer Web pages than many Windows programs!

Although this is a roundabout way of printing information held in an M-Pro database, there are even some advantages in doing it this way: (1) it is more "WYSIWYG" (What You See Is What You Get); (2) within Windows you can take advantage of a wider range of typestyles those than is available using an average printer; (3) RTF and HTML both overcome the problem of the DOS and Windows character sets being partly different.

Making Web pages

There are plenty of details elsewhere on the Internet about HTML and how to make Web pages. Here is a very basic introduction on what to do to get M-Pro to turn your data into Internet form, and an example you can copy.

Despite the fact that there is nothing about it in its user manual, M-Pro can be made to turn out very functional Web pages, and ones that don't have to be bloated like those often produced by well-known programs!

Web pages use HTML (Hyper-Text Markup Language). Not much is needed to make a simple Web page. Some of it must go at the top of your file; put this in the "header" (\HEAD) section of a database format.

Even less HTML is needed at the end of your file; put it in the "Grand Total" (\GTOT) section.

So that the text made from your data is not shown as a single indigestible block, add a little more HTML to show where each paragraph is to start and end.

As you learn more about HTML, you can add colour, make lists or tables, and do much more, by adding coding to the format you use to write the Web-page files. You will soon see how well M-Pro works for this purpose, and how little it matters that it is a DOS program.

Each time you revise a Web-page format in your database and remake the file, you can see the result by pressing to switch to your browser and then refreshing the page to see the new result.

A clear and helpful introduction to HTML in a few pages, though perhaps a little out of date, is

Ted's Comprehensive HTML Tutorial
. (This will open in a separate window or tab.)

Converting DOS characters

If you want to use only ASCII characters in your data or other text for a Web page, the only ones that need to be converted are, at most, the four used by HTML in its codes. These are & (ampersand), < ('less than' sign), > ('greater than' sign) and perhaps - though it does not generally seem to be necessary - also " (quotation mark).

If you want to use non-ASCII characters (such as the pound sign, accented letters and other characters), you need to convert them whenever they are present in your data/text. The best way to do this is to use a table in your database with the equivalent for each character.

For a table of DOS characters and their codes for use in Web pages, see the page, DOS characters and HTML equivalents. You can use this page also to check that your browser or word processor interprets these character codes correctly.

However, you don't need to type all the codes, since the SAMPLE database provided here has them in its Tables section, and all you need to do is to copy them from there (using M-Pro's clipboard via F7) into the Tables section of your own databases.

In the SAMPLE database there is also a list in the help section (via F3) of those DOS characters which are not provided for, since they do not seem to have equivalents in Windows, probably because they are not needed (other than for drawing and graphics in DOS). They are also unlikely to be used in databases anyway.

For a fuller list of characters that HTML has codes for, see for example the tables in this page at another site (opens in a separate window or tab):
Character set and special characters

If you want to use in a Web page some of these characters that the standard DOS character set does not include, you can use substitutes in your database and convert them within an M-Pro format, using their HTML codes. For details, see the help section of the SAMPLE database.

Particularly useful is the no-break space (&#160;) which you can use, for example, in an M-Pro format to replace each ordinary space in a telephone number so that it is kept unbroken in a web page.

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