Review of FAST-EDY
Shawn M. Gordon
FAST-EDY is one of those tools that I wish I had had years ago. That doesn’t mean I can’t make use of it now, but it is one of those utilities that those of us that have had to surgically work with data can really use. The EDY in FAST-EDY stands for Edit Data Yourself, and this is where the surgery comes in. I have been seeing ad’s off and on for FAST-EDY for some time, and then I saw the Eifrid Systems Development (ESD) booth at the ’95 SCRUG (Southern California Regional Users Group) and got a demo at the show. I asked them right there if I could do a review, and fortunately they had brought some demo tapes with them.
I ran FAST-EDY on a 925 with 32 meg of memory and 1.2 gig of disk. The examples are against one of my products databases.
So again you ask yourself, what is FAST-EDY, well to plagarize from the press release a little bit. FAST-EDY is a native mode utility that gives the technical user complete control and dynamic access to data in an easy to use block mode interface. Large records in large files can be accessed quickly. It displays data in IMAGE schema format, or in raw record format (hexadecimal and character). It has full screen edit capability, positional data search and replacement capability, key or search item change capability, file browsing functions, and record READ, WRITE, UPDATE, and DELETE commands. FAST-EDY works the same on IMAGE, KSAM, and MPE flat file data, using common commands and screen displays.
FAST-EDY comes in basically three different flavors, a version for IMAGE, a version for MPE, and a version for KSAM (there is also a read only version of the program supplied). You can get any combination that you want, and all the features are available from the same program, in other words, you don’t have a separate program for each file type. Look at figure 1 to see the main menu you are presented with at start up.
For this example I am going to go through a selection of IMAGE data, look at figure 2 for an example of the screen where you supply the file information of the data base you wish to open. If you don’t know the name of the data set you want, just leave the field blank and you will be presented with a list of datasets as seen in the example. Just make the data set you are interested in and press enter, and then you will be presented with a screen like the one in figure 3. If you are lost at any time, just press function key 1 to get help, figure 4 shows an example of the help menu that is displayed. This shows the drill down hierarchy of help for each section and command. I would have liked to have seen context sensitive help in addition to the global help, but at least there is online help.
Now for the most part you aren’t going to use FAST-EDY to just view data, remember EDY stands for Edit Data Yourself, and that is exactly what you are going to want to do. Look at figure 5, and you will see an example of the data in Edit mode. This allows you to modify any part of any field however you want, if you have data that isn’t straight ASCII, you can also view and edit in Hexadecimal format. You can even do positional search’s for data using Character or Hexadecimal format. Data can be picked down to a half byte if you need to go that far.
Some of the stuff that is displayed on the screen is neat to know, even if it is there purely for the fact that the information was available. For example, each word of the status array for data base calls is displayed along the top of the record display. Although this doesn’t have a practical use, it is kind of nice to see when you are investigating data problems. Take a look at figure 6, and you will see what I consider to be a very cool informational screen on an MPE file.
So who would use this and why? Well I run into situations all the time where I am having to look at a flat file that has binary data in it that needs to have a value changed. I always end up having to write a program to format it out, or mess around with FCOPY or something. I run into this with data bases quit often as well, where there is a byte I need to change, but trying to use QUERY is impossible, so I save it out to a file, do some extractions with SELCOPY, change the data with QUAD, and then copy it back into the database with COPYN. This is obviously a lot of work, and not very intuitive. FAST-EDY gives you a powerful, single utility for modifying virtually any file type. The MPE file option will even view privileged files, such as data base root files, and believe it or not, that can be useful sometimes, but most people will tell you to avoid getting in the root file like that. I really enjoyed this product.
Usability (also installation)
My only real complaint with FAST-EDY was the installation. They required that you log on as MANAGER.SYS and do a NEWACCT yourself, then restore the files. It seemed a simpler approach would have been to do a RESTORE with the CREATE option, and then stream a job that modified the accounting structure to conform to what they required. The software only takes about 23k sectors, so it is pretty darn small for the value it gives.
Everything worked as expected, there was no data corruption, or any other problems. Reliability is always a concern with any type of product that is going to allow you to manipulate your data, and FAST-EDY is very reliable.
The product isn’t using any tricks like MR NOBUF on the data base or file I/O, or doing any fancy dynamic indexing. So you can expect to see the same performance as almost any other well written Native Mode application. The user interface program is quite snappy I thought, and pulling up data, and going from screen to screen was very quick.
Supportability (including Doc)
Well ESD seems to be a small company, but a very involved company. There were very helpful with the product, which didn’t really require much help The printed documentation is the exact same as the on-line help, so you can pretty much get by without it. The manual is relatively small, and easy to work with.
As usual I will go over the complaints first. I mentioned the installation complaint already, I would also like to see a ‘fast’ exit command that would dump you all the way out of the program instead of having to potentially hit the exit function key five or six times to backup through each layer. While I like the versatility of the interface, there are a number of commands that you need to learn, the software does make intelligent assumptions about what command you would like at a certain point, but if the help system was more context sensitive it would be nice.
Now on to the praise. This is one of the few products I have reviewed that I personally felt I would really like to have in my day to day work. I run into situations almost every week where I need to do something funky with data, and I will use a combination of different programs, and spend a fair amount of time, where if I had FAST-EDY I could whip it out in just a little bit. I actually yelled out ‘cool’ so many times that my wife was starting to wonder what I was doing in my office. They have also done a very admirable job of making VIEW screens look pretty decent.
There is a 2.1 release that will be available by the time you read this. The major enhancement is going to be the ability to use Boolean logic in the search criteria.
Make no mistakes, this is a techie utility, but it is pretty easy to use, and it is a great time saver. I really loved FAST-EDY, I think you will like it to. It’s a good product, and it’s a fair price.
FAST-EDY version 2.0
Eifrid Systems Development
PO Box 1221
Carpinteria, CA 93014
Call or write for information or a demo. Price is $995 for each file utility, or $2,495 for all three (IMAGE, KSAM, and MPE). First year of maintenance is free, support is 10% of the purchase price each year thereafter.