Double Helix has the honor of being one of the first and most popular Macintosh database packages. The program has had many changes over the years, few of which I’ve seen, since I started working with the program last summer. At the time, Double Helix impressed me because of the ease with it allowed me to set up a relatively complex database, though I later discovered that it allows you to set up the same structure in several different "right" ways. Needless to say, some ways end up more correct than others, or in my case, faster than others after 9000 records go in. Double Helix also suffered from not supporting the Macintosh interface completely despite its graphical programming environment.
Version 3.5, which Odesta announced at Macworld Expo in Boston last August, will fix several of these shortcomings this spring. Odesta has announced that it will include Double Helix’s multi-user capability (along with a license for three users) with every copy of Double Helix 3.5. Previously you had to buy the multi-user version separately, which was a pain, although it was trivial to convert a database to multi-user use.
Double Helix was never slow, but it required some tricks to maintain a fast pace. Members of the Double Helix SIG on America Online provided invaluable help to me when I was struggling with the tricks and techniques. Their feedback to Odesta has undoubtedly helped, what with version 3.5’s speed increases. Odesta claims that some functions have been speeded up by as much as an impressive 800 times. Odesta added multithreading, which allows Double Helix to execute queries while handling data entry. It runs faster over a network, a capability which should help Double Helix compete with other multi-user database programs, since it is designed for a client-server environment, unlike the other relational databases out there (although 4D does have a server now, I guess).
The most obvious enhancements to Double Helix are in the new objects it supports, check boxes, radio buttons, and pop-up menus. There were a number of tricks for simulating all three with Double Helix’s old tools, but the tricks were without exception clumsy and slow. In some ways, I wish I could redo my database with version 3.5 because a number of screens would be easier to use (and much nicer looking as well).
The final enhancements that will please Helix developers include the ability to shrink a database, reclaiming unused space, and a Get Info… tool that lists the relationships between objects. The shrinking tool prevents the database from becoming too large in the course of development and testing, as currently happens. New records use up wasted space in the current version, but when you’ve got a nine megabyte database, it would be nice to dump all the data to a file, reclaim the space, work on the small database, and then load all the data back in when you’re done. The Get Info… tool removes a great deal of frustration when you want to delete an icon that is being used by another icon somewhere else. Double Helix prevents you from deleting icons that are in use, but there used to provide no way to tell where it was in use. I spent hours on occasion, searching for the relationship that prevented me from trashing an unused icon.
Of course, such wonders as these come only for a price, and the list price has risen to $695. You will receive a free upgrade if you subscribe to Odesta’s Tech Connect program, otherwise, it costs $99.
Odesta — 800/323-5423 x 234
Sundry kind souls on the AOL Double Helix SIG
MacWEEK — 02-Apr-91, Vol. 5, #13, pg. 5
MacWEEK — 12-Feb-91, Vol. 5, #6, pg. 6
InfoWorld — 11-Feb-91, Vol. 13, #6, pg. 40