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User's Guide:


SharkBase and SharkBase Network Edition are the latest products following in the tradition of all VP-Info database languages dating back to the release of dCOMP in 1983 as the first dBASE-compatible compiler on the market. The Shark-named editions were released starting in 1992. It appears to be common to refer to SharkBase as simply "Shark", and this documentation goes along with the popular usage.

The most important ways in which Shark differs from its competitors in desktop development languages is in the outstanding performance, small size and great power. VP-Info and Shark use the latest standard dbf file type used by dBase, Clipper, OpenOffice, etc. Shark/Info can easily manage and index files with millions of records whereas the others are limited to about 64,000 records.

Shark creates compiled programs. Unlike dBase and Clipper, Shark has a built-in compiler which enables very fast applications. All other dBase tools are interpreters which read your code line by line. Shark compiles and compresses your programs into fast-running machine-language at run time.

Shark/Info runs under any DOS beginning with version 2.1, but without exception, today’s users run VP-Info/SharkBase on Windows or Linux emulators because they can use modern fonts and screens.

Any one of the following emulators will give useful service. Go to the respective websites for more information and support:

When you run DOS software such as SharkBase through any of the following emulators, Shark will load in its own window. The emulator adds network and printer support, provides clipboard access and allows direct access to your system files.

DOSBox-X is available from the DOSBox-X website. DOSBox-X is clearly the most useful DOS emulator of all and comes in several flavors as in DOSBox-X versions for Windows-XP, Windows 9, Linux, or Mac systems. All the Windows flavors run on Windows 10/11 without complaining. DOSBox-X installation and care is slightly different from the vDOS Windows emulators perhaps because of the added capability to run on Linux and Mac systems. Re-compiling Shark programs is quite a bit slower than compiling under vDOS. However, the bonus is the compiler is slow enough that you can read the screen information during the compile process! It appears there's almost no limitations on running Shark applications in DOSBox-X. Function keys work properly, and Shark applications can send output to your Windows printer effortlessly. DOSBox-X also maintains an DOSBox-X Wiki just brimming with useful information for users.

vDOS is available as a free download from the author and from other freeware sites such as SourceForge. vDOSis a stable DOS emulator that runs under any version of MS Windows and requires no maintenance after the original setup. vDos is as capable as DOSBox-X in that Function Keys work as expected, and printing (like all emulators) is slightly limited in font selection abilities; otherwise, vDOS does everything expected of a Windows emulator. vDOS in sum is fast, bug-free and stable. It lacks the gaming hardware emulations of DOSBox (no joysticks, only basic VGA...). Instead, it adds a live file system, file/record locking, Windows printing, a scalable screen font, etc. vDOS is licenced software free to use, but requires registration to bypass a pop-up nag-note.

There's quite a bit of useful information on vDOS available online. For example, some useful information on installing and using vDOS is available from Using vDOS to Run DOS Programs

vDOS-Plus available from vDOS-Plus. vDOS-Plus is an enhanced version of vDOS, also an excellent DOS emulator that runs under any version of MS Windows that offers some slightly different Windows tweaks features from vDOS. It's slightly different from vDOS in daily use, but similarly stable and bug-free. The authors comment that they are now working on DOSBox-X. vDOS-Plus is free Software, distributed under the GNU General Public License.

DOSBox is another emulator, but it's not recommended for running business applications since it's designed for playing single-user games only. NOTE: It's fast, likely because it doesn't have the record and file-locking of the other emulators! Needless to say, without the file-locking of the other emulators, accidents can happen to your data!

NOTE: DOSBox and DOSBox-X are different emulators, not to be confused with each other!

The most important ways in which Shark is in tune with its xBase competitors is its data compatibility and language similarity. In fact, VP-Info/Shark data files ("dbf" files) are all Clipper/dBase compatible, compatible with any specific version of dBase or Clipper. Shark also offers its own dBase/Clipper-compatible dbf-type file type capable of handling up to 4 billion records! At the same time, VP-Info/Shark can also keep up to 10 different data files (for example, invoices, statements, customers, shipping, inventory, etc) at the same time. Still remarkable to this day!

SharkBase has been extensively distributed and tested by users around the world under its earlier name, VP-Info Professional II. Database users and developers participating in the 1992 Data Based Advisor poll not only voted performance and maintainability of applications the attributes they want most from their database products; they selected VP-Info Professional II tops in both “Performance of Product” and “Performance of Applications Developed”. All poll results were far ahead of all the best-selling products of the time.

Perhaps the biggest factor in the success of VP-Info and its later iterations is its stability. dBase, for example, is a horrendous challenge for the average dbf developer. Even today, the User Forum for vDos is overflowing with dBase users struggling with one bug or another. VP-Info and SharkBase, on the other hand, run effortlessly, with no bugs or unexplained crashes.

This most recent release if the VP-Info/Shark program is compatible with all other dBase file formats and also offers the ability to handle dBase/Clipper dbf-type files of up to 4 billion records. This is an astonishing capacity when compared to the standard dBase II limit of only ~65,000 records! If necessary, Shark can focus directly on, and use normally, any one of the earlier smaller dBase/Clipper dbf-type file structures. The full technical details are described in the List of Commands section, under the "CREATE" command.

Every effort has been made to provide an easy upgrade path for users of earlier products in the SharkBase/VP-Info Professional line. Most especially, all programs, commands and functions, data files, and memo files of all versions of SR-Info and VP-Info Professional are completely compatible with SharkBase. Compared to VP-Info Professional, SharkBase and SharkBase Network Edition have these major features:

1. Unlimited number of background screens (SAVE SCREEN and RESTORE SCREEN), achievedby adding a facility to save screen images to disk, and restore them later.

2. Nested READs, allowing you to BROWSE within EDIT, READ within BROWSE, and so on(SAVE GETS and RESTORE GETS). You’ll be able to write much more compact, more powerful code for many programs, especially for data entry and similar applications.

3. A new, even more powerful way (ROLL) to run external programs from within SharkBase. Now there will be almost no limit to how big a program you can run right from a SharkBase menu . . . even 1-2-3 and WordPerfect are a snap. Shark releases almost all its memory to the new application, and when you’re finished, it takes up exactly where you were when you left off.

4. And you can “talk” to your external application, too ( with the STUFF command). Because every program can always get input from you through the keyboard, we’ve added a commands to take your input (captured inside SharkBase), and "feed" it to your application through the keyboard buffer. Your application will "think" you’re typing its commands directly.

5. A new facility has been added to the DATE ( function to update SharkBase’s internal system date from the computer’s CMOS calendar. Since many SharkBase programs run overnight . . . or even for days on end . . . this provides assurance that internal dating remains accurate.

6. Direct support for dBASE-type memo fields. Although we’ve always felt the SharkBase/VP-Info Professional facility is more efficient and effective than the memo fields used in dBASE, FoxBase, Clipper, etc., we’ve added full memo-field support to aid SharkBase users in exchanging data between SharkBase and other xBase dialects.

7. Internal support for 43-line and 50-line VGA and EGA screens through the new SET VIDEO command. vDOS & the other emulators, of course are able to enhance screen displays further by allowing access to Windows fonts and displays.

If this is your first exposure to the Shark/VP-Info family, you may wish to jump first to the next page, Section 1: Using SharkBase. Take a "test drive" with the help of the brief instructions in that section.

Shark is not a narrow application program; it’s actually a rich and powerful computer language with hundreds of math tools and functions that makes looking after your data a lot easier than available alternatives. See the extraordinary list of VP-Info/Shark math functions here: Math Functions.

But putting all this power into your hands does carry a price: mistakes can result in loss of data or erroneous results! The publisher assumes no liability or responsibility for any damages whatsoever (including, without limitation, damages for loss of business profits, business interruption, loss of business information, or other pecuniary loss) arising out of the use of or inability to use this software.

This release of the language represents its seventh major revision and enhancement since the original publication in 1984 under the name dCOMP, which in turn was followed in 1986 by Paperback Software International’s publication of the language under PSI’s own name, VP-Info. After VP-Info ceased publishing in 1989, VP-Info was released in 1990 under the name SharkBase along with its advanced multi-user, multi-tasking features. SharkBase now runs effortlessly within any DOS emulator environment (Windows/Linux/Mac) as described at the top of this section..