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Question: Do you have any responses to some of the problems/criticisms/suggstions/etc post in reviews on the App Store?
Product: HanDBase for iPhoneArticle Number: 340Creation Date: 10/31/2008
Answer:
One of the great things about the App Store for iPhone is the integration of reviews in the store. It's not anything new, almost all resellers have them. But it's still a great feature nonetheless. We love reading reviews of our product, and while we are excited to review positive reviews, we also welcome criticisms there as it helps us identify weaknesses in our product.

One of the downsides, however, is that the App Stores review system offers us no way to respond to questions users ask there, bugs that we need more information about to narrow down and fix, and just misinformation (eg, reviews that say they wish we had such and such feature when we already do!). It's for this reason we decided we would offer this FAQ where we could respond to questions and such to specific reviews, to help us gather more information where needed, and answer some questions where it makes sense.

We won't comment on every comment, just those that fall into the category above. And with that, I'd like to personally thank those who have written such great things about our product already, and encourage those who are pleased with what we've done to post there as well!

Now to specific questions:


No Unicode support

A few reviews in the english language site, and I'm sure many more on the Asian language app store versions mention the lack of Unicode support. For those who don't know, here's a brief description of Unicode- prior to Unicode, most text occupies one byte of memory space. This left room for 256 combinations of characters. This is enough for A-Z, a-z, 0-9, some punctuation and there is another 127 combinations left. The other space was used for non-english accented characters or other language character sets and the typical application used a font that would support each language by using those other character sets. In Windows there is a standard character set called Windows Latin1 which covers most of North America, South America, and Europe. And many other countries have over the years adapted a romanized version of their language that uses such characters only.

Eventually Unicode started gaining popularity. Unicode offers 65535 combinations of characters, enough to cover just about every language known. But to do this, it requires two bytes of storage per letter. This means if a database has room for 10 characters prior to Unicode, it now has room for just 5 characters of text, since each takes up twice as much space. The HanDBase PDB format used originated on Palm where unicode was not supported. While we could make HanDBase work with unicode, the inherent difficulty we have is that the format is fixed in terms of space for each piece of information- eg, database name stores up to 19 characters. We felt that forcing everyone down to 9 characters (19/2 effectively) would not fly with our large existing userbase. And our cross platform compatibility is a key feature of our platform, so we need to have the format consistent everywhere.

Thus to offer Unicode support, we need to change the database structure of our program, not just iPhone, but for every HanDBase product we offer- Palm OS, Windows Mobile, BlackBerry, S60, UIQ, Windows Desktop, Mac OS. As you can imagine this is no small change, and is something we save for major version updates.

There is another format, called UTF8 encoding, which is basically unicode but done in such a way that normal roman/latin characters only take up one byte. This is a great solution as this means we could add support for Unicode without losing the space in the database for those who don't need the extra characters. We considered and researched this option heavily and elected not to use it in a small update but are looking at rolling this into a future update as it will take a lot of time and testing to correctly implement.

So the short answer is that the reviewers are right, there is no unicode support, and the reason is that the database format we currently use does not support it. But we are working to add support for Unicode in a future version of HanDBase across the board on our products.


Stability issues

There were several things in the initial release that would cause the HanDBase application to quit without warning. (This is something the iPhone apps do in general as the app must close when it encounters an exception that is not planned for or it runs out of memory).

  1. Pressing the decimal point in the Formula calculation editor. This has been fixed in 4.0.1.
  2. Deleting and editing popup list items. This has been fixed in 4.0.1
  3. Memory leaks. If you saw crashes in any other part of the program, it was likely caused by a memory leak. The iPhone SDK includes a great tool to detect Memory leaks, but as we found after the fact, even if your app doesn't show leaks in that tool, it does not mean you are not leaking memory. In our case, we found several causes of memory that was being allocated and the OS never called our deallocate methods. This was fixed in 4.0.1 as well.
  4. Introduced in 4.0.1 was a bug whereby deleting databases caused a crash. This has been fixed for v4.0.2.
There is a possibility we didn't find every cause of a crash that users have seen. We tried our best and worked with all the information we had. In some cases, if we had a way to contact those of you who posted reviews we could verify that our fixes and findings matched what you were seeing. So if you do find any further crashes not related to the above fixed issues, please contact us via our support options so we can try to be sure to fix your discovered problem ASAP!


"at this point, I cannot tell if the only level of synchronization with the desktop is to move th[e] wholeDB or if they will support some sort of record level sync."

Our addon conduit for Windows supports two way record level syncing with configurable options for each database. The Mac version will support two way record level syncing, and the built in Desktop Connect mode supports syncing as well. To quote the HanDBase iPhone user guide (recommended reading!):

Perhaps you received this database from another user via email, downloaded it from the web, or even created this on the desktop using the HanDBase Desktop program (available separately). Within this box you can specify the HanDBase database file in PDB format to upload/add to your iPhone.

Choose the Browse button and select the PDB file from your computer. Then click the 'Add Database' button to upload this file to your iPhone.

If it's a new database file, it will be added to the list. If there is one already existing with that database name, it will synchronize the files together resulting in a single database with the merged database records, popups, etc. If the two databases have the same name but are of a different format, it will rename the incoming database to a unique name and receive it.

The rest of the documentation is available here:
http://www.ddhsoftware.com/knowledgebase.html?UID=2017111019044454.85.186.19&read=330


"Need integrated search in view"

There is a quick search feature that does that, if you select a quick search field. Please see the manual for details:
http://www.ddhsoftware.com/knowledgebase.html?UID=2017111019044454.85.186.19&read=330


"I am used to beaming databases directly to my wife's PDA, duplicating databases.."

I'm sure you're aware that there is no IR port, but you may not know that the OS doesn't allow bluetooth file transfers at this time. However, we do offer equivalent functionality, in different clothing, so to speak: when you connect from your one iPhone to another that is running desktop connect, you can download the databases right into your iPhone from the other, and even better- if the database already exists, it syncs (record level) the changes.


"No way to create web links. No way to link to.. phone numbers"

Web links are supported- just have a text field with http:// at the beginning and it will launch it into safari. On the flip side, if you want to create a link that will download a database to your iPhone from a server, just change the http:// prefix on that server's HTML to be handbase:// and when the safari browser sees it, it will launch HanDBase for iPhone and it will download the file!

Phone numbers are also supported- as of version 4.0.1, the phone number format must match the example shown in your iPhone's settings screen, under General/International.

Both of these are activated from the View Record screen.


"i also had a problem with my CORRECT password not doing anything to get me into my database."

If this person could please contact us, we'd like to find out more about this- never had a problem reported on this yet, so you're the first!


"along with that, there should be the ability to relate the tables. the current method of manually entering values to populate a "pop-up" field is much too tedious."

The DB popup field serves just this purpose. There are several fields designed for relating databases together.


"would like to see is the ability to upload several csv files at once and be able to treat the csv files as separate tables that belong to a single database"

While you can't do several at once, you can do them one at a time and do everything you mentioned. The user guide explains the difference between nomenclature of HanDBase vs Traditional database managers that use the term database and tables separately. There is a reason we refer to tables as databases, and this is because in our system, any 'table' can relate to any other 'table' installed, they don't have to be part of the same database to do so. I read a review once say this: If you think of HanDBase as one giant database, then each of what it calls 'databases' are just tables within that one giant database. Seems to say it better than I can!


"Clicking the top of a list should go to the top element, this is UI standard on the iPhone."

This is correct, and is something handled by the OS, and works as such in HanDBase as well! Just make sure you're tapping the status bar, not the navigation bar, as that's how this feature works.


Lack of Mac Desktop/Conduit

As you are probably aware we do offer a Mac Desktop already. It's definitely not as full featured as it could be and we are working on enhancing that. Before the iPhone version, demand for the Mac platform has been low comparitively with the Windows side, and we honestly didn't have the programming experience on that platform. Both of those issues have changed now and we're hoping to find the gap between the desktop and handheld closed! The conduit is also already in development. Stay tuned for more on this!

We will update this article with further responses as time goes on. If you wrote any of those reviews that we responded to here, please let us know if you have any further questions or comments!


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