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The European Xbase Institute
Europäisches Xbase-Institut
Institut Xbase Européen

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The Xbase Language Standard

What is Xbase ?

Xbase is a general purpose and business application programming language with inherent data handling abilities, for use in a database environment.

The language offers an English-like command syntax, near to natural language.

A command phrase starts with one or two command keywords (verb), which may be followed by one or more clauses, starting each with an explicit English keyword. The relative order of the clauses in the command phrase is non-significant.

Access to data in tables is navigational and record oriented. Some implementations include set oriented (SQL-like) query commands as well.

Products and market

The main products on the market are: dBASE (Borland), FoxPro (Microsoft), CA-Clipper (Computer Associates), Emerald Bay/Vulcan, Recital, Force (KRS)...

Products are available on several platforms : DOS, Windows, Macintosh, UNIX, VAX/VMS.

The word "Xbase" has been adopted by the developer and user community. It has been formally adopted by the ANSI/X3J19 Xbase Language Standard committee to cover the common programming language used in the above set of products. The name used by the first historical product, dBASE, is a trademark held by Borland Int'l.

Some of these products also implement user interfaces enabling access to data manipulation, design, code generation, or other tools. Numerous other third party tools are available on the market as well.

Projected standard

The Standard project concerns only the Xbase language per se. User interfaces and other tools are not covered at this stage.

The ANSI/X3J19 Xbase Language Standard committee held its first meeting in October 1992, hosted at JPL, in Pasadena. The fifth meeting took place in September 1993, in Seattle, hosted by Microsoft Corp.

A Base Technical Document has been adopted by the committee : the dBASE Language Reference Manual (Borland). The working draft's outline has been voted by the comittee<N>; the draft is currently ca. 240 pages.

International item

Following a proposal by the two European members of the committee in its first meeting, and under strong support from its acting chairman, a unanimous vote supported the decision to pursue an international standard for the Xbase Language.

The comittee has planned to propose the project for an ISO standard, possibly through FastTrack procedure. Subsequently, the committee has welcome open participation from more international members in its work.

Current international members include nationals from Canada, Japan, Great Britain and France. The French member, The European Xbase Institute (TEXI), is a non-profit user and developer organization, with members in several European countries.

Levels of conformity

The Standard should propose several conformity levels. The first level's main objectives are :

A liaison is planned with X3H7 (Object Orientation) and X3H2 (SQL).

In its fifth meeting, the committe has decided to subdivise its original project into several sub-projects :

The core language will be a priority, in order to proceed with it to dpANS while pursuing the work on the other sub-projects. These would be later included in a common document, or in separate standards.

European participation

The European Xbase Institute is a participating member in ANSI/X3J19. Members of TEXI can join internal workgroups preparing TEXI's participation and papers, and as such, will have access to the material available to the Institute concerning its work in the Standards committee.

Further information on the ANSI/X3J19 Xbase Language Standard Committee can be obtained from the : X3 Secretariat - CBEMA - 1250 Eye Street, N.W., Suite 200 - Washington, DC 20005-3922 - USA.

This is an independant analysis by The European Xbase Institute and does not represent official viewpoints of ANSI, X3, X3J19 or other organizations.

TEXI/SC22/FG-22/09/93


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* (© copyright 1992-1996, François Ghoche)

fg - dernière MàJ/last update: 19 Feb 96