C10 Read and Write version of ASCIIFileClass

All I want to do is read an ASCII text file line by line, do a search and replace, and then write the changed version back to the original file. In Visual Basic this is pretty simple. What am I missing in Clarion?

Can anyone point me to some Open Source code or Clarion Examples that read and write text files?

I’m a newbie so hopefully I’m not asking something really obvious :thinking:

Same as any other file in Clarion. The file just needs to be defined with the ASCII file driver.
This is actually something Clarion does quite well, all files are accessed the same way and changing type is as easy as changing the file definition.

MyTextFile   FILE,Driver('ASCII')
record  RECORD
line   string (100)
Loop until access:MyTextFile.Next()
  do stuff

Or you can define the file in the dct and use a Process procedure and put code in the TakeRecord embed point

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Hi Donn,

What’s interesting about your question is that while it includes some context, it’s not immediately apparent what your goals are. And depending on your goals, the answer could be remarkably different.

First, I should point out that Sean’s answer is completely correct, as far as it goes. You can indeed use the ASCII driver to read, and write, an ASCII file. You declare the table in the dictionary (or better yet, inside the procedure in hand-code) and using that you can iterate through he table very easily.

Unfortunately this driver is quite slow - which is understandable given that it has to pretty much re-write the entire file on the disk with each write. (And disk access is the slowest part of this function.) That doesn’t detract from it’s usefullness, but does possible open the door to other alternatives.
So, very simple code, but not very fast. One big plus is that it can cope with any file up to 2 Gigs in size while consuming basically no memory. (but the speed on a file of that size would be prohibitively slow.)

An alternative is to use the DOS driver. The DOS driver allows you to read the table in much bigger chunks. This reduces the read time considerably. You can define a large buffer, and load the file in a loop, into say a giant string. (you can use BYTES on the driver and NEW on the string to get a string of the correct size.)

You would then need to parse the string yourself (INSTRING) breaking it up into “lines” (most commonly done by using a QUEUE). Then you can inspect and edit each line of the QUEUE, culminating by writing the queue back to disk.

This approach is faster (much faster) than the ASCII driver, but (assuming you parse-as-you-load) requires at least as much RAM as the file itself. Meaning it’ll work on files up to about 1 Gig.

Lastly you can using Windows API calls to slurp the file off the disk, bypassing the DOS driver. Similarly using an API call to write it back to the disk. This speeds things up even more - although still leaves you with quite a lot of work doing the parsing, and of course replacing.

If you are primarily treating this as a learning exercise I’d recommend you work through all three of these approaches. By implementing all 3 you will learn a lot about the ASCII and DOS file drivers, parsing, string manipulations, and of course how to use Windows API calls.

You may consider all the above to be a lot of work, and you’d be right. If you are not interested in learning all the finer details, or if you have learnt it all already, then you’ll probably want to make use of an existing class which does all this for you. You could write your own, or build on the shipping SystemString class (alas having to work around, or fix, its bugs), or use a commercially available library like StringTheory.

Clearly I’m biased since I currently maintain and sell the StringTheory library (with a lot of help from my friends.) StringTheory has all the functions you would need to do the above in probably 10 lines of code or less. See here for an example (https://www.capesoft.com/docs/StringTheory3/StringTheory.htm#ParsingCSVFile)

Of course using StringTheory delivers the fastest approach to your code, and incidentally the easiest code as well (your search and replace code disappears thanks to a REPLACE command in StringTheory) - in fact chances are you don’t even need to parse the lines, just use REPLACE. But while this may create the best result in your program, in the fewest lines of code, you won’t actually learn a whole lot. Writing 3 lines of code generally doesn’t lead to a whole lot of learning.

This comes back to goals - if you are primarily in the learning phase then it’s worth taking some time to learn different approaches, and the techniques mentioned earlier are useful to learn. However once you are in the “I get paid to ship solutions, not write code” stage, then it becomes economically more useful to make use of well written, optimised-for-speed, and well maintained, libraries. Libraries like StringTheory ship as source code (although not under an open source license) so you are free to inspect the code, learn from it, improve it, submit suggested changes, and so on. (I get a lot of submissions which are usually folded back in.)

And of course you end up writing fewer lines of code, so you end up with fewer bugs.

Because it’s shipped as source code you aren’t dependant on the supplier (currently me) to stick around. If I disappear you still have the source code so all your work keeps working.

As I said at the beginning of my (now rather lengthy reply) the answer to your question largely depends on your goals. Hopefully I’ve covered most of the possibilities in this reply.


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Thanks for both replies. This is really helpful. Yes I am in a learning phase and there is nothing so helpful to aid learning as a project or task you want to achieve. Hence my many newbie questions and I am most grateful for the informative replies.

I am happy to use String theory to parse the lines and replace the text.
I am currently an Access developer and over the years I have written and collected a lot of library code, and agree that it is more productive and reliable to re-use libraries where needed.

I am writing a utility called Fixer because I am allergic to Clarion’s favorite ‘MS Sans Serif’ font like others are allergic to ‘Comic Sans’. :wink:

I figured there would be other “annoyances” to the default generated Clarion code I could fix at the same time. Just put them in a config file and use Fixer to make my project more bearable before I actually start working on it and writing business rules and stuff.

I don’t want my software to look like it was written before the release of Windows 95 :grinning:

Thanks for the pointers and I look forward to learning a whole lot more.

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You can change default WINDOW declartions just editing libsrc\win\defaults.clw.

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ha - a topic after my own heart. I hate old fonts so much I wrote a class to change them at runtime. See
https://www.capesoft.com/accessories/anyfontsp.htm. Alas I’m also in the habit of responding to newbie questions with “I use xxx tool” because I’ve been expanding my own Clarion toolbox for 30-odd years now, and over that sort of time I’ve accumulated, or written, quite a lot :slight_smile:

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Thats true, Mike, but only until the next Clarion-Update.
Okay, they are not thaaaaat often.

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