The Complete Guide to PC-File, Version 5.01

Do you still use PC-File, the classic DOS-based flat-file database program? PC-File was one of the first programs available for the PC, created in 1981 by Jim Button, an IBM employee, in his spare time. Jim distributed PC-File as shareware, asking for a small donation from anyone who used it. The program because so popular that Jim eventually left IBM to found ButtonWare, which distributed PC-File.

By version 5.01, PC-File was a powerful if quirky database program capable of some multi-file operations (almost like a relational database, but not quite). The program's main disadvantage was its manual, which could most charitably described as sketchy.

In 1990, Margaret Levine Young and Robert J. Levine wrote and published The Complete Guide to PC-File, Through Version 5.01, a detailed manual for the program. Even in this age of Windows, there are still lots of PC-File users out there. The Complete Guide to PC-File is written for PC-File users at all levels. For beginning users, it starts with hands-on, step-by-step procedures for designing of creating a PC-File database as well as for data entry, sorting, and searching. It continues with detailed explanations of how to create many different types of reports. The accompanying diskette contains the sample databases referred to in the book, as well as sample report, mailing label, and letter formats that you can use. For advanced users, The Complete Guide to PC-File covers every PC-File command and option and each command in PC-File's report command language. And it includes information from ButtonWare's technical bulletins. The last section of the book shows you how to use PC-File's relational capabilities to link multiple databases.

Printing reports, which is the heart of any database program, can be confusing even with the most expensive database program. The book contains four chapters that show how to create and modify reports starting with page, row, and free-form reports. Then, using the report command language, it shows you how to modify these report definitions to product the report you want. The book contains many practical examples using lookup values, calculated fields, totals, subtotals, date calculations, and dollar amount extensions.

But You Can't Order It

We've run out of copies of The Complete Guide to PC-File, Through Version 5.01, although we still get regular phone calls from people who say, " I gave my copy to the guy down the hall, and I need another one!"

Getting a Hold of Later Versions of the PC-File Program

PC-File was purchased by Outlook Software, which offered newer versions of the program, including PC-File 8 for Windows. Outlook Software unfortunately has gone bust, and so did Atlantic Coast (as far as we can tell), which picked up the software later. However, PC-File+ and PC-File 5 appear to be available online for free via the University of Michigan's PC-File archive. They also have an explanation of what's on their archive.

If you don't want to download the software, I can email PC-File 5.01 to you for free. Just email me at If you want disketes, I got permission from the program's author, Jim Button, to distribute copies of the PC-File 5.01 program on diskettes (2 of them) for $10 plus postage. To order, mail (that's snail-mail) a check for $14.50 (U.S. and Canadian orders) Margaret Levine Young, P.O. Box 954, Middlebury, VT 05753. I'll drop the diskettes in the mail to you.

PC-File and Y2K

No, we don't know whether any version of PC-File is Y2K compliant. If you are worried about it, you might want to upgrade to a newer program like FireMaker Pro, which we hear is very good. (If you switch to Microsoft Access, please buy one of my books about it!)

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Last updated January 24, 2007. Copyright 1996-2002  Margaret Levine Young,