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If you want to use an application like Microsoft Excel to manipulate data stored in a VA FileMan file, you need some way to exchange that data between VA FileMan and your application. VA FileMan provides the Import and Export Tools for this purpose.
Suppose, for example, that you want to use Microsoft Word's print merge utility to print a form letter to a list of recipients that is maintained in a VA FileMan file. You can use VA FileMan's Export Tool to export the list of recipients from the VA FileMan file to Microsoft Word. Once you've done this, you can use Word to generate your form letters based on the exported list.
In theory, you can exchange data with any application that supports Delimited or Fixed-length ASCII data exchange. Many applications do, using a variety of formats. Typically, you can expect the ability to import and export data with the following types of applications:
NOTE: You can export data records to a word processor, which often uses data records for functions such as print merges. You can't use the Import or Export Tools to exchange word processing fields from VA FileMan files, however.
Movement of data between applications that do not "speak the same language" is a complex process because it involves coordinating activities in different computer applications and often in multiple computing environments.
VA FileMan's Import and Export Tools use ASCII data exchange. It is the oldest and most widely supported way of exchanging data between applications. Data for a particular record or group of records can be transported in one of two standard formats:
To export data from a VA FileMan file, use the Export Tool to create an ASCII data file containing exported records. The exported data is formatted in such a way that it can be recognized by the particular foreign application. The ASCII data file can then be imported into the foreign application.
To import data to a VA FileMan file, use your foreign application to generate an ASCII data file containing records in either delimited or fixed-length formats. Then use the Import Tool to load those records into the VA FileMan file you specify.
For import or export of data to succeed, the data must be passed correctly on all communication pathways between VA FileMan and the foreign application. A glitch in the communication of data can cause data exchange to fail.
For example, suppose the foreign application expects the fields in records you are exporting to be separated (or "delimited") by the Tab character (<TAB>). The Export Tool can output a <TAB> between each field's data value. However, if you use a communication program's screen capture facility to create a file of the exported data and if that communication program automatically changes <TAB>s into a certain number of spaces to align text, the exported data will be corrupted and the import will fail.
You should be familiar with your importing or exporting application and with any communications programs that you are using. Knowledge of all the applications involved, starting with VA FileMan and its Import and Export Tools, increases the likelihood of a successful transfer of data.
Reviewed/Updated: March 4, 2007