Working with fixed format text db's

John Machin sjmachin at
Sat Jun 9 03:38:38 CEST 2007

On Jun 9, 7:55 am, Jeremy C B Nicoll <jer... at> wrote:
> Neil Cerutti <horp... at> wrote:
> > On 2007-06-08, Jeremy C B Nicoll <jer... at> wrote:
> > > Neil Cerutti <horp... at> wrote:
> > >> Luckily, the output format has not changed yet, so issues with
> > >> maintaining the above haven't arisen.
> > > The problem surely is that when you want to change the format
> > > you have to do so in all files (and what about the backups
> > > then?) and all programs simultaneously.
> > I don't have control of the format, unfortunately. It's an import
> > file format for a commercial database application.
> You're saying your program merely has to read data files created by that
> database app?  It's not that you have a whole suite of programs that create
> and read these files, nor that you have years worth of old files that would
> need their format converted if the programs were changed?
> > It is not actually *hard* to do this with ad-hoc code, but then
> > the program is indecipherable without a hardcopy of the spec in
> > hand. And also, as you say, if the spec ever does change, the
> > hand-written batch of ljust, rjust and slice will be somewhat of
> > a pain to reconfigure.
> You could presumably define a list (of some sort, might be the wrong
> terminology) that defines the 'name', type, length, justification and
> padding of each field, and then make the explicit code you showed loop
> through that list and do what's needed field by field.
> There's a risk that abstracting the definitions will make the code less
> clear to anyone else; at least it's clear what the current stuff does.
> > But biggest weakness, to me, is that the specification is not in
> > the code, or read and used by the code, and I think it should be.
> It'd be better if you could read the data layout spec from some file
> produced by the database system.  No chance perhaps of having the dat files
> include some sort of dummy first record that contains the necessary info in
> a form that you could interpret?

The OP is *WRITING* not reading.

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