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Q&A - DOS or Windows

Q&A is a well-regarded database, immensely popular with its users, which incorporates an integrated word processor. Many people are confused about the various versions. Here is the situation:

Q&A v4 for DOS was released in 1991. It can be considered the "classic" Q&A, and the product's popularity peaked between its release and 1993.

In 1993 Q&A v4 for Windows was released. Both v4 products were marketed in tandem. The first release, v4.00 had some bugs and a maintenance release, dated November 1993, was soon issued. The product received a luke-warm reception, lacking as it does some very desirable features of its DOS counterpart (Macros, custom menus, posting for example). The Windows version has many strengths, including free-form reports, a very feature-rich word processor and mailmerge which is simple yet versatile, just like the DOS version. The programming is identical in both versions, but the fact that whole Q&A applications could not be converted to Q&A for Windows was a big disappointment.

Q&A for Windows was shipped with an "Interoperability Disk". This upgraded your Q&A v4 for DOS database to make it file-compatible with Q&A v4 for Windows. Thus, a Q&A database could be used with either version as a front end – simultaneously if necessary.

Early in 1994 Symantec announced that they would not be developing either version of Q&A any more. They would continue to sell, and support both products. This caused a great clamour of discontent amongst the vast user base of Q&A. This materialised in Symantec commissioning a German company, PFP Software GmbH of Düsseldorf, to write an upgrade to the DOS version. Q&A v5 for DOS was the result. It looks and feels the same as version 4 for DOS, but has many very valuable features "at the top end", of particular interest to power users. These include new programming and macro features which make the product more relational-like and allow programmers to create a richer, more user-friendly interface.

There are also some features of appeal to the casual user, such as more control over form colours, the field editor is active in retrieve spec, and F11 / F12 Copy & Paste values between fields. This one feature alone is worth the upgrade price! QA5 also comes with an upgrade to Q&A for Windows, creating v4.06 which maintains interoperability between the DOS and Windows versions. There are a few bugs in QA5 which render it not quite as stable as the rock-solid QA4 for DOS. You should think of QA5 as a "Developer's Edition", and consider upgrading to it if you are already making good use of the macros and programming features of QA4, but not otherwise.

In the USA version 4 and version 5 were sold by Symantec and through distributors. In Europe QA5 replaced QA4 for DOS. Throughout 1996 both QA4 Windows and QA5 DOS were sold and supported but not actively marketed by Symantec. Around April of 1997 Symantec discontinued both versions of Q&A in Europe. In the Autumn of 1997 PFP bought the rights to Q&A in Europe and launched a CD containing all versions in all languages. A new, English-fronted version of this is now produced by Keyword Software & Consultancy, the authorised distributor of Q&A in the UK.

Some people get on very well with Q&A for Windows, and prefer it to the DOS version. Many more have tried it and returned to the DOS version. Ironically, the DOS version is more compatible with newer operating systems. Q&A for Windows will not run under Windows NT, 2000 or XP without a patch (see Q&A FAQ for details) whereas Q&A for DOS will.

If you are happy with Q&A for DOS, but just want better printed output, to be able to use TrueType Fonts, perform mailmerges with graphics etc then there is a third option. You can use Q&A for DOS, but use your Windows Word processor (probably Microsoft Word). Macros can be created in Q&A, and in Word, to make this easy. Under Windows 95/98 or later, Q&A can actually call Word as an external program, and so mailmerges are simplicity itself! Keyword Software will be happy to set this up for you.
This information is provided in good faith but no liability can be accepted by Keyword Software & Consultancy for any loss or damage of any description caused or alleged to be caused by using the information contained herein.  All opinions are those of the author.   

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