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FILE FORMAT TYPES

Data analytical software can import many types of file formats into the software. Most business software packages can produce or export files into a number of formats. The selected format should be the one most appropriate under the circumstances. Reliability, ease of import, and ease of export are all considerations as to which format type should be selected when there are choices.

Typical file formats that can be accepted in data analytical software include dBASE, Microsoft Access, Microsoft Excel, ODBC, print reports, Adobe PDF, delimited text, and XML. Manual definitions can also be defined to import various other types of files.

Microsoft Access and dBASE files are common formats on personal computers and are simple to import. Field names are included in the files, eliminating the need to define the file name headers.

Microsoft Excel is a popular export format and can be simple to import into data analytical software if each row is a separate record. Sometimes, the first row contains the field names that the software would recognize and would be included in the import. Where the spreadsheet includes headers, subtotals, totals, and other extraneous details, you can save the Microsoft Excel file as a report or Adobe PDF file for further processing.

The Open Database Connectivity (ODBC) option can bring data into the data analytical software where you have the appropriate ODBC driver to connect to the data source. See Figure 3.1 as an example.

An excellent, detailed discussion of how to use ODBC, with examples, can be found at Indiana University at rt.uits.iu.edu/visualization/analytics/odbc.pdf.

Print report files and Adobe PDF files are everywhere and are readily available. While there are no doubts that direct access data is better, PDF reports are available from most software packages. You have no control over the query, so you will not get all of the relevant fields available in the source data that are not printed out in the reports. While extra steps are involved to import the information into the data analytical software, you will not need to define the record layout or have to select desired fields from data dictionaries. Some reports will have totals to assist in the reconciliation of the imported data with the reports.

Report and PDF files can be imported by applying the internal data analytical software's feature, such as Arbutus Print Image (Figure 3.2) or IDEA's Report Reader (Figure 3.3). The producers of ActiveData recommend the use of third-party software such as Monarch (datawatch.com), ABBYY PDF Transformer (pdftransformer.abbyy.com), orAble2ExtractPDF Converter (able2extract .com) to convert files into Microsoft Excel format.

 
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