DATAFORM is a model database manager and a data manipulation language with specific features for matrix generation, optimization control, solution access, and report generation. As a procedural "structured programming" language, one of its strengths is the use of the dynamic table constructs. Because of the ease of use and power of the language, most DATAFORM applications end up with a large percentage of the data processing built into the DATAFORM coded part of the application. It is important to understand that DATAFORM is a matrix and report generator language (among other things), not a matrix generator.
What DATAFORM does not do any better than general-purpose languages such as FORTRAN and C is to interface with the user. That is where Access, Excel, FoxPro, etc. can be used effectively. In most cases, the user interface is used to gather the information, display it for review, and give the user the facility to input and edit the data manually. Data are then sent to the DATAFORM model database in the form of tables. After the model is generated and optimized, the solution is acquired by a DATAFORM program that decodes the vector names and creates normal form tables that are sent back to the spreadsheet or relational database for use in subsequent processing (usually, reporting).
Ketron Optimization supplies utility programs that move data between our model database (called the ACTfile) and DBF or WKS files. All spreadsheet and database systems have unique file layouts - both physical and logical; also, they all can export their contents to DBF or WKS files. We work with these universally acceptable formats.
Another completely different approach is to create the user interface and modeling system entirely with an application development system such as Visual Basic or Visual C++. In these applications, matrix generation, optimization control, and solution access can all be done with our OML, (Optimization and Modeling Library) products.