AskSam Offers Search Flexibility

Free-form database tool searches text documents easily but doesn't fit into an enterprise data strategy.

AskSams document template and text search features make it a good option for text databases controlled and used by a single user, and it gains stronger import features and an API in Version 5.0.

Released last month by Seaside Software Inc. (doing business as AskSam Systems), AskSam 5.0 adds the ability to import Adobe Systems Inc.s Acrobat PDF files and e-mail documents from Qualcomm Inc.s Eudora, Netscape Communications Corp.s Netscape Mail, Microsoft Corp.s Outlook and Outlook Express, and Poco Systems PocoMail (but, notably, not Microsoft Exchange or IBM Lotus divisions Notes).

AskSam 5.0 runs on Windows 95 or later and comes in two versions: a $150 Standard version and a $395 Professional version, which includes document indexing and a programming interface.

Version 5.0 provides better tools for changing the format of existing AskSam documents and allows original documents to be linked to or embedded in an AskSam database during the document import process.

However, AskSam has some serious limitations that need to be considered if a corporation already has a document or data management strategy in place.

AskSam data is not accessible through standard data access protocols and so will be inaccessible to data integration tools or data reporting tools.

New in this release is an ActiveX control that provides a way for in-house Windows applications or Active Server Pages-based Web applications to access AskSam databases, but these will be custom programming efforts. A $1,500 Web Publisher option provides a pre-built Web gateway to AskSam data, but it doesnt support record updates.

The company will be adding a Web services interface in the next 60 days to make the product more accessible and will move to support XML documents, said AskSam CEO Phil Schnyder.

That will help, but AskSam also lacks many standard data entry validation tools, such as data type constraints, data range constraints and foreign key constraints.

As a result, AskSam isnt well-suited to projects where users have to enter a lot of new data or to projects that dont involve full-text data searches. For these efforts, we advise companies to look into an easy-to-use database such as FileMaker Inc.s FileMaker Pro or the more complicated, but also more enterprise-ready, Microsoft Access.