Access databases from anywhere on the enterprise network

On large corporate networks, information is usually readily available. Unfortunately, that doesn't mean it's easy to access.

Most corporations effectively store data in databases; the problem is sharing that information with end users--end users who might not have the appropriate database program or the technical savvy to view and manipulate the data. ARPEGGIO Information Publisher is a suite of data access products that lets users at all levels access and publish information from host, client/server, and PC databases.

ARPEGGIO, which runs on Windows NT 3.51, NT 4.0, and Windows 95, ships as three products: ARPEGGIO Viewer, ARPEGGIO for the Developer, and ARPEGGIO for the Desktop. ARPEGGIO Viewer is a report viewer for end users. ARPEGGIO for the Developer exposes data objects and provides a set of APIs for developers to create custom applications. ARPEGGIO for the Desktop is an effective information publisher and database analyzer, letting you connect to relational databases and work with them without using arcane SQL commands.

For this review, I evaluated ARPEGGIO for the Desktop. Although the product wears a 1.0 version number, it is a marriage of two well-established products: Concentric Data System's R&R Report Writer and Wall Data's RUMBA Data Access query engine.

As with most Windows programs, ARPEGGIO uses a simple Wizard-based user interface for its installation process. You can perform a full or partial install, depending on your needs.

ARPEGGIO uses Object Linking and Embedding (OLE) and ActiveX controls to make creating and retrieving information easier. Rather than issuing (or even learning, if necessary) complex SQL query commands, you can use predefined information objects (OLE structured-storage documents) that issue the commands for you.

Because ARPEGGIO includes many Open Database Connectivity (ODBC) drivers, you can communicate directly with any relational database that supports ODBC. For example, you can connect to a database in ARPEGGIO, create a query, as shown in Screen 1, and send the results as a report by dragging them into email. You don't even have to take your hand off the mouse.

The first time I created a query with ARPEGGIO, I couldn't believe how easy the process was--ARPEGGIO reduced the task of creating a query to a few clicks and drag-and-drop operations, instead of a time-consuming task of programming a series of SQL commands. ARPEGGIO also includes support for AS/400 and mainframe systems, letting you transfer data between your PCs and your AS/400s.

If your organization works with databases regularly, you should examine ARPEGGIO. The object-oriented user interface is consistent with NT 4.0 Explorer behavior, which means there's little training required if your users are familiar with Explorer.

The only downside to the version I reviewed was the lack of hard-copy documentation (which, according to the company, is unnecessary because the product is so easy to use). However, Wall Data now ships documentation with the product.

You have a whole lot to gain and not much to lose by deploying ARPEGGIO software as a front end to your databases. Your users will thank you.