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Using Codetran to convert Psion Data files to generic format

By 'data files' I'm assuming you mean Psion 'Data' files, i.e. the flat file databases created by the built-in application. These are often used on early Psions for storing contact and miscellaneous information.

The problem, as you've probably found out, is that any attempt to export from Data in 'CSV' (Comma Separated Values) text, or similar, is usually thwarted by the way embedded carriage returns (i.e. every time you pressed 'Enter') in a Notes field are passed through into the export file. So the 'one entry per line' ethos of using delimited text to transfer database entries is ruined.

On the face of it, this is a huge problem. If you're technical, then these brief instructions should give you some pointers. If you find yourself struggling then see the email link at the bottom 8-)

Using Codetran to strip embedded carriage returns

Firstly, grab yourself the codetran utility (11k). It's a command line tool and runs under any version of DOS or Windows. Its core purpose is to scan for specific hex character strings and replace them with others of your choice. The lengths don't have to match, either. See the documentation in the ZIP file for more.

  1. In Data on your Psion Series 5 or 5mx, open up the data file to be 'converted'
  2. Use 'File > Export as text file' and enter an output file name ending in 'txt'. Tap on 'Options' and set the dialog fields to 'None', 'Other', '^', 'Other' and '|'.
  3. Hit 'OK'. What you're doing is using the ^ character as the delimiter between fields and the | character as the delimiter between entries. In other words, you're divorcing yourself from any reliance on embedded commas or carriage returns.
  4. With codetran.com and your Psion-exported database .txt file in the same folder, on the command line, type "CODETRAN MYFILE.TXT 13 10 : 59". This replaces all the embedded carriage returns with a semi-colon, a useful way of breaking up your notes while still keeping the text within a single 'line'.
  5. Now it's time to change the wierd delimiters back to something more standard. Use "CODETRAN MYFILE.TXT 94 : 9" to change the ^ characters to tabs, and "CODETRAN MYFILE.TXT 124 : 13 10" to convert the | characters back to carriage returns.
  6. You now have a properly delimited text file that can be imported into any database system or spreadsheet on any computer. Hopefully!!

One caveat to the above is that if you've used tab characters or ^ or | in your database, then you'll have to adjust the procedure as appropriate. Or call in the experts - see below 8-)

If you have anything to add to (or ask about) this article, or if you'd like to commission me to do the conversion work for you, please email me!