Software is a master at extraction

In the Chinese calendar, the first recorded year of the rat was 1924, and apparently those born under this sign are considered to be quick and intuitive. Well, a new rat has surfaced at Guy Software with its release of version 2.0 of the ParseRat, a product aimed at pulling information out of files and databases and it too has an intuitive nature, according to the company.

Version 2.0 was released to the market four months ago and offers some significant upgrades: it can now handle XML files and put data out in XML. Other features include reading EBCDIC (extended binary-coded decimal interchange code) files and extracting data from Web pages and HTML files. Data can be parsed from the system clipboard; it provides unit conversion, exports numeric data, can standardize address and name information, and split and combine input fields.

The software can also run within other programs, generate Soundex codes and eliminate duplicate records. While the product has made some improvements, the core function remains the same. “It saves people from re-keying the information,” said Ed Guy, owner at Guy Software in Vancouver. “So many times people have information that’s in computer readable form and have had to print it out and re-key it in a different format.”

He added that the software has the ability to extract any type of information and reformat it, so long as it has any type of form or structure to it. If data is stored on the mainframe and the user wants to import that information into Excel for further analysis, it will take that information and do the conversions.

By adding the XML file feature, the software can take data from a clipboard (copying data) and put it out to another clipboard to perform arithmetic on the in coming fields and unit conversions. Additionally, “As more applications are able to handle XML import, ParseRat can then take that stuff they can’t handle and convert it into XML for their purposes,” he said.

For one user, the simple addition of a tab has made all the difference. “I wanted to only extract certain rows depending on a certain field (and there’s) a new tab called ‘miscellaneous’ where you can say exclude this record or include it based on the value of a certain field,” said Sarah Mueller IT director at Corporate Marketing Solutions in West New York, N.J.

The organization is a mail house and data processing company responsible for order fulfilment for e-commerce companies and it is bombarded with long mailing lists from its clients.

A user of the original release and updated version for over a year, she said the original use of the software was in parsing mailing lists. Now, they have incorporated it in some of their production processes. For example, if a report arrives and the only piece of information needed is a list of account numbers, the ParseRat script will read the report and only output a list of those account numbers. Mueller said that while the software is flexible, “The interface is not great. Unfortunately it took a while before I was comfortable with it, it’s not terribly intuitive.”

Ken Rowland was attracted to the product because of its ease of installation, use and the price. “I’ve almost always had to refer to a manual or a help desk for support but it was very easy to install and use,” said the IT director at Berkel & Company Contractors Inc., in Bonner Springs, Mo.

He said the alternative was to spend thousands of dollars on conversion software for the company’s accounting system.

ParseRat 2.0 runs on Windows 95/98/ME and NT4/2000 and is priced at US$49.95.