Create a Database Using Delphi's "File Of" Typed Files

Understanding Typed Files

Man sitting in front of computer screen at night
Getty Images/Dimitri Otis

Simply put a file is a binary sequence of some type. In Delphi, there are three classes of file: typed, text, and untyped. Typed files are files that contain data of a particular type, such as Double, Integer or previously defined custom Record type. Text files contain readable ASCII characters. Untyped files are used when we want to impose the least possible structure on a file.

Typed Files

While text files consist of lines terminated with a CR/LF (#13#10) combination, typed files consist of data taken from a particular type of data structure.

For example, the following declaration creates a record type called TMember and an array of TMember record variables.

   TMember = record
     Name : string[50];
     eMail : string[30];
     Posts : LongInt;
  var Members : array[1..50] of TMember; 

Before we can write the information to the disk we have to declare a variable of a file type. The following line of code declares an F file variable.

 var F : file of TMember; 

Note: To create a typed file in Delphi, we use the following syntax:

var SomeTypedFile : file of SomeType

The base type (SomeType) for a file can be a scalar type (like Double), an array type or record type. It should not be long string, dynamic array, class, object or a pointer.

In order to start working with files from Delphi, we have to link a file on a disk to a file variable in our program. To create this link we must use AssignFile procedure in order to associate a file on a disk with a file variable.

 AssignFile(F, 'Members.dat') 

Once the association with an external file is established, the file variable F must be 'opened' to prepare it for reading and/or writing. We call Reset procedure to open an existing file or Rewrite to create a new file. When a program completes processing a file, the file must be closed using the CloseFile procedure.

After a file is closed, its associated external file is updated. The file variable can then be associated with another external file.

In general, we should always use exception handling; many errors may arise when working with files. For example: if we call CloseFile for a file that is already closed Delphi reports an I/O error. On the other hand, if we try to close a file but have not yet called AssignFile, the results are unpredictable.

Write to a File

Suppose we have filled an array of Delphi members with their names, e-mails, and number of posts and we want to store this information in a file on the disk. The following piece of code will do the work:

   F : file of TMember;
   i : integer;
  AssignFile(F,'members.dat') ;
  Rewrite(F) ;
   for j:= 1 to 50 do
    Write (F, Members[j]) ;
   CloseFile(F) ;

Read from a File

In order to retrieve all the information from the 'members.dat' file we would use the following code:

   Member: TMember
   F : file of TMember;
  AssignFile(F,'members.dat') ;
  Reset(F) ;
   while not Eof(F) do begin
    Read (F, Member) ;
   CloseFile(F) ;

Note: Eof is the EndOfFile checking function. We use this function to make sure that we are not trying to read beyond the end of the file (beyond the last stored record).

Seeking and Positioning

Files are normally accessed sequentially. When a file is read using the standard procedure Read or written using the standard procedure Write, the current file position moves to the next numerically ordered file component (next record). Typed files can also be accessed randomly through the standard procedure Seek, which moves the current file position to a specified component. The FilePos and FileSize functions can be used to determine the current file position and the current file size.

 {go back to the beginning - the first record}
 Seek(F, 0) ;
 {go to the 5-th record}
 Seek(F, 5) ;
 {Jump to the end - "after" the last record}
 Seek(F, FileSize(F)) ; 

Change and Update

You've just learned how to write and read the entire array of members, but what if all you want to do is to seek to the 10th member and change the e-mail? The next procedure does exactly that:

 procedure ChangeEMail(const RecN : integer; const NewEMail : string) ;
 var DummyMember : TMember;
  {assign, open, exception handling block}
  Seek(F, RecN) ;
  Read(F, DummyMember) ;
  DummyMember.Email := NewEMail;
  {read moves to the next record, we have to
  go back to the original record, then write}
  Seek(F, RecN) ;
  Write(F, DummyMember) ;
  {close file}

Completing the Task

That's it -- now you have all you need to accomplish your task. You can write members' information to the disk, you can read it back and you can even change some of the data (e-mail, for example) in the "middle" of the file.

What's important is that this file is not an ASCII file, this is how it looks in Notepad (only one record):

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