Flat File Format


Flat File Format

A flat-file database is a database stored in a file called a flat file. Records follow a uniform format, and there are no structures for indexing or recognizing relationships between records. The file is simple. A flat file can be a plain text file, or a binary file.

A flat file, also known as a text database, is a type of database that stores data in a plain text format. Flat file databases were developed and implemented in the early 1970s by IBM.

Flat files typically text files that have all word processing and structure markup removed. A flat file features a table with a single record per line. The different columns in a record use a tab or comma to delimit the fields. The flat file database does not have multiple tables, unlike in a relational database. The information contained in flat files does not have associated paths or folders.

All the records are stored in one place, and the database can be set up with a number of standard office applications. The database is easy to understand, and it is easy to sort the records. Records can also be viewed or extracted with simple criteria.

How are Flat Files Used

Data warehousing projects use flat files to import data. There is no data manipulation performed on the stored data, but they are the preferred option because of how easily they carry information from the server. Flat files are a bare means of storing table data but do not hold relations between the tables within them.

Programmers use flat file databases when building applications. Their simple structure means they take up less space than structured files. The tradeoff is that information in the flat files can only be read, stored, and sent. Data representation in this kind of database complies with certain standards.

Each column in a flat file database is restricted to a specific data type. The delimiters are used to keep the data formatting at a fixed width, and to make it easier to find different fields within a record.

The first row in a flat file refers to the field name – which makes it easier to determine what data is dealt with in each field. All the rows in the flat file database follow the tuple concept in relational algebra, where tuples are an ordered list of elements.

Data in flat files remains in its original form until it is transferred into a staging area in a warehouse or a database management system. After the transmission is complete, the data is altered and saved in different forms.

Linux, Windows, and Macintosh operating systems run on a series of flat file databases. It’s also easy to use flat file databases to store customer lists and business contacts. But, if you have more than a few thousand records, they can have some disadvantages. They can be harder to update, contain non-unique records, have increased potential for duplication, and over time, can become inefficient.

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