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Selwyn: Why haven't more IT pro's heard of Alpha?

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  • Selwyn: Why haven't more IT pro's heard of Alpha?

    I moved to Atlanta in '88, and it was within just one year that I found out about Alpha (when we only had DOS), bought it (I think it was A4v2) and started using it. The only alternative I knew of was dBASE, and Alpha was so far superior to that! This has never changed, with all the improvements that have come along for all database programs since then.

    So, what I want to know is this: WHY do I STILL have to explain to every manager, IT dept, or offsite data mgmt facility I must confront in my work, what Alpha even is, that it exists, and that it's a great program?? After over 20 years, why are people still so ignorant of this application and its uses and benefits, compared to other programs in the same class? I have to tell you, it gets more frustrating as the years go by.

    I wish this website would have a link to ALL past professional recommendations, like from PC Week mag for instance, so that I could just send these ignoramuses there and let them see what they have somehow missed. It is a real chore getting people to buy a program they have somehow never heard of.

    It would also be a big help if you could make a webpage that states Alpha's capabilities in less technical terms, worded in a way that people in charge of allocating funds to purchase programs could understand, realizing that those people often have no clue what's in their company's best interest when it comes to computer software. You need to create a very basic explanation geared to those moneyed non-IT people who can accept your program for purchase, or else be content to let them pass it by simply through lack of understanding of what you have to offer.

    I try to promote Alpha and get people to buy it whenever I can; but it's an uphill battle every time, due to this widespread lack of familiarity with the name in business/IT circles. I'm about worn out with the effort, after all these years. But I always insist, insofar as I'm able, that the company I'm working for, or contracting with, get Alpha, if they want me to do any database work for them. (I'm not in any sense a "database pro." That's why I need your program to do any little thing at all!)

    Also, as I told Alpha S/W years ago, it would be a HUGE help if the info written for and posted by Alpha on its website were letter-perfect, without glaring errors in punctuation, etc., that make the content either unclear or downright impossible to understand, especially to a non-pro. (I originally made this suggestion re the Help Files, which I said I could edit; but I received no offers.) Ex.: today when trying to gather the info I needed to present to my contractors to convince them to buy several instances of Alpha, I had to cut the verbage from the website & paste it into Word to edit it before I could present it, because the poor punctuation, as written, made no sense, and was downright false. This is one case of where MS Access has Alpha beat, hands down: you won't find any errors in the text they use to promote their products on their website. Believe me, this IS important! I have no hope of convincing non-technichal people that Alpha is better than their competitors if my "proof" can't be understood due to faulty punctuation or subpar explanations provided by the software mfr itself. I'm currently contracting in an industry in which exact wording is paramount; how can I convince such people to buy from a company that doesn't employ a good editor to review what they publish online for the world to see? Specifically, I was trying to show that Alpha can serve as a front-end report generator using Oracle as the data source. On Alpha's website, it lists many data sources it can use, but befuddles the non-tech person by omitting a comma, listing "Oracle Microsoft's SQL Server," making it seem that Oracle is a Microsoft product! This did not help me at all; and it was confusing only because of complete lack of attention to the published word!

    After 20 years of loyalty to Alpha, I'd really like to know how I can better sell your product so that I can use it for those I work for/contract with, and why in the world they still don't know about you! It would be helpful, too, if I could print out ALL the corporate/gov't users of A5 from one page, instead of just a partial list under each category.

    Sorry to be critical when it was needed. I love Alpha, and just want you to make it easier for me to "sell you" in the workplace.

    Thanks for listening,

    Carol Lybrand
    Greater Atlanta, Georgia, USA
    Last edited by Caely; 07-22-2009, 03:39 AM. Reason: review

  • #2
    Re: Selwyn: Why haven't more IT pro's heard of Alpha?

    Sums it up for many of us. Great product, still unknown outside of a small circle, frustrating. V10 won't magically change this.

    I work with a group of Alpha pros that in fact have as a stated mission to "Increase acceptance and adoption of Alpha Five as a software solution for small businesses, corporations and professionals." (see website About page)

    I'll email you about it, or you can click that IADN link below. Maybe you can help 1) determine the reason this is true, 2) develop a plan to rectify.
    Steve Wood
    There is no Cloud. It's just someone else's computer.
    Web - Mobile - Hosting - Products - Frameworks - Developer Resources
    AlphaToGo | IADN (100% Alpha Anywhere Websites)


    • #3
      Re: Selwyn: Why haven't more IT pro's heard of Alpha?


      I haven't been working with Alpha Five for nearly as long as you have, but I have to agree with your sentiments.

      As we all know, Alpha is an extremely capable product. Unfortunately, Alpha seems to take the approach that if you build a better mousetrap, the whole world will beat a path to your door. So...

      Who needs clear and complete documentation? You should be able to figure this stuff out if you're smart.

      Who needs professionally produced books available at the likes of Borders or Barnes & Noble? They have't figured out that this a requirement of being accepted as mainstream.

      Who needs a product that looks like a winner to your end users?
      What's wrong with tired graphics, crude icons, dated/underpowered controls, etc.

      Who needs stunningly beautiful demos applications, when amateurish ones will do? After all, you don't expect Alpha to lead and show you a better way, do you?

      I once felt as frustrated as you, but I have come to accept that it is not in Alpha's genes to be marketing oriented. This is a tech company and design considerations are an afterthought. And yet design is what drives consumer interest and purchase.

      By its graphics, icons, controls, web page, etc., Alpha doesn't want to shine. They have a very technical capable product, and if you're not smart enough to look past that drabness, you have no reason to use the product. No wonder your customers have never heard of it.

      I'll make you a bet: Alpha is advertising for developer employees to develop a new small business sales applicaiton at its corporate headquarters. I haven't heard anything about this application, but will guarantee you that one year after introduction, it will not have achieved the sales volume of Filemaker's BENTO, also recently introduced.

      Filemaker and Microsoft get marketing and design, Alpha does not.

      Bob McGaffic
      Pittsburgh, PA

      PS: BENTO books are available from Chances you will find forthcoming Alpha "Small business sales appliction" books there? Near zero.


      • #4
        Re: Selwyn: Why haven't more IT pro's heard of Alpha?

        I got tired of being screwed around by MS Access dead runtime problems with it's latest release and it's inability to play nice with prior installed releases and so looked for another product. I looked at the main stuff out there including Filemaker and while it may be popular and people know about it you can't do anything real with it... not like Access or A5 - not even close. As for books... I've yet to pick up an Access book and find anything else but a regurtition of a the manual - in the decades I've used Access I've never found a decent book - out of the hundreds out there. So, once again in our current world, lots of hype but no substance. There are a few problems with A5 but so far it's pretty much all substance.


        • #5
          Re: Selwyn: Why haven't more IT pro's heard of Alpha?

          Another comment and question: Is it just me or do others experience this. When I walk into a company with "IT pros" on staff I usually meet resistence if I start talking about Access. "They" hate it. They don't think it's real enough, robust enough, etc. They prefer to spend double or triple the time to create VB or C products with SQL back ends.


          • #6
            Re: Selwyn: Why haven't more IT pro's heard of Alpha?

            It's not just Alpha, it's people in general not willing to try something new.

            My brother-in-law, a web developer, just lost his job. I think he's 50 or so, and he was complaining about how businesses don't want some "old" guy like him. They want the new kid that knows all the latest Access and Dreamweaver stuff.

            I told him about Alpha and showed him some v.10 demos, and his eyes lit up. . . for about two seconds. He's back to banging on the doors that don't open.

            If he spent a few minutes learning Alpha Five, developing something he could show potential employers, and then marketing himself along with a product that would increase productivity for the entire company, I think he'd have offers in no time. Unless he's approaching companies that think like he does now. But who wants to work with a company like that anyway.
            Brad Steinfeldt


            • #7
              Re: Selwyn: Why haven't more IT pro's heard of Alpha?

              Coming from the Visual Foxpro world, I'm used to the manufacturer (in the case of Visual Foxpro, that would be Microsoft) NOT promoting the product. Those that have used it to develop applications, think it is the best thing on the market; and yet, in MS's infinite wisdom, they decide that it's time of end of life. Devoted users know that MS wants to push everyone to .NET and SQL server, but when you develop apps for the small business world, you can't afford to take forever to create an app in .NET and the cost of SQL Server makes it too costly.

              But let's get back to Alpha. I've just recently started working with it and from what I've seen, it's a unique product with the ability to develop both desktop and web apps with one tool. The fact that it works with .dbf files is really a bonus for us. There are a lot of VFP developers who naturally jumped to .NET when the end of life was announced for VFP; however, I really think Alpha could have wooed a number of developers to their camp had they promoted it correctly.

              The one problem I have with Alpha from a developers point of view is the lack of learning tools... books, videos, etc. The help file is the best resource, but it's definitely not the best way to learn the product. There appears to be some really proficient users of the product and I don't understand why Alpha doesn't capitalize on this talent by offering some incentive to create some training aids that would help people convert to Alpha. We've gobbled up every training video that they've offered, but it just doesn't go into enough depth.

              To compare Access and Filemaker, they have oodles of books and videos on how to use the product. While many of them may be just regurgitation of what's in the help files, it does give the impression of a widely used and popular product. Nobody wants to use a product that doesn't have a "community" of users no matter how good it is.

              I really think Alpha needs to take advantage of some of the well-versed talent that is using their product and put them to work training new users like me. I would gladly pay top dollar to watch some in depth videos on how to use the product proficiently - especially focused on xbasic instead of action scripting.
              John J. Fatte', CPA
              PRO-WARE, LLC
              Omaha, NE 68137


              • #8
                Re: Selwyn: Why haven't more IT pro's heard of Alpha?

                Alpha made it's mission as the "Program for non-programmers". If you want to create a recipe database or track little league scores, then this is the program for you. That mission has sustained them as a small niche software company for many years.

                They take this mission very seriously. If it weren't for the mission, would they have ever ventured into "codeless AJAX?"

                But, sometimes, this mission hurts as much as it helps, like when they take a perfectly good process and make it much more difficult in order to make it "programmerless".

                Those of us who have hitched our future to using the product realize that the mission hurts us as well as the product helps us.

                If Alpha is the program for non-programmers, then does that mean I'm not a professional and my programs are not real applications?

                I've noticed that Alpha mostly promotes itself to existing users. How can we miss the "free" advertising that shows every time I start the program. They sell the next version of the program by focusing on how it will do the things you wanted to do without programming in the prior version but would have had to program to achieve.

                I've also noticed that I get a lot of business from non-programmers that have bought the program and are now frustrated that they can't achieve what they want without programming. That's the mission of Alpha's Professional Services.

                That's why I've joined Steve Wood and a few others in the IADN. We want to focus the use of Alpha toward more sophisticated users. Our mission addresses the past Alpha marketing shortcomings. We want to show the world that:

                1. Real professional programmers use Alpha Five
                2. Real, robust, effective applications can be built using Alpha Five.
                3. IT Pros should add Alpha to their toolkit (and Alpha programmers to their contractors list!)

                We will be marketing to corporate needs, not just focusing on features of the product, especially when the features promote the "toy database" concept so many IT pros already have of Alpha (if they've heard of it at all).

                If you want to support this mission, join us at IADN.
                Pat Bremkamp
                MindKicks Consulting


                • #9
                  Re: Selwyn: Why haven't more IT pro's heard of Alpha?

                  The don't advertise as far as I know. How would most people know about Alpha Software. Word of mouth mostly I guess.

                  I have pointed some people to their web site and the comments they all said was it was too expensive. We all know that usually the difference between retail and what we end up paying is considerable. Right now to purchase 10 user run time, platinum, and web server you are looking at somewhere between $1800 - $2100. I doubt if many of us paid that. I think the latest offer is something like $499. This includes A5v9 Platinum, unlimited distribution, web server and some software. They list this as retail $1145. If you go here
                  it would add up to more than $1145 and there is no mention of unlimited distribution that I could find. However, the first impression is probably I'm not paying that for a product I don't know much about. Maybe they need make sure their current pricing is always displayed.

                  The lack of learning material as Jack mentioned is also a problem. I have a library of books on tons of other products and practically none on A5. There is nothing at the major book stores. If the forum shut down, I don't know what a lot of us would do.

                  Does Alpha Software have a great product. No doubt about it. Would it be widely accepted if more people tried it? More than likely. How are they going to get the word out? I don't know.

                  One thing I would do if it were up to me is to contact every school system in the country and offer it free if they would include it in their IT curriculum. The fruits of this would take a while, but it's kind of like saying there is no use in drilling for oil because it will take 10 years to see any results.
                  Tommy Thompson
                  Thompson Consulting Services
                  Beautiful Kentucky Lake, Springville, TN 38256
                  [email protected]


                  • #10
                    Re: Selwyn: Why haven't more IT pro's heard of Alpha?

                    In my opinion there is only one product that comes close to Alpha 5. It is called Lotus Approach. This has not been updated since IBM took over lotus in 2000, and now it is completey lost in their objectives. Until I found Alpha 5 (about two months ago) their was nothing that compared to the user friendliness of Approach. Like Alpha 5, it was designed for non programmers to program. I am now converted to Alpha 5 as it has quite a few more bells and whistles for me to access (bad word). This forum is also one of the best I have found. There are many people using Lotus Approach, looking for a solution to its inevitable demise. I have no problems (and have in fact to their forum) recomending a look at this program. It is only time before this program and its ability goes to the next level.


                    • #11
                      Re: Selwyn: Why haven't more IT pro's heard of Alpha?

                      Dear All

                      I come from +18years building applications using DataEase (from DOS to WIN versions).

                      I am very new to Alpha, and I believe it is a great product. However I too feel the:

                      - lack of exposure by IS professionals..."Alpha What?"
                      - this forum is the backbone...I have learnt a lot by searching through postings
                      - manuals, especially XBasic. This would facilitate a lot.

                      many thanks


                      • #12
                        Re: Selwyn: Why haven't more IT pro's heard of Alpha?

                        Likewise, I have come from 15 years of building database applications (and general use programs) using SoftVelocity's Clarion.

                        I am also very new to Alpha, and hope that the team puts some emphasis into V10's desktop edition (and not only the new Web feature set). Like Clarion, Alpha suffers from anonymity in corporate and academic circles. I am a professor of business technology, and we must teach Access because that's what employers want to see on students' resumes. Alpha is far superior, but I'm preaching to the choir here.

                        What is needed, in my opinion, is:
                        1. Stupid-simple, but powerful, access to back-end dbms data (ie., MS SQL Server, etc.)
                        2. Better training/tutorial/reference materials (ie., Getting Started guides through to Advanced Programming and Development guides)
                        3. Better organization of knowledgebase -- think MSDN. The information in this forum is excellent, but a more formalized repository is needed
                        4. Support for industry standard technologies -- for me, this means ability to use all the controls (ie., CodeJock) that I've purchased for use in other environments (ie., Clarion, Access, etc.)
                        5. Incorporation of an E-R diagramming tool that could automatically translate functional database designs into Alpha relationships and tables -- this one is huge for the academic area.

                        Given these developments, maybe Alpha could unseat Access in the academic arena for teaching new users/students about database programming and development.



                        • #13
                          Re: Selwyn: Why haven't more IT pro's heard of Alpha?

                          Another idea to promote Alpha 5 is something that was done back in the days of Foxbase+. The folks at Fox Software used to publish a book annually that listed applications developed by Foxbase+ programmers. Mostly included basic information about the product and contact information.

                          Now that we have the internet, how hard would be for Alpha to provide the same thing on their website. This would not be an endorsement, simply a resource for developers or endusers looking for solutions.

                          This was hugely popular with the Foxbase+ community and at one point there were hundreds of programs listed in their book. Mine was one of them.

                          Nothing, and I mean nothing, promotes a product better than seeing what you can do with it.
                          John J. Fatte', CPA
                          PRO-WARE, LLC
                          Omaha, NE 68137


                          • #14
                            Re: Selwyn: Why haven't more IT pro's heard of Alpha?

                            2 cents worth here.

                            The students using Alpha is something brought up years ago. Great Idea!

                            Teachers using Alpha is another great idea. Currently, many schools are using FileMaker to keep grades, attendance, etc. This is in spite of the fact Alpha can do it better.

                            PUT it in the hands of the teachers and IT departments of schools and watch it grow. Free or nominal fee. It will grow into corporations from there.

                            Ads in magazines/papers like Wall street journal, business week, programming/computer magazines, etc would really help. yes, it costs money!
                            Dave Mason
                            [email protected]
                            Skype is dave.mason46


                            • #15
                              Re: Selwyn: Why haven't more IT pro's heard of Alpha?

                              John, the application directory is a great idea. One is currently being assembled over at IADN ( and will be available soon.
                              Pat Bremkamp
                              MindKicks Consulting