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Chapter 3. Getting Information Into and ... > Importing Information from a Fixed-W...

Importing Information from a Fixed-Width Text File

The only way to get the data of many older programs into Access is to export the data to a fixed-width text file and then import that file into Access. In a fixed-width text file, the same field in every record contains exactly the same number of characters. If the actual data doesn’t fill a field, the field is padded with spaces so that the starting point of the data in the next field is the same number of characters from the beginning of every record. For example, if the first field contains 12 characters, the second field always starts 13 characters from the beginning of the record, even if the actual data in the first field is only 4 characters.


Fixed-width text files used to be difficult to import into databases, because you had to carefully count the number of characters in each field and then specify the field sizes in the database layout or the import program. If the text in any field was even one character off, all records from that point on would be jumbled. That is no longer a problem with Access because the Import Text Wizard makes importing a fixed-width text file simple.


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