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ComputerWorks of Chicago, Inc.

ComputerWorks of Chicago, Inc.

“Being a complete Sybase shop has great advantages,” says Chance. “By porting PowerBuilder DataWindows among different environments, we achieve cost and time savings in application development that no one can beat.”

Lead Software Engineer

Sybase PocketBuilder enables developers at ComputerWorks of Chicago to easily and quickly create wireless applications that make sales and inventory data available in real time.

Business Advantage

  • In lieu of cumbersome multi-step scanning processes or manual inventories, ComputerWorks clerks now use wireless Booklog to update records on their PDA’s in real time.

Key Benefits

  • Developed wireless interface to desktop POS and inventory management system in 3 days.
  • Saved considerable time and expense by not having to rewrite code.
  • Gives bookstores faster, easier access to better inventory data.
  • Builds customer satisfaction by speeding up cashier checkouts and offering faster and more accurate responses to queries.
  • Increases store flexibility to access and update data

Sybase Technology


  • Retail and Distribution

When Silicon Valley’s renowned Kepler’s Books almost folded in August 2005, loyal patrons grieved, but no one in the book business was surprised.  Statistics from the American Booksellers Association show that many bookstores operate in the red.

Large chains, Internet sales, and rising costs put big pressures on bookstores’ bottom lines.  Armed with the latest Sybase technology, ComputerWorks of Chicago is helping book dealers nationwide turn that situation around.

Real Time Inventory Data Boosts Sales, Builds Customer Loyalty
Using Sybase PocketBuilder, in 3 days ComputerWorks Lead Software Engineer Chance created a wireless tool that makes sales and inventory data available on the bookshop floor in real time.

“By writing only 10 lines of code in Sybase PocketBuilder, I built a wireless inventory and sales tool that eliminates the need for a dedicated bar code scanner,” says Chance.  The software takes physical inventory of books on hand using an industrial strength, Windows mobile or Pocket PC based, personal digital assistant (PDA).  A wi-fi connection links the PDA to a Sybase Adaptive Server Anywhere database.

Launched two years ago, the wireless module for ComputerWorks Booklog—the leading point-of-sale and inventory management solution for booksellers—has proved especially popular with college bookstores.  “Educational institutions place a high value on innovation, and the wireless module is a great fit there,” says Chance.  “Customers have been clamoring to get our PDA software as part of Booklog’s latest upgrade.”

Wireless Rollout Quick and Painless
“For Sybase PowerBuilder programmers like me, there is no learning curve at all to work in PocketBuilder,” says Chance.  “I got PocketBuilder on a Friday night, and by Sunday, I had written three real-time data-driven wireless applications for our flagship product.”

In place of a cumbersome multi-step scanning process or taking manual inventory, clerks now use wireless Booklog to update records on their PDA’s in real time. A second function speeds checkouts by tallying purchases with the PDA’s built-in laser scanner before customers reach a cash register.  A third gives clerks instant information on price and stock availability for any title by scanning a barcode with their PDAs.

PocketBuilder Boosts Developer Productivity
Chance attributes her productivity to PocketBuilder’s ease of use and tight integration with Sybase PowerBuilder.  (Desktop Booklog is written in PowerBuilder.) She contrasts her weekend PocketBuilder experience with many weeks she spent working on “trivial applications” written in Visual C++.

“For writing wireless, data driven applications, PocketBuilder is the best tool out there,” says Chance.  “Built-in support for the Symbol barcode scanner saved me an enormous amount of time that I otherwise would have spent weeding through Symbol API’s.”  (In addition to supporting bar code scanners, PocketBuilder has native hardware support for GPS receivers, cameras, and biometrics.)

Chance also praises PocketBuilder’s RAD programming environment and database integration.  “It doesn’t get any easier than this,” she says. “Through the magic of PowerBuilder DataWindows, I can connect to my enterprise database and bring information to mobile workers easily and seamlessly.”

Wireless Booklog Brings Booksellers Big Benefits
Wireless Booklog gives booksellers big benefits.  A major frustration and cause of lost sales in the book business has been the disparity between computer inventory and titles actually on the shelf. Standard industry practice is to take a physical store inventory periodically using a Laser bar code scanner that records information in an ASCII text file, which users upload to a database.

  • Expense and infrequency of inventories, leading to inaccurate computer databases.
  • Time-consuming multi-step processes to capture data, upload information in batches to a PC, and run a parsing algorithm.
  • Latency from the time information is captured until a database is updated.
  • A need to buy a dedicated (rather than multifunctional) device with embedded software. The embedded software is inflexible, cannot validate data, and is prone to file failures due to data entry errors.

Wireless Booklog solves all these problems, boosting bookstores’ bottom lines by streamlining sales and building customer satisfaction.

Powerful, Affordable, Inventory Management 
Wireless Booklog builds on the success of its desktop predecessor, which has long been the market leader.  Installed in over 1400 college, trade, and retail stores worldwide,  ComputerWork’s Booklog requires minimal IT skills to deploy and use. The software offers:

  • An intuitive point-of-sale interface.
  • Extensive back office controls that make purchasing, receiving, and returns a snap.
  • 75 built-in reports.
  • Seamless interfacing with other popular software.
ComputerWorks Grows Booklog Line with More Sybase Tools
In the fall of 2005, ComputerWorks launched a multi-site version of Booklog.  The software uses a Sybase Mobilink server connected to a Sybase Adaptive Server Anywhere database to synchronize data among different store locations and among remote and consolidated databases.  As a result, booksellers can manage a group of stores from one location using information that is almost real time.

ComputerWorks’ next step is to take Booklog to the Web using Sybase’s DataWindow .NET technology.  An outgrowth of PowerBuilder, Sybase’s DataWindow .NET allows Chance to reuse 100% of the Booklog code to create an online reporting tool that she expects will be generally available in 2006.

ComputerWorks has been an all-Sybase shop since 1996. “Being a complete Sybase shop has great advantages,” says Chance. “By porting PowerBuilder DataWindows among different environments, we achieve cost and time savings in application development that no one can beat.”


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