variable-length field

variable-length field

[′ver·ē·ə·bəl ¦leŋkth ′fēld]
(computer science)
A data field in which the number of characters varies, the length of the field being stored within the field itself.
References in periodicals archive ?
Each element has its own variable-length field. The fields are marked with characteristic letters representing actual field names.
Among other problems, the most troublesome were their inability to handle variable-length fields and the inability to recognize (and sort according to) Serbo-Croatian Latin characters and UDC members.
Variable fields may be either fixed-length control fields with primarily coded data or variable-length fields. Most of the content of the record is in the variable fields, which also contain indicators (values that interpret or supplement the data found in a field) and subfield codes (that distinguish the data elements within a field that require separate manipulation).
Some database packages, like Ask Sam (Seaside Software, Perry, FL) and Notebook II (Pro/Tem Software, Stamford, CA) use true variable-length fields. Users never specify field sizes, and record sizes vary.
Since variable-length fields are the norm in INMAGIC, long paragraphs such as those in the SUMMARY field of the Oral History Index are readily accepted.
Another area in which the History Database program represents a substantial improvement for the purpose of historical research is in the program's use of variable-length fields.
So no wonder MARC records have variable-length fields. There really was not much choice.
Does it use variable-length fields or fixed fields?
INMAGIC is the prototype of a program built from the ground up with variable-length fields and many-to-one relations in mind.
Also, PRO-CITE's ability to handle up to 32,500 records with variable-length fields (a maximum of 16,000 characters) makes it possible to create bibliographies as simple as a list of references for a research paper or as complex as a catalog for a small library collection.

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