Flat File Database

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What Does Flat File Database Mean?

A flat file database is a type of database that stores data in a single table. This is unlike a relational database, which makes use of multiple tables and relations. Flat file databases are generally in plain-text form, where each line holds only one record. The fields in the record are separated using delimiters such as tabs and commas.


Techopedia Explains Flat File Database

Flat file database tables can be set in various application types, including HTML documents, simple word processors or worksheets in spreadsheet applications. The tables within a flat file database can be sorted based on column values. These tables serve as a solution for simple database tasks.

In spite of the limitations associated with flat files, flat file databases are used internally by various computer applications to store data related to configuration. Most of the applications permit users to store and retrieve information from flat files based on a predefined set of fields.

Flat files include data types common to other databases. A few features of the data in flat file databases include:

  • Database Management System: The text data represent an intermediate style of data before being loaded into the database.
  • Separated Columns: Flat file databases are based on fixed-width data formatting. Columns are separated using delimiter characters.
  • Data Types: Columns in the database tables are restricted to a particular data type and are not indicated, unless the data is passed on to a relational database.
  • Relational Algebra: Records in flat file database tables meet tuple definitions under relational algebra.

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Margaret Rouse
Senior Editor
Margaret Rouse
Senior Editor

Margaret is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical business audience. Over the past twenty years, her IT definitions have been published by Que in an encyclopedia of technology terms and cited in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine, and Discovery Magazine. She joined Techopedia in 2011. Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages.