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Helix Vocabulary (Click each letter to expand/collapse that section.) [Collapse All]
Abacus (icon)

An icon that is used to define calculations used for the data in a relation.

Abacus Expression Language (AEL)

A plain text representation of the contents of an abacus. See Abacus Expression Language.

Abacus Query

A query that uses an abacus to calculate the restrictions of data retrieved on a view. An abacus query is programmed by the collection designer and can not be modified by an end user.

Apple event

See AppleScript

AppleTalk (obsolete)

AppleTalk is a networking system that is available for Macs and a variety of printer hardware. It was removed from macOS in macOS 10.6.


A scripting language that makes possible direct control of scriptable applications and of many parts of the Mac OS. A scriptable application is one that makes its operations and data available in response to AppleScript messages, called Apple events. See Apple’s documentation for more information.

Helix 6.2 features a full complement of Apple events, enabling script writers to modify the data and structure of a Helix collection.

Apply Structure

Modify the structure of the currently active collection by applying structural elements that are stored in a macOS clippings file, or are on the macOS pasteboard. See also: ‘Copy Structure’, ‘Save Structure (as Clipping).’

ASCII Character (Set)

The ASCII Character Set a set of 256 standard characters that can be typed on a keyboard. Helix uses the standard Mac Roman Character Set.

Attribute (obsolete)

A setting that controls one aspect of an icon’s behavior. For example, the ‘Data Type’ attribute of a field icon determines whether the field stores text, dates, numbers, etc. Obsolete. See ‘Property’

Black Hole

Obsolete. See socket.

BLOB technology (obsolete)

Acronym for Binary Large OBject. See Document (data type).


On a view: When a command rectangle is placed on a template, it appears as a clickable button on the view. The user can click the button to initiate the sequence(s) attached to the rectangle. See also Default Button.

CallHelix (semi-obsolete)

An AppleScript scripting addition that enables you to manipulate data within a Helix database using the AppleScript scripting language. The functionality of CallHelix has been incorporated into Helix 6.2.

Checkbox (display format)

An input format that presents a flag field as a box that can be turned on (checked), off (unchecked), or undefined (dashed).


A Helix application that can connect over a network to a collection open in Helix Server.


The inclusive term for the Helix applications used for sharing a collection among users in a collaborative environment. Together, the Client/Server products allow multiple users (aka: Clients) concurrent access to a single collection.

Cold Form

A view with its Keep Current attribute turned off. In this state, the view is not updated automatically when data on it changes. A Cold Form can be updated with the refresh command, or by clicking the form indicator. See also: Hot Form


A complete relational database in a single file. A Helix document which contains all the data and structure (tables, fields, etc.) as a unified entity.

Combo Box

A combination text field and popup menu where a selection from the popup menu fills in the text field. In Helix a Combo Box is created by formatting a field as a popup with the ‘Allow Typing’ attribute turned on. See also: Popup Menu

Command Rectangle (object)

Within a template: Command rectangles contain a sequence icon (and possibly additional conditional sequence icons). The rectangle appears as a clickable button on the view, which the user can click to initiate the sequence.


Access a served collection via the Client.

Copy Structure

Move structural elements of a collection into the macOS pasteboard, so they can be applied to another part of the collection, or to another collection. See also: ‘Apply Structure’, ‘Save Structure (as Clipping).’

Data Rectangle (object)

Within a template: Data rectangles display stored data, provide input for new data, and display the results of calculations.


Any collection of data organized for storage and access.

Date (data type)

A type of data formatted to include the date and/or time.

Default Button

A property of the command rectangle. When the default button property is true, the resulting button on the view can be triggered by clicking, but is also triggered by entering the record.

Design Mode

The integrated development environment in Helix RADE where the application design is done. Formerly known as Full Mode.

Document (data type)

A data type that stores documents within a Helix database, or references to documents stored external to a Helix database. Formerly known as BLOB technology.

Dump (obsolete)

See Export.

Engine (application)

Used to run single-user Helix applications. Comparable to RADE without Design Mode.

Ert (field attribute)

A field that is stored in the database. (The default condition for all fields.) The term ‘ert’ is only used to provide a complement to the term ‘inert field,’ a special field type for providing input of data that does not need to be stored. See also: Inert (field attribute)


Command used to copy data stored in a Helix collection to an external file. (Formerly known as “Dump”)

Field (icon)

Within a relation: the visual representation of a specific data type to be used storing data.

Fixed Point (data type)

A data type that stores numbers with up to two decimal places. Fixed Point data range is (approximately) ±46 quadrillion in Helix 5.2 and later; expanded from ±10 million in Helix 5.1 and earlier.

Flag (data type)

A data type that stores values as a yes/no response. Can be formatted to return a number (1/0) as well as various forms of true/false & yes/no, as well as customized values.

Form Query (icon)

A query that uses a template to control which fields can be used to restrict data retrieved on a view. The end user can specify values and operators to create an expression used to search for locate records containing specific values for each field on the query form. Each additional restriction is added an a boolean and form. Form Query is deprecated in favor of the more advances Power Query.

Get Info

Classic window that provides information about where an icon is used. Is also where the Custom Name is defined and Comments are added.

Graphic User Interface (GUI)

The ‘point and click’ interface that is used to create and modify Helix collections.

Hot Form

A view with its Keep Current attribute turned on (the default state). In this state, the view is updated automatically when data on it changes. See also: Cold Form

HKWT (resource)

A Macintosh OS resource, stored in the resource fork of a Helix application or collection, used to determine which characters are treated as word and word separator characters. See also: Keyword


The graphic representation of an object within a Helix collection. The attributes of Helix objects are modified by manipulating icons.


Command used to copy data stored in an external file into a Helix collection. (Formerly known as “Load”)

Index (icon)

Icon used to define an ordering of data for display and retrieval purposes. In "Helixspeak," we refer to more than one index as "indexes," not as "indices." It is an ingrained habit with no logical justification as both forms are considered acceptable (but not here ;^).

Inert (field attribute)

A field designated as Inert is not stored in the database. Inert fields provide a mechanism for the input of data that does not need to be stored. See also: Ert (field attribute)


A floating panel used in Helix RADE to modify the properties of icons.


Currently not a part of Helix. A placeholder in this vocabulary list and the technology that drives the expand/collapse capabilities of this web page.

Keyword (field attribute)

A field attribute that creates an index on each word in a text field to increase speed of searching the contents of that field. A field with the keyword attribute enabled can be quickly searched using the Word … operators in abaci and queries.

Keyword Index

An internal index built automatically when a field is designated as a Keyword. Unlike regular field indexes, keyword indexes are not visible in Design Mode. A keyword index enables Keyword-based searches.

Keyword Separator

A character that defines a break between words. In Helix, any character can be treated as a keyword separator for the purpose of determining where one word ends and another begins. See this technote for more details.

Keyword Separator Table

A table that indicates whether each ASCII characters is to be treated as a Word Character or a Separator Character. Currently stored in the HKWT/1 resource.

Label Rectangle (object)

Within a template: Label rectangles display static information to help the user identify the functions of the input fields. (I.e: labels).

Marching ants (obsolete)

Horizontally scrolling dots that indicate that there must be something done before an icon is complete. Used in Classic Helix RADE Design Mode only.


Obsolete. See: Client/Server


More than one computer connected to each other. Sub-divided into LAN (Local Area Network) and WAN (Wide Area Network). In today’s usage, LAN is used to define a local office; WAN is used to define the internet, or possibly inter-connected LANs at large institutions.

Number (data type)

A data type that stores values using floating point technology. Display of number data can be as precise as 15 decimal places. Floating point range is virtually infinite, but precision is lost when very large numbers are in use.

Open Query (command)

This command, available in menus and sequences, calls either a Form Query or a Power Query that is attached to an active View.

Operating System

Operating systems perform basic tasks such as recognizing input from the keyboard, sending output to the display screen, keeping track of files and directories on the disk, and controlling peripheral devices such as disk drives and printers. Helix currently runs under Mac OS 9 (Classic Mac) and macOS.

Picture (data type)

A data type that stores PICT data. The PICT is stored internally and can be copied to the clipboard, but not exported as a PICT document. Somewhat obsolete, superseded by the Document data type. See also: Document (data type)

Popup menu

A menu where a mouse click allows selection from a list of options that pop up. In Helix, a static popup refers to a menu with options that are specified ("hard coded") by the collection designer, while a dynamic popup has values taken from a relation in the database. See also: Combo Box

Post (icon)

Posting enables application designers to modify data in multiple records based on a single user input. Posting can be designated to occur at the time of data entry, printing, exporting, or upon a specific post command. Posting can modify multiple records in any relation in the collection where there is a matching key.

Power Query (icon)

A query that can be used to restrict data retrieved on a view. The end user can specify values and operators to create an expression used to search for locate records containing specific values for each field on the query form. A power query allows the construction of complex criteria using simple expressions connected by boolean and, or and not operators. (Classic Helix does not support the not operator.) See also: Form Query


A setting that controls one aspect of an icon’s behavior. For example, the ‘Data Type’ property of a field icon determines whether the field stores text, dates, numbers, etc.

Properties can be changed via the Graphic User Interface (GUI) or via AppleScript.


Generic term for a restriction on the records displayed on a view. See: Abacus Query, Form Query, Power Query

Quick Entry

A simple entry view with each field in the host relation vertically arranged based on the order in which their icons were last clicked.

Quick List

A simple list view with each field in the host relation vertically arranged based on the order in which their icons were last clicked.

Quick Query

A simple search available on entry views. Accepts only one search parameter per search.


Rapid Application Development Environment. This tool allows you to organize your data and create applications that access that data.

Radio button (display format)

An input format that presents flag field choices as a set of two (true/false) or three (true/false/undefined) radio buttons.


See Tail Recursive Sequence

Relation (icon)

A table. The icon used to create and store structures and all related application elements that create and manipulate stored data for one table. Each Helix collection supports up to 65,535 icons (relations, sequences, users) with each containing up to 65,535 icons (fields, abaci, templates, views, indexes, queries, posts).

Relational database

A relational database is a collection of data items organized as a set of formally-described tables from which data can be accessed or reassembled in many different ways without having to reorganize the database tables.

Repeat rectangle (object)

The repeat rectangle instructs Helix to repeat its contents for each record that can be displayed on a view, creating a list view.

Runtime Converter

An application that locks a collection to prevent Design Mode access. Used for developers who want to protect their proprietary code.

Save Structure (as Clipping)

Save structural elements of a collection in a file (using the macOS clippings format) so they can be applied to another part of the collection, or to another collection. Clippings are persistent and can be moved to another machine. See also: ‘Apply Structure’, ‘Copy Structure’

Separator Character

An ASCII character that is excluded from in keywords. The default set excludes all punctuation, control characters, and non-letter, high-ASCII characters. See also Keyword

Sequence (icon)

A macro. A sequence defines a series of commands, view icons, user icons, and other sequence icons to be executed in a specific order.


Helix applications that hosts a collection to be used by one or more clients.

Socket (tile)

The graphic representation of an abacus input, as seen in an abacus tile. A socket can be filled with the arrow of another tile, an icon, a direct value, or left undefined. The colors displayed in an empty socket indicate which datatypes can be placed into it, based on the user’s color preferences. Formerly referred to as black hole.

Styled text (data type)

A data type that handles text data in a rich format, enabling the end user to specify the color, size, and font of the content.

Subform (object)

A list template embedded inside another (host) form. Used to link host data (e.g: an invoice header) to multiple records (e.g: invoice lines).

Tail Recursive Sequence

A sequence whose last step is to call itself, thereby creating a loop (or recursion) that repeats until some condition (such as an error) causes it to stop. All recursive sequences in Helix are tail recursive, since the recursion must be the last step in the sequence.

Template (icon)

The Design Mode areas where forms to enter and display data are designed.

Terminal Sequence

A sequence that ends by closing the collection via a Close Collection or Quit command. In the case of Helix Client, a terminal sequence disconnects the Client instead. New in Helix 7.0.

Text (data type)

A data type handles text data in plain ASCII format. The most efficient method of storing data not needed for numeric, date, or logical calculations.

Tile (object)

Within an abacus: The graphic representation of expressions used to construct calculations within an abacus. (e.g: the ‘plus’ tile is used to add two values together.)

Helix Translator

An application that converts very early (Helix Express 3.0 and earlier) collection for use in later versions. Available as a Classic application only.

Update Collection

An application that converts collection designed in an earlier version of Helix for use in later versions. Can also be used to check the structural integrity of a Helix collection.

User (icon)

In a custom mode setting, the user can be selected when starting up the collection or it can be changed from the menu bar. The user icon is used to create custom menus, change user categories, select permissions for individual forms, and select command key equivalents for each custom menu option.

(Helix) Utility

An application used to check the integrity of data in a Helix collections. Helix Utility can repair damaged indexes, compress collections after data has been deleted, break indices of a collection, and provide general structural information.

Validation (field attribute)

Validation allows the collection designer to specify criteria that a field must meet before it can be entered into the database.

View (icon)

An on-screen form; used to view, print, enter, change, post, import or export data in a relation.

Visit (obsolete)

See Connect

Why? Message

A message explaining an error or action condition. If sound is turned on, a beep is sounded when a Why? message is sent.


See Keyword

Word Character

Any character that is considered as part of a contiguous series of characters that constitute a “word,” as opposed to keyword separator characters, which define breaks between words. The default set includes all numbers, letters (including their high-ASCII variations), and the non-breaking space (NBSP) character. See also: Keyword


The distance between the baseline and the mean line in a typeface. Typically, this is the height of the letter x in the font.

Y2K Setting

Preference that controls how a 2-digit year is interpreted by Helix. The default is 1920–2019.

Zoom Button

The OS-supplied button that allows a window to resize (aka: zoom) to a content-appropriate size. In macOS it is the green (or third) button on the left side of the title bar. (In Classic Mac OS, it is in the first button on the right side.) The Zoom Box can be disabled by the collection designer.