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What happened to Helix Technologies?

Helix Technologies is gone. Helix (the application) was begun in 1983 and continued to be developed by successive companies in the Chicago, Illinois area until December of 1997.

In January, 1999, another company, based in San Diego, California, acquired the Helix software code and marketing rights for Helix. They released three maintenance releases: v4.5.3, v4.5.4, and v4.5.5, which were offered as free updates to existing customers. Helix 5.0 was released by them in September, 2000.

In May, 2002, their parent company ran into serious financial difficulty (eventually leading to bankruptcy and disbursement of their assets) and they chose to hand the day to day operations of Helix Technologies over to Gil Numeroff and Matt Strange, who produced Helix 5.1 and 5.2 from 2002 through 2004.

In August, 2004, the bankruptcy alluded to above was finalized, a new owner acquired Helix, and QSA ToolWorks, LLC was formed. A key to the formation of QSA ToolWorks was the agreement that Gil and Matt would continue to direct day to day operations.

I haven't heard anything about Helix in years. Why?

For much of the late 1990s and early 2000s, parent companies were involved in legal matters outside the scope of Helix, limiting resouces. Consequently, the core code of Helix languished, falling further and further behind the state of the art. During that time, sporadic efforts were made to bring the existing code up to date, but by the time QSA ToolWorks acquired it, it was so far behind the times, we haven't felt comfortable marketing Helix via general advertisements, trade shows, etc.

Also, various problems during the aforementioned ownership transfers led to the acquisition of a customer database that was not in very good shape. Much of the customer data has been reconstructed, but if you haven't heard from us, please contact us to make sure we have accurate contact information for you.

If you have your old Odesta or Helix Technologies customer number, you can also access your customer record via our web store. All you need is the customer number and the last name, company name, or email address it is registered to.

Where can I find my customer number?

Your customer number can be found on any invoice (from us or from the former companies) as well as on packing lists, early floppy disks, and probably other places we are not aware of. For security purposes, your customer number is not included in the splash screen information shown when a Helix application launches.

Be careful not to confuse your customer number with a product serial number. If you can not find your customer number, contact Helix Customer Service and we will help you locate it. Providing us with your Helix product serial number(s) is very helpful.

The new company seems to be moving rather slowly. Why?

As mentioned above, much of the code in Helix has been neglected for years. Apple historically worked very hard to maintain backwards compatibility so that code written in the 80s would, for the most part, continue to run on current hardware. However, recent years have seen Apple go through major transitions, from the Classic Mac OS to macOS and from PowerPC to Intel processors. Consequently, in many areas Apple has dropped support for older technologies, requiring companies to rewrite large sections of code that had run without issue for 20 years or more. Because the Helix code was not being updated incrementally, we face the daunting challenge of updating it all at once. If progress seems slow, it is because much of the work is being done in areas where there is nothing much to report.

As we make progress, The Latest Word page is how we communicate these developments to the Helix community. Links in the left-hand column of this page will take you to previous postings, with the most recent being at the top.

We are also providing an macOS Transition Log for those who prefer short briefs on the technological challenges we are overcoming.

I'm not a Helix customer, but I'd like to stay informed. How can I do that?

Just visit our store and create a customer record for yourself. There is no obligation to purchase; just fill out a customer record, select "Inform me of Helix Updates," and you will be included in future mailings.

What else will you do with my contact information?

We do not share your contact information with any other company. We use your contact information only for purposes directly related to your use of Helix. This includes upgrade offers, user advisories in the event that a "data threatening" problem with Helix are discovered, and other similar needs. Also...

If you select "Inform me of Helix Updates" we will use your email address to send you the newsletter.

If you select "Inform me of Interesting Offers" we will use either your email or mailing address to make you aware of products you may be interested in that complement Helix.

If you select "I am a developer and I want to be placed on a referral list" your company name, address, telephone, email, and website information will be published in our developer directory.

If you provide us with website information, your URL will be published on our "Helix Customers' Websites" page.

Under no circumstances will we give your telephone number to any other party. (Except for the above mentioned developer referral list.)

Under no other circumstances will we use or give out your name, company name, mailing address, or email address without first amending this policy and providing opportunity for you to decline the offer.

Which installer do I download? There are too many choices!

We provide various installers, customized for the typical customer's product upgrade needs. If you are in doubt, we recommend downloading the Helix Full Install. This installer includes the entire Helix application suite (Helix RADE, Server, Client, & Engine) along with Update Collection, Helix Utility, and the all of the published documentation. If you know you don't need the full product suite, download one of the smaller customized installers.

Why doesn't my serial number or key work?

This technote provides troubleshooting for installation problems for Helix 6.2 and later.

This technote provides troubleshooting for installation problems for Helix 6.0 & 6.1.

I'm trying to upgrade from an old version of Helix, but I'm told I need Helix Translator. Where do I get it?

The Helix Translator is needed to upgrade collections created in Helix versions prior to Helix Express 3.5. If Helix Translator is not included in your Helix product's installer, contact technical support. The Helix Translator is a Classic application, so it requires a machine capable of running Classic OS.

What type of problems should I expect if I upgrade to the latest Helix version?

You should carefully read the release notes that come with the installation package. There are comments regarding changes in the product and known problems in these notes.

Although QSA ToolWorks acquired Helix in 2004, most of us have been using Helix since the 80s, and we do have knowledge about earlier versions of Helix. However, there may be problems in older versions that were never made public by former owners that could cause problems when you upgrade. We are not aware of any such problems, and we can't guarantee a flawless upgrade process, but we are able to support you if problems arise.

What do the terms "Design Mode" and "User Mode" mean?

Helix RADE is an integrated development environment, providing all of the tools you need to develop a comprehensive business solution. The core of Helix RADE is Design Mode, where the actual design work is done, but Helix RADE also provides an integrated User Mode, where the designer can see how the application appears to the end user.

In short: Design Mode is where you design a database, User Mode is where you use it.

Note: earlier versions of Helix RADE refer to Design Mode as Full Mode, and User Mode as Custom Mode.

What's with all the non-standard terminology?

Helix began its life in the early 80s, before much of the standard terminology we use now existed.

This Dictionary of Helix terms may help you.

What is the difference between Helix RADE and Helix Client/Server?

Helix RADE contains an integrated development environment, and is used to design and implement an application from start to finish, creating all necessary database components, building the user interface, and testing in a single user implementation. Helix Client/Server enables any Helix database (aka: a collection) to run over a TCP/IP network, with multiple users (aka: clients) accessing the database simultaneously.

Once a Client has logged in, the user is able to access the database and make changes in real time. Helix Client/Server includes a number of multiuser innovations, including real time data view updating and referential integrity, collection and user level password protection, and more. Helix Client/Server provides the most seamless transition from single user to multiuser deployment in the industry.

Can Helix databases be accessed via the web? What are my options?

Helix Client/Server includes a robust TCP/IP networking option, that allows you to configure your Server so that anybody with the Helix Client application and an internet connection to log into your Helix Server based database. See our FAQ on TCP/IP networking for more details.

If you want to make your collection available to others via a web browser, there are a number of third party options. A full list of resources can be found in the Extending Helix section of our Links page.

What is Helix Engine? How is it different than Helix RADE?

Helix RADE is used to design and implement an application from start to finish, creating all necessary database components, building the user interface, and putting it to work in a single user implementation.

Helix Engine is a single user product that includes only the 'User Mode' interface. It is a low cost alternative to the full Helix RADE development environment and is ideal for developers who wish to distribute their applications while preventing access to the Design Mode.

What is a multiple seat Helix RADE or Engine license for?

A multiple seat license allows multiple copies of the RADE or Engine application to run concurrently using a single serial number. Having a single serial number reduces administrative overhead and is priced significantly lower than single user licenses.

Does Helix have any demo collections I can use to learn from?

Although we don't have a comprehensive demo application, there are a number of small sample collections on our ftp server. These samples are provided by independent developers and are designed mostly to illustrate specific techniques. If you have a collection that illustrates a Helix programming technique, please contact us so we can arrange to put it on our ftp server.

Where can I learn more about Helix?

Our manual "The Helix Reference" is available for download in pdf format from our downloads page. This is a comprehensive reference manual for Helix users, but it is not a tutorial on using Helix

Our Links page provides a number of references under the Learning Helix section. The resources referenced there are not officially affiliated with QSA ToolWorks, but the information and services they provide are very helpful to those who wish to learn about and experiment with Helix RADE. Many of the web sites listed also provide a taste of Helix programming via tutorials and demonstrations.

Note: If you are aware of other websites that provide Helix tutorial information, please let us know.

Where can I get the manual? Is it available in hard copy?

The Helix Reference is our current manual in Acrobat (pdf) format. It is available for download on our Downloads page. We no longer print the manual as it has become too costly to do so. If your browser has an Adobe Acrobat plug-in, you can read it online by clicking the link at the beginning of this paragraph.

How can I find a consultant to help me with my Helix collection?

We maintain a reasonably current list of Helix Developers and Consultants on this web site. We also recommend subscribing to the Helix List, where you may post your request and specify your database needs. The Helix List is an email discussion forum (not hosted by QSA ToolWorks), with users ranging from the novice to the professional developer. On this list, you will find programmers and developers discussing all aspects of Helix, as well as applications that they are using, providing, or looking to use. Information on joining the Helix List is found on our Links page.

Is Helix planning to support Windows? Linux? When?

Currently, Helix is only available for the Macintosh. QSA ToolWorks plans to develop a multi-platform version of Helix, but our first priority is to the Macintosh platform (macOS). No timetable is currently available.

Where can I get the Helix Power Mover?

Helix Power Mover is not compatible with Mac OS 9 and has been taken off the market. At this time, the company has no plans to update it. Third party options exist that replicate PowerMover's features.

The source code for Power Mover is available from our downloads section.