What are variable-length and fixed-length files?

The line-data transform program needs to know two things about a file to transform it:

  • The length of each print record
  • The kind of carriage control used

Some files contain information in each record that describes the record length; these are called variable-length files. Other files require an external definition of length; these are called fixed-length files.

MO:DCA structured fields are treated as a special case. All such structured fields are self-identifying and contain their own length. They do not need to contain a length prefix to be correctly interpreted, but are also processed correctly if the length prefix is present.