AceDB for Windows

Sadly, owing to staff cutbacks, we are no longer able to develop or maintain ACeDB for Windows. You can still download versions 4_9t and 4_9u, but no further work is envisaged in the forseable future.

This page is now seriously out of date. I am deliberately leaving it as it is, however, in case there is useful information on it, but be warned that I can't guarantee its accuracy! I know, for instance, that further down is a (wrong!) reference to obtaining the latest programs (Step 2).

This document provides "platform-specific" documentation on the installation, configuration and operation of ACEDB for the Microsoft Windows

For the latest release news about ACEDB for Windows, go to the current release information page. This bit is right as at April 2004! For information on previous releases, go to the previous releases information page.

For further information about this software (questions not answered in this document or the main ACEDB documentation repository - see below; or errors/omissions in the documentation), contact Rob Clack.


ACEDB Copyright (C) 1990-1999 - R Durbin and J Thierry-Mieg.

All rights reserved; primary code written by Jean Thierry Mieg and Richard Durbin, 1990-1999; Contributions by others too numerous to note here,  but a special mention to Richard Bruskiewich who spearheaded the original ('Classical') ACEDB for Windows port, and who has now graciously abdicated his throne as the 'King of WinAce' to Simon Kelley (with his new gnu/GTK port) :-)

Current maintenance and extension of the Windows port of ACEDB is now supported at the Sanger Institute.

Redistribution and use of source, documentation and binary forms are freely permitted provided that the above copyright notice and attribution and date of work and this paragraph are duplicated in all such forms and that neither this software nor software based in whole or in part on this software is sold for profit.



Welcome to the home page for the (Intel box) Microsoft Windows version of the "A Caenorhabditis elegans Database (ACEDB)" software. ACEDB is a multi-platform supported, object-oriented scientific database engine specialized for the management and representation of genomic data (maps and sequences) and associated biological (including bibliographical) data. ACEDB has deep knowledge about the biological nature of the data it stores and has a very rich interactive graphical representation of such data.

This readme provides platform specific details on how to set up a ACEDB for Windows ('WinAce') database upon your PC. It does NOT dwell upon the complete details of operating ACEDB per se (AceDB for Windows is by and large almost identical to the well established UNIX versions of the program). Rather, for further details on ACEDB, novice users are directed towards the rich available documentation resource about ACEDB on the WWW at:

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System Requirements

Basic Hardware:

This program should run on any WIN32 O/S compatible Intel Pentium microprocessor based personal computer with the recommended base amount of RAM and hard drive storage; however, ACEDB was designed (under UNIX) to expect a bountiful memory space which it exploits with abandon (JTM) so more RAM is better (shoot for 32 - 64 mb, or more, depending upon the size of your database). The ACEDB database will require essentially the same hard drive space as currently publicized for UNIX versions.

Video Graphics Hardware:

The program requires a minimum of 256 colour VGA; 800 x 600 pixels is a desired MINIMUM screen resolution. AceDB for Windows now runs well under larger colour palettes (i.e. 64K or "True Color" palettes); The graphics DEFINITELY works better upon higher pixel resolution displays and larger monitors. This writer now runs the software upon a 1600 x 1200 pixel display on a 19" monitor, with very appealing results. Running the program at lower resolutions is found to be progressively less satisfying, with great disappointment at 640 x 480 VGA bordering on frustration. Moral of the story: get the highest resolution mode possible running upon your machine.

Ancillary Hardware:

Other than the standard windows mouse, the program doesn't absolutely rely upon any "special" peripherals and inherits its computing functionality (i.e. printing and networking) from the Windows O/S.

Program Installation and Configuration

This section outlines ACEDB configuration details under Windows.

*** STEP 1 - Decide where you want to put your database

You need to provide the program with the path name location of your database. The basic ACEDB database directory structure is as follows:

\acedb ---|-- database----| ; (required) location of the  binary database
     	|		|-- new ; (created by ACEDB) used to collect update log
     	|		|-- touched ; (created) used to collect changes log
     	|-- wspec    ; (required) location of the *.wrm configuration files
     	|-- rawdata  ; (optional) location of.ace or (mandatory) update files
		 	 	specified by the ACEDB_DATA environment variable
     	|-- whelp    ; (optional) location of HTML files (online help, etc.)
     	|-- wscript  ; (optional) command line scripts, perl, etc. 
     	|-- pictures ; optional - for *.jpg, *.gif pictures, etc.

Specify the latter "pictures" directory as an additional (semi-colon delimited) path value in the ACEDB environment variable (see below).

\acedb can be ANY path name you like, but you must ensure that you start the program from within that directory, provide a full path to the directory, OR set the ACEDB environment variable (see below) is set to this path name.

*** STEP 2 - Obtain programs and data

The most recent updates for this program may generally be obtained by anonymous ftp from the Sanger Institute or NCBI:


Previous releases (4.5.6 or earlier) were Winzip self extracting archives with an InstallShield script. The current releases is a simple .zip archive which you can extract using Winzip or similar utilities, and simply copies the program and libraries into the current directory. Extract these files into a suitable subdirectory (e.g. your c:\acedb\bin) AND ensure that that subdirectory is entered onto your Windows program 'PATH' (i.e. in the 'Environment' tab of the Systems applet in the Windows Control Panel...).

For those of you upgrading from release 4.5.6 or earlier versions of ACEDB for Windows, it is well advised to use the Add/Remove applet in the Windows Control Panel to remove any such previous AceDB for Windows (and WinAce) version, prior to attempting to run the new program.

Note that from October 1999 onwards, ACEDB for Windows is a new version built upon cross-platform software tools spanning UNIX/Windows (and possibly Mac's) (see the current release information page) which is essentially identical in look and feel to its UNIX variant, hence, the graphical version is now called 'xace' (the UNIX graphical version name) rather than 'winace'. Of course, 'tace' refers to the non-graphical version of ACEDB (as in UNIX).

*** STEP 3 - Obtain Database Schema and Data

It is assumed that users of the software will separately obtain the required configuration and data files essential for running ACEDB (as in the UNIX version); however, a copy of the current C. elegans wspec configuration files may be "custom" installed during AceDB for Windows setup.

Databases must be reconstructed from scratch by loading update* or .ace files into an initialized database. Any model schema, display specs, etc. currently debugged on a UNIX system should work fine within WIN32, with no modifications. The most important thing is to ensure that a "wspec" subdirectory (e.g. c:\acedb\wspec) is created and all the *.wrm configuration files are placed in this "wspec" subdirectory. The "database" directory (e.g. c:\acedb\database) must also be created prior to first execution of the program.

For Caenorhabditis elegans, the full current release of update* files may be obtained by anonymous ftp from:

Consult your system documentation on ftp details (or use a WWW browser). Again, the files will be compressed (as UNIX update*.tar.Z files). Although these are UNIX files, the shareware WinZip program :-) is fully equipped to extract such archives. Simply place the .tar.Z file in your designated primary directory (e.g. c:\acedb) then extract the entire archive using WinZip. WinZip should create a "wspec" and "rawdata" subdirectory for the configuration and dataset (update*) files respectively, plus any other files in the update. Should you experience difficulties in reading the update files, please verify that you have made a proper unix to dos translation of the files. Using the update (uncompressed, untar'd) files off unix sometimes causes problems, as do update files ftp'd using some (older) utility programs.

Unix to DOS Conversions: As many folks will know, UNIX and DOS have different conventions for file structure, in particular, the end of line (EOL) character(s) in files. Some difficulties may be experienced when using UNIX files (such as wspec or update files) in the Windows/DOS world. The extent that this causes malfunctions within ACEDB for Windows has not yet been fully assessed. On UNIX machines, a "unix2dos" utility program may be available which converts unix (text) files into DOS formatted files (and vice versa, using dos2unix). This program should be used when transferring most (text) files such as wspec and update files from Unix to Windows/DOS. Alternatively, "tar" and "Z" compress your files on the UNIX machine then use the WinZip utility (or other similar utility) which works properly with tar.Z files on PC's) to extract the files onto your PC (Note: this is probably the preferred approach).

Special Note: Windows FTP may inadvertently rename files (i.e. substitute "_" for "." In the file names). This can be a source of problems during standard (Unix) update file extraction. Users should rename files back to their original names if this occurs, then extract the ".z" files using Winzip (or equivalent) by specifying the proper ".tar" archive name, i.e. "update.WS4.4-1.tar.z" should be called "update.WS4.4-1.tar". Then, extract the update files into your primary database directory.

Loading Large C.elegans Update Files: Rumors from the field (David Baillie, SFU) suggest that you can speed up your database creation/update process by locating the rawdata\update* (or .ace) files on an independent physical (not merely logical) hard drive distinct from the one upon which you are creating your binary database (e.g.. the hard drive containing your c:\acedb\database and c:\acedb\wspec directories). This avoids the time lags of hard drive read/write head "thrashing" associated with ACEDB reading a data object from the rawdata\update then writing it out to a binary database\blockx.wrm file the same physical device.

*** STEP 4 - Program Configuration

After the programs have been installed on a user's machine, some program icons will have been installed in the Windows "Start Menu"; however, they are not guaranteed to work perfectly unless correctly configured, as follows. Please review these details carefully and make the necessary changes to your database configuration files (under wspec) and to your tace and winace "Start Menu" shortcut icons.

Write Access:

For write access to the database (essential for database creation!), ACEDB consults the wspec\passwrd.wrm configuration.

You should ensure that this file lists all write permitted computer user names. NOTE: Check this file after you WinZip extract new updates, in case the your passwrd.wrm gets overwritten with another update* copy...

For Windows '95 (which doesn't care about user accounts), add "acedb" as the user name. For Windows NT, you should put the actual user account name(s) of all users to whom you wish to grant write permission (e.g. "Administrator" if that is your NT account).

Environment Parameter Settings:

The following environment variables may be so set:

Miscellaneous Configuration Items:

'wspec' Files

The "wspec" subdirectory contains *.wrm configuration files (some self documenting) which may be customized for better operation of ACEDB in general and AceDB for Windows in particular.

By and large, the *.wrm files obtained from a UNIX ACEDB database will port directly, with few modifications, to AceDB for Windows; however, there are a few *.wrm which are best readjusted to the AceDB for Windows environment,specifically:

*** STEP 5 - Initializing and Loading the Database ***

Once you have configured the database, double click your shortcut icon to load the program. The first time it is loaded (and everytime you delete the database\ACEDB.wrm file for your database), the program will encounter an "empty" database and ask your permission to (re-)initialize the database.

Say Yes! The database models will then be loaded and the database (re-)constructed.

Once initialized, the database will be empty. To load a large standard dataset (e.g. C. elegans data) into the database, you have two options (A or B):

Option A. Execute a "Add Update File": from the ACEDB main window pop-up menu. This method uses a formal "update" file such as the C.elegans update* files. At present, we have occasional problems with this method: sometimes the UNIX source files have a read error (not reproducible in all contexts...) and the system may also crash at the end of the session; however, it is the preferred method for C.elegans (and other projects issuing such updates).

Option B.Execute the following sequence of operations (which simulates the "Add Update" operations) invoked from the main window popup menu:

  1. Read models
  2. Read .ace files
  3. Align maps (click on all the buttons for all the types of alignments...)
  4. Save the changes.

Note: you should ensure that all your input data files are renamed to have the ".ace" file extension, in order for them to be visible by the file open dialog box for "Read .ace" files.

If you are loading a non-standard dataset (not structured as an "update" file format) then use Option "B". You can also input data directly into the database using the main window popup menu "Add-Alias-Rename" command, or by using the "Update" menu command while inside a tree graph object display.

*** STEP 6 - Use the Database ***

The database should now be fully operational. General ACEDB documentation should be consulted for further details.

The recommended way to start ACEDB for Windows up from the command line is to change directory into your database directory, then run the program, giving the current directory ('.') as the path, e.g.

    c:\>       cd c:\acedb
    c:\acedb\> xace .

(Substitute 'tace' for 'xace' if you wish to run the textonly version of the software).

ACEDB for Windows should behave more or less like the UNIX version, with reasonable performance, except as noted below.