Lotus Approach

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A dual-platform Windows and OS/2 end user database with multi user capabilities via peer-to-peer operation. Uses a .dbf back-end which makes moving basic file formats and relations to and from xBase development tools easy, but is not an xBase tool itself but rather uses a graphical tool for building up relationships and basic automaton and offers programming via LotusScript, a Basic like language.

The primary advantage of Approach and the reason for its utter refusal to die even if it has been on life-support by IBM for years, is that it is simply unusually easy to use for a relational database, even easier that applications like Microsoft Access or semi-compatible products like Apache OpenOffice Base or Ability Database. This is especially so when it comes to working with relationships and multi-user databases, but in addition co connecting to a server, Approach can also work in peer-to-peer mode which can be very advantageous in a small office or offline networks.


Lotus Approach was initially developed for Windows 3.0 by Californian company Approach Software Corporation and caused quite a stir when it was introduced in 1991. Other available GUI databases used propriety file formats while the Approach database engine used the dBase file format that was by far the most used at the time. The company was purchased by Lotus Development Corporation in 1994, who later enhanced the tool to the 32-bit versions of Windows and OS/2. They improved the graphical database designer, integrated it into their SmartSuite office suite and strengthened its programmability by introducing LotusScript instead of the fairly rudimentary macro system the original offered.


Approach Software Corporation
  • 1.0
Lotus Development Corporation (IBM)
  • 3.0
  • 3.01
  • 3.02

Databases created with it will work with later versions of Approach for Windows and for OS/2.

  • Part of Lotus SmartSuite 1.7.3 package and was not supplied separately. Any 1.7.x version can be updated into 1.7.3 via free fixpaks. Note that OS/2 and Windows version numbers are not in sync, 1.7x versions of the OS/2 product share a codebase with the 9.8x version for MS Windows.
  • Windows 32 bit versions: 9.8.61 for English language Passport Advantage licence holders. 9.8.6 for International Passport Advantage licence holders]. 9.8.1 is the last GA version (No Passport Advantage licence needed). Strangely enough, there are international versions of 9.8.61 available, but only for English language Passport Advantage holders, go figure.

Known issues

  • Version 1.73 for OS/2 has a bug in the relationship graphical interface that sometime makes it crash when you create a new join, this does not affect the database when running in normal condition, only when you are creating the join.
This is also believed to affect other SmartSuite 1.6x and 1.7x for OS/2 versions.
  • Microsoft Windows XP and later versions nag if you try to install Approach on the system or a version of Lotus Smartsuite that contains Approach, claiming that it is not compatible with the system, this is true of SmartSuite 96, SmartSuite 97, SmartSuite Millennium and early versions of Smartsuite 98, however later versions of SmartSuite 98 will work just fine on any 32 and 64 bit Windows operating system.
  • IBM states that Lotus SmartSuite and hence Lotus Approach will not install and work on 64-bit Microsoft Windows operating systems, this is only half true, the use of 16-bit installer code means that the installer and some auxiliary programs supplied with the Lotus/IBM SmartSuite will not install or run. However the bulk of SmartSuite is actually 32-bit code and will install and work on 64-bit systems if you get hold of a relatively recent IBM branded version which uses a 32-bit installer.

NLP versions for OS/2 1.73 and Windows 9.8.61

  • International English (USA, UK, Australia & South Africa)
  • Spanish
  • Swedish
  • Brazilian Portuguese
  • Dutch
  • Finnish
  • French
  • German
  • Danish
  • Norwegian
  • Italian



  • Closed source commercial software, currently only available as a part of an extended support contract.