the short of it is one reads previous record regardless of conditions the other reads previous record equal to the key being used.
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Similar to the difference between read and reade. Read/Reade process forward while Readp/Readpe process backward though the file.
I might use read prior when by data is sorted by date and I want to process the data in my file in newest to oldest. I will use a setgt *end statement, then read prior or read prior equal.