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In this paper, we consider the design of finite-impulse response variable digital filters (VDFs) with variable cutoff frequency or variable fractional delay. We propose the design of VDFs with minimum integral squared error and constraints on the maximum error deviation in conjunction with flatness group delay specification or phase constraints. These specifications allow the VDFs to have approximately linear phase, especially in the passband. As these specifications are required to be satisfied for all the filters generated by the VDF with controllable spectral characteristics, the linear constraints resulting from the flatness specification are relaxed to inequality constraints. To make the optimization problem tractable for the phase constrained problem, suitable approximations are employed in the paper. The design problem is formulated as an optimization problem with a quadratic cost function and infinite number of constraints. A numerical scheme with adaptive grid step size is proposed for solving the optimization problem.