From the archives: Good Software Guide

Like the Good Hardware Guide (here, here and here), this 1991 publication was an attempt to produce a book listing all the most important products on the market. Yes, one book. Can you imagine trying to do that now?

These are just the items I wrote – my mate Steve Gold covered far more, and there may have been other contributors.

Most of these packages have faded into obscurity, although a few are well-known. Powerpoint is in there, as a stand-alone package, although I do say that it’s intended for producing slides for overhead projectors – these days it’s better known for boring people direct from your laptop.

One package I remember fondly is Grandview. It was a DOS-based outliner and I did all my writing in that package, only transferring the text to a word processor for final polishing, formatting and delivery to the client. I do much the same today, only now it’s with Scrivener.

The packages I wrote about, in no particular order, were:

DESKPRESS
FORMS PROFESSIONAL
MATHCAD
POWERPOINT
SLIDEWRITE PLUS
SURVEY IT!
VUWRITER II
WINGZ
BLAST
CICERO PLUS
FASTBACK PLUS
GRANDVIEW 2
LETTERPERFECT
RAMIS/PC WORKSTATION
WORDPERFECT OFFICE
LOTUS WORKS
CABLEMAN
NOMAD
AGENDA
WORLD ATLAS
PERFORM
3B2
QUATTRO
VENTURA
LINGUAWRITE
IMMUNIZER
DISCLOCK
IBM CAD
PICTURE CARDBOX

 


 

THE GOOD SOFTWARE GUIDE

DESKPRESS

Bucking the trend towards DTP software that requires high-powered, expensive hardware, DeskPress offers flexible software that works on ordinary equipment. Unlike other packages that demand a 386 and a PostScript printer, this works with as little as an XT with 640K of RAM, CGA graphics and an Epson FX dot matrix, though you need a hard disk. More sophisticated systems, including PostScript printers, are supported, of course. DeskPress works under GEM, the latest version of which is included in the package. Offers pre-defined page layouts, and user-defined layouts can be saved as style sheets for future use. Uses ‘frames’ to hold text and images: frames may be moved, resized and stretched, grouped together, copied and rotated. They can also be irregularly shaped, allowing you to flow text around images. Paragraphs may be ‘tagged’ allowing global control over style to maintain consistency throughout a document. Imports text from – among others – Wordperfect 5, Wordstar 5, Word 4 and 5, 1st Word Plus and ASCII files. Text may be tagged with font and paragraph styles for automatic formatting when flowed into text boxes in DeskPress. Offers full control over kerning and word spacing, and is capable of producing tables of contents and indices automatically. Also provides automatic page, chapter and section numbering. Imports j8z4 images created by other graphics packages, including .GEM (GEM Draw and Artline), .IMG (GEM Paint), encapsulated PostScript, .PCX, TIFF, .PIC (Lotus), AutoCAD, Harvard Graphics and Lotus Freelance files. Some drawing tools are provided for creating simple illustrations within DeskPress itself.

FORMS PROFESSIONAL

Forms are the curse of the bureaucratic classes, and designing them is even worse than filling them in. Using a word processor for the job is a triumph of hard work over common sense. This package uses the Windows graphical environment to let you design forms easily on screen, drawing lines, boxes and ellipses and placing lines of text exactly where you need them. Forms may be output to any printer supported by Windows, or copied to the Windows clipboard for pasting into other applications. And the forms may be stored and called up for filling-in on-screen prior to printing. Environment is similar to many desktop publishing programs, using rulers and, if required, a snap grid to position items. Facilities include: box drawing, with both solid and various dotted lines, shadow effect, square or round corners and a variety of cross-hatch and shading fill patterns; ellipse drawing with similar fill options; line drawing in various widths; and text frames. There is a notepad to create and edit text, which is then brought into the form using the ASCII import feature. Images may also be imported and resized or reversed. All separate items, such as graphics, text frames, lines and boxes, can be moved, changed or deleted later. A separate form fill utility gives database-like control over fields attributes (including data type, font and justification) and may be used as a stand-alone utility. A run-time version of Windows will be supplied with the package on request.

MATHCAD

Mathematicians and scientists used to scribbling on the backs of envelopes can now use their PCs instead. This is a freeform analysis tool for solving problems and graphically displaying the results. Enter figures, variables, equations and functions anywhere on the screen and the program makes the calculations and plots diagrams or graphs depicting the results. The plot can be rotated and tilted for three- dimensional effects. Text can be interspersed with the maths, and the system supports 17 Greek symbols for both text and computation. Program offers many word processor- like functions, including cut and paste, word wrap, page breaks shown on screen and split-screen editing. Document size is unlimited. Offers a broad range of computational functions, including: matrix arithmetic, trig and inverse trig function, integrals and derivatives, unit conservation/conversion, real and complex Fourier j8z4 transforms, random number generator, complex variables and roots, solution of simultaneous linear or non-linear equations, cubic splines, Bessel functions, Gamma function, automatic or manual plot scaling, linear and log plots, three dimensional plots and statistical functions (mean, standard deviation and variance). In addition to surface plotting, offers graphs with grid lines, log axes, multiple traces and 13 line and symbol options. Size of graphics is user-definable. Accuracy is to 15 places of decimals. HPGL sketches can be imported and resized. Supports a large range of printers, including laser and dot matrix models, and all printer drivers can be edited. Supports LIM expanded memory. Maths co-processor chip is recommended for extra speed.

POWERPOINT

Microsoft Windows was born to serve this kind of graphics application. Intended primarily for overhead and 35mm colour slide presentations. Using mouse-driven drawing and painting tools, images may be designed in colour or black and white, and monochrome graphics may be ‘coloured-in’ later. Supports up to 16.8 million colours, with over 5,000 preselected colour schemes and a wide choice of standard templates if you haven’t the time to design your own. Over 400 Genigraphics clip-art images included. Individual graphics may be grouped into slide shows, and a preview function shows multiple designs on the screen at one time. Its graphing facility offers 45 types of business chart. Needs Windows version 3.0 or higher. Runs on any display supported by Windows 3, except CGA, though VGA is recommended. Capable of supporting 256 colours on-screen, if you have the display and a suitable Windows driver. Works with all printers supported by Windows 3. Also includes a driver to send files via a modem to Genigraphics slide production services. It wants a lot from the hardware. You need at least 1Mb of RAM, with 256K configured as extended memory. The processor must be at least an 80286, and you need a hard disk and a mouse. That’s the minimum: Microsoft recommends that you have a 386 machine with 2Mb of RAM. Text can be written directly on to the screen using a built-in word processor that has its own spelling checker. You can also import text from a variety of word processors, including Microsoft Word outline files. Can also import spreadsheet data from Lotus 1-2-3, Lotus Symphony, Microsoft Excel, Microsoft Works and standard file formats including SYLK and comma- or tab-delimited ASCII files. Can use graphics created with Micrografx Draw, Microsoft PC Paintbrush (including Windows version) and well as Lotus 1-2-3 graphs, Windows Metafiles, encapsulated PostScript, CGM, TIFF and HPGL file formats. Uses Bitstream fonts and comes with a special offer on further fonts from Fontware.

SLIDEWRITE PLUS

Scientists do most things in peculiar ways, which is why they need software written specially with them in mind. This software offers all the standard functions of a presentations graphics package, but adds a few features of interest to scientists. These include a special Greek/Math text font and the ability to enter user-defined equations and select curve fit techniques (linear, exponential, log, power or polynomial) for the graph drawing facility. Special functions for writing equations include superscript, subscript and reverse microspacing that allows a character to be followed by both super- and subscript characters. Text may be written in five sizes and six fonts, hollow or filled, entered directly or imported from ASCII files. Other text effects include italics and underlining, and the facility to shrink or expand text, retaining relative sizes, after it has been entered. Graph types are: bar (stacked, horizontal and vertical), line, scatter (with or without error bars), area, a mixture of those three, hi-low, and pie charts. A 3D effect and overlapping of graphs are available too. Data can be entered directly or read from ASCII or Lotus files. Allows full control over labelling, captioning and scaling, as well as colour and line and fill pattern styles. Apart from the standard tools, the draw facility allows grouping of objects for easy manipulation, plus flip, mirror and rotate functions. There are seven line thicknesses and a dozen styles (continuous or various kinds of dots and dashes) can be combined for a further four line styles. Program provides over 20 kinds of hatching styles for filling boxes, plus a similar number of special patterns. The 16 on-screen colours can be altered by editing a configuration file. Output is to a wide variety of printers, cameras and file formats for importing into other programs. A batch utility allows printing of a series of charts without the user having to load and print each individually.

SURVEY IT!

This is a Canadian package designed for people who regularly need to collect and analyse information from surveys and questionnaires. It provides a simple way to create surveys, input the responses and develop reports from the data. Five types of answers to questions are supported: multiple choice allowing a single answer; multiple choice allowing several selections from a list; numeric answer; rating (answer given as a point on a numeric scale); and text response, allowing for a short piece of text. The text response can also be added to any of the other answer types as a comment. There is no restriction on the number of questions or the size of the answers. A menu system is used to define the questions and possible answers, and the questionnaire can be printed, output to a word processor file or used on-screen. Data input is through typing answers directly into the package or importing it from ASCII or comma-delimited files. The software checks data validity as it is being input. Data j8z4 analysis ranges from a brief summary to detailed cross- tabulation of answers, including averages, standard deviations, percentages of those questioned who answered a particular way. The summary report gives a simple statistical analysis of answers, omitting text answers. Comparison tables compares answers to different questions. Rating tables compares consecutive rating questions, and there is an option to list all responses to one or more questions. A built-in Easywriter utility simplifies formatting of the report for output. There are no built-in graphing facilities, but the software will work with the Graph-In-The-Box memory resident graphics package. Results may be printed or output to disk files for use in other programs, such as word processors. A hard disk is essential and the software will swallow 4-5Mb of it. The makers suggest a fast processor – 286 or 386.

VUWRITER II

This package is designed for those who like to write in more than one language, or who need to include complex scientific notation in their text. Latest version uses a graphical user interface with drop-down menus and dialogue boxes, capable of being used with mouse or keyboard. Alternative fonts and character sets may be loaded into the program. It comes with European, Greek and Russian character sets: others are available. Multi-lingual documents are possible. Special scientific fonts and alignment spaces allow multi-line formulae to be written and treated as a complete unit. Proper alignment is maintained even when using proportional fonts. Up to 15 levels of super- and subscripting are supported, and the formula is accurately displayed on screen. Split-screen editing allows two documents on screen at once in variable-size windows. A directory function allows renaming, deleting and sorting of files by name, extension or date. Document histories holds brief details about each word-processed file. Macros are available through the function keys, with a record mode to create them automatically. There’s an option to download Vuwriter II fonts to a Hewlett-Packard Laserjet II. Mailmerge is possible using comma-delimited fields, with up to 256 fields per record. Mailmerge can print up to five columns for labels. In addition to standard cut and paste, rectangular blocks of text, that needn’t extend to the entire line length, may be copied or moved. Has the ability to define text frames for multi-column text and advanced layouts. Columns can be snaking, where copy flows automatically from one to the other, with an option to specify that all columns are equal length, or bound, where copy stays in the column it was entered in. Option to create, save and recall standard paragraph styles, and to save page designs and print controls as style sheets. Includes word counter and 115,784 word Collins/Merriam-Webster spelling checker.

WINGZ

This is one of those packages that made people go out and buy Apple Macintoshes. Now it has migrated to the PC, running under Windows 3 or OS/2 Presentation Manager (both versions are contained in the same box). Possible to use multiple spreadsheets, the number limited by available memory, with hot links between them. Maximum spreadsheet size is 32,768 by 32,768. Supports Dynamic Data Exchange (DDE) for automatic transfer of data between Wingz and other Windows applications. Over 20 basic chart types, including wireframe surface plots and contour charts as well as bar, pie, line, scatter and other standard styles, with several variations available for each type. All offer rotation, elevation and perspective control, full colour facilities and DTP-like captioning and labelling. Maximum output size is 22 x 22 inches. Can import Windows Metafiles and Windows or OS/2 bitmaps. Text fields provide full word processor- like text handling. May be used on the same page with charts and spreadsheet cells to create sophisticated reporting facilities. Wingz is capable of producing documents that look as though they have been created with several separate programs and combined in a desktop publishing package. Hyperscript programming language makes possible the automation of tasks and development of custom applications. Wingz can be configured to run user-written applications automatically on start-up. Uses the Windows 3 or Presentation Manager interface, but this can be extensively modified, with user-definable menus and ‘action buttons’. Program really demands a 386 machine, and Informix recommends using a maths co-processor. Minimum system configuration of 2Mb of RAM (double that for OS/2), 2 Mb of hard disk space and an EGA display, but you’d do yourself a favour by using 4Mb of memory and VGA.

BLAST

This program comes from a subsidiary of the US Robotics modem company and its main claim to fame is that it makes the most of fast modems by providing extremely fast file transfer. Combined with the fact that the program also runs on a very wide number of platforms, that makes it a useful tool for people needing to move files between computers and offices. Program is menu-driven, with on-line help. Includes a dialling directory, automatic serial port search and selection and a built-in text editor. Allows creation of unlimited number of ‘setup’ files to configure terminal, define remote system, enter passwords and so on. Log files allow ASCII capture of data. BlastScript programming language allows for automated log-on and custom applications. Sample scripts for several (principally US) online systems are included. Program can run in background mode, allowing user to run another program while files are transferring. Terminal emulations include: ANSI colour; DEC VT320, VT220, VT100 and VT52; Data General D461, 411, 410 j8z4 and 200; Televideo 920; Ampex D80; ADM3A; Wyse 50; IBM 3101; and HP2392. Keyboard can be remapped for custom applications and other emulations. Half-duplex file transfer protocols include: Xmodem CRC and checksum; Ymodem, including batch and G options; and Kermit. Proprietary Blast (Blocked Asynchronous Transmission) file transfer is a ‘sliding window’ protocol that operates at full duplex giving data transfer speeds of up to 115K bits per second and ability to automatically restart transfers interrupted by dropped lines, line noise and so on. Supports unattended file transfer, wildcards, and data compression. ‘Plus’ version of the program adds PC-to-PC remote control facilities for applications such as controlling an office PC from home. Also available in Macintosh, Xenix, Unix, Vax and IBM 3270 versions. Supplied on dual media.

CICERO PLUS

One of Sweden’s less ponderous exports, Cicero Plus emphasises simplicity. Program starts up in edit mode, and extensive context-sensitive online help makes getting started easy. Uses a so-called ‘help line’ system. These lines are used for tabulation of data, for dividing the page into separate sections, each of which can be treated completely independently, for creating multi-column text and for separating long documents into several parts. Also used to create columns for entering and calculating figures using spreadsheet-like commands for applications like invoices and statements. These include commands to automatically insert the system date, document number and paragraph number. Documents are saved in Cicero or Ascii format. Each is saved with a summary that includes an entry for keywords. Documents can also be saved as templates, to act as standard style sheets. Mailmerge facilities are provided for mailshots. Other features include: automatic hyphenation; block move, copy and delete; headers, footers and automatic page numbering; on-screen, non-printing comments; a ‘phrase’ library, using macro substitution for common phrases; keyboard macros; chapter numbering; basic sorting for simple database application; on-screen representation of bold and underlined text; and a spelling checker. Report function provides selective output of database contents. Program provides seven Greek characters (including pi and integral symbol) plus root symbol and vertical line for mathematical and scientific documents. Also offers hard spaces and hyphens and special form-designing features. File handling includes ability to move, rename and delete files. Allows several documents on-screen at once. Size of each document window is user-definable. All functions may be selected from drop-down menus. Mouse may be used for selecting from menus, cursor movement and marking text.

FASTBACK PLUS

Tape back-up systems for hard disks can be expensive, but doing it yourself on to a fistful of floppies is tedious. This software uses any back-up device, including inexpensive floppies as the medium, but automates the process. Other devices supported include tape drives, Bernoulli cartridges, optical storage systems and external hard disks. Menu-driven system with online help. Uses data compression to minimise number of floppies. Disks need not be formatted – program does this as it goes. Full back-up copies the entire set of chosen files. Incremental back-up saves only new or modified files to a previous back-up. Graphic display of directory and file structure displays files selected for copying and allows for selective back-up. User-defined automated back-up possible using a special macro language. Files for backing up may be chosen by directory (with option to include or exclude sub-directories), filename or file extension, using wildcards if desired. A history file provides information about back-ups. Estimate feature tells you how much storage space is required on the back-up medium (including how many disks when copying to floppies), how large the resulting data will be and how long the back-up will take. Data transfer speed is around 2.5 Mb a minute. Options allow compression to be optimised for speed or minimum back-up storage space. Restore feature, to recreate original hard disk structure, gives data on number of files and required disk space before restoring files to the disk. Also checks the disk to see if there is enough room. A Smart Restore option looks for missing or changed files and backs up only the necessary files. Password protection included. Also option to restore Macintosh back-ups made with sister product Fastback II.

GRANDVIEW 2

Outline program that is ideal for people who have trouble getting structure into their writing. Text is written under ‘headlines’ that my be moved around, made subsidiaries of other headlines (with automatic renumbering or relabelling), or copied to another outline. Headlines may be ‘cloned’ so that changes in one are automatically copied to its clones. Sub-headlines may be hidden at any level to make general structure of file easier to see. Offers all word processing features, such as cut and paste (including between documents), page style, text formatting and alignment and full font control (including selection of font by outline level). Entries may be categorised, allowing user to view all headlines falling into a specified category: categories may be user-defined or created automatically. Built-in calendar may be linked to entries for project planning, ‘to do’ lists, and so on. Provides full linking to Harvard Graphics and Lotus Freelance for creation of presentation graphics. Imports and exports a range of file formats, including: WordStar, WordPerfect, Q&A Write, ASCII, tab or space indented text, Harvard Org Charts and files from several other outliners including PC Outline and Grandview’s j8z4 sister product on the Macintosh, More II. Up to nine windows may be open at once. Allows ‘tiling’ of screen to show multiple files or windows, with automatic reformatting of text on screen. Comes with a selection of labelling styles, but labelling is fully customisable, and styles may be named and saved for use with other outlines. User-defined templates allow for standardized text formatting. Over 200 printers supported, including laser models. Allows live or static date, time and filename stamping. Program is menu- driven throughout, with point and click boxes for mouse users. Other features include: 100,000-word spelling checker; on-line, context sensitive help; graphical print preview; selection of ready-to-use business templates. May be run as memory-resident program, using just 20K of memory.

LETTERPERFECT

For some people the current generation of block-buster word processors, like WordPerfect 5, Word 5 and WordStar 6, are just too big and intimidating. They are complex to install, difficult to learn and prone to swallowing lots of disk space and memory. LetterPerfect is aimed at people with more modest needs – letter and memo writers, especially those using machines with limited memory or storage capacity – including laptops. Offers all standard word processing features – block move, copy and delete, search and replace, headers and footers, automatic hyphenation, user-defined tabs, line justification and centring, page design and font selection and variable line spacing. ‘Fast keys’ provide instant access to some features, such as bold, underlined or italic text. Outline function allows easy creation of notes and reports. Also provides endnote facility, with automatic renumbering of notes. Uses pull-down menus for all main functions, plus it offers context-sensitive on-line help and supports the use of a mouse. Program includes a spell checker and online thesaurus. Documents can incorporate graphic images, with a wide range of formats supported. These include: CGM, DHP, DXF (AutoCAD), PostScript and Encapsulated PostScript, GEM, HPGL, IMG (GEM Paint), MSP (Windows Paint), PCX, PIC (Lotus 1-2-3), TIFF and others. Line drawing is also provided. Graphical preview shows text and graphics as they will be printed. Screen colours are not completely user-definable, but you do get a choice of white on blue, blue on white or four more settings designed to optimise the screen for LCD, plasma and monochrome displays. Timed back-up automatically saves files at regular intervals. Program provides support for over 550 printers, and is capable of working over a network. Files are compatible with WordPerfect 5.1 and a conversion program is provided for use with other file formats, including: WordStar, DCA, MultiMate, ASCII, Word 4, spreadsheet DIF and DisplayWrite.

RAMIS/PC WORKSTATION

A fourth-generation language that has migrated to the PC from the mainframe world. Consists of four components: Ramis/PC Database; Workstation Manager; PC/Reporter; and RAMLink. PC Database is a relational database management system that includes ability to import and export in a range of common PC formats, such as dBase, Lotus 1-2-3, Microsoft Word and WordPerfect, offers full data validation (including look-up tables, default values and required fields), other transaction processing features (including formula and increasing or decreasing transaction numbers), interface to spreadsheet and graphics programs and relational tools for handling multiple files. Application control language is provided for building custom applications. Form design utility is included, with each file having up to 20 input screens. PC/Reporter provides a way of extracting data from the PC Database. Simple reports can be created through menus and pop-up windows. A reporting language (similar to one used in database) allows creation of more complex reports. Output may be to printer or a variety of file formats. Report requests may be saved for later use, or exported to mainframe version. Workstation Manager is a shell program for running PC applications and manipulating files from menus. Utilities include ability to find, copy, move and delete files. Package is particularly strong in applications where PCs and mainframes are used together and need to share data. Communications package, RAMLink, handles dial-up, synchronous and remote synchronous connections as well as working through a protocol converter. Provides full-screen mainframe emulation and remote data access or transfer. Script language enables automatic log-on and data transfer. Menu-driven structure makes creation of applications simple so package will appeal to novices. Command procedures – similar to macros – can be created from the menus or directly using applications language.

WORDPERFECT OFFICE

Although part of the WordPerfect family of products, this suite of utility and office automation programs works equally well as a stand-alone product. Includes a shell program allowing other software to be selected and run from a menu, without resorting to the command line. Main menu may call up to 20 sub-menus. Supports expanded memory and has password protection. Will support any software package capable of exiting to Dos. A file manager shows files in current directory on the screen. File and directory operations include: move, rename, delete, mark (for multiple-file operations), lock and copy. Files can be searched for by name. Sorting of files can be done according to filename, file extension, date and time, or size. New sub-directories may be created. Half-screen mode allows two directories to be listed and compared. Tree format gives graphic representation of directory structure. Other programs may be selected and run from the File Manager. Editor is capable of handling up to nine documents at once. j8z4 Handles Ascii and binary files, and has word wrap, go to and search functions. Also has expanded macro language for creating and editing macros. Calendar keeps track of appointments and maintains a ‘to do’ list, with unfinished items automatically carried over. Prints summary by month, week or day. Has alarms for one-off or recurring items. Notebook is a database system, intended for simple applications such as address and telephone lists. Will link to a modem to provide auto-dialling of telephone numbers. Can import and export in WordPerfect 4.2, 5.0 and 5.1 formats. Calculator has on-screen ‘tape display’ and special financial, programming, scientific and statistical functions. Local area network version also provides electronic mail and scheduling facilities.

LOTUS WORKS

Lotus describes this as a six-in-one package, but that figure includes the spellchecker and thesaurus and a graphics package – features found in most serious word processor and spreadsheet packages anyway. So it’s safer to think of this as having four main functions: word processor, spreadsheet, database and communications. Word processor has all standard functions – including block move, copy and delete, indents and automatic paragraph formatting – plus up to eight user-definable rulers and macros (with automatic learn mode). Database records can contain up to 128 fields and 4000 characters. Uses same file structure as dBase III Plus. Data types supported are: character, numeric, date, logical and memo – the latter can contain up to 65,000 characters. Both table and form views are supported (a form designer is included) and each database may ave multiple indexes. Fields may have rules attached defining their values (including values calculated from other fields), and allowing that field in all records to be updated at once. Report, mailmerge and label facilities are included. Spreadsheet is file compatible with Lotus 1-2-3 and works in a similar way, though 1-2-3 macros and database functions are not supported. Graphing function provides standard line, bar and graph charts with titling, legends, scales, grid lines and labels for data points. Communications programs work through separate serial ports (if more than one fitted). Script language allows automation of log-in procedures. Scroll buffer is used to review text that has scrolled off the screen. Program allows capture of Ascii text plus file transfer protocols including Xmodem, CRC- Xmodem, Ymodem and Kermit. Works supports multiple documents – up to nine in the word processor, spreadsheet and database programs and two in the communications program. Screen can also be switched between different types of program and data is easily transferred. Screen may be split horizontally into two windows.

CABLEMAN

One of the most baffling aspects of networking is keeping track of the installation itself. This package uses a relational database management system to create and store information about a network. Unlike other databases that deal with text and numbers, Cableman understands entities like cables, connectors, interface devices and circuits. Catalogue keeps information about types of components – like a reference catalogue. Cables are identified by type, diameter and an optional description, and whether they are for a local circuit or multi-network. Connectors and devices are identified by type and description. Devices are listed with their input and output connector types. Cable and connector assemblies can also be treated as a separate item. Inventory program records those specific items actually used in the network, drawing information about them from the catalogue, cross-checking for type validity. Only item types listed in the catalogue can be entered in the inventory. Each item is given a unique code for identification. Applications development allows user to keep track of equipment locations, cable locations and trunking and inventory. Allows use of forms for data entry. Includes full query and reporting facilities, listing inventory, catalogue entries and equipment by location, type and ID. Reports are designed to be sent to a 132-column printer. Also includes label printing option for marking and identifying items. Program requires a hard disk. Password protection is provided to prevent unauthorised tampering. Multi-user option available. Back-up utility is included. Multi-site version available, and a facility to convert from the standard version is included. Program is capable of handling data for any number of separate networks, each having its own database.

NOMAD

A fourth generation applications language available on a range of platforms including IBM mainframes, DEC Vax and the PC. Aimed mainly at the corporate market, to be used by programmers developing database applications. Noted especially for its relational database handling abilities. Main improvements over previous version include: array variables and functions; argument passing; entry points; and local variables. Program uses English-like commands to create and manipulate databases. All actions and results take place through a windowing environment: six types of window are used for entering commands, displaying a command history, reporting errors, displaying reports, showing data and presenting the main system menu. Text editor supplied for creating applications and reports but system can be set up to select the user’s preferred editor. Data types supported include alphanumeric, numeric, date, time, logical and datetime (combination of date and time). Items can also contain a ‘not available’ indicator (different from a zero value). Data may be displayed as alphanumeric (fixed or j8z4 variable length), date, datetime, display (automatic setting of format), hexadecimal dump, logical, as a member of a defined group, name, numeric, scientific notation (for numbers) and time. Numbers may be added and averaged. Full reporting facilities including screen and forms formatting. Nomad Assistant program produces reports using menu prompts, for people not completely familiar with the system, or for simple reporting that doesn’t justify writing an application. Import and export facilities to and from VM, VP and MVS operating systems, plus Lotus 1-2-3 and DIF files and some abilities to communicate directly with some mainframe platforms. Also capable of writing data to text files. Incorporates conversion program to update Nomad version 1 databases to version 2 format.

AGENDA

Personal information manager. Designed to replace a diary and a fistful of Post-it notes. Organises lists, notes and ideas. Information may be sorted according to a range of criteria. Less rigid than a conventional database, but more organised than a word processor or outliner. Criticisms that the program was too complex and hard to learn have been tackled in Version 2. Information may be entered unstructured and organised later. Any piece of information may have several labels or categories attached for sorting and retrieval. Data can include fields for text, dates, times, priorities, numbers (with automatic calculation) or attached notes (such as memos), and may be linked to other items. Data validity checking included. Number-crunching abilities include averaging, maximum and minimum values, addition, subtraction and percentages. Information may be viewed in a number of ways, supporting up to 200 columns. Each view collates data attached to a specified category, such as a user-defined label (a name, perhaps). Scheduling allows data to be organised on daily, weekly or monthly basis. Program recognises concepts such as ‘next wednesday’. Facilities include alarm. Comes with four basic sample applications: activities manager is a work scheduler; account manager consolidates business reports and helps run customer accounts and tasks; people manager sets goals and monitors performance; information sifter sorts and retrieves article abstracts. Includes print preview, partial or complete printing of data and font control. Macros provided for automating tasks. Support for networks, with automatic file locking and sharing. Menus may be customised for bespoke applications. Applications may be protected from user interference. Online help, with full cross-referencing, provided.

PERFORM

Uses on-screen graphics and a mouse-driven environment to take the pain out of creating and using business forms. Could be used as the front-end of a database application. j8z4 Three parts provide form designing, filling and printing. Runs under GEM/3 (which is included) allowing graphic representation of forms on screen, and mouse and menu control. Can include graphics, such as logos, which may be rescaled, boxed or unboxed, and transparent or opaque. Form can include bar codes with Codabar, EAN 8, EAN 13, Code 3 of 9, Industrial 2 of 5, Interleaved 2 of 5, Matrix 2 of 5 and UPC Type A formats supported. Data for bar codes entered as normal text and translated by program. Provides all usual line, box, rounded box and ellipse drawing functions, grey shading and multiple fonts with control over point sizes and text weight. Text may be run horizontally or vertically. Box types include a ‘comb’ for multiple boxes. Special flow chart symbols provided. Items on form are treated as individual items, for erasing, duplicating or moving. Items may also be grouped. Alignment of items by variable grids with snap feature. Special effects include drop-shadows for boxes and combs. Fields in form capable of carrying out calculations automatically. Filler designed specially for forms designed using this package. Filled forms saved to file for later reference and printing. Each file can contain many entries for the same form design. Compulsory and mandatory fields and automatic date and time fields are supported. Data validation, case sensitivity and lookup table options provided. Data entered manually into form or imported from Ascii or dBase files. Can also export data from forms to those file formats. Excellent documentation provides general advice on good form design as well as well-illustrated instruction on program. Large number of sample forms included.

WORLD ATLAS

A gazetteer that displays maps and information on all the world’s countries, but easier to use than the equivalent books. Aimed at business people, frequent travellers and the education market, it is also an excellent way of solving arguments. Contains more than 240 maps. Statistical maps for the whole world give breakdown on January and July temperatures, precipitation, agricultural work force, electricity, income, infant mortality, inflation rate, life expectancy, literacy rate, population density, population growth and time zones. Topographical maps for the world or separate countries show mountains, deserts, heights above sea level, rivers etc. Flip option allows you to switch rapidly between maps for comparison. Text information available from drop-down menus. Information is inevitably US-biased, such as passport and visa requirements, in- country embassy details and consulate addresses in the US much of it coming from government sources. But there’s a lot of general interest. Geographical information covers land area and boundaries, coastline, climate, terrain, land use and general environment. Economic data includes major industries, GDP and GNP, natural resources, inflation rate, currency conversion rate and import/export information. Details on government, such as type, capital, administrative j8z4 divisions, leaders and military budget. Gives details on the population, including size, nationality, ethnic groups, religions, languages, life expectancy and work force. Also has details on transport and communications, including ports, airports, telecommunications and road, rail and waterways. Maps and reports may be dumped to a printer or disk file for reference. Keyboard or mouse-driven using menus – just point at what you want information on.

3B2

Simple system for people who don’t need huge and complex programs. Uses proprietary windowing system for wysiwyg display of document. Multiple windows to allow work on several documents at once. Display in window may be zoomed up to 1000% for detailed work. Uses mouse, drop-down menus and dialogue boxes. Macro language provided for automating repetitive tasks. Handles graphics, text and page make-up separately, combining them in a composition program to produce the final page. Switching between modes is achieved by selecting on-screen icons. Text available in sizes from 1pt to 72pt. Text may be given relative size attributes – if base font size is changed, size relationship between various pieces of text remains the same. Uses Monotype faces. Printing function supports reduction and enlargement by given percentage. Drawing facilities include rules, boxes, arcs and chords with variable line widths and styles. Option to automatically round-off corners of lines and boxes. Graphics treated as individual objects that may be moved, copied, rotated, mirrored, resized and joined. Objects can be grouped to be treated as a single object. Colour supported, including for backgrounds and columns. Scanned images or graphics created with other packages may be imported. Grid provided for alignment of text and graphics. Text may be imported or typed directly into text program. Provides many word processor-like features such as headers and footers, search and replace, widow and orphan protection, and generation of table of contents and index. Page make-up provides automatic text flow around frames. Style sheet-type macros provided for repetitive entering of multiple text changes (eg, for tabular work). Kerning and ligature tables may be edited and new ones created. Manual includes many worked examples of documents.

QUATTRO

Borland was among the first to realise that spreadsheets could do more than calculate budget figures. Quattro Pro is one of the new generation of spreadsheets that provides advanced presentation graphics facilities in addition to the usual handful of graph types. Menu Builder feature allows creation of customised user interfaces and applications. Offers macro libraries and automatic recording of keyboard macros. Instant replay feature repeats keystrokes of repetitious entry of data and commands. Undo feature (using j8z4 single key) for recovering from mistakes. Has goal-seeking and back-solving functions. Full mouse support with pull- down menus and resizable windows. Supports 132-column display. Supports up to 32 windows that can be tiled or overlapping. Spreadsheets may be linked to other spreadsheets (including those not in memory) databases and graphs. Capable of accessing information in Paradox databases using SQL links. Graphics include 10 2D and four 3D graph types. Complete colour drawing program included for original graphics or customising clip art. Drawing features includes lines, arrows, boxes, polygons, rectangles, ellipses, shading, patterns. Comes with nine Bitstream fonts and a clip art library. Capable of outputting files for conversion to 35mm colour slides. On- screen print preview showing full graphics. Supports landscape and portrait printing. Included ProShow package allows spreadsheets and graphics to be incorporated into an on-screen slide presentation. Supports LIM 4 expanded memory up to 8Mb. Provides on-the-fly data compression for large files. Files, commands and macros compatible with Lotus 1-2-3 versions up to release 2.01 and capable of reading and writing version 2.2 files. Network compatible, with menu files and fonts stored on the server, freeing space on workstations. File locking provided. Capable of running on modestly-endowed PCs though performance improves considerably on better machines thanks to VROOM object- oriented software techniques.

VENTURA

One of the biggies of desktop publishing, Ventura was among the first into the field and constant upgrades have kept it in the lead for serious users with the serious hardware it needs to run. Suitable for not just newsletters, reports, forms and manuals but magazines, books and newspapers. Uses ‘frame’ approach to hold discrete items of text and graphics. Captions and graphics are linked to frames to ensure that pictures and text are always in the correct frame. Fullest possible control over fonts, include interactive kerning and size changes, tracking, letter and word spacing and hyphenation. Uses Bitstream Fontware, providing very wide range of scalable fonts. Automatic page, chapter, table, figure and section numbering. Tables of contents and indexes generated automatically. Cross references track information across pages and chapters. Automatically creates tables from text or imported spreadsheet or database data. Complex mathematical and scientific calculations provided by equations package. Unlike some DTP packages, where every page is handled separately, Ventura allows text flow from page to page. Footnotes can flow across to the next page. Accepts text from all popular word processing packages. Style sheets allow creation of standard layouts. Style automatically carried over to subsequent pages. Style sheets can be printed to display formatting attributes of a document. j8z4 Directory headings at top of page change automatically with text. Vertical justification ensures text aligns properly at foot of page. Uses Windows 3, and so is compatible with any peripheral supported by Windows, including most printers. Capable of using the Windows clipboard for cutting, copying and pasting text. Uses graphics created by PC or Apple Macintosh graphics packages, CAD programs and scanners. Compatible with any network that supports Windows (network node software available separately).

IMMUNIZER

A prophylactic program aimed at keeping your PC free from viruses. Offers several levels of security. Works by taking ‘snapshot’ of system – including master boot sector and partition book sector of hard disk – and executable files, and using this to watch for any changes in these files. If any of the crucial disk sectors have changed, program automatically over-writes them with old versions stored in snapshot. Info about individual programs is stored inside the program file itself (a process known as vaccination). Any suspect program is prevented from running – applies to program overlays as well as executable files. New programs can be barred from executing until scanning program has been run on them to check for known viruses. Works with hidden system files. Includes option to prevent any unauthorised program writing to .EXE or .COM files, making hidden files, becoming terminate and stay resident or shelling out to the operating system. Vaccination of programs involves reading data from programs and writing back to them: includes option to prevent problems with copy-protected programs. Options to immunize whole disk (when running for first time, or for floppy disks) or individual directories (after installing new software). Memory resident program watches for illegal or dubious activities, such as suspect hard disk accesses, and puts warning on screen. Loaded as device driver. Secret, proprietary routines used to check for techniques likely to be used by new viruses. Includes compulsory password protection to prevent Immunizer being run by anyone else on your computer.

LINGUAWRITE

With 1992 looming, we could all do with some help with foreign languages. A database of English, French, German, Italian and Spanish expressions used in business correspondence. Each package handles translations between one pair of the five languages: eg, English and French. Phrases are grouped in 18 subject-specific sections: general expressions; orders; invoices, payments and reminders; agencies; job applications and adverts; travel and hotel reservations; financial reports; bank and post office; j8z4 office terminology; names of countries and cities; enquiries and offers; delivery, transport and customs; complaints; references; change of address; property, sales and rentals; use of the telephone; and insurance. Phrases can be browsed, or you can search by entering all or part of a word. Facility can be used several times to narrow search. Search can range across entire database, or be limited to a single section. Letters are created by choosing stock phrases. Selected phrases are stored in bottom half of screen until letter is complete, then written to disk to use as a word processor file. Supplied with large manual, ‘The Multi-Lingual Business Handbook’ (normally published separately) that does the same thing. Book uses same coding of phrases and can be used in conjunction with software. Program is menu-driven: menu words and phrases are in the selected master language. Same language may be selected as source and target to for creating letters using standard business phrases in native tongue. Configurable for many popular word processors: WordPerfect 4 and 5, Word, Volkswriter 3, WordStar, WordStar 2000, Displaywrite, Wang and Multimate, or plain ASCII text. Automatically selects correct codes for accented and special characters according to word processor selected. Manual includes sections on building up a library of standard letters, worked examples and teachers’ notes.

DISCLOCK

Unauthorised access to files on hard disks is one of the most common methods of ‘data theft’. Intended to be used by site controllers or computer managers. Uses two methods of locking/unlocking: key disk system requires special key disk in floppy disk drive before computer will boot. Each computer or group of computers has a unique key disk up to a maximum of 30,000. Extra key disks can be created for multiple users and as safety back-ups. Second protection method requires a valid ID and password to be typed in to access the hard disk. Failure to do this results in ‘Invalid Drive Specification’ message. Main program – the key disk system – is a device driver, automatically loaded into CONFIG.SYS file, occupying 500 bytes of memory. Includes option to disable ability of applications program to shell out to the operating system and to add a password routine as an extra level of security. Also able to prevent use of Ctrl-C and Ctrl-Break as means of interrupting program execution. With a front end program, this stops the user getting down the to Dos level and attempting to remove the device drivers. Password protection uses program called from AUTOEXEC.BAT file. Program modifies disk structure so that even if protection is removed manually, disk data is still secure. Supervisor program permits logging of computer user IDs to provide an audit trail. Shows date, time and length of time each user logged on, and any failed log-ins. All programs are menu-driven.

IBM CAD

Two- and three-dimensional drawing package. Drawing types include: orthographic; isometric; 3D wireframe; dimensioned views; floor plans; schematics; freehand drawings; and scanned images. Supports multiple-level drawings. Drawing options include: line; box; arc; point; polygon; ellipse; spline; text; image (eg, scanned picture); symbol; fillet; and offset. Has a ‘Make 3D’ option to turn 2D drawings into three dimensions. Uses relative points to create arcs, which may be centre-based, circumference-based, double arcs or 3D. Three-dimensional objects may be viewed from any point in space, from inside the object, from standard orthogonal viewpoints, in first, second, third and fourth octants, or viewpoint may be panned in circle around object. Objects can also be rotated. Automatic 3D to 2D conversion. Optional grid with snap feature provided with variable line types, line spacing and shape. Drawing effects available are: erase item; move; rotate; cross-hatch; modify item; trim; group items; copy; flip; scale; fill; and cut. Zooming and selective magnifying of drawings is provided. Supports colour, including ability to assign colours to plotter pens, separate views of same object and on-screen features. Drawing can be done with absolute or relative co-ordinates. Supplied with eight, inch-unit symbol libraries for: architecture; block letters; drafting; electrical diagrams; heating, ventilation and cooling drawings; mechanical drawings; printed circuit board and logic drawings; and piping and welding. Offers 16 variable- and 16 fixed-space fonts plus 20 typographic fonts for use with Encapsulated PostScript files. Text may be output separately to ordinary text file. Fit text feature allows specification of start and endpoints: text is automatically sized to fit between them. Keyboard macros available with automatic recording of keystrokes. Produces IFF files. File compression available before saving drawings to save disk space. Option to create automatic back-ups.

PICTURE CARDBOX

A version of the Cardbox-Plus database package that allows pictures to be displayed as part of the data. Uses index card- like screen display, with layout, boxes, lines and field positions defined by user. Possible applications include recording products for insurance, estate agency records, security and personnel records. Setting up file is same as for normal database, with one field set aside for the image. Standard sorting, indexing, selection and reporting facilities available on text fields. These include ability to tag records for reporting or display, and keyword searching and filtering (with options to specifically include or exclude records). Small version of graphic can be displayed on screen with accompanying text. Hot-key switch allows graphic to fill full screen. More than one graphic can be attached to each record, with hot-key used to switch between images. Pictures can be frame-grabbed or scanned images, or files created using graphics applications – most standard file formats are supported. A VGA display is needed, but no other special requirements. Provides cropping and palette-changing facilities (offering 2-256 colours). Two resolutions are provided – 640×400 with 13 colours or 320×200 with up to 256 colours. Text can be displayed in 25- and 43-line modes. On-screen text shows which resolution is being used. Pictures files are stored separately from text data, and so you can use something like a WORM drive or other high-capacity storage medium for big databases. Uses data compression for image files, shrinking them to 5-60K for each image. Electronic publishing module available that allows distribution of working databases in a read-only, view-only package. Multi-user and network versions also available.

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *