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A guide for evaluating word processing systems.

This checklist is a practical guide for evaluating word processing systems, both hardware and software. It can be used when looking at systems for any area of the clinical laboratory and for any set of applications. It is suitable for comparisons of different word processors or an evaluation of a single system, for stand-alone text editors, for systems that are part of a network, or for software packages for microcomputers.

The questions elicit both factual and subjective responsnes through check marks. There are no universally "right" answers, and it is not even necessary to seek answers at every point: Applications planned by a user control the evaluation process. Just concentrate on items that relate to the work the system will perform.

Do not be intimidated by the length of the checklist. Notice that it is separated into categories for various word processing functions, some of which you may not be too interested in, and that technical terms are either avoided or explained.

A purchasing decision should not be based solely on the number of positive check marks. Also consider the content of each answer and the total picture of how the system will perform for the laboratory. Pay special attention to circled items -- 6 in the system component questions, for example -- because they pertain to features and applications that are particularly useful in clinical labs.

We'll start with a short set of seven specific questions that ought to be answered in detail to your satisfaction, by demonstrations, before selecting equipment and/or a word processing software package. These questions and the system component questions call mostly for written responses. The remainder of the list can be answered by check marks placed next to the question number or in the blank spaces next to subgroups of questions. Key lab questions

1. How will your lab reports be titled? This is very important for record organization and record keeping. Do not allow the system to limit your flexibility.

2. Exactly how will patient information documents be processed?

3. Exactly how will the patient identification information be repeated on each page? Some systems automatically repeat it as header information, while with others it must be copied manually onto each page. If it is to be copied manually, when will that be done--during input, interrupting the drafting/typing process, or after all of the document has been typed? Will that then interfere with the automatic pagination system, and if so, will the operator have to take another intermediate step to put the whole document together?

4. If more than one document is to be typed for each patient, can identification information be repeated from the first to the second document? If so, how will this be done?

5. Can more than one work station share a printer?

6. Can the printer take continuous-form carbon sets?

7. Who services the tractor feeder--the word processing vendor or another vendor? System components

1. Name of system, model number, and description of configuration, including any software packages

2. Size of processor

3. Physical characteristics CRT: -- Stationary [circled negative] Moves [circled negative] Tilts [circled negatives] Swivels Color of characters and screen Screen size, in lines (without prompt lines) Size of screen in character width Keyboard: [circled negative] Movable

4. Kind of disk or other medium used

5. Size of medium

6. Printer location in relation to work station(s)

7. Number of work stations sharing the printer

8. Number of work stations sharing logic and/or memory

9. Will this configuration physically fit into your work space? Document creation

1. Is the index page (file directory or list of documents) easy to read?

2. How are the document titles listed? -- Chronological order -- Alphabetical -- Vertical -- Horizontal

3. How are documents titled? -- Maximum number of characters per title -- Alpha/numeric capability -- Upper/lower case -- Punctuation marks allowed

4. Can a large number of documents be stored on a disk?

5. Is there a notation of the amount of disk space used or remaining?

6. Are there automatic date notiations for document creation and revision?

7. Can the index page be reordered to put titles in a more logical sequence?

8. Consider what these two questions mean in terms of your documents: -- Is the system document-oriented--for example, storing a five-page document as one whole unit? -- Alternatively, is the system page-oriented--storing the five pages as five units? Inputting

1. Is there a line and character position counter?

2. Is there a page number indicator?

3. Can a "code display" be activated?

4. Formats (margins and tabs): [circled negative] Can standard formats be entered into the system? -- Are they easily created? -- Can formats be changed in mid-document? -- Is there a screen symbol that denotes the format in use? -- Can the format settings be checked for confirmation?

5. Are there several pitch or type size selections?

6. Can text be justified--set even instead of ragged on the right-hand margin?

7. Is there boldface-type capability?

8. Is it easy to underscore full phrases, including the spaces between words?

9. Is it easy to underscore words in a phrase without underscoring the spaces?

10. Does the screen display exactly as the printer will print, including: -- Pitch selection, or number of characters per inch? -- Line spacing? -- Underscoring? -- Justified text? -- Boldface? -- Subscripts and superscripts? -- Multicolumn text?

11. Can blank pages be inserted or reserved for display of pictures, graphs, or charts?

12. If so, is this an automatic or a manual operation?

13. Can black areas be left within a page of text for pictures, graphs, or charts?

14. If so, is this an automatic operation?

15. Can scientific symbols be displayed on the screen?

16. Are formulae easily created?

17. Subscripts and superscripts: -- Can they be displayed on the screen? -- Can all levels that may be printed also be displayed?

18. Is there flush right alignment of text headings, and does the screen display appropriately?

19. Moving and copying blocks of text within/between documents: -- Is it easy to accomplish? -- Can a large amount of text be copied or moved in one operation? -- Does the moved text take on the format of the new document?

20. Automatic phrase recall/insert capability: -- Is it available? [cirlced negative] Can many phrases be stored for recall? [circled negative] Is the system flexible as to the type of text that may be stored? [circled negative] Are phrases quickly recalled and inserted into the document?

21. Are dot leaders for indices, tables of contents; or charts easily created?

22. Multicolumn text: -- Can it be created? -- Can more than two columns be created? -- Do the columns display side by side?

23. Form letters: -- Is it easy to put the variables? -- During printing, does the system acknowledge variables omitted by oversight? If there is a missing variable in the fifth letter, for example, are the following letters printed with the proper variables? -- Can printing resume in the middle of the variable list if it has been interrupted? -- Can envelopes be printed from the variable list? Making revisions

1. Is it easy to insert or delete text?

2. Is there unlimited insert capability? -- If the system is page-oriented, are major inserts easily accomplished?

3. Is it easy to access a point of text within a document?

4. Is the cursor controlled by: -- A narrow pad? -- A combination of keystrokes? -- A mouse or other handheld device? -- Another method?

5. Is the cursor easy to use?

6. Is there a text search capability?

7. Is it easy to copy and move blocks of text within/between documents? [circled negative] Can this function be used to repeat patient identification on each page of a multi-page patient document?

8. Is there a global search and replace function--e.g., to substitute one word or phrase for another throughout document?

9. Is there multiple global search and replace for several different sets of substitutions?

10. Is if easy to make revisions in multicolumn text (without extra steps)?

11. Changing formats: -- Can they be revised at specific points in the document? -- Can they be revised throughout the entire document?

12. Can several documents be joined together to create a combined document? -- Is it easily done? -- Is it relatively unlimited?

13. After revising a document that was previously stored, can you then store the original and the revised versions it you wish? Reformatting and pagination

1. Defining page parameters: -- Are they defined in lines? -- Are they defined in inches? -- Are they easy to understand? -- Is there much flexibility as to the size of page to be defined and used?

2. Headers and footers (page numbers and continuing document titles at top or bottom): -- are they easy to create? -- Is there a full range of flexibility in the text that can be entered? -- Is there flexibility in positioning headers and footers? -- Do they realign appropriately after editing alters the length of the text? -- Is there page numbering flexibility, such as the ability to enter chapter and page numbers together--2.1, 2.2, 2.3, etc. -- Do headers and footers display with the text? [circled negative] Can this function be used to repeat patient identification on each page of a multi-page patient document?

3. Reformatting (evens line endings and hyphenates): -- Is it easy and logical to execute? -- Does it ask the operator for hyphenation decisions? -- Can the operator see the page or portion of text while making the decisions? -- If the system is page-oriented, is reformatting easily accomplished for a multi-page document?

4. Paginating (evening lines per page): -- Is it easy and logical to execute? -- Does it ask the operator for a decision on placement of a widow (a very short line at the end of a paragraph) or an orphan line (a very short line at the top of a page)? -- If the system is page-oriented, is paginating easily accomplished? -- Can the operator see the page or portion of text while making the decisions? -- Are blank page inserts honored, with the page numbers assigned to them?

5. Is multicolumn text easily reformatted and paginated?

6. Can reformatting and paginating be accomplished in one step? Statistical and math capabilities

1. Is there assistance in setting up columns?

2. Is there a decimal tabbing feature (also called numerical or statistical alignment)?

3. Is there sufficient flexibility in the number of columns that can be created on a page of document?

4. Is there automatic positioning of column headings?

5. Column revision capability: -- Are columns defined vertically by the system for revision commands? -- Can columns be deleted, added to the table, or rearranged? -- If so, are the changes easily made?

6. Double underscore for column totals: -- Can it be done? -- Is it an automatic procedure? -- Does it show on the screen?

7. Horizontal screen scroll for wide documents: -- Do tables scroll automatically? -- Do they scroll in sections, maintaining a reference point? -- Is the scroll easy on the eyes?

8. Are mathematical calculations part of the word processing system? -- If not, is a special software package available at reasonable cost?

9. Is there four-function math?

10. Are documents easily created for math functions?

11. Are the commands for calculations easily executed?

12. Can math equations be written by the user?

13. Is the calculating process speedy enough? System guidance and displays

1. Does the system use: -- Menus? -- Function keys? -- Mnemonic keystrokes with functions carried out by pressing the keys for their initial letters--c for copy, i for indent, and so on? -- A combination of menus and function keys?

2. Are the menus and/or function keys: -- Clearly marked and understandable? -- Executed by simple keystrokes and combinations of keystrokes?

3. Prompts: -- Are they friendly? -- Are they clear? -- Do they appear in more than one place on the display?

4. Status line (tells the name of the document, page number, and the number of the line where the cursor is): -- Is it clearly shown? -- Is it easy to understand?

5. Help feature or help command for assistance on word processor functions: -- Is it available? -- Is it easy to access? -- Is it easy to understand? -- Is it easy to use? -- Is the help logical?

6. Is the highlighting easy to read?

7. Is there a"windowing" feature permitting a look at another section or document while text is on the screen? -- Can more than one window be worked with at one time? -- How many lines are displayed in each window? -- Is there full functioning capability in all windows at all times? Special symbols

8. Are there some built-in symbols, such as for type font changes?

9. Can they be displayed? Forms

10. Are forms, such as those used in a lab, a standard feature?

11. If not, is a special software package available at reasonable cost?

12. Is it easy to create forms?

13. Can the forms be revised?

14. Can the blank form be revised?

15. Filling in the form: -- Is it easy to do? -- Does the operator have control ove rthe procedure? -- Is the filling-in procedure fast enough? -- Can errors while filling in the form be easily corrected?

16. Updating the form: -- Can the master form be updated and revised? -- Can the filled-in form be revised? Spelling check

17. Is it a standard feature?

18. If not, is a special software package available at reasonable cost?

19. Is it easy to execute the spelling check?

20. Is the execution fast enough?

21. Are all corrections made automatically?

22. If there is operator confirmation, does the operator see the portion of text while making the correction or confirmation?

23. Are there limits to the number of user-customized words that may be entered into the dictionary? Footnoting

24. Is it a standard feature?

25. If not, is a special software package available at reasonable cost?

26. Is it easy to input the footnotes?

27. Are the superscripts shown on the screen?

28. Is it easy to revise the footnotes?

29. Is numbering the footnotes an automatic process?

30. Is there automatic renumbering of the footnotes after revision?

31. Do the footnotes paginate appropriately after revisions?

32. Are the footnotes and text displayed exactly as they will print? Graphics capability

33. Is it a standard feature?

34. If not, is a special software package available at reasonable cost?

35. Is it easy to create graphics?

36. Can graphics that are unique to your organization be created?

37. Is a special printer needed?

38. Is the graphic feature worth the cost? Sorting and selecting records

1. Are these functions a standard feature?

2. If not, is a special software package available at reasonable cost?

3. Is it easy to use?

4. How many fields (items) of information can be in each record?

5. How many fields can be selected (looked at) by the system at one time?

6. Have you seen you needed tasks demonstrated to your satisfaction and understanding? Training and service

1. Can your operations be easily trained?

2. Will the vendor develop your special applications?

3. Will service be readily available, at a reasonable cost? Additional considerations

1. Is there some kind of keystroke counter or timing mechanism, usually used for charge-back purposes on tasks performed for other departments? -- Is it realistic to think about using this feature in your environment?

2. Is the processing time adequate when: -- Only one terminal is operating? -- Multiple terminals are operating?

3. Are other standard features available?

4. If so, are they beneficial for your applications?

5. Are other software packages available?

6. If so, would they benefit your lab?

7. Is there a photocomposition interface?

8. Is the operating system written in: -- CP/M? -- MS/DOS? -- UNIX? -- Other?

9. Can the system interface to communicate with other microcomputers, word processors, or mainframe computers?

10. Will the system interface with instruments in your laboratory? Printing

1. Is the quality of printing adequate for your purpose?

2. Does the printer produce camera-ready copy?

3. Type of printer: -- Impact -- Laser -- Inkjet -- Draft

4. Pitch: -- 10, 12 pitch (10 or 12 characters/inch) -- 15 pitch -- Proportional pitch, with characters varying in width -- Other

5. Are a variety of print styles available?

6. Can special symbols be printed?

7. Is there concurrent printing? (Can the operator work on one document while another document is printing? Be sure to see this demonstrated.)

8. Is there a priority print capability to move important items to the front of the queue at the printer?

9. Can the print queue otherwise be reordered?

10. Can the printer be activated from the keyboard and used as a typewriter?

11. Is there an automatic paper feeding option? [circled negative] Can carbon sets be fed? [circled negative] Is there more than one tray for different papers or forms? -- Does it feed envelopes? -- Is the paper feeder removable?

12. Is there a tractor feeder for continuous forms? [circled negative] Can continuous-form carbons sets be fed? -- Is the tractor feeder removable?

13. Envelopes: -- Does the system prepare envelopes? -- If so, is it easy to do?
COPYRIGHT 1984 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1984 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Cratty, Gayle R.
Publication:Medical Laboratory Observer
Date:Jun 1, 1984
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