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Chemputing down memory lane II.

Chemputing has now appeared in Canadian Chemical News/L 'Actualite chimique canadienne (ACCN) for almost three years. Last issue we looked back at our hardware reviews to see which of those highly recommended products stood the test of time and were still considered as winners. With software, the question is much more difficult and even controversial; one of my criteria became a simple question. Is it still on my hard disk or did I wipe if off as soon as the review was in the mail to Ottawa? There are the ones I use every day and I absolutely refuse to part with them. The first two choices also provided an opportunity for some more testing of the Hewlett-Packard DeskJet 500C, reviewed, in part, last month. Lotus: Lotus 1-2-3 (ACCN April 1990, September 1991) is an excellent spreadsheet, but to me, it is not the Lotus spreadsheet that is the big winner; it is the Lotus system. Over the last three years, at least a dozen reviews used Lotus or were associated with Lotus. There is no question; Lotus is number one in the market place and I want to see it stay in that place. Its biggest strength results from its co-operation with many third party software developers, e.g., Intex, which has developed add-ins that will do almost any conceivable operation to boost the capabilities of Lotus. You can customize it to meet your needs, no matter how specialized or obscure. This is the greatest advantage that Lotus offers over its competition.

Lotus has two new upgraded versions of 1-2-3: 2.3 and 3.1+, depending upon your needs and system requirements, with both available in English or French. We had a look at 2.3. A serious disadvantage with the earlier versions was that, while Allways (ACCN, May 1990) could give a WYSIWYG (What-you-see-is-what-you-get) display and desktop publishing quality to your spreadsheet, it did not do so in a live mode. The WYSIWYG was one function and the spreadsheet another. It was annoying having to flip back and forth between the two modes of operation. With 2.3, the WYSIWYG operation is live. You no longer have to go back and forth. The new WYSIWYG mode reads the older Allways files and adds some additional features such as light and heavy line widths, the ability to insert justified text into a range and the capability of landscape printing, with printers such as the DeskJet. You can also stick with the native mode if you wish.

Lotus graphs are not what you would consider as publication quality. We reviewed version 2.0 of Lotus Freelance Plus (ACCN, January 1989) and found that this program provided a quick and simple way to enhance the .PIC files into publication-quality graphs. Unfortunately, you would have to start again from scratch if you update the spreadsheet. We haven't had our hands on version 4.0 of Freelance yet, but understand that it can create a hot-link to the spreadsheet and automatically update the enhanced graphs. Version 2.3 has added more features to the graph options, but they still need that enhancement with Freelance to look their best. It's time Lotus listened to the scientific community and added graph options for log scales and dual axes, but wait this is Lotus, the system. I can just flip over to 2D Graphics (ACCN, July/August 1990), an add-in from Intex, to overcome that deficiency. Can any other spreadsheet offer that?

With the DeskJet 500C, the graphs could be printed in color as could the output from the WYSIWYG mode. Bar and pie charts looked nice in color, but line graphs still needed some pizazz. Version 2.0 of Freelance wasn't ready to do the job in color. Lotus has just written the color driver for the DeskJet with version 4.0, but not 2.0.

Print-A-Plot: The next telephone call was from insight Development. They were sending a beta-test copy of Print-A-Plot, version 2.1. Here was the solution to the problem of printing from programs for which you don't have adequate printer drivers. All you need is the ability to produce an HPGL file for a Hewlett-Packard plotter. Programs such as Freelance and Diagram Master can plot their output either directly to an HP 7475 A plotter or, as I did, to a file. For those such as Lotus Printgraph that can't plot to a file, Insight provides a memory resident program that can intercept the plotter output and route it to a file. Print-A-Plot will read these files, rasterize the output and send it to a variety of printers and yes, the DeskJet 500C is one of them. You can put some extra weight on those fine lines and make the Lotus plot look good or add color to Freelance. The line widths can be varied over a wide range by simply selecting a width from a menu. There is a professional look to the output from a plotter, but few people can enjoy this luxury. with this program, you can make your printer into a super machine that almost outplots many high-priced plotters.

I liked the original Print-A-Plot (ACCN, January 1990) and am really impressed with some of the new features that have been added. You can rotate the plot, move it around the page, reduce or enlarge it and when the plot is too big for the printer, print it in the form of tiles that can be joined together. This last feature makes it possible to FAX a large drawing with conventional equipment. The old version had control over pen width and shading patterns. With the new one, you can add color. For Canadian application, one simple menu selection switches the entire operation between English and French.

Norton Utilities: Norton Utilities (ACCN, March 1989, October 1990) enables you to fix things that go wrong. It can also give you a lot of information about your system. Within the list of capabilities, some you will need; others you may never need and some you hope you will never need and be glad you have them when you do need them. When you buy a computer, its speed is rated by the Norton speed index. Norton has features that will unerase erased files, repair a damaged file or disk, reset your clock or even change screen colors.

A number of these utilities are useful enough that they become routine operations. The memory cache speeds reading and writing of the hard disk, making many programs run faster. Running Speed Disk keeps the hard disk access time from slowing down by correcting the file fragmentation that occurs with use. Every time I power down, Norton saves an image of the hard disk to facilitate recovery, should some unmentionable calamity occur.

We reviewed earlier versions in the past and before I had a chance to look at version 5.0, it was already out of date. Norton has made a conscious effort to keep up with all our needs in a single package. Unfortunately, I found version 5.0 to be just a bit too big and deleted some of the features when my hard disk was running out of space. I do have one minor problem; my system fools the System Information program. The screen that shows where the TSR (terminate-and-stay-resident) programs are located said there were none; I have seven. The memory manager with the All Charge card (see May's review) put them into high RAM, where Norton couldn't find them. I expect the latest versions have corrected this.

Bitstream fonts: I don't really want to say too much about these as FaceLift was reviewed only two months ago. The Bitstream font technology has taken our printing capabilities from the ordinary to the extraordinary. I use it with WordPerfect and it is also the basis of the Lotus WYSIWYG printout; it is also used by most of the competitive products. Today, there is no excuse for mediocre looking documents.

Lotus 1-2-3, Freelance Plus: Lotus Development Canada Ltd., 10 Bay Street, Suite 1700, Toronto, Ont.; M5J 2R8; Tel: 416-364-8000 with local offices across Canada.

2D Graphics: Intex Solutions, 161 Highland Avenue, Needham, MA, USA; Tel: 617-449-6222, Fax: 617-444-2318.

Print-A-Plot: Insight Development Corp., 2200 Powell Street, Suite 500, Emeryville, CA 94608, USA; Tel: 510-652-4115; Fax: 510-652-9857.

Norton Utilities: Peter Norton Computing Inc., 100 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 900, Santa Monica, CA, 90401-1104, USA; Tel: 213-319-2000; Fax: 213-458-2048.

Facelift for WordPerfect: Bitstream Inc., Athaeneum House, 215 First Street, Cambridge, MA, 02142, USA; Tel: 617-497-6222; Fax: 617-868-4732.

Software or hardware names mentioned in this review are trademarks of their respective developers/manufacturers.
COPYRIGHT 1992 Chemical Institute of Canada
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Author:Silbert, Marvin D.
Publication:Canadian Chemical News
Date:Jun 1, 1992
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