Electronic business tool.
In an industry long dominated by an out-with-the-old-in-with-the-new mentality, innovative PC-based spreadsheet programs that boast increased user functionality are standing strong in the market. Traditional spreadsheets relied on common business tools such as pencils, calculators or adding machines, ledgers and, most importantly, time.
Today's electronic (or computerized) spreadsheet calculates and recalculates for you, but is not limited to accounting features. Programs such as Lotus/Symphony 2.0+, from Cambridge, Mass.-based Lotus Development Corp., and Excel, from Redmond, Wa.-based Microsoft Corp., have taught users that financial analysis, statistical functioning, sales forecasting and invoicing can be performed hassle-free.
Unfortunately, one lesson not so quickly learned by software industry leaders is that more is not always better. The major consideration when choosing spreadsheet software is to make sure that the program's capabilities match your organization's requirements, says Herbert Mack, systems support manager at American Telephone & Telegraph Co. in Morristown, N.J. "The most important of these," he explains, "are end-user needs, training benefits and maintenance."
In terms of development, it is also critical to know if one can take a particular application and substitute it with another application. "Flexibility is key," adds Mack.
And the newest lines are providing just that. Microsoft Excel Release 3.0 has developed easier ways to do common tasks. Microsoft Excel 4.0 and Microsoft Excel for Windows 4.0 keep pace by offering such features as Object-Linking Embedding (OLE) and CrossTabs func tionality.
OLE makes it simpler to integrate and share information across applications. The assimilation of CrossTabs from a database to a spreadsheet environment is a valuable analysis tool that tracks database information to industry trends.
Another revolutionary feature is the Macro Interpreter, which enables users of the MS-DOS-based Lotus 1-2-3 Release 2.0 software program to run compatible macros unmodified in Windows-based Microsoft Excel 4.0.
A major drawback for organizations with data exchange is the lack of interactiveness between Lotus 1-2-3 Release 3.1 and any Microsoft Excel software version.
Lotus, considered the leader in spreadsheet technology, has stepped up to the challenge. Lotus 1-2-3 for DOS 3.1+ offers consumers the Lotus Magellan viewer. Users are able to find, view and work on information that is stored on their PC's hard drive before actually loading a file.
The introduction of the Backsolver and Solver features have dramatically exploited the basic "what-if" scenario into a "how-to" capability. For instance, users can get a detailed report of multiple, mathematically correct solutions to a production plan on maximizing profits.
Other PC-based spreadsheet programs include Quattro Pro from Borland International Inc., Scotts Valley, Calif. A DOS-based spreadsheet, Ouattro Pro offers a WYSIWYG (what-you-see-is-what-you-get) display and can create attractive charts with icons and illustrations without the need for a presentation graphics program.
Borland makes the transition to Window's capabilities with its newest release, Quattro Pro for Windows. Quattro Pro outshines Excel, according to recent reviews, in the area of multiple spreadsheets. For instance, Quattro Pro lets you group related spreadsheets into notebooks. You can attach tabs or labels to each file (or spreadsheet), making it much easier to flip through or rearrange spreadsheets. This software feature also facilitates how the user can manipulate and consolidate data.
Like Microsoft Excel 4.0, Quattro Pro for Windows has a menu bar along the top that lets you perform routine tasks by using simple push-button operations. The user simply points to an object on the menu and clicks the correct button on a mouse to make a selection. Quattro Pro for Windows 1.0 retails for $495.
With a plethora of system features, it may be difficult to decide which spreadsheet program is best for you or your organization. You might consider the following tips:
Fully loaded Microsoft Excel 4.0 and Microsoft Excel 4.0 for Windows have the added appeal of Lotus 1-2-3 Release 2.0 compatibility. However, both of the software packages require tremendous amounts of memory to run them effectively.
For instance, Excel 4.0 for Windows requires a minimum of 2 MB of memory. Microsoft Excel 4.0 for the Macintosh requires a minimum of 1 MB of memory and supports Apple System 7.0. But in order to take full advantage of the Windows environment, your hard disk space should really be about 10 MB or no less than 6 MB.
On the other hand, Lotus requires about 6 MB of RAM. Better still, it offers smaller Lotus data compatible software such as Symphony 2.3. Lotus 1-2-3, version 3.1, retails for about $595. Lotus/Symphony 2.2 and 2.3 retail at around $695.
Both Microsoft Excel 4.0 and Microsoft Excel for Windows 4.0 retail for about $495. Current registered users of previous versions of Microsoft Excel and Excel for Windows can upgrade to the latest versions for $99.
Newer technology may require an additional financial investment. So, if your needs are less demanding, you may want to look at smaller, integrated systems.
For instance, Microsoft offers Works 3.0 and Works for Windows 3.0. The integrated software packages include a word processor, database and spreadsheet. A recent enhancement to the programs is a toolbar at the top of the screen that allows the user to create documents with the simple click of a mouse on appropriate icons.
Another feature in Works for Windows is Works Wizard, which provides a step-by-step guide to applications within the program and prompts users for information on application objectives. Other noteworthy features include a charting tool used to interpret and analyze data and a drawing application used to design, import and edit art. Microsoft Works and Microsoft Works for Windows retail for about $199.
It is important to bear in mind that most of the features offered in one software package are probably available in some form in a competitor's package. For instance, both Lotus Corp. and Borland offer integrated spreadsheet programs.
Also, some technical experts argue that it is better to stick with a program designed for one task rather than one that offers multiple applications. For example, if a comprehensive word processor is what you need, then stick with Microsoft Word. You may want to forego Microsoft Works if you don't really need a spreadsheet or database manager.
If you are not a computer programmer or technical maven, take your time when choosing spreadsheet software. Make sure your software choice is a wise investment, not a costly one.
Thirty years ago, a pencil and notepad may have been considered the state-of-the-art tool for taking notes at a meeting, or organizing weekly events. But today's overworked executives--suffering from time-management headaches--are looking for an easy, yet advanced, way to keep track of their work.
Enter--the personal information manager (PIM), a software program that is gaining popularity among business users. Generally, referred to as productivity tool software, PIMs can improve work effeciency. PIMs are designed to help workers keep track of appointments, travel arrangements, telephone numbers, memos and to-do lists. Keeping pace with this personal management software trend is OnTime for Windows from Campbell Services Inc. in Southfield, Mich.
Most PIMs toss in too many features, and many workers feel intimidated by their complexity, says company president Don Campbell. OnTime, however, is more like a sophisticated electronic calendar that focuses on only one area--time management.
OnTime's DOS counterpart, released three years ago, is also available for single and network use. Some 50,000 users, including the managers and executives of such Fortune 1000 companies as Westinghouse Electric Corp., American Telephone & Telegraph and Intel Corp., currently rely on the DOS version of OnTime for daily planning and scheduling,
The single-user version of OnTime for Windows retails for $129.95 and the three-user version for $356. The software programs require an IBM PC, PS/2 or compatible system to run, plus 1 MB of RAM and Microsoft Windows 3.0 or a higher version.
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|Title Annotation:||includes an article on personal information management systems; spreadsheet software|
|Author:||Womack, Denise E.|
|Article Type:||Buyers Guide|
|Date:||Sep 1, 1992|
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