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Enhanced spreadsheet graphics.

The Lotus System has been the subject of at least a dozen reviews since Chemputing became a regular feature of ACCN. We looked at Freelance version 2.0 some time ago (ACCN, January 1989) and have now had the opportunity to look at the latest version 4.0 for DOS. For anyone who has reason to make presentation quality graphs from their spreadsheet, this package provides that quality needed to make overheads with pizzaz or graphs to satisfy the rigid standards of the more prestigious technical journals. The capabilities go well beyond graphs. Freelance produces outstanding tables, drawings, and other types of figures...and can combine these features with the graphing capability.

The review of version 2.0 looked at methods to enhance the PIC files produced by most of the DOS-based spreadsheets. Version 4.0 still takes only a few minutes (typically 5-10) to convert a mediocre graph into a spectacular graph, but has more features including the introduction of Bitstream fonts for a variety of type faces and sizes. The package includes drivers for most printers or plotters including the DeskJet 500C colour printer that we have been looking at over the last few months. Compared to the earlier version, the printing is quite a bit faster. The ability to use EMS memory allows for more complex drawings.

One of the biggest features of version 4.0 is the ability to create a hot-link to a 1-2-3 spreadsheet. A presentation quality graph can be linked to either a set of ranges within the spreadsheet or directly to a named graph. Once linked, the graph is automatically redrawn as the spreadsheet is updated enabling the production of a high quality graph at any time from start to finish of the project. There are an almost infinite variety of options regarding scales, lines, symbols, etc. and a wide selection of graph types; as yet, the selection does not include all our choices, but Lotus has, at long last, introduced logarithmic scales and 3-D graphs. I tried a variety of options and found the hot-link to be a very useful function. It worked well except for one case, when it was totally fooled by a named graph which included a histogram drawn as an xy-plot with a superimposed normal distribution and control limits. Of course, for those situations where you can't hot-link, you can save the PIC file and use the more conventional method to enhance the graph. You have to follow this route to enhance graphs produced with the various add-in programs or for graphs produced with other spreadsheets such as Quattro.

A variety of drawing options make it possible to produce anything from simple line drawings to glitzy promotional illustrations. The chart option was useful for a lot more than the hot-linking of graphs. I found it a simple route to generate forms. I went into the chart mode and I just tried all the options for the graphing grid and then used the various editing to produce the required reporting log sheet.

I had two problems. The first was a minor incompatibility when retrieving figures I had previously made with version 2.0. The text inevitably ended up the wrong size or italic Dutch when I wanted Swiss Roman. Rather than be concerned, I would just take a few minutes to edit the figure to take advantage of the new Bitstream fonts. The other problem was with the documentation. As it took several weeks before I learned that the review copy did not have a full manual, it is obvious that this program is simple to operate and you can teach yourself by just using it.

Where do you use Freelance and where would you use the WYSIWYG options? Both hot-link to the spreadsheet. WYSIWYG is a part of 1-2-3 starting with versions 2.3 and 3.1. You have it and don't have to pay extra. Some fairly impressive combinations of text and graphs can be made using it. These are of a very high quality, but the graphs can not be enhanced other than a minor alteration of the font and its size or the ability to add notes or markers to highlight a feature; they remain simple line graphs. Freelance lets you do almost anything you can imagine to make a graph look better, e.g. change line styles or weights, reduce the intensity of the grid or even add your own logo. You can superimpose the graph on a map or other type of graphics image or vice versa. By saving the drawing as a metagraphics file, the file will be compatible with a variety of wordprocessors. The quality is; however, not as good and I prefer to leave a space in the text file and print the figure separately. This requires some careful measuring and unfortunately WordPerfect measures the distance to the baseline of the text from the top of the page while Freelance measures from the bottom.

With the Freelance WYSIWYG combination Lotus has effectively killed PRINT-GRAPH. Now that they have provided such power, it is time for us to help them go the next stage and make a package that satisfies the scientific community. What do you think we need? Logarithmic or probability axes, error bars? Send your ideas to Chemputing. We'll let their ceo, Joe Manzi in Cambridge, know what chemists need.

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.

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Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Software Review; Freelance 4.0
Author:Silbert Marvin D.
Publication:Canadian Chemical News
Article Type:Evaluation
Date:Oct 1, 1992
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