My computer is a 486/66 AST Bravo equipped with 16 MB of Random Access Memory (RAM) and a variety of software applications, some of which I'll describe in this article. But first, let me start by telling you what Windows cannot do for you:
1. It cannot replace DOS (at least, not until Windows NT is introduced later this year). Windows is not an operating system; it is an interface between DOS and your application packages.
2. It cannot give you more memory than you currently have. In fact, Windows is a memory hog and, depending on use, you may find it convenient to reboot your system once a week to restore "lost" memory.
3. It cannot automatically coexist with your DOS applications. You need to "introduce" Windows to your Lotus 123 for DOS and other DOS application via the Program Information File (PIF) editor.
4. It doesn't mix easily with Norton Utilities and similar "disk doctors." For example, if you want to defragment your hard disk, it's best not to do it in Windows.
5. It cannot do windows for you. In other words, don't expect it to perform miracles.
You'll be amazed at the number of people who expect Windows to be able to correct flaws in hardware and similar impossible tasks.
This is what Windows can do for you:
Better Organization. The Program Manager in Windows gives you the opportunity to organize your DOS and Windows applications in a very efficient way. It displays your applications on a menu screen and directs traffic so as to prevent gridlock.
Useful Accessories. Windows offers a variety of user-friendly accessories. For example, it provides a word processor called Write that is quite adequate for small tasks. It give you a calendar, a clock, a card file (great for phone numbers that Windows will dial directly for you), a scientific calculator and an accessory called Paintbrush that will help you draw pictures.
Powerful Utilities. One of the best file organizers on the market is Windows' File Manager. It's faster and more powerful than the Shell in DOS 5 and it's almost as good as Norton's Desktop.
Easy Set-Up. Windows offers you the possibility to reconfigure your system to a new mouse, a new printer, a new modem or anything else you can think of, in a very simple and painless way. I have made great use of Window's flexibility in this area.
Scalable Fonts. Windows uses True Type scalable fonts which give you what-you-see-is-what-you-get performance, i.e., what you see on the screen is what you get in print. This makes postscript printers almost superfluous.
Multitasking. In Windows, you can move from one application to another without the need to close the first application. In fact, you can handle more than one application simultaneously. For example, you can have a split screen with Lotus on one side and Word Perfect on the other. This enhances control, visibility and speed of execution. To take full advantage of this capability, however, you need a fast processor (486SX or above) and at least 6 MB of RAM.
Sharing Information with other applications. Windows enables different applications to "talk to one another" by means of the Clipboard, Data Linking and Embedding.
The Clipboard is one of the most useful features in Windows and Windows-driven applications. It permits the instantaneous transfer of graphs, text, clip art, etc. from one application (e.g., Excel) to another (e.g., Word for Windows). When you cut or copy something with your application -- whether text, graphs or a spreadsheet -- you are placing it on the clipboard; you can then paste it into any other application that is compatible with Windows. For example, if you cut and paste a graph from Excel into Word for Windows for the purpose of illustrating a page of text in Word, the graph becomes part of Word and you can then edit it with the word processor's editing tools.
Revisions of economic data are a fact of life, and you may have the same data series appearing in many different files. That's when you want to take advantage of the links offered by Windows. If you link your data through a feature called Dynamic Data Exchange (DDE), whenever you make changes to the data in the original applications, such changes will be reflected in all of the documents that have a link to that file.
The ultimate way of tying application together is by Object Linking and Embedding (OLE). This feature lets you effectively place a second application and its data inside your main application. When you embed data, you not only integrate the data themselves, you also integrate the instruction on how to manage those data, i.e., fonts, color, format and formulas.
For spreadsheet analysis, I use a combination of Lotus 123 for DOS (123 DOS), Lotus 123 for Windows (123W), Lotus Improv and Microsoft Excel. I'll focus on the first two.
As a veteran user of 123 DOS, I love the quick response of version 2.3. In Lotus, as in football, great speed makes up for a lot of flaws. I set up a PIF file for 123 DOS so that it can be accessed directly from Windows, as it should. One thing to remember, though, is that Windows converts practically all of your memory into extended memory while Lotus can only use expanded memory. To prevent "out of memory" messages, you need to go into 123 DOS, select Worksheet-Global-Default, and check the box that says "enhanced memory on". Before exiting the Default dialog box, don't forget to click Update to save your settings.
For analyses that require frequent transfers of numbers across directories and subdirectories, 123W is the program of choice. All of the operations in 123 DOS that require the use of "extract" and "combine" are perfectly suited for 123W because they can be executed with multiple windowed spreadsheets coexisting on the same screen. Furthermore, 123W takes full advantage of the copying-cutting-pasting-linking-embedding features described above. It should be noted that 123W can also be operated by using the classic menu to which 123 DOS power users have become addicted. Free lunches do exist!
For graphs and presentation material I use Freelance for Windows, version 2.0. In addition to providing all of the advantages that come with most software for Windows, Freelance is easy to use, powerful, flexible, and tailored for Multimedia applications. Let me elaborate on this point.
I have a Microsoft Sound System that gives me the ability to embed sound in my files. Freelance 2.0 is compatible with the Windows sound card and will accept sound bits from a variety of sources. The combination of Freelance 2.0 with the Windows Sound System allows me to execute several tasks that increase my productivity and add some fun to my work. During the course of a session, I have the option to:
1. Check my spreadsheets with a proofreader (the computer proofreads numbers and words in a loud voice);
2. Operate my computer with voice commands;
3. Record voice messages and embed them in files that will be mailed electronically;
4. Record voice annotations and reminders to myself and to others;
5. Embed sound (voice-over, music, commentaries) in my presentation graphics; and
6. Use my computer as a CD player (with a little help from a CD ROM.
For econometric work including analysis of historical data, correlations and regressions, I use both TSP for DOS, and Forecast Pro for Windows (FPW)
TSP is more powerful but less user friendly than FPW. There is no TSP for Windows; therefore, one cannot transfer data via the Clipboard or establish data links with other software applications. I use TSP primarily to seasonally adjust data before moving them into FPW. I also use TSP for the kind of work where the user wants to be totally in control of the software, rather than the other way around. A TSP version for Windows should become available before the end of the year.
FPW is one of the friendliest econometric packages I've every met. It will do almost anything for you (exponential smoothing, Box-Jenkins, dynamic regression, Box-Cox power transforms, and much more) and it will perform the most complex calculations smoothly and efficiently. But, it will do it its own way, always assuming that your knowledge of econometrics is close to zero, and not giving the operator a lot of freedom. Still, it's nice to sit down and watch your computer do most of the thinking for you, spitting out solutions to complex Box-Jenkins models every two seconds (if you have a built-in math coprocessor) or every thirty seconds (if you don't).
It's not easy to learn Windows. There is a lot to absorb and most of the learning process has to be self-directed. Don't expect to know windows just by taking a class or by reading a book. It requires a lot of practice and a lot of patience. But if you stick to it, you'll be glad you did.
Finally, if you were to ask me what's the greatest benefit provided by Windows, I would answer: uniformity of standards. Windows has forced the writers of software to adopt very similar menus and very similar standards. Learning a new software application is no longer the ordeal it use to be. So, dust off your mouse, and open a window on the future.
* Vladi Catto is Chief Economist, Texas Instruments, Inc., Dallas, TX.
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|Date:||Jul 1, 1993|
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