PENINSULA COMPUTER CLUB

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Vol. 13, No. 5: Sep/Oct 1997............ Supporting PC Platforms............ Editor: Larry Welling


Contents:

 


Editor's Tracks

Some of you may have wondered where the heck I've been for the last couple of months because I've missed two meetings and a Board and pizza bash. Its been lonely missing you guys and gals. Funny how things seem even more valuable when you miss them (grin). Anyway Some of ay, I've made two trips to Utah to help my dad who has been ailing with heart and back problems. I suspect a few of us can relate to personal family problems and calamities? It just happened that things coincided with club activities. So, things are better now, dad is still alive, and he will hopefully recover enough to fend for himself. It's probable I'll be away, distracted or stressed some more.

It looks like the club had a nice couple of meetings while I was gone. Susan feels pleased with her Word Perfect presentation in July, and she reports a nice turnout for the potluck in August. I note some spectacular digital pictures on Lee's club web site of the potluck. Most impressive technology. I look forward to learning more about that myself. Good to hear that Ernest felt up to making the last couple of meetings. I know he especially enjoys those potlucks. Did everybody bring desert??

Coming up in September is an Internet provider presentation from Sirius. This will be a good opportunity for those of us thinking of using the Internet to find out what's required and what the monthly package is for access. Perhaps some want to change from their current provider. The club will be emphasizing the Internet more in future presentations with Myron Gershenson covering the basics in December and then we plan an intermediate presentation in January. After that December presentation, maybe some of us will ask Santa Claus for that new high-speed modem?

I just checked our websites to get up-do-date for the presentation calendar towards the end of this newsletter. Those of us that haven't had the pleasure of viewing our websites should check them out. Judy's club site is full of wonderful biographical information about club officers and many HTML effects which give our club a warm friendly feel. Lee's site has some great digital pictures this month taken of our August potluck and the club's newsletters and calendar are available online. Also, remember the many subjects and programs available on Bob's club BBS. Lots of stuff to do with a modem these days! Contact information appears on the back of the newsletter and in the footnote at the bottom of most pages.

Oh yes, my lack of competition Peeve. Some of you may know that Intuit (TurboTax) purchased Parson's Software last year. I just got a note my favorite Parson's tax program is no more. TurboTax gobbled up the competition. The deal price for TurboTax is the same as Parson's...only for one year, I'm sure.


George Henderson continues for us with extensive reviews this month. We have ViewOffice Power Suite and MathCad 7 Professional. These are reviews of high-end programs which you may not have known about before. This will give you a chance to learn about more about applications that a computer can do. Even if you don't need the application yourself, you'll be aware of what's available for friends and better understand the use of computers in the business and engineering worlds.

Review of ViewOffice Power Suite by: George Henderson

ViewOffice Power Suite is a package that contains six innovative image-related application programs that are used in conjunction with one's scanner. It was intended to be a complete management solution for corporate, home office, and personal use. It is essential that one has a scanner in order to effectively use ViewOffice Power Suite. The names of these application programs as they appear in the Reference Guide are:

1. ViewOffice Personal
2. Wordlinx
3. ImageFolio
4. PowerForm
5. Business Card Reader
6. ColorFax

NewSoft is the developer of this impressive and innovative computer program, and it has all the indications of being a real winner. However, I feel that the expectations that was hoped that these programs could do, was a little too high, because there are several limitations to all the programs, which will be described in this review.

Each of these programs is a separate computer program by itself, and requires some time to learn how each of them function. A 34-page Quick Reference Guide pamphlet comes with the programs, and one can learn the basics from all six of these programs from this pamphlet. The Guide at first doesn't seem big enough to cover such a broad range of new ideas. As it turns out, it is not comprehensive enough. Not all the instructions are contained within the pamphlet, and the rest of the instructions can be found in various manuals, help files, and tutorials that are loaded onto the hard disk during installation. Unfortunately, what information there is in the pamphlet is not enough to cover all the details and instructions well enough for one to understand all the workings of each of these programs. There is a lot of trial and error manipulations and a lot of searching through help files to understand many of the details. Unfortunately, this is the trend that many developers are going to, including Microsoft, where one is suppose to find most all the directions and help that is necessary from manuals and files that are stored on-line on one's hard disk. Not only does this take up a lot of storage space on one's hard disk, but there is nothing that can replace a good book. After one has stared at the tube for an hour or two, trying to figure out how something works, and if you haven't ended up with an aching neck, aching back, sore eyes, and whatever else by this time, you will be real fortunate. I was not so fortunate. There is nothing more relaxing then to lay back in one's chair and be able to look down and read a book that is laying on one's lap--maybe slightly propped up. I certainly hope this trend will change in the near future for all our back's and neck's sake.

The first problem that one will run across is in the installation of the program from the CD-ROM in Windows 95. You cannot install the program by selecting Run from the Start Menu. You must go into the CD-ROM files in Windows Explorer and double click on the INSTALIT.EXE file. There is no problem in the installation after this. NewSoft stresses that in order to be able to use the programs at all, one must have a TWAIN-compliant scanner. This is a breed of scanners in which most all of the scanners that have been manufactured will fit this criteria. Therefore, this is not a serious problem, since the chance that one has a TWAIN-compliant scanner is very good. There is no list which states which scanners are TWAIN-compliant scanners. One must call the manufacture of the scanner in order to find out, if there is any question. It would be a big help to the users of these programs, if NewSoft would include a list of all the TWAIN-compliant scanners in the Reference Guide Book.

Each of these application programs will be reviewed individually.

ViewOffice Personal:

This program is a paperless, document-image management-system that is designed to simplify and facilitate all of one's filing tasks. It also integrates the convenience of shared resources, such as the fax, printer, and scanner. This program has an excellent electronic filing system, and is in a language which one can visualize that he or she is actually in an office surrounded by filing cabinets. The system begins with the room as the first level, with filing cabinets as the second level, each of which has drawers for the third level, inside of which are folders for the fourth level, and inside each folder there are documents for the fifth level. There is also a sixth level, which are the pages of the document. This is a much better way to keep track of documents than by means of directories, which is the name for all these levels in the File Management for computers. However, this entire filing system is restricted to the filing of images, and other things that are created in ViewOffice Power Suite. Unfortunately, images take up a great deal of storage space as compared to text, so one should be most careful as to how many images that one stores, and only when really necessary. Otherwise, one will find that he or she will soon be running out of storage space. This limits the number of firms or companies that could effectively use such a filing system. A photo shop, for example, could probably make extremely good use of such a program. This program is quite extensive, and there are many more features in it than just the filing system.

Wordlinx:

Wordlinx is an Optical Character Recognition (OCA) utility that can scan printed text directly into windows-based word-processors, spreadsheets, desktop publishers, or any other text applications. The program accurately recognizes eleven European languages. The program sounds like a magnificent piece of engineering. There is only one slight problem. Wordlinx is not compatible with Microsoft Word 7.0 for Windows 95. Therefore, I was unable to review the program.

ImageFolio:

ImageFolio is a comprehensive, multimedia, image-processing program that enables one to process scanned images, such as photographs, graphics, drawings, etc. One can also create new images by using the powerful tools included in the software. One can load and save images in various file formats, such as TIF, PCX, BMP, TGA, JPG, PCD, etc. The program is far superior than the Microsoft Paint program, but not near as good as Corel Draw. One can take existing clip art that is stored on one's hard disk, and modify and color it to one's own fancy. The possibilities seem endless. However, there is one serious problem. If one has a black and white scanner, then black and white are the only colors that can be used to modify the image produced by the scanner--no other colors.

PowerForm:

PowerForm is a word processor and a scanning utility combined in one package. After scanning a form, the image can be stored away on one's hard disk for future use. One can fill out the form while it is projected onto the screen, and when one is finished, have the completed form printed out. The product is a beautiful looking piece of work. Using such a program, one can store all his completed forms on disk, and throw away all of the loose paper work. It sounds like a powerful tool, except for one thing. It is much easier and quicker to fill the form out by hand--not quite as neat though. It is quite laborious to place the cursor in the right spot on the form, and then type out the text, only to find it is not in the right position. The program is equipped with the ability to move the text around until one is satisfied as to its correct location, which is a great feature, but very time consuming. Now if this program could set up a template of this form and then be capable of setting up slots in each space in the form, so that the cursor would automatically switch to the next space when activated by the Tab key, without all this adjustment, then I think this program could be a powerful tool. It would only be useful for forms that would have to made out over and over again with different text entrees, because it would not be worth one's time to devote all this effort for setting up the slots for filling out only one form. Such a form could be extremely valuable to many large companies, such as for personnel files which could run into the thousands.

Business Card Reader:

The Business Card Reader was one of the most useful programs in the entire package, since it functions quite effectively and it could be of use to almost everyone, large or small. The Business Card Reader scans a business card, recognizes the text and then sorts it into designated text fields, such as name, company, address, telephone number, etc. It also places an image of the card in the lower right corner of the screen. This program is the first to utilize the Multiple Optical Recognition Engine (MORE) which performs this character recognition. It is not perfect, but it does extremely well. There are no two business cards alike, and it does an extremely good job of scanning over a card and then being able to separate out the names, company name, addresses, phone numbers, fax number, etc., from the tiny type on a business card. However, one should check out all the fields after the scanning operation is finished and correct those fields where there are errors, because it is not perfect. Unfortunately, the image of the card comes out quite blurred and is generally unreadable. The image of the business card can not be edited. However, all the information that is on the card has been placed into the various fields above the card. It takes about 60KB per card to store the image and data, which is not too bad, but if one had several hundred cards to store, it would take up quite a lot of storage space. An extremely nice feature is that one can store one's business cards by categories, such as Engineers, Hotels, Restaurants, Airlines, etc., all arranged in alphabetical order. If only the resolution of the image were readable, this program would be almost perfect.

ColorFax:

ColorFax is a color-image transmission system that is designed to combine the features of a color fax machine with the convenience of a paperless filing and retrieval feature. The program requires a Color-Fax modem that is 9600bps or faster. To send black and white faxes, a Class II modem is required. This is a breed of modems in which this program is designed to work. I have an Intel Satisfaction 400e modem, which is one of the best made, but is incompatible with ColorFax. Therefore, I was unable to review this program. There are very few modems in the world today that meet these requirements. There are also very few conditions where there is a color Fax on both ends of a telephone line. Someday, there probably will. Until NewSoft can upgrade this program so that it is compatible with different types of modems, it will be of practically no use to almost everyone.

NewSoft has a great set of programs in ViewOffice Power Suite, if they all performed perfectly like one would imagine. However, their expectations as to what these programs had hoped to do is not quite fulfilled yet. There is a lot of work that still needs to be done in order to bring them to a point of what is expected of them. NewSoft is going to have to be more flexible about having these programs more compatible with different pieces of hardware. As the programs are designed now and in order to enjoy the complete benefits of everything in all the programs that it suppose to do, one must have a certain kind of scanner, a certain kind of modem, Windows 3.1 and not Windows 95, the right kind of monitor, and maybe several other things. The chances anyone having all these conditions for his or her computer would be very slim. I certainly do not. The features in this product could be very useful to many companies, but unless it is designed to fit many combinations of different kinds of hardware, I am afraid it would not be widely accepted. As it stands right now, it is only partial functional to most people. When a program does not perform to the expectations in which this program was expected to have, it turns a lot of people off.

The original concept for ViewOffice was for a management document solution for corporate, home office, and personal use. It is a great idea Had it performed to these expectations, it would be one of the greatest programs on the market. Unfortunately, it is not. I hope NewSoft recognizes these shortcomings and takes care of these problem soon, because the world is waiting for it.


Review of Mathcad 7 Professional by: George Henderson

Mathcad 7 Professional is a product of MathSoft and is the latest upgrade from Mathcad Plus 6. It is a major upgrade to the most popular calculation tool for technical professionals, educators, engineers, and scientists, and it is designed to compliment the Microsoft Office Application Suite. MathSoft has made several improvements to Mathcad 6, but none that are so extensive that one would have to learn the entire program all over again. There are several other technical calculation programs that are available, but none have as many features as Mathcad.

The basic system requirements for Mathcad 7 Professional are:

1.486 IBM or compatible computer.

2. 66 megahertz computer processor.

3. CD-ROM Drive.

4. Windows 95 or Windows NT 3.51 or higher.

5. 16 megabytes of RAM.

6. 35 megabytes of free hard disk space (full installation).

7. Web link.

8. Excel for Windows 95 for the Excel component.

Mathsoft was founded in 1984, and its headquarters is located in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It is the leading provider of mathematics, science, and engineering software for business, research, academic, and government markets. More than one million people worldwide rely on MathSoft's products to solve and communicate technical problems. Mathsoft's products are used at more than 90% of the Fortune 1000 companies, more than 500 governmental organizations, and 2,000 colleges and universities. Mathcad is MathSoft's flagship product of the several other products that they produce. Mathcad is the only technical calculation application that transforms the computer into a live worksheet, using real mathematical notation to solve complex technical and engineering problems. Because Mathcad has a familiar scratchpad interface and understands real mathematical notation, it is easy to learn and display.

Several improvements have been made from the previous version of Mathcad Plus 6, which I had reviewed in a previous issue of the Peninsula Computer Club Newsletter. Mathcad 7 has a much improved word processor than its earlier versions, and one has the feeling that one is now working with a quality word-processing program, such as Microsoft Word. However, there are still several limitations. One would like to change the default settings for the formatting of one's work, so that his or her particular style will always come up as the default setting, rather than have to make adjustments every time one begins a new piece of work.

The book that comes with Mathcad is again an excellent piece of workmanship. It is very similar to the book that came with Mathcad 6, with the inclusion of its newest features. The book is an absolutely essential part of the Mathcad package because without it, it would be extremely difficult for one to determine how the program operates. Mathsoft is continuing the practice of furnishing a book along with the program packages, which all users sincerely appreciate and we all hope that MathSoft will continue to do so, for all our sakes.

Some of the new features that Mathcad has added in addition to improving the word processing features, are:

1. Expanded symbolics power.

2. Increased standard matrix manipulation speed.

3. Enhanced data exchange capabilities.

4. Support for string functions.

5. Internet access for Math cad's resources.

6. Network collaboration with others by means of bulletin boards.

7. New MathConnex component.

8. A new Resource Center for information and help on Mathcad.

With all these improvements that have been made, MathSoft has removed the VISIO Express program that came with Mathcad 6, which is too bad, but still, it wasn't too great a loss. VISIO Express is a drawing program which one can construct different shapes of drawings and which can then be added to one's worksheets. The program was restricted to square shapes, circles, triangles, and slightly distorted shapes which can be connected together by connector lines. This program was limited to designs such as flow diagrams, organization charts, and similar types of diagrams, which was not too useful for the users of Mathcad, because it wasn't very relevant to the type of work that would be performed in Mathcad. However, Shapeware, the producer of VISIO products, has a program called VISIO Technical 4, which has over 2,000 technical templates, called Smartshapes. These templates can be used to produce many architectural and engineering shapes. Without some means to draw pictures onto a Mathcad worksheet in a relatively short time, Mathcad would unfortunately have a very limited use to architects and engineers. Imagine how long it would take to draw the cross section of an I-beam onto the Mathcad worksheet a very difficult and time consuming task to say the least. It would be quicker to do it by hand, if one did not have some form of template. To make Mathcad a complete program, some kind of template program, such as VISIO Technical 4 should of been included as part of the package. Without such templates, Mathcad is only a super calculator, which is not bad, but a giant step away from what it could be.

To make matters worse, the VISIO Express that came with Mathcad 6, will not work in Mathcad 7. If someone had produced a bundle of projects using VISIO Express in Mathcad 6, and then after he or she upgraded to Mathcad 7, found out that none of these projects would work any more in Mathcad, he or she would not be a very happy person. The only way a person can save a project that was created in Mathcad 6 and using VISIO Express, is to keep both versions of Mathcad on his or her hard drive. If MathSoft does not provide a means of being able to read and revise projects that have been created in their earlier versions of Mathcad, we have a serious problem. Imagine someday in the future that one must have 10 to 20 versions of Mathcad on his or her hard drive in order to read any particular project that he or she had created in a previous version of Mathcad in the past. This sounds like a horrible nightmare to me. Just think what the consequences would be if Microsoft Word did the same thing. You would have a real mess! This would sure discourage the upgrading of Mathcad, if some projects that have been created in previous versions will not work in the upgrade version. Once that one had a version of Mathcad that worked satisfactory, there would be very little incentive for one to upgrade in fear of loosing part of his work. MathSoft is going to have to take a serious look at this problem, if it wants to continue upgrading its product. MathSoft should never create a product, such as VISIO Express, or any other feature, and then not support it in all future revisions.

Included with Mathcad 7 for the first time is an entirely new feature called MathConnex. This is a program that creates an environment for visually integrating and linking applications and data sources together in order to create heterogeneous computational systems. By providing visual components for each data source or application in a system, such as a Mathcad component, an Excel component, and a File/Write component, MathConnex lets one manage the flow of data from one application or data to another. MathConnex is a powerful new tool and an entirely new concept for the user of Mathcad, and it will take a little time for the user to get use to using it.

In the process of developing Mathcad 7 Professional, MathSoft has incorporated many of the suggestions that I had made in my review of Mathcad 6. However, the most important problem that I had discussed in great length in this review, which was solving for all of the roots of any particular equation and not just one particular root, was not addressed. This is an extremely important feature to engineers and scientists that should be brought to the attention of MathSoft's programmers without due delay. If Mathcad could first come forth and state how many roots there are to any particular equation, both real and imaginary, and then list what these roots are, would be the biggest enhancement to Mathcad since the formation of the program. This information can be obtained by means of the Theory of Equations which could be coded into Mathcad. Once the user sees what all the roots are, then he or she can at least be assured that all of them have been solved for and are displayed. Then one can decide which ones of these roots are superfluous. This final decision can not be made by the computer. As pointed out in my previous review, the solution to the quadratic equation which is shown in the introductory to Mathcad, has two solutions: one when the positive value of the square root is taken; and one when the negative value of the square root is taken. The one that is shown by Mathcad has only one solution. The square root of any value in Mathcad is always taken as a positive value, which could sometimes be disastrous, such as if the design of a bridge or building was dependent upon the correct solution to a square root. This problem will also show up in the creation of the graphs of functions. If one attempts to draw the graph of a circle, using the center of coordinates as the center of the circle, only one quarter of the circle will be drawn, because it is not recognizing any negative square roots. This could be a serious problem.

Another important feature that was not addressed by MathSoft in my review of Mathcad 6, was the listing of solutions to an equation for a range of variables in a table. This is a great feature, except it did not show in the table the values of the variables along side of the solutions to the equations. If someone had a list of 50 to 100 variables to enter into a particular equation, the solutions would be 50 to 100 rows long. Good luck to anyone who is trying to determine which variable matches up with which solution. In other words, it is almost an impossible task. An additional column is desperately needed along side of the solutions column, indicating which variable was used for each of the solutions. It would also be most desirable to have the top of the column labeled with the appropriate variable. All of this would reflect upon a neat and orderly calculation sheet.


Digital Hot Shots From the Potluck

meeting


MEETING CALENDAR

We make great effort to fulfill the calendar, but a meeting topic may sometimes change without notice. Call Susan Faulk at (650) 591-4021 is you need late information. The club meets the second Thursday of every month. The door opens at 7:00 p.m. and meetings begin at 7:30 p.m. at 222 Laurel St., San Carlos. Cross streets are Oak and Hull. Signs out front will direct you to the room. Anyone is welcome, membership is not required. Please park in the lot behind the store at Oak and El Camino...a short distance, rather than directly in front of the building.

Sep 11: Internet provider presentation. Here is your chance to find out what an Internet Provider is and how you can sign-up to use the Internet. Or, perhaps you are thinking of changing to a different provider. The Sirius Company, based in San Francisco, will give us the details and this will be a chance to ask questions. Sirius provides us with Judy's club web page, and you can have your own!

Sep 25: Executive Board meeting, 7:30 p.m. in the club meeting room. All members welcome.

Oct 9: The personal information manager, Daytimer. Many of you may long be familiar with the fancy notebooks of the same name bought in stationery stores. Well, they have software to run on your computer too which can be transferred to notebook use. The Daytimer company will be doing our presentation.

Oct 24: Pizza Night at the Round Table. Enjoy this social occasion between regular meetings. Call ahead to order your pizza at (650) 591-1998. Address: 240 El Camino, San Carlos near our meeting room.

Nov 13: Computer created greeting cards. Our club member Lee Hill, graphics expert extraordinaire, will demonstrate how Christmas Cards, Birthday Cards, etc. can be created with your home computer. See color printing in action! This is the first presentation of its kind for our club. Thanks Lee!

Nov 20: Executive Board meeting, 7:30 p.m. in the club meeting room. A week early. All members welcome.


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