ELECTRIFYING EFFICIENCY IN OFFICE AUTOMATION?
A four-in-one package attempts to ease the monotony of general administration.
EVEN IF your office comprises only one filing cabinet, a battered Remington, a desk and telephone, attempting to run it from a single 48K program is unlikely to make the difficult task of office automation any easier.
Electric Office from Fisher Software, however, is a suite of four programs on one cassette which tries to do just that. The programs consist of a word processor, mailing list, graph plotter and diary.
The programs are written in Basic and each one occupies about 7K. They are linked by a header program which is used to load any one of them. There is no provision for loading one program from another; each time you want to use one of the other programs you must clear the memory and again load the header.
The 'manual' consists of two A4 sheets and contains little more than the message that the programs are self-explanatory and that demonstration files are held on side two of the cassette - unfortunately absent on graphically displays a desk, chair and blackboard. The instructions are displayed, unclearly on the blackboard.
The mailing list is run by a seven-option menu which allows names, addresses and telephone numbers to be added, deleted or listed. Despite seven options the prompt on the bottom of the screen is to press keys 1 to 6.
Adding a name is easy: select option 1 and type in the name and address, remembering to separate the different lines by a colon. The program tells you that you may only use 60 characters but the manual quotes 100; neither mentions that you are further restricted in the number of characters per line or that a name and address must contain at least one colon.
Deleting and listing a name can be done by specifying either the record number, the name or the road. Your choice in naming files which you want to save is restricted to giving a number from 1 to 9. The program prefixes it automatically with "M.list:".
The word processor is woefully inadequate for nearly every use which can be imagined. It is run from a menu with seven options which allow text to be entered, printed, saved, loaded, wiped or displayed on screen. The seventh option clears both program and data from memory.
As new text is entered the last two lines only are displayed. ENTER is used, as usual, to start a new paragraph, but is only shown as a special character - a reverse arrow - in the text. Text can be inserted at any point by using CAPS SHIFT 1 to move to the required line, inserting a number of blank spaces and then typing in the text. Excess blanks can then be deleted using CAPS SHIFT 0.
The graph plotter can draw bar charts, line graphs or both together with up to 30 - though the manual says 32 - values or columns. Before the data is entered the screen colour, number of values, maximum and minimum values and a title must all be entered. The program then prompts for each value in turn, checking to make sure that it is within the specified range. As it is entered the value is plotted. Although the program is easy to use there are several major omissions, including the ability to edit data once it has been entered. That entails having to start afresh every time you make a mistake.
The diary is probably the best of the four programs. It enables you to make an entry for any date in any order. The entries can then be recalled by date or by listing them for a particular month. A list of the dates for which entries have been made can be displayed and the usual save and load functions complete the options.
Making an entry into the diary involves entering the date. The only error trapping seems to be on the year, where two digits must be entered. In all cases any mixture of two numbers and/or letters is acceptable. The entry to the diary is typed in normally with the only restriction on size being the amount of memory left.
When a date is entered, even one which does not exist, the program checks to see if an entry for that particular date has been made. If so, then it prompts for you to take the "recall an entry" choice and add the extra information.
Electric Office is a set of programs which could be useful but has been written and presented very carelessly. Of the four programs the diary is the best and is possibly a better word processor than the dedicated one. The mailing list can have few practical uses since the names cannot be merged into letters produced on the word processor. The graph plotter is easy to use but requires data preparation beforehand; care is necessary to ensure the data is entered correctly.
Fisher Software, 47 London Road, Buxton, Derbyshire
Price: £4.50 mailorder