Look at compatible word processing, spreadsheet programs


January 13, 1992|By LESTER A. PICKER

OK, so you've decided to open Windows for a breath of computing fresh air.

You see the advantages in terms of user-friendliness, smaller learning curves and shared data across software applications. You've upgraded your system to a 386, with lots of storage space on your hard disk. And, you're willing to put up with annoying inconsistencies, like longer print times.

Now, which Windows software should you buy? Most non-profits define their basic software needs in terms of word processing, spreadsheet, graphic presentation, desktop publishing and data-base packages.

This week, we'll take a look at word processing and spreadsheets, saving graphic presentation and desktop publishing for next Monday's final installment of this series. Data-base applications will have to wait until spring, since some of the leading development houses have not yet released their Windows products.

First some technical considerations. My computer setup includes a 386 machine running at 25 MHz, two 125 MB hard disks and a VGA monitor. Despite what anyone may tell you, I would not recommend anything less than a 386 for using Windows in a business.

For the review, I consulted Dr. Ed Boas of International Computer Associates in Chesapeake City. We drew up a list of tasks common to non-profit organizations and tested all the software. Tasks included letter writing, reports with table of contents, funding proposals, annual budgets and invoicing.

Our review was restricted to full-featured word processors: Microsoft Word for Windows (version 2.0), WordPerfect 5.1 for Windows, and Lotus Ami Pro (release 2.0).

Switching to Windows word processing takes some getting used to, regardless of the product. However, Windows products offer WYSIWYG: what you see is what you get. No more arcane codes. If you import graphics, they appear on screen exactly as they will on paper. The screens are crisp and clear, with a wide range of features easily accessible on buttons.

Of the three products reviewed, I'd have to give the nod to Ami Pro and Word, with WordPerfect pulling up second. WordPerfect entered the Windows scene kicking and dragging its heels, while Microsoft and Lotus immediately embraced the technology.

All three programs are easy to learn and to use. Ami Pro has the widest choice of icons -- intuitive symbols that perform common tasks, like saving files, retrieving data, underlining words or cutting and pasting information. It has some quirks, though. The line for entering words blinks erratically, which bothers some people. With all its ease-of-use functions, you'd think that printing an envelope would be easy, too. Not so in Ami Pro.

Microsoft's Word, on the other hand, has an icon for creating an envelope automatically, a great timesaver for the busy office. It also offers a built-in grammar checker, which sets it apart from the competition.

WordPerfect is a bit cruder in some respects, and far advanced in others. For example, neither Ami Pro nor Word has the advanced file handling functions that WordPerfect has.

Turning to spreadsheets, Windows makes the process easier, although you'd have to go some to beat DOS-based Quattro Pro, in my opinion.

Microsoft Excel 1.0 and Lotus 1-2-3 for Windows (Version 1.0) offer a full range of features. Best of all, they each allow you to export spreadsheets to your favorite Windows word processor, and "hot-link" them.

Linking enables you to make changes in a budget, for example, and have the corrected version automatically referenced when you call up a report that includes the budget in your word processor.

Of course, Lotus and Microsoft make the process even easier if you use Ami Pro or Word.

Both spreadsheets offer a full range of automatic graphs, including three-dimensional graphs. Graphs can be embedded in your spreadsheet and the results viewed on-screen as you work. Both Excel and 1-2-3 are excellent products and each passed our requirements with ease

Les Picker, a consultant in the field of philanthropy, works with charitable organizations and for-profit companies.

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