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Reprinted from Byte, issue 11/1990, pp. 156-157.
The newest version of Borland’s spreadsheet features 3-D graphics and a simple solver
A New Status Quo for Quattro
Dislodging an entrenched market leader like Lotus 1-2-3 requires rivals to produce software that is fundamentally a better deal. With a new version of its popular Quattro Pro spreadsheet, Borland International continues to achieve just that: Quattro Pro 2.0 offers an expanded set of features over the previous version, while maintaining the advantages it already enjoyed over 1-2-3.
The ability to run comfortably in conventional DOS memory (by comparison, 1-2-3 release 3.0 requires 1 megabyte of installed RAM and uses a built-in DOS extender) is due to Borland’s Virtual Real-Time Object-Oriented Memory Management architecture, a technique that breaks the program code into small chunks that are swapped in and out of memory as needed. VROOMM’s efficient memory management makes it possible to load larger spreadsheets in conventional RAM than is possible under 1-2-3 release 2.2. And for very large spreadsheets, Quattro Pro supports up to 8 MB of EMS 4.0 memory.
Aside from its speed and small memory needs, the main advantages of Quattro Pro are superior graphics and spreadsheet publishing. For example, it comes with a Graph Annotator. This is a graphics program that is as sophisticated as the 1-2-3/G Graph Tool and is easier to use, You can also mix data and live charts on the same worksheet.
These capabilities have been enhanced with four new 3-D graph types (i.e., bars, step, area, and ribbon) and faster LaserJet drivers that support downloadable Bitstream fonts. Quattro Pro also now offers a 132-column mode (on EGA/VGA cards that support extended character sets), so you can view 12 months of a budget calculation on one screen.
However, Quattro Pro does have one important drawback compared with release 3.1 of 1-2-3: The Lotus spreadsheet now has a WYSIWYG mode that shows fonts and other graphical attributes onscreen as they will appear in printed output. By contrast, Quattro Pro will show colors, boxes, shading, and graphs, but not fonts.
Interactive Slide Shows
One of the most distinctive capabilities of Quattro Pro is the ProShow presentation tool, which lets you create slide shows using spreadsheet data, graphs, and text. In version 2.0, ProShow presentations can become interactive and nonlinear: By clicking on “graph buttons” added to the screen, you can branch to other graphics or run macros.
Because ProShow is integrated into Quattro Pro, it can be an easier way to create presentations than exporting worksheets and graphics to a slide-show package (especially when the data is frequently updated), but it’s not as graphically rich as Microsoft PowerPoint.
Quattro Pro 2.0 also adds a capability unmatched in any DOS-based spreadsheet: a Solve For tool that is similar to the Backsolver utility that is found in 1-2-3/G. Both Solve For and Backsolver can tweak a single input variable to produce a specified result, sparing you from trial-and-error goal seeking. However, Solve For doesn’t match the power of the full 1-2-3/G Solver, which uses separate OS/2 threads to jiggle multiple factors retrained by numerous criteria.
Finally, Quattro Pro has added better support for networking, file import/export, and data access. It offers more printer drivers and graphics import/export formats, as well as a choice of international character sets with correct sorting for non-English text.
Quattro Pro now works better with Lotus 1-2-3. Release 2.2 files can be read into Quattro Pro with their cell-linking attributes preserved.
And for spreadsheet users who want to access Structured Query Language databases, Borland has strengthened the ties between Quattro Pro, Paradox 3.5, and the Paradox SQL Link, which talks to SQL Server, IBM OS/2 Extended Edition, and Oracle Server. Now, if you have at least a 286 machine and 2 MB of RAM, you can load both Quattro Pro and Paradox, toggle between them with a hot key, and easily load Paradox or SQL data tables into a Quattro Pro spreadsheet for analysis or graphics.
In the interest of compatibility with industry-standard 1-2-3, you still have a choice of user interfaces: the 1-2-3 menu tree or a Common User Access-compliant pull-down Quattro menu tree. Having Lotus menus available is a comfortable fallback for those users bred on 1-2-3, but the Quattro menus are actually more efficient and easier to use. Borland is now the target of a lawsuit by Lotus for allegedly copying the look and feel of 1-2-3, but even without 1-2-3 menus, Quattro Pro would be a snap to learn for any experienced spreadsheet user.
One Size Fits All
Perhaps the most important point in Quattro Pro’s favor is that while most of its features are available in some release of 1-2-3 (i.e., release 2.2 with the Allways add-in, release 3.1 with the Impress add-in, or 1-2-3/G for OS/2-Presentation Manager), no one package has them all.
In fact, the various releases of 1-2-3 are starting to get quite confusing for customers and technical-support personnel: The releases are segmented by hardware platform, each offers features the others lack, and they all use different commands and file formats for their presentation and publishing modules.
Quattro Pro, on the other hand, runs on any DOS platform with the same set of features. If you have a large investment in 1-2-3 data files, a lot of older-generation PCs, and a desire to tap into the latest spreadsheet capabilities, Quattro Pro is probably your best answer.
Andrew Reinhardt is BYTE’s associate news editor in New York City. He can be reached on BIX as “areinhardt.”
|Page added on 22nd September 2004.
Copyright © 2002-2005 Marcin Wichary
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