Quattro Pro for Windows. (spreadsheet) (Software Review) (Evaluation)
by Stephen Levy
A spreadsheet is like a soft, comfortable armchair: Once you've spent years sitting in such a chair, it's hard to switch, even if the new one's better for your back. Switching spreadsheet programs can also be quite unsettling after you've learned all the ins and outs of your old one and created complex spreadsheets with it. The good news is that moving from a DOS spreadsheet to Quattro Pro for Windows is not too traumatic. And moving from Quattro Pro for DOS to Quattro Pro for Windows will present few, if any, problems. Experienced Quattro Pro for DOS users will find much familiar in the new Windows version, as well as plenty of new features and capabilities.
The first time you launch Quattro Pro, you'll notice the new Windows interface, the notebook design, and a SpeedBar, Borland's version of the push-button icons that have become standard for Windows applications. Quattro Pro for DOS users will notice that some of the menu items have been rearranged to make them more consistent with other Windows applications. If you've been using Quattro Pro for DOS, Borland recommends that you keep using the DOS version while learning the Windows version. Good advice, since some tasks are accomplished quite differently. But given all the additional versatility and features of Quattro Pro for Windows and the short learning curve to get up to speed, most users will soon move over to this new version.
The notebook feature is what separates Quattro Pro from other Windows spreadsheets. Simply stated, each spreadsheet document (notebook) has 256 spreadsheets (pages) that can either be used together to help organize and manage multiple pages or used separately. Each notebook comes with tabs at the bottom of the screen to make moving from one page of the notebook to another fast and easy. Customizing the tabs to meaningful names is as simple as clicking the right mouse button on the appropriate tab.
The purpose of the notebook is to make organizing your spreadsheets easier. Although working with the notebook is easy and does offer some convenience, most users will opt to have separate files for most of their work and not take full advantage of the convenience of the multiple pages until they've used Quattro Pro for a while.
The multiple-page notebook does offer a tremendous advantage over linked spreadsheets. This is especially true if you keep track of monthly expenses or sales, or if you keep track of anything on a periodic basis. That's because the notebook makes linking information between pages easy. Pages of a notebook can also be grouped, allowing you to enter data or labels onto one page and have them appear on all the grouped pages--much easier than having to copy data from one sheet to another.
Quattro Pro's SpeedBar is just what experienced Windows users have come to expect: easy access to the most often used commands. The SpeedBar can be customized, although other products I've used make the task of customizing the icons easier. Some of the features on the SpeedBar are better than those on other products I've seen, such as the ability to widen a column to a width as large as the widest entry in the column, while other features aren't as good. The instant sum feature, for instance, isn't as versatile as Excel's.
Quattro Pro takes full advantage of the Windows environment, especially when it comes to formatting and printing spreadsheets. The full range of options is available and easy to access. It takes a bit of getting used to, but designing a spreadsheet so that the data is easy to present is fast and simple. I had no problem taking an old spreadsheet that previously required many pages and making it fit nicely on two sheets of paper. And by highlighting different sections of the sheet with different levels of shading, I was able to make the sheet easier to read and use, even though the type size had been reduced to get the required number of columns across one sheet of paper.
The graphing capabilities have also been upgraded and are more intuitive. Quattro Pro has smart graphing in that the software helps you create the graphs and their labels. Of course, you can make adjustments to Quattro Pro's selections. Most users will find Quattro Pro's two- and three-dimensional graphing and seven different types of graphs adequate for their needs.
Quattro Pro also comes with Borland's Database Desktop, which allows you to interactively view, edit, and query Paradox and dBASE database files. The Database Desktop also lets you link Quattro Pro spreadsheets with external database tables.
Quattro Pro for Windows is an important entry into the Windows spreadsheet arena. Like any new product, it has some features that are superior to the competition's and others that could be better; but if you're in the market for a Windows spreadsheet, Quattro Pro for Windows is certainly worth a look.