What's the best reason to read Compute? (analysis of program development software) (Column)
by Tom Campbell
What would be the best reason to buy a copy of COMPUTE? My answer would be "to help me make more money." Here's my way of making good on that statement. There's some really hot development software available at consumer prices, and I've been seeing some hot market opportunities for savvy users of these tools. Believe me--if I had the time, I'd be taking advantage of these opportunities myself. But I'm working on my own killer ideas. Pick up where I had reluctantly to leave off and make us both look good.
A DOS Idea Manager in Visual Basic for MS-DOS
There are some good commercial programs around to help you track lots of different ideas and create relationships among them. The usual metaphor for this concept is Post-it[TM] notes, but extended by adding searches between notes, querying notes by date or word content, sorting them by title or subject, and so on. This requires a built-in text editor and a good windowing interface to keep the user working on ideas instead of trying to figure out the software, but up until now those abilities meant buying costly add-on libraries. Visual Basic for MS-DOS comes with an application called Notepad that lets you open multiple notepad windows and enter up to 32,000 characters in each one of them. It's a fully realized program and is more than adequate to get you going. Visual Basic is a superlative extension to QuickBASIC because it's upward compatible yet gives you nearly the same ease of application development as the Windows version. So you get Windows-like convenience with BASIC's power.
Medium-Strength Windows Editor in Pascal
Windows' Notepad drives me up the wall because it only opens one window, has no macros, and can't be customized. Borland Pascal 7.0 (or any version of Turbo Pascal for Windows) comes with editor objects in Borland's ObjectWindows library--which comes bundled with every copy of TPW sold--with the built-in ability to open as many windows at once as Windows has memory. I'd love to see a medium-strength text editor that's beefier than Notepad but easier than Brief. Why hasn't anyone done it before? Because ObjectWindows is woefully underdocumented. The TFileWindow object in question, for example, gets this treatment in the 7.0 manual: ~For details on the fields and methods of the type TFileWindow, see the online help.' Period. This won't be an easy project to get started, but it will reward you early on because TFileWindow is in fact a very high-level object. You'll look like a real genius, too, because Borland/Turbo Pascal for Windows generates small, fast code. Windows bloat won't be a problem with this product.
A Scrapbook Program
The Windows Clipboard is frustrating in a number of ways, most notably in that it nominally holds only one thing at a time. Copy some text to the Clipboard, and the bitmap picture you were storing there is gone. Copy a row of cells from your spreadsheet, and the text is history. The Macintosh has always had a modest desk accessory called Scrapbook, which is like a simple Clipboard that can hold as many Clipboard-supported objects as you want, just like your family scrapbook. I'd love to see a utility like that but one that goes one better than any similar applications I've seen. One of the little-known aspects of the Clipboard is a process called registration, in which applications often store several versions of the same data at the same time on the Clipboard, and the receiving application chooses which it can handle best. For example, if you copy data from an Excel spreadsheet to the Clipboard, it's stored not only in Excel's native format (called, unfortunately, BIFF) but also in text, comma-delimited, and bitmap formats. So if the application you paste to understands Excel data as is, great. But if it doesn't, it probably understands text or perhaps comma-delimited. Anyway, I'd like to see a Scrapbook-type application that would hold more than one item at a time; give you each item in all its registered formats; and let you attach notes to Scrapbook entries, sort them by user-defined categories, and print. At worst, you'll sell at least one copy--to me. I really need that program.
Tiny BASIC for Windows
How about a small BASIC interpeter for Windows? A lot of people have complained about the huge runtime size for Visual Basic, and surely there are plenty of old-time BASIC users who'd like to dash off a short program without having to lard it with buttons and bitmaps. This may not be a huge moneymaker, but it would be a public service in the spirit of the free Tiny BASIC interpreters that sprang up in the late seventies.