CANON COMBINES A PC, TOUCHSCREEN, FAX MACHINE, PRINTER, AND PHONE TO CREATE THE SWISS ARMY KNIFE OF HOME OFFICE Equipment
There are several essential elements in the modern office, whether that office is in a highrise downtown building or in an extra room in your home: a computer, a printer, a fax machine, a copier, a telephone, and an answering machine. Canon has managed to incorporate all of these features into a single office appliance: the Navigator.
The Navigator's all-in-one construction answers the important need for elbow room not just on a desk, but in the entire office. Almost everyone would like more work space in the office. Consider a building contractor whose on-site office may be a 10-foot-wide trailer. There always seems to be a need to rearrange objects to free up desk space or floor space. That big CPU is always going to be in the way, and the fax machine may end up sharing a storage closet with shovels and buckets.
These problems are only a memory with the Navigator. If you place the machine on a swing-away stand with the keyboard tucked away under the desk top, you have an electronic office at your fingertips without having a crowded desk. Since most of the phone and fax functions are activated by touching icons on the screen, you won't even need the keyboard unless you're entering data. You can even disconnect or disable the keyboard and use an onscreen software keyboard. The thermal printer is built into the top of the Navigator, saving even more space.
The computer, printer, fax, and phone are housed in a sleek gunmetal-gray unit, 14½ × 12¾ × 13¾ inches—not much larger than the average monitor. It has an 8086 processor, 640K of RAM, and two 1.44MB 3½-inch disk drives. The keyboard uses the familiar 101-key IBM Enhanced Keyboard layout. There are ports for an external printer and modem. The integrated 10-inch monochrome monitor sports 640 × 350-pixel (EGA) resolution. An expansion box is available which allows you to use two full-size XT expansion cards. With a list price of $2,995, this machine will save any home business money as well as space.
As this article went to press, COMPUTE learned that Canon was replacing the Navigator with an enhanced model. The new system will include a 40-megabyte hard drive, one 3½-inch 1.44-megabyte floppy drive, and eight additional software packages. Canon will also bundle the Navigator with a plain paper printer in addition to the built-in thermal printer. The basic system unit remains similar in appearance with the exception of the expansion box, which is no longer needed. The photos accompanying this article portray the original model; Canon would not release the new unit for photographs and would say only that it would retail at about $2,500. — Ed.
The Navigator weighs in at 39.6 pounds, not exactly a portable computer. However, the two-piece construction (main unit and keyboard) makes it fairly easy to take the machine home at night. So while our contractor's workmen are hauling the compressor up out of thieves' reach on the crane, he could pick up his "Swiss Army" Navigator computer and put it in the car. Try doing that with your usual fax, telephone, copier, and computer.
In its standard two-floppy, 640K configuration, the Navigator can run most popular productivity software. I ran my favorite word processor, database manager, and spreadsheet on it without a hitch. A hard drive is available that will speed access time and improve the computer's ease of use, but the Navigator is a very impressive tool even in its basic configuration.
The Navigator is bundled with a number of useful office utilities. The phone book program can store up to 300 names with telephone and fax numbers in each data file. Entering these numbers is a simple matter of touching the phone book icon, touching a blank phone card, and then entering the data. You can also import numbers from a dBase III-format database file. Numbers can be brought up to the screen at any time, even in the middle of a word processing job, by picking up the telephone handset or touching an onscreen switch. Just touch the desired number and the Navigator dials for you. Touch the exit button and you're back in your document or spreadsheet. You can monitor the dialing procedure on the Navigator's speaker and pick up the handset when your party answers. Numbers not included in the phone book files can be dialed by calling up the Navigator's dial panel and touching the numbers on the screen. Other features include automatic redialing and an on-hold melody (so you can instantly annoy your clients, I suppose).
The Navigator includes a full-featured answering machine that allows you to record two different outgoing messages and save them on disk. You can select one or the other at the machine or from a remote phone. Incoming messages, which are also saved on disk, can be played back or deleted from a remote phone, or selected by a touch of the screen. The wake-up call function allows you to program the machine to call another number at a preset time.
The Navigator's G3 fax is loaded with handy features, too. Because the fax is integrated with the computer, you can transmit a document without printing it out first. Say, for example, you want to send a copy of a solicitation letter you've been working on to your office in another city. Simply tap the Fax switch at the top of the screen, select Functions, then select WP Trans. Dial the recipient's number either from the phone book or on the screen. Then tap the exit switch twice to go back to your word processor. Issue your standard print command, and your document is sent to the destination fax. Not only do you not have to print out the document, you also don't have to run it through the fax machine multiple times if you're sending it to many different locations.
You can receive faxes directly to disk and then display them in one of two magnifications or print them out. You can also transmit and receive faxes in the usual manner, reading from or printing directly to paper. And you can use your fax machine as a copier. Just insert the sheet into the feeder, tap the Dial switch, and then press the Start switch. Thermal paper isn't my favorite print medium, but it's certainly serviceable.
You can send documents to groups of fax numbers listed together in your phone book files. The delayed transmission feature lets you save on long-distance charges by transmitting during reduced-rate hours. You can even send or receive delayed confidential documents if the recipient also has confidential communication capabilities. The fax can even be set up for polling, allowing it to automatically send a document upon request from someone else. It can also be instructed to automatically attach a cover letter. Other features include automatic redialing, talk reservation, and one-touch speed dialing. The fax functions don't take over the computer—you can fax something at the same time you're working with the computer.
An interesting technological note is what I call the Navigator's "graphical batch file" function. By building Program Controller Files (PCFs), you can run applications from the Navigator's main menu. The PCF editor lets you write batch files that it stores in a directory on the applications disks. Then you can place icons for those applications on the main screen. This process takes a little knowledge of DOS, but it isn't too tricky.
Other functions included in the Navigator's integrated software package are a memo pad, a message board, a digital clock, an alarm function, a file manager utility, and a cute little screen sweeper. The memo pad's buffer is limited to the size of the screen, so it's useful for quick notes but not as a word processor replacement.
THE CANON NAVIGATOR IS AN ALL-IN-ONE HOME OFFICE SOLUTION
The screen sweeper disables all but one of the screen switches and displays a little window-washer who moves around the screen while you wipe off the fingerprints. When you've finished cleaning, you touch the little fellow twice. He bows politely, and the main screen reappears.
The manual is a convenient handbook size, with clear and concise instructions that progressively walk you through all of the Navigator's functions. It's well illustrated and thoroughly indexed.
It only took me about ten minutes to get the machine up and running. This included making the system disk. Learning time was also short. I had very little trouble finding my way around the various features. The icons are simple and distinct, and the menus proceed in a very logical order.
There is some room for improvement. The biggest problem is the lack of a hard drive. Also, the 8086 processor is outdated—I'd really like to see this machine brought up to AT standards. These obstacles can be overcome with the addition of the expansion box, but it would be nice if they were built in. The expansion box is almost the size of a standard AT case, so adding it negates some of the compactness of the machine.
The touch-sensitive screen may be a little hard to adjust to for those who are at home on a keyboard, but it will make the machine very appealing for those who don't like to type. However, the 2mm touch area around the icons may be too small for some larger fingers. In the manual it cautions never to press the screen with any object other than a finger, but a pencil eraser will probably do fine if used gently. Tapping the screen is much simpler than moving a mouse, and it eliminates the need to find space for the mouse pad.
While the Navigator is easy to use, you'll need to read the manual to understand some functions that might be less than intuitive. For example, I had problems receiving faxes on disk, because when any of the expanded functions or an application is in operation, it automatically disables the disk receive function. No error message came up—it just didn't work. I had to wade through the advanced facsimile instructions to find this little tidbit.
Watch out for typos in the manual, too. For example, there were transposed letters: .DFB for .DBF when referring to the database file extensions. This might be confusing to some novices. I hope Canon corrects these problems in future printings of the manual.
In general, though, this is a wonderful machine for any business or home office user who likes to save both space and money. Why buy a PC, a fax machine, a printer, a phone, and an answering machine when you can get an entire office in a box?
|Ease of Setup/Installation||****|
System with 640K RAM and 3½-inch floppy drives—$2,995