Classic Computer Magazine Archive COMPUTE! ISSUE 139 / APRIL 1992 / PAGE 120

PFS: WindowWorks. (integrated software) (Evaluation)
by Clayton Walnum

PFS: WindowsWorks is an integrated software package for Windows 3.0 that can do quite a lot. In a package like this, with such a variety of programs, it's important to determine what it can do well and where it falls short.

The package includes a word processor, spreadsheet, chart generator, database, telecommunications program, label maker, and address book. When loaded, WindowWorks sets up its own desktop, opening a document window and displaying an icon for each program module at the bottom of the screen. To switch to a module, you simply double-click on the appropriate icon. While WindowWorks' screens are not as attractive as most Windows applications (for example, in the word processor, buttons are little more than white squares with letters in them), they do provide most of the functions Windows users expect.

When it comes to features, the fully implemented word processor is loaded, sporting a WYSIWYG display, toolbar, ruler, spelling checker, thesaurus, and outline generator. The word processor can even produce a table of contents or an index. As with most Windows word processors, WindowWorks' toolbar provides button and list boxes for changing fonts, font sizes, text attributes, paragraph justification, and text styles. The ruler allows you to manipulate tabs and indents by dragging and clicking with your mouse.

The word processor can easily handle graphics as well as text. To import a graphic, you first copy it into Windows' Clipboard and paste it anywhere in your document. If you place the graphic amid text, the text automatically flows around the graphic.

Like most integrated packages, WindowWorks can share data between its tools. You can, for example, link data from the spreadsheet to a word processor document. However, WindowWorks doesn't support Windows' DDE (Dynamic Data Exchange), opting instead for its own type of object and data linking.

Unfortunately, the word processor is infuriatingly sluggish. If you're a fast typist, you'll spend much time waiting for the display to catch up with you. This sluggishness is especially annoying when you're editing.

WindowWorks' database provides all the tools needed to create and maintain a j database, including a report generator that offers a selection of built-in numerical functions and a query function that can apply logical operators during a search. The database supports five types of fields--character, numeric, date, logical, and memo--that can be formatted in several ways. Buttons at the top of the screen allow you to use a mouse to move forward and backward through a database a record at a time or to jump quickly to the first or last record. Although WindowWorks cannot directly import or export other database formats, it can import or export delimited ASCII files.

The database's major weakness is its clumsy design. For example, you must select the Create Text or Create Field button each time you place a new label or field, forcing you to jump continually between the button and the display when setting up a new form. It would have made more sense to leave the selected mode active until you turn it off. Also, many dialog boxes (and this is true in all the modules) don't allow the selection of options with the standard Alt-plus-letter hot keys. (You can tab to any option and then select it with the Enter key.) Another inconvenience is the inability to type in exact coordinates for labels and fields. Instead, you must depend on your mouse skills to position screen objects correctly.

The terminal program offers a few options missing from Windows' Terminal, including a dial directory, Y-batch file-transfer protocol (it omits Kermit, however, which is included with Windows Terminal), and simple script language. In addition, it provides button icons for the program's major functions. Using the buttons, you can select or change the program configuration, the terminal emulation, the active duplex, the dial directory, the hang-up function, and the send-file and receive-file operations. While the terminal program's "look-back" buffer can hold only 400 lines of text, you can capture an entire session to disk for later perusal.

All in all, online sessions run smoothly--until you want to transfer files. Then the program bogs down, easily taking twice as long to download or upload files when compared with Windows' Terminal program (XMODEM transfers). This defect is serious enough to avoid using the terminal program for anything other than leaving quick messages or capturing E-mail.

In addition, I couldn't get the terminal's window to operate properly. When I tried to enlarge the window by dragging its bottom edge down, the horizontal scroll bar was improperly redrawn about a third of the way up from the bottom of the window. Apparently the terminal program can't be run with a full-sized window, which limits the lines of text the program can display.

WindowWorks' spreadsheet module can import and export Lotus 1-2-3 and delimited ASCII files. And if you own Spinnaker's Eight-In-One, you can also import those files to transfer them to any of the other supported formats. The spreadsheet supports standard cell formats, including text, percentage, scientific notation, and several date forms. Numbers can be formatted in various decimal, dollar, and comma formats.

Although cells can be displayed in WYSIWYG fashion, with bold, underlined, and italic text, these attributes must be selected from a dialog box; they are not readily available on the display. Worse, the attributes stay active only for the currently selected cell or cell range, forcing you to bring up the dialog box continually and reselect attributes.

While you can set the width and height of spreadsheet columns and rows, you must do so by entering values into a dialog box (the opposite of the database's mouse-only field positioning; if only they were the other way around). No easy click-and-drag method here. Both relative and fixed cell addressing are supported, however, and many built-in functions (over 40) are included to aid you in setting up formulas.

WindowWorks' chart generator allows you to create bar, line, pie, area, and high-low-close charts. You can enter chart data manually or import data from a WindowWorks spreadsheet file. Once you've started your chart, you can enter chart titles, axis labels, and legends using different fonts and text attributes.

Rounding out the package are the address book and mailing label modules. The former is a stand-alone, dedicated database which, oddly, maintains no connection with the full database module (except through Windows' Clipboard). Besides not wanting to create a database from scratch, I can't imagine why anyone would want to bother with the address book at all. Thankfully, the label maker can print mailing labels using both address book or database data.

Despite WindowWorks' unfinished, rushed-out-the-door feel, for a while it was the only kid on the block. If you wanted a reasonably priced integrated package for Windows, you had to buy PFS: WindowWorks. Now that Microsoft has released its impressive Works for Windows, Spinnaker's going to have a tough time keeping pace, especially when you consider that both packages flaunt the identical, low price tag. Frankly, I can think of no reason to preer PFS: WindowWorks over Works for Windows.