Classic Computer Magazine Archive COMPUTE! ISSUE 140 / MAY 1992 / PAGE 120

EngLan. (program development software) (Evaluation)
by Heidi E.H. Aycock

Gentry Software has tried to eliminate one of the bugaboos of learning to program with its latest version of EngLan.

Because you select program commands from a menu, you can't make syntax errors. It's impossible to forget a semicolon or misspell a variable name. These nitpicking rules of programming languages have scared many new challengers away from programming, so Gentry Software should be commended for chasing off this particular programming demon.

By solving one problem, however, EngLan has created others. The interface stumbles and falters throughout the program. For example, to make a simple revision in your program, you must exit the program-writing mode and return through the program-viewing mode. And EngLan offers no default choices. A familiar feature of most software, defaults let you press the Enter key to indicate the most likely response. Many little twists and turns in the program, which aren't limited to the examples cited above, make the interface problems even more significant.

Interface problems effect the ease of use of a program; the manual and tutorial affect the ease of learning. EngLan has multiplied its problems with its poorly designed documentation. Parts of it are good enough for any beginner. Other parts, however, simply obscure the concepts they're meant to teach. The tutorial, for instance, includes a lesson on how to clear a screen but fails to provide anything on the screen to clear. Many sections of the tutorial ignore the implications of each command, failing to play one command off the next. Although you can easily understand what each one does, you can't really see how they work together to create a useful program.

Gentry Software's purpose was to create an easy-to-learn, easy-to-use programming language, only EngLan doesn't have the ergonomic, educational kick to meet this challenge. If you want to learn to program, either find a good class or wait for Gentry Software to rework EngLan. With one more update, directed at the interface and the tutorial, EngLan could be a fine educational experience.