Classic Computer Magazine Archive COMPUTE! ISSUE 141 / JUNE 1992 / PAGE 98

ProCalc 3D. (spreadsheet) (Evaluation)
by Steven Anzovin

Most spreadsheets are like one big sheet of graph paper divided into numbered rows and lettered columns. ProCalc 3D is like a big cube of graph paper (called a workcube in ProCalc lingo) divided into pages, with each page a separate worksheet.

Each worksheet in a workcube can detail the performance of a corporate division or profits in a year or any other meaningful division, and you can page through these with a keystroke. The paper metaphor ends there, however, because with ProCalc, you can view your data not just from the front but from the sides, back, top, and bottom. For example, you can rotate the workcube to see all the A columns on one page, the B columns on the next, and so on.

This is easier to see than to describe, but it does work. You'll have to stretch your mind to grasp working with data in three dimensions instead of the usual two, but if you can, you can do things that are difficult or impossible with an ordinary spreadsheet. It does take pages that provide coherent information when viewed from various angles. Your best bet is to settle on a layout for the first page and stick to it on every page, although you don't have to.

Being able to examine any slice of data at any time is a real boon for preparing reports that have to provide multiple views of data. For example, you could create two charts, one showing yearly profits by department and a second showing profits in January over a five-year period, simply by changing your view of the cube and making a chart from the selected columns or rows.

Does ProCalc have sufficient capacity to handle those really big jobs? You have access to 512 rows, 512 columns, and 512 pages, yielding 134 million cells. That ought to be enough for any spreadsheet-modeling job short of tracking the federal government. There are also more than 100 built-in math, trig, and statistical functions. Formulas can work on any range or block of cells, even across pages. ProCalc has its own command language, and it can import Lotus files. Several types of charts can be generated from specified cells.

Error tracking is an important concern for any spread-sheet, especially one as potentially data-dense as ProCalc. The program has two audit modes: Trace, which highlights all formulas that apply to the current cell, and Map, which shows a compressed view of the current page with each each cell pictured as a symbol that tells you what kind of data it contains. Unfortunately, while in an audit mode, you can't print an error report or have ProCalc change a range of cells.

ProCalc is certainly a solid implementation--at a good price. If you routinely need to manipulate many related data sets and your company doesn't force you to use Lotus 1-2-3, take a serious look at ProCalc.4