Thinx 2.0. (computer graphics software) (Software Review) (Evaluation)
by Richard O. Mann
Thinx 2.0 is a curious beast, neither fish nor fowl, but rather a peculiar combination of several dissimilar creatures. It's a fusion of spreadsheet, database, and graphics programs into a hard-to-describe, Windows 3.1-based business tool. It absolutely thrills those who have a use for it and mystifies those who do not. The latter group probably outnumbers the former by a large margin.
The developers say that the most common reaction at first exposure to this product is along the lines of, "Yes, but what's it for?"
The only way to explain it is to describe an application, so let's go through a basic example. Visualize a schematic of a deck you want to build in your backyard. It has planks to make the flooring and railings, outdoor furniture, and perhaps a barbecue grill. To design this and decide what you'll buy and how you'll arrange it, you might use a drawing or CAD program to diagram the layout. You can do that with Thinx. You define objects that will be used--planks, chaise longues, perhaps several choices of tables and chairs, a couple of possible grills, and so forth.
You can draw icons for these objects or use predrawn icons that come with the program. (Thinx provides plenty of object drawings appropriate for the more typical uses of the program.) You store the icons in a palette, where you can drag them out and drop them wherever they'll be useful.
Now for the database and spreadsheet elements. Each object can have a data table attached. For each of the objects we might put on our deck, the table could include a description, the price, labor costs associated with the object (if any), and perhaps colors. Each different type of chair or grill would have its own price and other data. This background data is not visible on the screen unless you call it up.
The spreadsheet element enters with formulas. In our example, we would build a small object (such as a box) on the screen and put a formula in it. We could have one for cost, in which the basic cost field from every object on the screen would be totaled. A similar box for labor cost would be helpful.
With all these raw materials laid out, you proceed to design your deck. Lay out the planking first by dragging and dropping the plank object repeatedly to form the size deck you want. As you do so, the cost and labor cost box totals increase. Then add your selections of furniture. As you add the various tables and grills and chairs to the screen, you can monitor the total cost of your choices.
When you're done, you have a schematic of the deck, information on the choices you've made, and the total cost of the exact deck you want to build. And you have a tool ready to help your neighbors plan their decks.
Another obvious use is for organization charts. Using icons in the shape of a person, each object would represent an individual employee, with his or her pay rate and other pertinent data attached in the table. As you assemble your staff on the screen, you can watch the total salary figure grow. A "based-on-condition" feature lets you test each object for certain characteristics and change the visual image as a result. You could, for example, turn the icon red for each staff member whose salary exceeds a certain level.
That's what Thinx does. Of course, its creators packed it with as many features that aid the basic mission as they could. The drawing program won't threaten the market leaders, but it does a nice job of setting up the visual part of the application. Images can, of course, be imported from other Windows-based drawing programs. Data elements can be entered directly or imported from dBASE, Lotus 1-2-3, or Excel files. Through the Windows DDE function, you can hot-link the Thinx data to information in other Windows program files. You can create a Link Object to take you from one Thinx document to another. And finally, you get toll-free technical support.
It all adds up to an impressive tool for creating visual spreadsheet and database files. If you have a use for such an application, you will love Thinx. If, however, nothing comes to mind that lends itself to such visual presentation of data, Thinx is not for you--especially since it lists for a hefty $495. For those who need its unique capabilities, though, it's a godsend--there's nothing else quite like it.