Windform. (software for creating forms) (Software Review) (Evaluation)
by Charles Idol
Forms, forms. Every business, large or small, needs forms for everyday operations. In today's world of desktop publishing, we see a trend toward forms with logos and fancy effects. Windform's purpose is to help you design your own form and fill in the data, or fill in the data for the forms in its library. Unfortunately, it does a good job of neither.
I have come to expect very little from program documentation, and the Windform user's guide is no exception. To learn the program, I embarked upon the tutorial, and crashed. And crashed again. The program is object oriented, in the manner of most draw programs, but it has trouble maintaining the integrity of the objects. For example, if you create an object such as a box, draw lines for data entry, add some text, and then decide to put a shaddow effect on the box, you lose all your work on the objects within the box.
With grim determination and a Columbus mind-set, I made my way through the tutorial and had a form of sorts. One problem arose with the alignment of text. The alignment changes with each of the three zoom views, and the printed version differs from any screen view. Also, some of the extolled aids simply failed to work. The program boasts a Distribute feature, for instance. You're making a table and wish to draw a vertical line to separate a field. You draw the line and call Distribute, which is supposed to duplicate the vertical line in every line of the table. It seems to do so very nicely, but when you leave the Distribute menu and view the form, the duplicated lines have vanished.
To explore the other capabilities of the program, I brought up a form from the program library and entered data into the fields of the form. To do this, you must enter the Fill mode, where you are offered options for the fill procedure. The default--and fastest--is to fill in fields in the order of their definition when the form was designed. Another is "point and shoot," where you click on the desired field. No field modification is possible in the Fill mode.
To save your work, you create a data file and copy the form with the data in the fields to it. You may interrupt the form-filling operation, save your work, and return to it later, but to do so, you must remember both the name of the form file and the name of the data file. The default mode of filling doesn't remember where you were on the form, so you must work your way down field by field. If the form was designed to be filled by column (a poor idea, but used in some library forms), the default mode forces you to the bottom line of the form before you change columns. You cannot change the sequence by point-and-shoot intervention.
I happened to choose an invoice form from the library, which called for entries of unit price, number of units, and total price. I may be spoiled, but when I'm filling out such a form on a computer, I expect the program to perform such helpful functions as multiplying unit price by number of units to obtain the total. Not so with Windform. The program knows nothing about numbers and cannot perform simple arithmetic operations. All entries are text, and mathematics is left as an exercise for the user.
I found little to be said for Windform. To put it bluntly, the program is rather slow, dumb, and user-hostile.