"Spreadsheet" programs have proven to be among the most popular software for microcomputers over the past several years. Essentially, a spreadsheet is a specialized language – complete with rules and commands –designed to help with simulations and modeling. They let you set up complex arrays of interrelated information and then, by changing one aspect of the model, you can watch the effects throughout the entire structure. Spreadsheets are especially useful in analyzing budgets, finance, and other systems which are based upon mathematical relationships.
Calc Result is a spreadsheet program for the Commodore 64. It organizes information on a grid made up of 63 columns labeled A-BK, by 254 rows. Individual cells within the grid are identified by referring to the column and row that intersect at the cell location. For example, the cell located at the intersection of column M and row 19 has coordinates M19. One 63 by 254 matrix of cells is called a page, and a Calc Result tile can contain up to 32 pages.
Calc Result will store data in these cells as labels or values. Labels are descriptive text, and values are numbers that can be entered directly or calculated according to a formula that is stored in the cell. The program assumes that a value or formula is being input, and unless told otherwise it will not allow a label to be entered as a value. By referring to the coordinates of other cells, the program can incorporate their present values into a formula. Formulas operate according to normal mathematical laws and may include trigonometric functions.
When the value in a cell is changed, the values in all cells containing formulas that refer to the changed value are automatically recalculated. All formulas are protected so that a value cannot be entered and replace the formula in the cell. If this occurred, future recalculations would be affected. This protection can be removed so that formulas can be edited.
Formulas including special functions such as MEAN can be used instead of the lengthy formula that would otherwise be necessary to find the average of the values from a large number of cells. Other functions can search through a specified group of cells and locate the largest or smallest value within these cells.
The IF-THEN…ELSE function allows a formula to take one of two forms depending on whether a predefined condition has been met. For example, the formula can test the value in a cell, multiply the value by 3 percent if the number falls below $250 or multiply by 6 percent if the value is $250 or greater.
The three-part manual, bound in a 7-by-9-inch ring binder, uses color-coded pages for easy identification. Part one contains instructions for the initial start-up and preparation of program and data disks. The master disk prompts the user through the creation of a program disk. In the process, information is entered about the printer and number of disk drives.
English is selected for the help screens from the eight languages available, and colors are selected for the border, background, and foreground. The newly created program disk is used to create a data disk for use with dual disk drive setups.
Part two is a five-lesson tutorial that introduces the user to Calc Result. The instructions are keystroke by keystroke at the beginning, but in subsequent lessons, the instructions become less specific. During a lesson you can check your progress against the numerous color illustrations. The values in key cells are also given as a self-check.
Part three is a reference containing descriptions of all of Calc Result's commands and functions. In my copy of the manual, I have inserted a divider at the beginning of this section for quick access to the reference index.
Help Always At Hand
Calc Result contains a series of help screens to replace the pocket reference cards that often come with software packages. When the system commands are accessed with the F7 key, you are prompted across the top of the screen with the symbols of the available commands. If you do not recall what each symbol stands for, the F5 key will display a list of the symbols and the commands they represent along with a brief explanation of the command.
The desired symbol can be entered directly from the help-screen.
The help screens, which operate quickly and efficiently with only a momentary interruption in the operation of the program, eliminate the need for repeated use of the reference manual.
Once labels and formulas have been entered on a page, the page can be used to create additional pages with the identical format. Labels and formulas will be transferred to the new pages. The newly created pages can be called to the screen and titled so they are easier to tell apart.
The values from each cell of an individual page can be added to the values in the corresponding cells of other pages. These sums are placed in corresponding cells on page 32. When pages are added in this fashion, the cells on page 32 will have formulas identical to the individual pages, and the summary page will have the same recalculation power. Pages also can be added so that the values of the corresponding cells are added without carrying the formulas to the summary page.
The addition function would support the design of an annual budget that accepts monthly data and provides an end-of-year summary.
When Calc Result files are called up from the data disk, all of the pages are temporarily stored in a work area on the program disk. With a single disk drive, files must be saved on the program disk since data stored in files can be brought into internal memory only via the work area.
Two pages at a time can be loaded into the computer's internal memory, where data is entered onto the page and calculations made. Either of the pages currently stored in internal memory can be worked on by calling it to the screen. If a third page is called up, the page currently displayed on the screen is moved to the work area to make room.
Impressive Split-Screen And Plotting Capability
Splitting the screen horizontally or vertically allows you to view two pages. The cursor can cross the boundary between pages to operate on the individual pages. To view additional pages, a window can be created in one of the sections. The area to remain outside of the window must be formatted and scrolled to the desired position before the window is created because the cursor cannot leave the bounds of the window. The screen area inside the window can then be split, and a third and fourth page can be called into the window area.
A graphics function prepares a histogram of the values from any column or row. The procedure is simple and the results are impressive. Place the cursor in the row or column desired and select the graphics function. Enter column or row depending on the graph desired, enter the lower and upper limits of the scale to be used on the chart, and type in a title.
A full-screen chart containing eight bars is created with a labeled scale along the left margin. The chart can be scrolled left and right with the cursor keys to display the bars for the entire column or row.
The portion of the chart displayed on the screen can be printed.
I have used another spread-sheet program with a Commodore 8032 to introduce this type of computing to my data processing students. Calc Result compares quite favorably with the other program and includes additional features such as color, graphics, and multiple pages. I highly recommend it.
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