Donald B. Trivette
Two Checkers And A Manager
Anyone who spells as badly as I do is bound to love spelling checkers-and here are two new products that are getting a lot of attention.
Borland, the folks who brought you Turbo Pascal and the popular SideKick, have come up with another product headed for the best-seller's shelf. Turbo Lightning is a memory-resident spelling checker-it monitors every word you type and instantly beeps when you've made a mistake. Then, by pressing a key, you can call forth (in a box superimposed over your text) a list of the most likely correct words. It uses the 83,000-word Random House dictionary as its spelling authority. Lightning also has a thesaurus option which lets you select just the right word from a 50,000-word Random House thesaurus. All of this from within any programword processor, spreadsheet, data management, or communications-just by pressing a few keys.
Here's how it works. Lightning stores a small dictionary in RAM. When installing the program, you must select one of three sizes: 6,000 words, 12,000 words, or 16,000 words. The larger the dictionary, the larger Lightning's vocabulary, and the less often it beeps for a word that is really correct. The trade-off, as always, is memory. As you type a word, Lightning consults the in-memory dictionary and beeps if there is no match. At this point, you may press the Alt-F9 keys to make the program consult the larger disk-based dictionary. Lightning then either confirms your spelling as correct or lists possible choices based on sound-alike words.
Two different disk-based dictionaries are available: one for hard disk systems and a smaller one for floppy disk computers. Since most of us have a small working vocabulary, the scheme of a RAM dictionary supplemented by one on disk is quite workable.
A Flexible Engine
If you're thinking that a poor speller would be beeped to distraction, you are right. Fortunately, Lightning allows the auto-proof mode to be turned off; checking may then be requested on individual words or a screen at a time.
Borland plans to issue additional dictionaries and databases for use with the Lightning engine. In fact, any text-type data-even your own files-could be indexed and made accessible. Turbo Lightning is a sophisticated program with more potential than just a spelling checker. (Turbo Lightning, $99.95, Borland International, 4585 Scotts Valley Drive, Scotts Valley, CA 95066.)
The second new spelling-checker is Reference Set from Reference Software. It too uses the Random House dictionary and thesaurus (what happened to Webster's?). Reference Set doesn't check each word as you type, but rather waits for you to request a spelling check by pressing Alt-D for dictionary or Alt-T for thesaurus. A window pops up over your text showing possible correct spellings (or alternate words); pressing a key deletes the old word and inserts the new one.
Although the dictionary is referenced from disk, the program maintains an index in memory so the time to locate a word, even with floppy disk, is typically less than a second. Reference Set includes two different sized dictionaries and thesauri for floppy and hard disk systems. The modest Refere Sencet engine-the memory-resident program that accomplishes the lookup-uses about 20K; by comparison, Lightning uses about 83K. (Reference Set Version 1, $89.95, Reference Software, 2363 Boulevard Circle, Walnut Creek, CA 94595.) Both programs work best with a hard disk, but either may be used with a two-drive floppy system.
Automatic Stock Quotes
The "Manager" referred to in the title of this column alludes to a new program that works with the popular Andrew Tobias' Managing Your Money (see "IBM Personal Computing," December 1985). Called Managing the Market, it's a communications program that dials the Dow Jones News/Retrieval service, collects quotations, and updates the prices for the securities in an MYM portfolio. Pushing three or four keys dials the number, enters the password, selects the service, requests the quotes, updates the files, and disconnects. One nifty feature allows quotes to be ordered either by the percent change or by the absolute change-a real timesaver for those who monitor a lot of stocks. Output can be printed or saved for later analysis in a file readable by Lotus 1-2-3.
If you think this program would be too expensive to use with a modest portfolio, you may be pleasantly surprised. I've been updating about a dozen stocks, five days a week, after 6 p.m. when the rates are lowest, and the bill from Dow Jones is less than $10 a month. Managing the Market comes with a temporary password and one hour of free time with Dow Jones, so you can begin using it right away. Of course, you must have a modem; the program supports all Hayes and Hayes-compatible modems as well as a dozen or so other makes. (Managing the Market, $79.95, MECA, 12 Saugatuck Ave., Westport, CN, 06880.)