DR Draw and DR Graph; presentation quality graphics for IBM and compatibles. (evaluation) Kerry Leichtman.
Ease of use, speed of execution, and quality of result--these are the criteria we use in judging graphics packages. DR Draw form Digital Research scores well on the first and last, but earns only two or three points (on a scale of 1 to 10) for speed. Dr Graph also scores well on ease of use and quality of result. Graph, however, falls into the minus column when it comes to speed.
These sister programs are not alone in this shortcoming. Commercial programmers have been busy perfecting programs to crunch words and numbers. Few have applied themselves to the task of creating programs to make pictures. And who can blame them? Writing a good graphics application program is not an easy chore. The output of a graphics program must look clean and crisp on a color or monochrome screen, a dot matrix printer, a plotter, or an inkjet printer. Shapes, sizes, colors, patterns, character fonts, and geometric formulae combine in myriad ways--too many ways to be stored in RAM, which leads to frequent disk access during program use, which, in turn, makes such programs slow.
DR Draw and DR Graph are slow. That said and the fact that most, if not all, of their competitors suffer from the same limitation duly noted, let's get on with the good stuff. DR Draw
DR Draw works like an on-screen drawing board. The opening screen is blank except for the choices Create, Recall, Edit, Save, Directory, Output, and Exit stretched across the top. You make your selection by placing the cursor over function you want. If you choose Create, a new set of choices appears: Add, Change, Select, Move, Copy, Undelete, and Delete. The rest of the screen is occupied by a dot-grid drawing board. Choosing Add calls the third menu: Text, Polygon, Circle, Arc, Lines, Markers, and Bar.
To create a picture, you position the cursor, which appears as crosshairs, on the drawing board after you have made the appropriate series of menu selections. Draw offers a sizable choice of fills and colors (for computers with color capability only, of course). The program supports a variety of text fonts and comes with a disk of 12 additional fonts. Also included in the package are two disks of additional device drivers which allow Draw to work with a variety of hardware configurations.
I enjoyed using DR Draw. The menus are so good that they make the manual almost unnecessary. Doodling is especially easy and produces some surprisingly nice results.
My only real complaint about the program is that it is unforgiving when you make the wrong selection and find yourself in the Creation Menu. Such a specific mistake is worth mentioning only because I did it often enough for it to become a problem. To get back to the picture on which I was working, I had to Recall the picture and wait for the program to go through the tedious process or redrawing the entire screen--disk I/O and all. Even though I had not cancelled the work or started another picture, the computer did not retain my screen in RAM so it could be recalled instantly. What all this does is exacerbate the speed problem and exasperate the user. DR Graph
Creating a graph with DR Graph is more complex then creating a picture with DR Draw. To create a graph the computer must convert supplied numbers and statistics into pictures or graphic representations. This requires a multitude of operations--the very things that computers do best. The more functions the computer is called upon to perform, however, the longer it takes to execute the task.
To build a relatively simple bar graph, for example, the computer first takes numerical data and establishes relational values. Next, it decides what scale to use to make the graph fit within the parameters you have specified--not to mention the paper or screen upon which it is to be displayed. Then it determines the size of the bars in relation to one another and places them on the screen. Next, it generates the characters for the labels, and so on. You can see why DR Graph is slow.
But it does produce good graphics. Its lack of speed discourages experimentation rather than use. To be happy with DR Graph, you must have a reasonably clear idea of what you want as a result almost before you begin the graphing process. And you will be happy with the result. It is important to keep your goal in mind, because until super fast graphics programs become commonplace, we will have to judge them by the results they offer rather than by the length of time it takes to achieve those results.
Graph uses menus in much the same manner that Draw does. But whereas Draw is almost totally menu-oriented, Graph requires you to enter numerical statements and relational data. It is this entry of data that makes the documentation a welcome resource long after you have mastered the mechanics of program operation. The manual adequately defines terms and parameters and offers good examples of the causes and effects of most functions. The structure of the menus is consistent, so it is easy to flow from one function to another.
Dr Graph allows you to create line, clustered bar, stacked bar, step, stick, scatter, and combination graphs. Data can be entered via the keyboard or called from SuperCalc or VisiCalc files or from another graph.
You can control the size of both text and illustrations on your page. Four fonts are available--the resident device font, Simplex Roman, Duplex Roman, and Complex Italian. Other variables you can control include color, line thickness, and graph and page borders. Skillful use of the options results in high quality graphs suitable for the most exacting business and professional presentations.
Include with the DR Graph package are 128K and 192K versions of the software as well as a 192K version for systems with an 8087 coprocessor. Two disks of driver programs are also included. The documentation, like that of DR Draw, is excellent with a good glossary, detailed index, clear writing, and plenty of screen illustrations. Summary
Except for a few quirks, both programs run smoothly and produce fine results. The font and drive libraries make it relatively safe to assume compatibility with many hardware configurations.
If you are shopping for a business graphics program, be sure to include DR Graph and DR Draw on your list. Although lack of speed is not a problem to be taken lightly--neither are the benefits of ease of use and quality of result. Both programs are exceptionally easy to use and both produce excellent results.
Products: DR Draw (computer program)
DR Graph (computer program)