Classic Computer Magazine Archive START VOL. 4 NO. 7 / FEBRUARY 1990

Mac and PC On The ST



(Editor's Note: This column is dedicated to those of you who use--or would like to use--Spectre or pc-ditto. We'll keep you informed of emulator developments and look at some of the worth while products only available to the ST owner under Spectre and pc-ditto. This month, columnist David Plotkin takes a look at FormSet, a business forms software package for the Mac from Softview.)

The first Macintosh package that really impressed me was Macintax from Softview. Macintax went well beyond typical tax software in a number of ways. First, printout quality was so good that you could submit the forms directly to the IRS without copying them onto the IRS's forms. It also linked forms, i.e. an amount entered on one form would show up on any other form where it was required. Finally, you could itemize, a godsend in an audit.

Macintax was superbly designed and easy to use--but it was only useful at tax time. I remember thinking how nice it would be if those features could be built into a set of standard business forms.

An example of one of the forms from FormSet from Soft-
view. If you use Spectre 128 or Spectre GCR and run a
small business, you'll want to simplify your business life
with this smart forms package.

Enter FormSet

Apparently, someone at Softview had the same idea and the result was FormSet, a set of standard business forms which you can fill out and use for everyday business transactions. FormSet has many features that make it useful, although there are some rough edges that you'll have to get used to.

FormSet includes 70 forms, grouped into six categories: Operating, General Business, Accounting, Payable, Personnel and Sales. Some of the forms included are an employment application, petty cash report, expense report, invoices, packing lists, purchase order, inventory, estimates, contract, receipts and a profit/loss statement.

Forms are accessed in sets. When accessing a set of forms the first thing to do is to fill out the Customization form, which includes your company name, address, sales tax and other general information, all of which is used with the other forms in the set so that you don't have to enter the data on every form. If you need different information (such as a different company name) on different forms, you will need to open two sets of forms and fill out the Customization form differently.

Once you've filled out the initial form, you can open any other form in the collection by selecting it from the drop-down menus. The forms are available under four different categories. To bring up a form, just click on it with the mouse and it will appear in its own window. More than one form can be open at a time, each with its own window and you can move between them by clicking on the appropriate window.

Now comes the fun part. To fill out a form, just place the cursor where you want to modify it and type in the data. The form will only let you enter data where appropriate; it won't let you type in data where the result is calculated, itemized, or linked from another form (more on this in a moment). For example, on the purchase order form, you can fill in the part number, quantity and price of each item. The form will then automatically calculate the unit total for each line and the total for the entire order, including any applicable sales tax! Thus, the program functions much like a spreadsheet, except that you don't have to define the formulas for the calculations--this is done for you in the form's definition.

As with Macintax, you can itemize almost any line item to show what it contains. You simply double-click on the area where you would normally enter a number. A special window opens containing several lines, each with a space to specify the itemized description and the value of the particular item. The items in the window are automatically totaled and the total placed in the main form when you close the itemization window. In fact, you can even itemize lines in an itemization window. The degree of such nesting is limited only by the memory in your machine.


Another handy feature is form linking. When a set of forms is linked, you fill out the data for each line of the "master" form on another (usually more detailed) form. A summary of the information on the detailed form is then shown on the master form. One good example of this is a set of invoice forms. The master invoice form is brought up on the screen when you open it, but you can't enter data directly into it. Instead, you double-click on the total column, and an invoice form appears. You fill it out, specifying the item purchased, price, etc., then close the invoice form. A summary of the information on the invoice appears on the appropriate line of the master invoice form. As more invoices are added, the master invoice form keeps track of the sum automatically. The master forms are marked to indicate that you must enter the information on other forms so that you don't try to enter the data on the master form. This notification does not print out.

You can't customize the forms in FormSet. However, the forms are very detailed, including spaces for all sorts of information, such as boxes for checking which type of credit card customers are using or whether they're paying cash. Most of this is "smart"--the program won't let you check a credit card box if you already indicated that cash was used and clicking on another credit card box will erase the first one selected. FormSet also supports multiple-part forms so that you can print out a copy for the customer, salesperson, etc. You can specify the names of the multiple copies on the Customization form.

FormSet includes online help in the form of definitions and suggested uses for the selected fields. Forms that have been completely or partially filled out are shown as underlined or in outline font in the menus to indicate their condition.

High Learning Curve

It may take a while to get used to FormSet. It's important to remember that you never actually change the forms themselves; the data you enter is stored separately, so you don't have to make multiple copies of the forms. But because FormSet needs to know which forms are available, it takes a while to load the program. You can save some time by removing the form definition files for forms you don't use. This also saves disk space, and FormSet is smart enough to only show the available forms in its drop-down menus.

There are some awkward areas in this program. For example, although you can start a new set of forms by running the program, there seems to be no way to access previously saved sets of forms from within the program. The manual says you can open a previously saved form set, but the OPEN command wasn't available from the program. You can double-click on the saved form file (which runs FormSet automatically) from the desktop, and this seems to be the only way to access forms you used filled out previously. This is very clumsy.

FormSet comes with a utility which can "paste" your company logo onto forms, but it can only use logos that are exactly the right size (a template as well as some example logos come with the program), and it will paste your logo onto every form in the folder. If you want different logos on different forms, you must rearrange them into different folders, then put them back in the folder from which you want to use them when you're finished.

Overall, the onscreen filling out of forms works very well and the itemizing and form-linking features are excellent. The proof of the pudding, of course, is how well these forms are printed out. The print quality is very good on an ImageWriter, and absolutely superb on both the LaserWriter and HP's Deskjet. Lines are crisp and clear and the text is very legible. The application uses multiple-size fonts to give you an idea onscreen of how the printed form will look.

FormSet is very solid, and should be of tremendous use to anyone running a small business. Now, if they'd just write a package like this for the ST. . .

David Plotkin is a chemical engineer for Chevron U.S.A. and is a contributing editor for START.


FormSet, $99. Softview, Inc, 4820 Adohr Lane, Suite D, Camarillo, CA 93010, (805) 385-5000.