DynaComm Asynchronous. (communications software) (evaluation)
by Steven Anzovin
For those who prefer mice and icons, telecommunicating in the PC environment can prove a turtuous affair. Many Windows 3.0 users were probably delighted to find a basic telecom and terminal emulation program, Terminal, right in Windows. FutureSoft, the company that wrote the admittedly limited Terminal for Microsoft, offers a fully loaded version called DynaComm.
No matter what network or computer you need to connect with, you'll find DynaComm's built-in flexibility comforting. DynaComm supports the most common binary transfer protocols, including XMODEM (checksum and CRC), YMODEM (batch mode), YTerm, Kermit, and CompuServe B+, but not ZMODEM, the fastest and most advanced protocol. The long list of terminal emulations includes DEC VT52, VT100, VT220 (but not VT102), ADDS VP/60, HP 700/94, IBM 3101, Televideo 925/950, and CompuServe's VIDTEX. Keyboard remapping proves an essential feature when communicating with a terminal that uses a keyboard layout different from that of the standard PC. The manual contains tables that list all the keyboard ASCII values for the terminals DynaComm emulates, if you really need to know.
Since you may carry out text transfers in the background, you can run other applications during uploads. In fact, DynaComm fully supports Microsoft's Dynamic Data Exchange (DDE). So, for example, the text file you've just received can be automatically inserted into a Microsoft Word document, or, with the right script, a Word document can be uploaded automatically from DynaComm. Data can run both to and from DynaComm and other programs in multiple channels. Expect a severe reduction in program speed if there's much data exchange going on, though.
Another useful feature for avid telecommunicators is DynaComm's ability to open up to eight terminal windows simultaneously. Fully editable, terminal windows come with options for custom text styles, colors, tabbing, and formatting. You can also perform full search-and-replace operations, which become very useful when you receive lots of junk characters in a file.
The Director program (really a special script) is DynaComm's home base. Director functions as an integrated phone dialer and phone book, and provides easy access to settings, files, and log-in parameters. You can choose most actions by clicking on buttons and making menu choices, so communicating becomes about as simple and friendly as possible. Through Director you can also create function key macros and scripts that automate communications chores. Many other environments are possible with DynaComm, but most users will stay primarily in Director.
If you need to write elaborate scripts, DynaComm includes a powerful, event-driven script language that also contains the tools to create custom user interfaces, complete with user-definable menus and dialogs. A 400-page manual shows you how to use the script language, but unless you have some programming experience you won't find it easy going.
Simple log-in scripts aren't too difficult (one is thoroughly explained in the manual), but a typical segment of one of the more elaborate sample scripts confounded me. Log-in procedure scripts for several of the more popular services, such as CompuServe and GEnie, come with DynaComm, so you may not need to wrestle with scripts until you're quite comfortable with the program.
Probably the easiest way to begin involves the Recorder script, which creates scripts of your actions as you make a connection. You can edit scripts created with Recorder as you gain proficiency. The manuals, especially the Script Reference, seem reasonably well written and complete, but they might be hard to follow if you only recently took up computer communications. I'd recommend the online tutorials instead. The online help's a possible supplement to the tutorials, but too often brief to the point of uselessness.
DynaComm has LAN support for NetBIOS and other LAN interfaces built in; most other communications programs make you buy special LAN versions. This in itself would recommend DynaComm to businesses using a LAN. The other attractive capability for Windows-based businesses is that users familiar with Terminal can use DynaComm right away and learn the more complex functions of the program as necessary. Or an industrious network administrator can write and install custom scripts so that the average user doesn't have to worry about advanced functions at all.
As powerful a telecom program as you could ask for and definitely the most powerful one currently available for Windows, DynaComm still isn't for everyone, and not everyone should ask for it. If you communicate with only a few easily accessible systems, such as CompuServe or your boss's PC, then Terminal may be all you need; why pay for more? But for the professional telecommunicator with a need for advanced LAN compatibility and a desire to customize the Windows environment, DynaComm's the only choice.