I Hate Algebra.(spreadsheet) (Evaluation)by Tom Campbell

A spreadsheet for people who don't understand spreadsheets? Can there be such a thing?

If the name I Hate Algebra appeals to you, this product could add up to be just what you need to replace your confusing, algebraically driven spreadsheet.

How does I Hate Algebra outmaneuver the tried-and-true construct-a-formula method so familiar to spreadsheet users? The program attempts to automate the paper-and-pencil approach to arithmetic that we all learned way back in grade school.

You place symbols such as + and - next to empty cells, with = before the cell where you wish a total to appear. These symbols make up calculations (as opposed to formulas) and remain independent of the cells that contain numbers, so you can apply them to different rows--a nice feature not found in most spreadsheets.

This straightforward approach will please users that need small spreadsheets to manage their finances--a small business or a household budget, for instance. Financial analysts, on the other hand, won't find much use for I Hate Algebra because of the algebra-intensive nature of their work.

A Windows program, I Hate Algebra comes on both sizes of floppy disk, and it stores its files in a simple ASCII format. The manual is quite usable, thankfully, since I Hate Algebra offers no online help. You cannot import files from other spreadsheets (a feature handy for those of you who want to make use of spreadsheet code that's in the public domain).

Are the standard spreadsheets I Hate Algebra aims to replace really so difficult to learn, however? Considering that a good 10 million of them have been sold--the vast majority to nonprogrammers--probably not.

We even credit spreadsheets with virtually creating the PC industry by bringing micros to the desktops of bean counters everywhere, and because of this I think I Hate Algebra might be a solution in search of a problem--or perhaps just a solution with a limited audience.

TOM CAMPBELL