Crosstalk for Windows 2.0. (communications software) (Software Review) (Evaluation)
by Tom Benford
One of the best communications packages available just got better. Crosstalk for Windows 2.0 is a new-generation product that even jaded power users will appreciate.
The product design team at Digital Communications Associates has added many useful features and implemented a true graphical interface in the program. These improvements make the new Crosstalk much more than an upgrade: It's a powerful new product.
For starters, DCA made the program intuitive and highly automated. It supports a true point-and-shoot interface that makes it easy for even novice telecommunicators to use.
Moreover, Crosstalk's ease of use begins right from the box. To install it, all that you have to do is name a target directory for the program's files; the excellent installation program takes care of the rest. The first time you run the program, you're greeted with a script configuration utility. This configuration session polls you for information about your system, including the desired COM port(s), the type of modem(s) you have installed, and other essential information. It uses the information you give it to tailor the program to your preferences and system configuration. You can even change the default directory settings for saving captured files, scripts, and more.
When you run the program, you're presented with a sessions file menu that contains icon-activated scripts for creating, invoking, or editing pre-defined macro operating scripts. The default menu provides scripts for setting up Crosstalk in answer mode, as well as setups for AT&T Mail, CompuServe, DCA's BBS, Delphi, Dialog, Dow Jones News Retrieval, Genie, Lexis/Nexis, MCI Mail, NewsNet, and the Official Airline Guide. It also offers an easy setup for other hosts, as well as for PC-based BBSs.
DCA did a superb job with the documentation for the program. Two extremely helpful manuals are included with the package. The first is a user's guide that's well written and illustrated; it details all of the program's features and how to use them. The second manual is the CASL Programmer's Guide; it's an extensive resource for using the proprietary Scripting Language; CASL (Crosstalk Application Script Language; more on this later).
Crosstalk also features a comprehensive online help system that's only a mouse click away from any level of the program. So, should you require some prompting or if you want some information about one of the software's many features, you don't have to refer to the printed documentation.
This new version of Crosstalk has support for 18 terminal emulations, so regardless of your specific requirements or terminal preferences, you're taken care of. it also covers 9 different file-transfer protocols, with variations of XMODEM and YMODEM that boost the total protocol selection to a hefty 15 choices.
Going well beyond merely configuring itself to your hardware, Crosstalk takes full advantage of the data- and resource-sharing features that Windows 3.1 provides while utilizing Windows' protected mode and memory management facilities. It also supports Windows' Dynamic Data Exchange (DDE) this means that you can link Crosstalk with other applications to exchange information.
If you're a telecommunications power user, you'll be pleased that Crosstalk also conforms to the Windows Multiple Document interface (MDI) specification, a feature which permits you to have multiple communications sessions in progress. If you have the hardware to support COM ports 1-4, the program supports them for multiple sessions at the same time.
You'll also appreciate Crosstalk's inherent data-sharing capabilities, which allow you to easily cut and paste information from one session into another session. This helpful feature adds tremendously to the program's flexibility and functionality. And because each session sports its own toolbar, it is quite easy for you to access commonly used functions regardless of where you're currently located in the active sessions.
The CASL manual and the thick programmer's guide provide conceptual information about writing Crosstalk scripts. It's helpful for the inexperienced programmer and still provides ample detailed reference material to keep the sophisticated applications developer happy,
Remarkably similar in its power and command format to both C and Pascal, CASL can be used to create any type of script imaginable--from a simple log-on to online services such as MCI Mail or CompuServe, all the way up to extended scripts that are capable of running fully automated communications sessions unattended.
Crosstalk can also run most scripts that were created with Crosstalk Mark 4, DCA'S popular advanced communications program for DOS. This is good news for people who are migrating from the DOS environment and have a library of existing Mark 4 scripts. When the make the change, they won't have to manually duplicate their Mark 4 scripts' content i this program.
The program also features a learn mode that creates scripts by monitoring your interactions with a host and recording them in a script. You can then run the resulting script as is in subsequent sessions with the same host, or you can edit it to strip out unwanted sections and to add more functionality.
QuickBar icons are another useful feature that you'll appreciate. They let you quickly initiate tasks such as transferring files, capturing screens, and running CASL scripts. All of the items presented in the opening menus have QuickBar icons attached to them, so all you have to do to select and initiate an activity or function from one of those menus is to click on the appropriate QuickBar icon.
QuickPad is another powerful new feature. It lets you create customized onscreen keypads that include objects representing your most frequently used keys, key sequences, and scripts. To perform a specific function, all you have to do is click on the object that represents it on the QuickPad.
Crosstalk also features a built-in text editor. This is helpful when you are working with scripts and text files, as it expedites the tasks of creating, editing, and printing text files--within the program. The graphical keyboard editor in the program makes it easy to customize your keyboard layout. With it, you simply click and drag keys wherever you want to assign them. You can also use the keyboard editor to assign scripts and key combinations to individual keys and scripts.
Network users will want to take advantage of Crosstalk's powerful modem-sharing capabilities. There are two popular LAN APIs (Local Area Network Application Programming Interfaces) compatible with most asynchronous communications servers that Crosstalk supports: INTI4 and NetWare Asynchronous Services Interface (NASI).
Overall, Crosstalk for Windows 2.0 is a very impressive package. It's hard to imagine how DCA could have made this great program any simpler or friendlier to use. Yet despite making it easy to use, DCA managed to pump Crosstalk with plenty of power. Whatever your telecommunications requirements might be, you'll find that this telecommunications package not only meets but exceeds your telecommunicating needs.
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