Lotus 1-2-3 release 4 for Windows. (spreadsheet software) (Software Review) (Evaluation)
by Stephen Levy
Lotus has done it right in this new Windows version of its popular spreadsheet. Although there are many new features in this version, the improvement that is most impressive is how easy 1-2-3 is to use.
Release 4 has all the functions we've come to expect in Windows spreadsheets, such as instant charting, complete control of the formatting of each cell, and so forth. I'm not going to focus on these features--suffice it to say that there's a full suite there--but rather on those things which make this implementation of 1-2-3 easier to use and make the power of the software more accessible.
This release's interface has four basic components: standard menus across the top of the screen, the icon bar (called SmartIcons), the worksheet area, and the status bar.
Lotus describes the status bar as "alive." It gives you feedback about the current cell, including the font, the size of text, the format (currency, date, and so forth), and the number of decimal places. You can change each setting by clicking on the appropriate section of the status bar. Thus, changing the font and the size of the characters is as easy as clicking on the status bar. (You can also use the traditional menu selection methods.)
Also on the status bar are the date and time, the mode indicator, and a button to change or hide the current icon bar. In some ways the status bar acts as a second icon bar. The icon bar provides easy access to often-used functions, and the status bar has the ones used most often.
The SmartIcons have been improved. The default bar has the most frequently used commands, such as Save, Copy, Cut, Spell Check, and Print. There are seven additional SmartIcon bars you can access either through the status bar or icon bar.
Although software publishers hope that you can tell exactly what each icon means and what it does, icon graphics don't always get the point across. If you point to an icon on 1-2-3's icon bar and press the right mouse button, you'll see a short description of the icon's purpose. This is a very helpful feature that all applications should adopt.
Users of the MS-DOS version of 1-2-3 will feel right at home, as Lotus has included the full set of keyboard commands from the original program. Just press the backslash key to bring up what Lotus calls the 1-2-3 Classic Menu.
If you work with 3-D spreadsheets, you'll appreciate the new Worksheet Tabs feature which makes it easy to name and organize multiple-page worksheets. You can drag and drop elements between pages with ease.
I've touched on only a few of the new features included in this product. This implementation of the old standby is rich and complete. Among other new features are in-cell editing, a menu of @ functions, more than 250 new built-in macros, and a bundled version of Adobe Type Manager 2.5.
Whether you're new to spreadsheets or an old hand, you'll find this new release of 1-2-3 for Windows easy to master. And the number-crunching features have been improved just as much as the interface. You'd be hard-pressed to find a needed feature that's not included in this work-horse spreadsheet.