Choosing & using a business graphics package. Barry Keating.
Most business presentations you attend (department meetings, sales presentations, annual meetings) are meant to convey some information to those attending; some succeed more than others. These meetings often make use of:
* "Chalk talks" in which one person alternately draws on a board or tablet and talks.
* Slide shows with professionally prepared 35mm color pictures.
* Prepared handouts of either numeric or graphical material.
* Overhead projectors with transparencies.
Most business meetings include graphic tools to get the point across. The reason is simple: graphics convey more information more directly and vividly than any other medium.
A quick look at almost any college textbook, regardless of discipline (economics, sociology, mathematics), reveals numerous illustrations, charts, and graphs. The reason here is also that graphics are a dramatic and informative way to encapsulate large quantities of information. If your business involves transmitting information, you probably should be using graphics to do at least some of the work for you.
While we are interested primarily in business graphics in this section, the programs and techniques mentioned are applicable as well to anyone who teaches, demonstrates, trains, or presents almost anything.
Over the last few years, the variety of graphics software which has become available to microcomputer users has included easy-to-use packages capable of producing presentation quality graphics to communicate many kinds of information. Even so, the potential of the microcomputer is relatively untouched because the computer deals with things mathematically while most people prefer to deal with things visually. The most successful of the new graphics packages we will look at link the mathematical capabilities of the computer with the visual requirements of the viewer to create a powerful tool for business professionals, teachers, designers, engineers, and others. Types of Graphics Software
The graphics software available today falls into five main categories:
* Business graphics packages.
* Statistical/graphics packages.
* Freeform or general purpose graphics packages.
* Slide show software.
* Graphics dump programs.
Few of the programs available today fall neatly into only one of the five pigeonholes. Rather, each of these five categories offers different useful possibilities to the business user.
Most of the graphics software marketed directly to business users falls into the first category, business graphics packages. This type of package will represent data as it is most commonly used in business, as bar charts, pie charts, and line graphs. We shall look at examples of each generated by specific programs.
A more powerful group of packages (statistical/graphics packages) not only presents the data in graphic form, but also manipulates raw data to get it into a meaningful format. These programs are able to use regression, trend analysis, exponential smoothing, and other statistical operations; store the results of the calculations; and then present the results in pictorial form. Few packages of this sort exist on mainframe computers; this use of integrated analysis and graphics almost requires the use of a microcomputer. (SPSS and SAS, of course, perform these duties on many corporate mainframes but at great expense while requiring some knowledge of programming).
General purpose graphics software is not marketed to businesspeople in particular, but the power of some of these packages (coupled with their ease of use) makes them very useful for displaying anything other than the traditional line, bar, and pie charts.
Slide show software turns your micro into a presentation device. These packages make a microcomputer behave (in some ways) like a slide projector.
Graphics dump programs enable you to get hardcopy (prinouts) of whatever you can see on your monitor. If you want to pass your graphics around, keep your eye out for this feature.
Let's stress again that most commercial packages are a combination of two or more of the five types of graphics packages. Your First Presentation
As you step on the elevator Monday morning your section manager, Alice, reminds you that this Wednesday the management team from "corporate" will be in to review the sales of your three product lines. "Could you supplement your presentation with some graphics?" asks Alice. "We need to convince them that our Economy model is the hot item."
A simple request, but to supplement your facts with a graphics display is going to take some time and effort--how much time and effort? Any business analysis involves plotting and graphing numerical data. These numbers could be the dollar sales of different product lines or they could be the results of calculations designed to identify trends and tendencies. What it is going to take to produce the graphics is a pencil, paper, a large worksheet, a calculator, some raw data, and a great deal of time or...
With your personal computer you can organize the data, store it, analyze it, manipulate it to your heart's content, and then finally display it. Doing it this way is actually going to save you an immense amount of time rather than making the process more time consuming than it already is. Let's emphasize, however, that this first time through a computer-generated presentation will be a little slow at times. With the correct software, the final product will be first class, but it will take a little learning time the first time around. Those who have to do this once a month or three or four times a year are bound to save much more time than those who give only one presentation each year.
Let's take Alice's suggestion for a presentation and show the actual results you could achieve. While our case will be a simple one, you should get a feel for how your own, more complicated situations could be presented using the same techniques and software. Thirteen years of sales data (from 1970 through 1982) are available for the three product lines (Economy, Standard, and Deluxe) that your company produces, and you would like to present the sales data graphically in a way that will convey some information about the numbers to your audience.
Two of the most widely used programs that could easily handle this situation are VisiTrend/Plot (available for the Apple II, III, and IBM PC) and Lotus 1-2-3 (available for the TI Professional, DEC Rainbow, Wang Professional, Grid Compass, and IBM PC). Figures 1 through 5 were done with VisiTrend/Plot; similar figures could also be produced with Lotus 1-2-3. After keying in the sales data, either of these programs will allow you to:
* Save the data to a disk for later use.
* Analyze the data in some fashion (e.g., calculate summary statistics).
* Plot or graph the raw data.
* Plot or graph calculated data.
Both VisiTrend/Plot and Lotus 1-2-3 are combination business graphics and statistical packages. Figure 1 is a concurrent plot of the sales of each of the three products over time. It quite clearly shows that sales for each of the three are growing over time but that the Economy model appears to be growing in sales much more rapidly than the other two models. The same information (that is, the raw data) was used to produce Figure 2 as well.
Figure 2 highlights the relatively rapid growth in the Economy model when compared to Deluxe sales. A bar chart, like the one in Figure 2, is often more dramatic, especially in color, than the simple line graph of Figure 1. Both VisiTrend/Plot and Lotus 1-2-3 can produce color graphics for screen display, but Lotus 1-2-3 can also print graphics in up to seven colors, depending on your printer or plotter. VisiTrend/Plot is not capable of driving a color plotter. The figures reproduced here, however, were printed on an Epson MX-80 dot matrix printer (no color).
Pie charts, like the one in Figure 3 are often useful for representing a single set of data. Figure 3 shows forecasted 1984 sales shares for each product line.
Often, however, it is necessary to "massage" the data in some fashion, and then display the results. Your company may wish, for instance, to project 1984 Deluxe sales from past sales data. VisiTrend/Plot can compute a trend line with a single key command and then display the results as pictured in Figure 4. Lotus 1-2-3 has some statistical functions built-in (e.g., average and standard deviation), but cannot run regressions or perform trend analysis. Lotus 1-2-3 does, however, have a built-in spreadsheet program (like VisiCalc) and can use data from the spreadsheet for plotting and graphing.
VisiTrend/Plot also has the ability to split the viewscreen into windows for comparison of two graphical pieces of data at one time. Figure 5 shows this feature with the Economy sales trend line at the top of the screen and the Deluxe sales trend line pictured immediately below. Vertical screen splitting is also available in VisiTrend/Plot.
Both Lotus 1-2-3 and VisiTrend/Plot are, then, capable of producing line, bar, pie, stacked bar, and X-Y graphs from data either entered from the keyboard or from data files on disk. Both programs allow "what if" graphing by allowing you to produce entirely new graphs with single keystrokes. VisiTrend/Plot also has a trend analysis program which allows you to see quickly the results of many types of data relationships such as time series data, stock prices, and production figures. While VisiTrend/Plot does not offer the convenience of a built-in spreadsheet as Lotus 1-2-3 does, it can use information from VisiCalc files for further statistical forecasting and graphic display. PFS:Graph
Many of the same types of graphics produced with Lotus 1-2-3 and VisiTrend/Plot may also be produced with PFS:Graph, a business graphics program that is available for the Apple II and III line and the IBM PC. PFS:Graph will assemble charts or graphs in color or black and white. PFS:Graph can use information in VisiCalc files, information entered from the keyboard, or information from its companion program, PFS:File. Up to four graphs may be overlaid on a single set of axes just as in VisiTrend/Plot. Mixing line and bar graphs and stack graphs or displaying them side-by-side is also a simple task with PFS:Graph. The program will print the graphs to a wide variety of printers and will also drive an HP7470A color plotter. Graph N' Calc
While PFS:Graph is only a business graphics program (and not capable of statistical calculations), Graph N' Calc for the IBM PC is a completely integrated system that alloww you to enter data in a spreadsheet format, perform complex analysis of the data, prepare color graphs using the data, and save and retrieve the data from external storage in DIF (Data Interchange Format). The use of DIF for files in Graph N' Calc means that you may use files created by other programs which also use DIF files, such as VisiCalc, VisiTrend/Plot, and 1-2-3.
Graph N'Calc is marketed for serious business forecasting use--that is why the program disk comes with two manuals, one, the standard program manual with a tutorial section (well done) and the second, a 292-page textbook-like manual on forecasting technique. The forecasting book is not directly keyed to the program and includes quite a bit of information which is not relevant to the program at all while leaving out explanations of some of the more powerful features of Graph N' Calc. The program, for instance, can calculate internal rates of return which are often used for project selection and net present values, but the book doesn't mention either technique (the Calc section of the program can also use logarithmic transformations, exponential smoothing and polynomial functions).
For display of completed material Graph N' Calc can print graphics to either an IBM or Epson printer (a plotter module for the HP 7470A plotter is available for $100 extra), save graphics to disk, or create a slide show of completed graphics. Super Chartman II
Super Chartman II for the IBM PC closely resembles PFS:Graph. Super Chartman is not a statistical package in any sense and has no slide show routine; it is strictly a business graphics package that can read DIF files. It does, however, offer a complete set of 20 different chart types including some with a three-dimensional look. It will drive the HP 7470 plotter, the IBM XY-750 plotter, and the HP 7220 plotter; Chartman will also drive many printers.
The manual for Chartman is written for first time users and includes step-by-step instructions for many common chart types. One interesting addition to the manual is a set of reproducible "graphics request forms" to allow people unfamiliar with computers to order charts or graphs by filling out a specially designed form which includes some graphics examples as part of the form. Text As A Graphics Tool
Text screens are also part of nay effective business graphics presentation; they provide the explanation for what the viewer has seen or is about to see. Figures 6 and 7 are examples of screens used for presentations. Figure 7 was produced with Executive Briefing System which is available for the Apple II and Apple III. Similar text screens could be produced with a variety of other packages (see comparison chart and Figures 8 and 9).
Graphing and plotting programs can be difficult to use (VisiTrend/Plot, Lotus 1-2-3, and PFS:Graph are notable exceptions) but their output is limited largely to chart format material; to produce text screens and present text screens/graphics combination displays you need a program capable of producing multiple text formats interspersed with graphics, many type fonts, and a variety of colors. In addition, you need a simple method of displaying one screen after another (in slide show fashion) for active presentations.
Executive Briefing System and The Graphics department fit the bill perfectly. Let's assume you have produced the graphics screens in Figures 1 through 6, and now you need some text screens to tie the program together; you also need a method for displaying your work that is foolproof (after all, the worst thing to have happen in a presentation is a breakdown in the equipment). Aimed primarily at business users, EBS is a simple program that allows you to transfer the charts and graphs from other programs to EBS, add extremely professional text screens, and select among several formats fot the presentation of your material. One important note: PFS:Graph, much to my dismay, is apparently unable to produce files readable by EBS or any other program with which I am familiar. In other words, PFS:Graph graphics may not be used by EBS or any of the other slide show programs mentioned below. This clearly makes PFS:Graph acceptable only for business graphics which will be printed or plotted rather than displayed on a monitor or large screen projector system. While PFS:Graph is a bit easier to use than VisiTrend/Plot, its limitations in transferring the output to other programs is a real liability.
EBS, however, can use material produced by VisiTrend/Plot as well as several other graphics packages. Up to 32 slides can be included on a single EBS formatted disk. This includes the EBS runtime program (the program that controls the display) which may be transferred to any blank disk. Transfer of graphics from other programs is easy--Figure 2, for instance, created with VisiTrend/Plot was saved to a disk with the PIXSAVE command of VisiTrend/Plot. After EBS was booted, the figure was called onto the screen with the GET command and then saved to an EBS slide disk (i.e., a disk with the EBS runtime program already written onto it). The entire procedure of creating Figure 2, saving it to a disk, and transferring it to an EBS disk took less than ten minutes.
Designing text slides with EBS is really quite a bit of fun. To create a text slide like Figure 6 you need to specify in EBS the type and size of the font in which you wish to compose. The particular font (typestyle) or size you use can be changed at anytime while you are composing the slide as can the color of the text. Figure 6 uses two different fonts, while Figure 9 uses multiple fonts as well as color. Lotus, which produces EBS, also sells an extra disk of accessory fonts, many with both upper-and lowercase and even some special characters to improve your presentations. The Graphics Department
The Graphics Department is aptly titled. It is a complete set of graphics utilities for the Apple which is built primarily to do the work you might have previously sent to a graphics department within an organization (including text slides). It is a more integrated package than some of the older material available for the Apple and combines the power of many of the older programs with some new twists which make it an extremely useful tool. It is easy to use, too.
What "standard" techniques cay you apply with The Graphics Department? It is first and foremost a tool for entering, saving, and displaying business data in a variety of formats. Data can be entered from the keyboard or read in from a DIF file (this makes it compatible with data files used by VisiTrend/Plot, VisiCalc, and many other programs that use DIF data files). Once the data are in place, you can choose any of the familiar bar, line, pie, or scatter formats for display. Grids can be overlaid, and multiple plots can be displayed on a single chart.
Trend anaylysis, the most common statistical forecasting technique, is handled by the The Graphics Department as you are given the opportunity to plot additional statistics on any given chart (see Figure 10). These optional statistics include: the mean value, the standard deviation, and a "best fit" trend line (i.e., a simple regression line).
Regression analysis in general and other more sophisticated forms of manipulating data are not handles in the program. Up to 99 data points can be used at one time, and any chart type can be used to describe the data once they are in memory (after all, you may not know which type of chart to use in an actual presentation until you try each of them).
If that were all The Graphics Department did, it wouldn't be much different from say, PFS:Graph. But the system, which includes three double-sided disks, can also use 20 character fonts (Figure 11), more than 100 colors, a specialized set of "graphic tools," and a slide show utility--all in addition to the standard charting utilities (Figure 12). You will find the graphics tools most useful for editing completed slides and pictures. These pictures are saved as normal Apple 33- or 34-sector files and are thus compatible with most other programs such as Executive Briefing System, Frame-Up, and screen Director.
With the tools you can overlay, shrink, and move pieces of a picture at will. You could, for instance, take a chart, shrink it, and place it on a text slide, all in a matter of a few seconds. The tools module also allows the creation of slides and pictures from scratch, changing colors, masking portions of the screen, and adding patterns. With the slide show module, The Graphics Department gives you the power to display all your work. A print module allows you to print any screen on an Apple Siletype printer, but any commercial printing program (like Paper Graphics) can be used to print anything produced with The Graphics Department on a standard dot matrix printer. One final important point: the manual is honestly readable and helpful (or is it just that the program is so easy to use). Apple Mechanic
Another delightful program for composing primarily text slides (although it lacks the presentation facilities of EBS and The Graphics Department) is the Beagle Bros. Apple Mechanic for the Apple II. This inexpensive ($29.95) program includes six ready-to-use fonts and allows custom building of fonts. Beagle Bros. also sells an accessory disk with 26 extra fonts; that should be enough of a selection of letters, numbers, and special characters to keep anyone happy. Typing text screens with Apple Mechanica is simple with the Xtyper program, which allows upper-and lowercase as well as various colors. Changing fonts while composing is even easier than in EBS, so a single slide can use as many different fonts and colors as you like. MacPaint
MacPaint clearly falls into our general purpose graphics package category. The accompanying pictures printed on an Apple Imagewriter should demonstrate its usefulness for producing quality graphics in a business environment. MacPaint on the Macintosh is by far the simplest of all the graphics generators described here.
The manual for the program is trivial--who needs it? It is like providing a manual for a lead pencil. the program is most like Penguin's Complete Graphics System with icons representing things you would like to do. You just point and choose. Text and graphics can be easily mixed because the Mac uses only a hi-res screen (and it is really hi-res) (see Figure 13). There is no color, but there are may different types of shading. Anything on the screen can be dumped to the printer by selecting the print option with the mouse. Slide Shows
After you make the slides, you still need a way to display them. Apple Mechanic slides are useable by EBS and The Graphics Department, but if you want a less expensive display routine, I suggest the Beagle Bros. Frame-Up. (EBS costs $199, The Graphics Department sells for $124.95, and Frame-Up sells for $29.50). While Frame-Up (for the Apple II) is not nearly as sophisticated and capable as EBS or The Graphics Department it is simple, easy to use, and cheap. Learning to use it takes about ten minutes. It performs three important functions: it allows composition of simple, one-font text screens; it displays slides in rotation at the press of a paddle button or arrow key; and it performs unattended by showing slides in the order you choose with a time delay chosen by you. It also has an instruction booklet which is hilarious (like all the Beagle Bros. materials). Frame-Up doesn't do anything other programs don't do, but it does the basics quite well indeed.
Another Apple slide show program is Screen Director, an exceptionally easy to use program but one quite different in concept from Frame-Up, EBS, or The Graphics Department slide show module. Screen Director is actually a simple language with which you create and edit text slides as well a print the slides and/or present them in slide show fashion. EBS, Frame-Up, and The Graphics Department use menus to guide you through the program; choices are highlighted on the screen, and you move a cursor to select a particular procedure. In Screen Director the systems is quite different. First, Screen Director requires two drives for production of materials, although only one drive is needed for showing presentations. Second, Screen Director uses English-like commands to control the system. For example: SHOW FROM 1 AUTOMATIC 10
A reference card is included with Screen Director, and the language is almost easy enough to use that the manual becomes more of a reference guide than a piece of required reading (I recommend, however, that you read at least the tutorial section of the manual). Screen Director accepts screens from most packages, including VisiTrend/Plot and Apple Mechanic, but also has the ability to create and edit text slides. One unfortunate feature is that there is no way to add or delete material on a graphics slide. This is a real disadvantage if you wish to modify a VisiTrend/Plot slide; it simply cannot be done. EBS and The Graphics Department, on the other hand, do have the ability to modify graphics slides (by adding text, for example).
If you wish to use hardcopy handouts with a presentation, Screen Director will print all its screens to many printers as well as to the IDS Prism Color Printer. Screen Director will not, however, print your choice of slides but will print only all of the slides listed for one "show." Up to 17 graphics may be stored on a single disk.
One of the very attractive features of EBS is that it offers several methods for switching from one slide to the next (dissolve, curtain rise, spiral cut). These transitions between slides enhance the presentation enormously. Screen Director and The Graphics Department have fewer options. One quite useful inclusion in the Screen Director package is a slide changer like those used with 35mm projectors. The two buttons work to advance and recall slides just as they would were you actually using a slide projector. Animation, Freeform Graphics, and Unusual Devices
We have dealt with entering and transforming data, displaying the results as graphs and charts, creating text screens for explanation, and, finally, showing the results as a slide show. Now that is quite a bit of ground for anyone to cover, but we haven't done anything that couldn't be done by a professional graphics department with plenty of time, a 35mm slide projector, and a lot of money. But can the computer make sophisticated presentations that do things that slide projectors are incapable of matching? You bet!
Several software packages offer powerful animation routines, sometimes in conjunction with other useful features (like 3-D graphs or libraries of prepared graphics). For the Apple II, II+ and IIe the most complete and easy to use of these packages are The Graphic Solution and Graforth. For the IBM PC there are three packages in this category: Execuvision, Hypergraphics, and Energraphics. Each of these packages has both strong points and weak points.
Usually the use of animation in presentations requires the knowledge of a programming language like Basic, Pascal, or Forth, but few business users are willing to spend their valuable time learning the languages needed to address the specific graphics features of their computers.
What the businessperson (or teacher, consultant, guide, or trainer) really needs is a package that gives him the ability to create presentation quality animations and displays with relative ease. The Graphic Solution
The Graphic Solution is one of the few Apple software packages featuring animation that could conceivably be used by a neophyte. It is a friendly system, but be aware that to create complicated animations with it requires some practice. The basic technique is to create "movies" or animated sequences frame by frame. The frames may then be edited, shown in sequence, deleted, or added to previous work. Some quite complex work can be handled by TGS--large image animation, animation over colored backgrounds, flicker-free animation, scrolling, and animated text--but it takes time to learn the system. A knowledge of Applesoft Basic is also helpful for some of the applications. The documentation for TGS, which comes in a small three-ring binder, is well done and includes a tutorial as well as a quick-and-dirty introduction to using the package. A demonstration disk offers some insight into the capabilities of the package.
I found the most useful feature of TGS to be its ability to use completed screens created with other packages (like VisiTrend/Plot) as backgrounds for animation in presentations.
TGS also offers one other feature of potential interest to business users which could easily be overlooked. Accent, the manufacturer of TGS, also sells a TGS/KoalaPad interface which allows you to use a KoalaPad to input graphics into TGS. Since the KoalaPad has been marketed primarily for home use, its application in business graphics may be overlooked. The KoalaPad is not really a software package; it is actually a small graphics tablet sold with MicroIllustrator, a software package needed to use the pad. By itself, the small KoalaPad along with MicroIllustrator, is capable of producing some interesting graphics which can be saved and used with other packages (Figure 14). To draw, you use a stylus (provided) or even your fingertip to trace lines on the touch sensitive pad. The KoalaPad for the Apple plugs into the gameport (there is also a KoalaPad for the IBM PC) and allows freehand drawing in any of 16 colors--something no other package mentioned in this article can do. The MicroIllustrator package uses a rubber band cursor to help draw straight lines, boxes, and circles. The Complete Graphics System
The Complete Graphics System (CGS) is a close relative of the MicroIllustrator package. It is also an Apple package and can be used with the KoalaPad, but it is much more powerful than MicroIllustrator.
CGS is a generalized graphics package. It will not, for instance, plot the standard charts after you have entered numerical data, nor will it perform any statistical analysis, but it does offer a simple method for producing freestyle graphics for business (as well as text slides) in a "quick and dirty" manner. CGS is, above all, simple to use--the manual is less than 60 pages long and most of that you will read only once. With CGS you are offered a variety of input devices: the KoalaPad, joystick, trackball, Apple Graphics Tablet, Houston Instruments HiPad, Apple Mouse, or the reliable old keyboard. It is definitely easiest to draw with this package using one of the graphics tablets. We did not have an opportunity to try it with the mouse, but that is a close analog of a tablet and so will probably be just as easy to use.
Like MicroIllustrator, CGS draws perfect rectangles, circles, and straight lines for you; unlike MicroIllustrator it also helps draw ellipses, arcs, and triangles. The combination of 96 different brushes and more than 100 colors with these techniques boggles the imagination, but each technique is as easy to use as pointing to it.
Drawing is only one of the facets of CGS; it also produces text screens (only one font is included with the program, but 50 additional fonts are available from Penguin), draws three-dimensional objects, and drives most plotters (we tried it with an Amdek Amplot, and it performed flawlessly). Like The Graphics Department it also shrinks screens or parts of screens and allows you to move one part of the screen to another picture or another part of the same picture.
If you already own a KoalaPad, Apple Graphics Tablet or HiPad, you ought to have CGS to take full advantage of its features. Even from the keyboard, however, CGS is a powerful general purpose graphics package.
Figure 15 is a PERT chart drawn with the KoalaPad and CGS; text was added with The Graphics Department. The lines were defined by specifying the two endpoints, while the circles were defined by picking the center of a circle and then expanding the radius by choosing another point. This graphic could be saved to disk and used by another package (EBS, for instance) or used as a background for animation by TGS.
While The Complete Graphics System can draw three-dimensional graphics and The Graphic Solution can create real animation, neither one can actually animate the three-dimensional color graphics themselves. That is the strong point of a program written by Paul Lutus called Graforth which is available for the Apple as well as the IBM PC. Graforth
Graforth, however, is not for the novice. It is actually a programming language that allows some rather fast and slick animation. That means that to use the program, you must learn this modified Forth system--Reverse Polish Notation and all. For someone familiar with Basic, Pascal, or even Fortran the task is relatively simple (but time-consuming), but for others it may be too time-consuming to be worthwhile.
Once the language is mastered, however, true three-dimensional objects can be moved about the screen and text placed anywhere you want it (see Figures 16-19). For some types of demonstrations this capability just can't be beat. It is the type of demonstration that cannot be duplicated with a chalk-talk, a set of overheads, or even a slide projector. Only a movie comes close to representing the type of displays Graforth is capable of creating. This specialized program is not for all, but it may be just perfect for a few users.
But TGS and CGS are not available for IBM PC users. Not to worry! IBM users have available to them three powerful and complete packages which are capable of producing many of the types of graphics we have already described with animation as well as some novel additions. Execuvision
Execuvision is a very complete newcomer to the IBM PC market; its ease of use and totality of coverage are a delight. It can generate the normal business graphics (pie charts, bar graphs, etc.), overlay text, or create text screens. It also allows sketching, uses animation and special effects, and includes a complete slide show (automatic run-time option). Execuvision, however, does require somewhat more than the basic IBM PC system to operate; requirements are 128K, PC DOS 1.1, two double-sided disk drives, and a color/graphics monitor.
Execuvision is really a very complete package; it also is compatible with the IBM PC version of VisiTrend/Plot. Figure 20 represents a unique feature of the package: Execuvision includes a library of pre-rendered images for use in your presentations. Some of these library images are included with the basic package while others are available separately. The library subjects currently available are:
* Borders Collection.
* Initials and Decorative Design Collection.
* Industry and Business Catalog Collection.
* Professions: The World's Faces and Figures Collection.
* Maps and International Symbols Collection.
It surprises me that there is no comparable collection of images and backgrounds for Apple users. The use of pre-rendered graphics is certainly the easiest of all graphics techniques (i.e., "let someone else do it"). The Execuvision library, though, is not the most impressive part of the package; the integration of all the desired graphics techniques in one easy to use package is clearly its strong suite. No other package mentioned here combines practically all the features of the menu-driven Execuvision. Even considering its heavy hardware requirements and price ($395) it stands apart from other packages. A glance at the comparison chart accompanying this article will emphasize the breadth of the Execuvision program. Hypergraphics
Hypergraphics is a very sophisticated general purpose graphics package for the IBM Personal Computer; it offers features that are unavailable in other software but similar in some ways to TGS for the Apple. Hypergraphics is designed primarily for executive users but will probably take longer to master than either Execuvision or Energraphics.
The producers of Hypergraphics believed enough in their product to present the tutorial in disk form rather than in the usual walk-through manual format. The tutorial itself is produced with Hypergraphics. A user's manual, provided in book format, is meant to be used only as a reference manual to answer specific questions. The disk tutorial is well done, but often you need to look something up while you are in the middle of producing a presentation--that is a bit difficult if the tutorial itself is on disk.
The unique feature of Hypergraphics is that it can become part of one of your own programs; you may transfer control back and forth from your control program to Hypergraphics as needed. This means that all the capabilities of Hypergraphics are available within your own programs, but you do not need to learn a specialized programming language to do animation and freeform graphics. To use Hypergraphics, you need not know how to program, but its use in your own programs is one of its most powerful features. The Hypergraphics system creates presentations by making files which consist of many (up to 999) pages numbered consecutively and linked in that order. You use the Hypergraphics program to place information on each page.
The information you place on any given page may consist of text, graphics, and/or animation commands. Each page is distinct and can be edited separately just as each frame of a TGS movie could be edited on the Apple (Figure 20). Pages may be copied onto new "blank pages" and then altered slightly to show progressions of text or graphics. The presentation facility of Hypergraphics is like the projector module of TGS; both allow the pages or frames to be viewed in some preselected order. Both Hypergraphics and TGS are different from slide shows because they allow true animation and because they can be called from your own programs.
Text pages may be sent to a printer, and screen images may be saved to disk in a format useable by other packages. There are no provisions for plotting. EnerGraphics
An entirely different sort of package for IBM PC users is EnerGraphics which also requires 128K, two double-sided disk drives (or one drive and a hard disk), a graphics monitor (preferably color), an IBM (or compatible) graphics adapter board, and a dot matrix printer. This package requires a bit more hands-on time before you can produce presentation quality graphics when compared with Execuvision (and less time than it takes to master Hypergraphics) but that is not surprising since EnerGraphics is a statistical/graphics package designed to do several unique things:
* In addition to the standard pie charts and line graphics, EnerGraphics can do statistical analysis or fit straight line or polynomial functions (user definable) to data and plot the results (see Figures 22 and 23). It can also perform linear and polynomial regression (quite useful for economists and forecasters).
* While Execuvision can produce bar charts with a 3-D look, EnerGraphics can produce real 3-D surfaces including color, zoom capability, rotation, hidden line removal and perspective (see Figure 24).
* EnerGraphics also performs as a sort of word processor by allowing you to edit charts, graphs, or designs with easily addressed symbols (see Figure 25). The authors suggest such applications as flow charts, floor plans, and mechanical drawings.
EnerGraphics also has the ability to produce text screens interspersed with special user-defined symbols, and is compatible with DIF files. A slide presentation program included in the package allows you to display completed graphics in the familiar slide show fashion.
Figures 24 and 25 are produced with EnerGraphics using its simple menu-driven production routines. These screens can be saved and used in the slide show routine (included) or printed or plotted for hardcopy handouts. Execuvision, EnerGraphics, and Hypergraphics all offer demonstration disks for prospective purchasers, which provide an exciting method of viewing each package in action. Single Purpose Programs
Some programs just do not fall into the general categories we outlined earlier; PC-Draw is one of these. While it will no doubt be very useful and even a necessity for some users, it is a specialized tool designed to mimic the art of a draftsman (see Figure 26). With PC-Draw you can make up specialized templates which consist of symbols you may elect to use anywhere on the graphics page. Presumably, an engineer would make up one template while an architect might use a different template altogether. Some ready-made templates are included with PC-Draw but you are provided with tools to create new templates for any specialized task.
PC-Draw is designed mainly to complete drawings of any type which use repetition of a symbol or graphic design. Drawings are saved to disk or printed in one of many different modes (e.g., regular, compressed, emphasized). While most users will probably use PC-Draw with keyboard entry, the program does support light pen entry. Two modes are provided for drawing; one is a high-resolution (640 x 200 pixels) black and white mode while the other is a medium-resolution (320 x 200 pixels) color mode. Chartmaster
Chartmaster is another single-purpose package for people who require a charting tool for financial and commodity markets. The program is most useful to those who follow some markets quite closely and depend heavily upon certain chart forms and statistics as predictors of future prices or trends. An automatic updating system allows a phone call (via modem) to supply daily information to be absorbed by Chartmaster without the need to key the data in by hand.
Chartmaster is a highly specialized package intended only for investors, as evidenced by the types of specialized graphics it produces: high-low-close bar charts, point-and-figure charts, moving average charts, and spread charts/basis charts.
The IBM version of the program can handle 450 trading days of information on a number of different stocks or commodities and display the information in graphic form. Charts may be "zoomed" to explode the price action covering a particular period or scrolled in VisiCalc fashion to view earlier trading. It sure beats looking all the data up and charting it by hand. Trendlines (actually ten different forms of trend analysis) are available as well as five different moving averages.
The update-by-modem feature of Chartmaster is optional, and you may enter data manually if you so desire. Manual data entry is quick because the program is designed to accept data in recognized formats only, allowing for weekends and so on. The manual includes not only instructions on how to use Chartmaster but also a tutorial on hedging and finding buy and sell signals in commodity markets. This software offers you a solid opportunity either to lose your lunch money or to strike it rich.
One final note about specialized packages has to do with the color screen photos accompanying this article. Most of the graphics shown here were reproduced on 35mm slides by Computer Slide Express. This company provides the service of turning your Apple or IBM graphics into 35mm color slides or overhead transparencies. You mail them your 5-1/4" disk with graphics on it, and they return your unaltered disk and the slides or overheads within a few days. You may even send your Apple graphics over the phone via modem with a software package supplied by them; each slide requires about two minutes to transfer in a packed format (using a routine written by Mark Pelczarski of Penguin Software.)