Professional, Originally Released On ROM Cartridge
Review (Electron User)
Electronic spreadsheets have always had a reputation of being difficult to use, and I'm sure that this reputation, not entirely unjustified, has largely been acquired through unfamiliarity.
At first glance VIEWSHEET looks to be incredibly complex, coming as it does with a 143 page manual and a huge range of facilities. In fact it is straightforward to use, though the complexities may take a considerable time to master.
The manual guides you into the subject gently, showing that it is very easy to set up simple sheets such as the Magic Square, and gradually builds up to the more powerful commands.
On my first encounter with VIEWSHEET I was astonished by just how powerful these were, and could soon see why spreadsheets are considered the best way of manipulating data, numbers and calculations.
The program was designed and written by Protechnic, the company responsible for VIEW, with which it is compatible. Coming on a 16k ROM it is switched in instead of Basic (by *SHEET) and so uses little of your precious RAM. In common with VIEW it is key rather than menu driven, the ESCAPE key toggling between command and sheet modes.
The sheet has a nominal 255 by 255 size, and is best used in Mode 3. At the top of the screen is a permanent display of command information - your current position within the sheet, and the contents of that slot.
The current slot itself is in reverse video - the sheet cursor. This can be moved around at will by using CAPS LK/FUNC and another key for the appropriate direction. Each slot can contain a label, formula or reference. For example, if in slot A1 you enter PI, you see 3.14159 appear. Move to B1 and type 2 * A1, and this is calculated and stored in B1 as 6.28319. B1 thus refers to A1, so go back to A1 and alter the contents to another number. In B1 that number multiplied by 2 appears automatically.
This is the essential power of the spreadsheet. Any shot referring to A1 will be updated, and likewise any referring to B1 and so on, propagating any change across the whole sheet. Slots can also be accessed by naming the columns and rows, for example "JUNE" Week1" * 0.15. They can be filled by auto-entry (across or down), replication (across, down or both, and Absolute or Relative) and by editing existing contents.
As for calculations, a large range of functions are available including summing, conditional operators (including IF), pseudo-list functions such as MAX, MIN, AVERAGE, CHOOSE and LOOKUP (taking lists of slots as one of their arguments), and most of the Basic maths functions with the usual operator precedence.
Up to ten windows can be defined to display information from all over the spreadsheet simultaneously. Printing is also by means by windows and drivers, and save/load windows commands mean that one large spreadsheet can be used with several sets of windows.
Other facilities include protection, insertion and deletion of rows and columns, forced recalculation, editing slot formats - decimal places, ranging right or left and altering the column width. In addition, Plus 3 owners can transfer data between sheets using specially created files, and two or more spreadsheets can be linked, so overcoming memory limitations.
In short, this ROM is sufficiently powerful to provide almost any conceivable planning, modelling and forecasting that anyone could want from an Electron. Many people don't realise the capabilities of spreadsheets. I'd advise them to go on and try it!
My only reservations are the rather poor bar charts (using rows of asterisks), the lack of an index in the otherwise excellent manual, and the speed of the response times - none serious enough to prevent me from warmly recommending it. At £29.95 it is now well priced, but beware: some shops are still selling it at double that.
Nick Rhodes, ELECTRON USER 3. 4