APPLICATIONSBUREAUTIQUE ★ SUPERCALC II**SUPERCALC 2 ★

SUPERCALC II|Amstrad Computer User)Supercalc 2|CPC Amstrad International)SUPERCALC 2|Popular Computing Weekly)
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Have you ever spent a Saturday morning trying to decide if you can afford to buy a new car/washing machine/record player or pair of shoes and not been sure if your bank balance can stand it?By the time you have worked out what you owe the credit card companies, the corner shop and subtracted what you need to see you through 'till the pay-day the shoe shop has closed. What you need to take the effort out of this arithmetic is a spreadsheet. Ken Clarke works it out.

The advent of the new Amstrad CP/M Plus computers has brought about interesting happenings in the computer marketplace, apart from the more obvious wholesale dumping of hardware by competitors to stay in the race. The price of software is now dropping to suit the cheaper availability of hardware, the old ten-per-cent rule - which states that customers will not pay more than about ten percent of the hardware cost for software • is one that many software producers are finding hard to break. The less generous would say that the software becoming available is 'last-years-modes' and to a certain extent they would be partly justified, many software producers have titles in their catalogues that have bccome 'wallflowers'since the advent of the more 'sexy' 16 bit stuff, but when all is said and done they are still useful pieces of software, tools to do a job, spanners don't go out of fashion!

The most useful tools from the computing point of view are the generic or general purpose packages such as word-processors, databases and spreadsheets, the pliers of the software toolbox.

What is a spreadsheet?

This is rather difficult as there is no cosy comparison in the real world. When asked for analogies it is easy to say that a database is 'a sort of electronic filing cabinet' or that a word-processor is 'a sort of glass typewriter' as these refer to things that people know and can visualise which helps to ease the technology gap of expectations versus performance.

The nearest analogy that can be applied to a spreadsheet is that of a ledger or wall planner, a chart which is split into horizontal rows and vertical columns producing individual areas where information can be held - in a ledger it would be accounts information or on a wall chart it would show when staff were taking leave etc. And this is what a spreadsheet is, a large 'electronic sheet' or wallchart, The individual areas where the vertical and horizontal lines bisect each other are called cells. Each cell has a unique co-ordinate -the columns are usually referenced by letters of the alphabet and the rows by numbers - so that the top left cell would be A1. The cells can contain numbers or text as in the 'real life' alternatives, but the real power of spread-sheets comes from the fact that cells can also contain formulae, numerical equations that can reference other cells and constants. Altering the value of a cell will cause a re-calculation of the entire spreadsheet and make it a very powerful plannningtool.

SuperCalc²

The latest spreadsheet addition to the wealth of cheaper professional software becoming available is the well-known (and loved by everybody except Multiplan users) SuperCalc2. The package is available from Amsoft at £49.95, which is a fair bit cheaper than the original asking price of about £200. The program is a comprehensive spreadsheet' planner package with oodles of features which will keep the number crunchingjunkies very happy for ages. The package comes with extremely comprehensive (and bulkyl ring bound manuals. On the disc there are pre-installed versions of the program for both the the CPC6128 and PCW8256 computers, the Joyce version has been set up to utilize the larger screen. Also included are the installation programs (if you want to change the default settings), a utility to set up the system time and date and the SDI (no, not star wars) data interchange program which enables the exchange of data between supercalc and other programs such as dBASE II for example. As with all serious software the source disc should never be used 'in anger1 and a working copy has to be made. A program is included which creates the working disc for you, it is a bit fiddly - though not so bad if you have two drives - but at least it protects your investment.

Cell Usage

The maximum size of a SuperCalc2 spreadsheet is 63 columns (A-BK) and 254 rows. Although not all cells can be used at once it does give the flexibility of allowing 'L' or T shaped spreadsheets. Any cells which are left empty are ignored which means that tidy, well spaced-out sheets do not gobble up the available memory. Of the 61K TPA of Amstrad's CP/M Plus about 31K is available for a spreadsheet after SuperCalc2 has loaded. This allows for about 3000 or so active cells. The amount of free memory is constantly displayed at the bottom of the sheet so you can see at a glance how much is left. Obviously all the 16,000 possible cells cannot be shown on the screen at once, rather the screen acts as a 'window' on the larger sheet. The window can be scrolled around the sheet under the control of the cursor keys. The screen can also be split horizontally or vertically into two independent windows looking at two different areas of the spreadsheet.

Commands

The main commands of Supercalc are the unfortunately named Slash commands, so called because they are prefixed by the slash V character. The slash commands control operation of the spreadsheet as detailed below:

  • A(rrange)— Sorts cells in ascending or descending order.
  • B(lank)— Removes (empties) contents of cells.
  • C(opy)......Duplicates contents and display format of cells.
  • D(elete).... Erases entire rows or columns.
  • E(dit).... Allows editing of cell contents.
  • F(ormat).... Sets display format at Entry, Row, Column, or Global levels.
  • G(lobal).... Changes global display or calculation options.
  • I(nsert).... Adds empty rows or columns.
  • L(oad)......Reads spreadsheet (or portion) from disk into the workspace.
  • M(ove)...... Inserts existing rows or columns at new positions.
  • O(utput)..... Sends display or cell contents to printer, screen or disk.
  • P(rotect).... Prevents future alteration of cells.
  • Q(uit)......Ends the SuperCalc2 program.
  • R(eplicate).... Reproduces contents of partial rowsorcolumns.
  • S(ave).... Stores the current spreadsheet on disk.
  • T(itle).... Locks upper rows or left-hand columns from scrolling.
  • U(nprotect).... Allows alteration of protected cells.
  • W(indow).... Splits the screen display.
  • X(eXecute).... Accepts commands and data from an .XQT file.
  • Z(ap).......Erases spreadsheet and format settings from workspace.

Formulae

SuperCalc formulae can contain up to 116 characters which can include numbers, cell references and mathematical operators (including the logical operators IF, OR, AND and NOT) as well as a range of standard built-in functions such as AVERAGE, SUM, MIN and MAX, SIN and COS.

There are some additional special functions available which are nice touches. A lookup table function which will search one column or row for a match and return the value of an adjacent column or row, the returned value can be either numeric or textual - A net present value function which will be welcomed by accountants and financial analysts - and quite a deéparture for spreadsheets, Calendar functions, which use a modified Julian calendar that ranges from 1/3/1900 to 28/2/2100 and assigns each day in this 200 year period an individual number. The calendar functions can calculate the month, year, even the day of the week for a particular Julian number. The TODAY function will read the current system date and convert it to a standard date entry field. Dates can even be used in equations, adding a constant to a date field will produce as its result the (correct) new date. The only niggle about the calendar functions is the fact that that the program uses the American format of MMDD/YY rather than the British format of DD/MM/YY.

Hints

SuperCalc uses the technique of overlays to enable a large program to fit in a small user space. Sections of the program are called in as and when required from the overlay files. This means that the program files must always be on the default disc drive. This can be a limitation if you only have one drive but Joyce owners can use the RAM disc to their advantage. Moving the SuperCalc program and help files to the M: drive can really speed up execution of the program. As sections of the overlay file are called in from disc there is usually a delay as the required data is read in, when running from the RAM disc there are no mechanical operations involved (the disc starting, accessing the correct track and then turning off again) and so the access time is nearly instantaneous. Another particularly useful feature of SuperCalc is the help facility. If you get stuck and are not sure what to enter while using the spreadsheet, pressing the '?' key will bring up an Answer screen. There is a degree of intelligence here as the actual screen displayed will depend upon the particular operation being executed at the time.

This review just about scratches the surface of a very impressive package. The highest praise that can be given for SuperCalc2 is that whenever my manual goes missing I can always find it in the Amstrad accounts deépartment. If the financial deépartment of a large international company uses the program extensively it's certainly good enough for me.

ACU #8602

★ PUBLISHERS: AMSOFT , SCHNEIDER (GERMANY)
FOUNRNISSEUR (UK): Artisoft, Brentwood House, 169 Kings Road, Brentwood, Essex CM 14 4EF.
★ YEAR: 1984
★ CONFIG: 128K + Amstrad CPC 6128/PCW 8256 (CP/M+)
★ LANGUAGE:
★ LICENCE: COMMERCIALE
★ PRICE: £49.00 (UK), 198,-- DM (GERMANY)
★ AUTHOR: SORCIM
★ REF: SOFT07028 (DISC)


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L'Amstrad CPC est une machine 8 bits à base d'un Z80 à 4MHz. Le premier de la gamme fut le CPC 464 en 1984, équipé d'un lecteur de cassettes intégré il se plaçait en concurrent  du Commodore C64 beaucoup plus compliqué à utiliser et plus cher. Ce fut un réel succès et sorti cette même années le CPC 664 équipé d'un lecteur de disquettes trois pouces intégré. Sa vie fut de courte durée puisqu'en 1985 il fut remplacé par le CPC 6128 qui était plus compact, plus soigné et surtout qui avait 128Ko de RAM au lieu de 64Ko.