APPLICATIONSDIVERS ★ HOME FINANCE PROGRAM ★

Home Finance Program (HFP)|ACU)Home Finance Program|Amstrad Action)
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Home start

You may think that not buying a £25 accounting program is a good way to save money. David Foster would disagree. HFP is the name given to a new "Home Finance Program" (hence the initials) by a company called Datavise from Co. Down, Northern Ireland.
Where most home accounts programs provide the facility to enter expenditure and total and summarise it, HFP attempts to help you to save and keep a record of your expenses. It does this by allowing you to forecast your expenditure under different categories.
As you spend your money, the balance forecasts are updated, letting you see when you are overspending and when spending should be restricted to cover anticipated future expenses.

The principles behind the program are sound. In correct accounting manner, it does not permit you to alter entries once they have been made. All corrections must be made by contra entries. Datavise claims that the full benefits will be realised after using HFP over a period. The experience gained in previous years should help forecasting expenses. Unfortunately the editor would not let me delay the review for a couple of years to test the claims, so we must just accept that this is probably true.

The program is supplied on a single disc with a comprehensive manual in an unusually large and floppy, 64 page, A4 size ring binder. HFP runs under CP/M Plus and can therefore be used on the CPC6128 and the PCW range of computers. I tested it on both. The manual is well printed and laid out and assumes neither knowledge of computers nor accounting systems. It starts with a general introduction to the program, followed by precise details of how to create a working copy, before clearly detailing how to use it.
Recommendations are made that you do not complicate the program by having a multitude of unnecessary headings. It is also suggested that entries are restricted to genuine payments out of accounts, rather than detailing every little out-of-pocket expense.
This is a sensible approach; it is the sort of thing that makes the difference between the system falling by the wayside due to the amount of work involved, or surviving over a period of time.

Getting started

The supplied disc includes a program to create a working disc. Datavise say this is the only way to create a working copy of HFP, so that if you need to create a new one, it's necessary to repeat the same procedure, using the original disc. Each copy is supplied customised with the user's name, so presumably the program is only available from Datavise.

Setting up the working disc is simple. HFP does almost all the work. It is only necessary to follow the prompts to change discs and press a few keys. The end result is a disc that can be put in drive A at switch on and which will automatically load CP/M, followed by HFP (CPC6128 owners will have to type BARCPM, of course). HFP is intelligent to the extent that it automatically configures itself to the computer, only requiring to know what printer is being used (or details of certain printer codes if the printer is not one of the listed ones) and whether a green screen or colour monitor is being used on the CPC.
On the PCW, it will arrange itself to copy certain program files on to drive M, when first loaded, to speed up operation in use. CPC6128 owners with only a single drive have to do a lot of disc changing when using the program, as HFP requires data to be stored on a separate disc.
The program is well presented and appears to be thoroughly error trapped. It is very menu and window orientated and all functions are accessed via menus, selecting the option with the cursor keys and pressing Enter. The lower part of the screen displays which keys are valid and Exit/Esc may usually be pressed in order to obtain onscreen help.

HFP has an IQ

Once into the main program, HFP again shows a degree of intelligence. When you start to type in a command, specify a heading or account, it anticipates the selection after one or two characters are typed and displays it for confirmation. If you specify headings carefully it is rarely necessary to type more than one or two characters to select the command/heading you require, which saves a lot of effort. The displays of menus and keys available are similarly intelligent and only those options which are valid at any given time are displayed.

For example, when you first load HFP, only the options to open a folder or exit HFP are available. There would be little point in printing or viewing nothing, but once you have actually started to create your folder further options become available on the menus to suit. Once a new folder has been opened, the Utilities option is available and this lets you edit accounts and headings. In addition, you may customise the help screens to provide further information.

When you use HFP for the first time, it will be necessary to give details of the names of accounts, such as Bank, Credit Card and Building Society and specify the categories where expenditure goes. It is a good idea not to break things down too much also to specify the categories that expenditure is to be broken down into. It is a good idea not to break things down too much also to specify the categories that expenditure is to be broken down into.
It is a good idea not to break things down too much since you are limited to 16 categories. You may also specify which of three screen displays are to be used to show details of which account giving order in which they will appear.

A finance session

Having done that, you may start a Finance session. This is where you enter the information. Initially you are presented with an overview of the categories or headings, but by pressing keys 0 to 3 you switch between the other three display screens. The overview gives a listing of the various headings, analysed into the total amount spent, the budgeted amount, the balance of the budget still unspent, and the amount earmarked as an expense, but not yet covered by available funds.

The other three screens (you don't have to use all three) display things slightly differently. As with the overview, the categories are listed down the side, but this time they are cross referenced with the accounts. You can tell at a glance how much you have spent on each category and from which account.

The option to spend

Six commands are available, Budget, Allocate, Spend, Transfer, Move and finally Leave, and these may be selected by pressing the first letter of each command. Initially, Allocate should be used to enter up the opening balances into each account. This command is used whenever new money is paid into an account. Budget is used to enter estimated expenditure and you must specify the account from which it will be paid and the category, as well as the amount.
Spend, not surprisingly, is the command used to enter amounts spent and the account that was used and the category of expenditure must be given.

Transfer and Move appear similar, but are very different in their use. Transfer is used to indicate the transfer of funds from one account to another. Move is used to transfer budgeted amounts from one category to another.

This last option does not have any effect on the amount of money in each account. It is merely a way of redistributing your budgeted balances if you find that you have underestimated expenditure in one category and overestimated it in another.

At the end of each entry, you may enter a comment, this provides the means to expand on the precise expenditure. By default, HFP uses the date entered when the program is first loaded. In addition, it lets you specify another date, which allows you to enter any payments that may have omitted in earlier sessions. On completing a finance session, you may print out a trail of entries in the current session to the screen or printer. Time to review the situation

If you want to study entries from an earlier session you must use the Database, option. This provides a means to interrogate the folder and you may specify conditions, such as which account, which category or type of entry and the period over which the search is to take place. Once the search has been made, the list of matching entries may be displayed on screen or sent to a printer. Alternatively, you may view or print a trail for a given date.

Conclusions

There are one or two features about the program which may be considered weaknesses, such as the fact that the program automatically assumes that the working disc is in drive A and the data disc is in drive B. This is fine, even with only a single disc drive, as you merely switch discs as prompted by the program or CP'M. It does mean that PCW 8512 owners cannot store data on a CF2 disc in drive A and the program cannot be used from a hard disc, or any disc that is recognised as anything other than A or B.t have to use all three) display things slightly differently. As with the overview, the categories are listed down the side, but this time they are cross referenced with the accounts. You can tell at a glance how much you have spent on each category and from which account.

The option to spend

Six commands are available, Budget, Allocate, Spend, Transfer, Move and finally Leave, and these may be selected by pressing the first letter of each command. Initially, Allocate should be used to enter up the opening balances into each account. This command is used whenever new money is paid into an account. Budget is used to enter estimated expenditure and you must specify the account from which it will be paid and the category, as well as the amount.
Spend, not surprisingly, is the command used to enter amounts spent and the account that was used and the category of expenditure must be given.

Transfer and Move appear similar, but are very different in their use. Transfer is used to indicate the transfer of funds from one account to another. Move is used to transfer budgeted amounts from one category to another.

This last option does not have any effect on the amount of money in each account. It is merely a way of redistributing your budgeted balances if you find that you have underestimated expenditure in one category and overestimated it in another.

At the end of each entry, you may enter a comment, this provides the means to expand on the precise expenditure. By default, HFP uses the date entered when the program is first loaded. In addition, it lets you specify another date, which allows you to enter any payments that may have omitted in earlier sessions. On completing a finance session, you may print out a trail of entries in the current session to the screen or printer. Time to review the situation

If you want to study entries from an earlier session you must use the Database, option. This provides a means to interrogate the folder and you may specify conditions, such as which account, which category or type of entry and the period over which the search is to take place. Once the search has been made, the list of matching entries may be displayed on screen or sent to a printer. Alternatively, you may view or print a trail for a given date.

Conclusions

There are one or two features about the program which may be considered weaknesses, such as the fact that the program automatically assumes that the working disc is in drive A and the data disc is in drive B. This is fine, even with only a single disc drive, as you merely switch discs as prompted by the program or CP

Another criticism is that while a variety of printers may be used, there is no provision for anything other than single sheet A4 paper. It really should to be possible to use continuous stationery.

One point which mildly irritated me was that while the method of menu selection works well, it requires use of the cursor keys and Enter, when it would be easier to select the option by typing the first letter or a number.

The program is very pedantic about whether Enter or Return is used. Most of the time. Enter is used from menus,
but on occasions, within the program itself, you are required to press Return. This means that you have to keep a close eye on the bottom of the screen to see which key is required.

Overall, the program gives a feeling of confidence and is easy to learn to use, with the combination of the thorough manual, the help screens and the way that the program prompts you at all times.

If you are looking for a program to keep a record of your finances, then this could be the one to choose. It has certainly got nearer to persuading me that a computer may be a viable way to keep my home accounts than any other program I have tried.

ACU #8709

★ PUBLISHER: Datavise (20 Drumnaquoile Road, Castlewellan, Co. Down BT31 9NT Ltd.)
★ YEAR: 1987
★ CONFIG: 128K + CP/M
★ LANGUAGE:
★ LICENCE: COMMERCIALE
★ PRICE: £24.95

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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.