by Alan Zisman (c) 1992. Originally
published in INPUT, May 1992 (where it was mis-credited to Ross
One of the unkept promises of the personal computer
'revolution' is the so-called "paper-less office"... a vision of a
future work environment where memos would circulate as e-mail messages,
and all of our forms and files would be stored on disk, available as
Instead, computers have teamed up with laser printers
to become major contributors to the deluge of paper in which we're
Canadian software company, Delrina Technology doesn't
have the solution, but their PERFORM PRO form designer and filler
software has the potential to move us one step closer to that elusive
goal, while increasing office productivity in the process.
Forms make up about 30% of the paper used in a typical
office; $2 billion is spent each year buying forms, but about $60 is
spent processing forms for each dollar spent on their purchase. PERFORM
PRO can help in two ways-- using it, forms can be designed in-house,
meeting the users' unique needs. Even more powerfully, however,
PERFORM's filler module (also available separately), permits users to
fill in forms directly on a wide range of personal computers,
eliminating the need for 'hard copy' paper forms entirely.
PERFORM PRO's form designer module is a Microsoft
product. (An earlier version of the program, PERFORM, designed to run
on PC's using the GEM environment, is still available at a reduced
price). As with all Windows applications, it provides users with a
graphical screen; the form is designed on screen, using tools similar
desktop publishing or a paint program. Unique to Perform Pro is
the Comb -- this tool makes it easy to lay out forms with evenly spaced
horizontal or vertical divisions. If the area is resized, these
divisions automatically adjust to the changes.
Once a form has been designed, it could simply be
printed out, for further re-printing. Aside from then adding to the
clutter of paper in most business environments, this would be passing
on Perform Pro's real strength.
FILL FORMS ELECTRONICALLY
Rather than creating more paper clutter, would be to
use one of the PERFORM family of form fillers to process forms directly
on your computer. The Windows version of the Perform Filler is included
in the PERFORM PRO package. Versions are also available for DOS (text
screen), DOS (GEM environment), and MacIntosh. All versions share file
information, and priced inexpensively enough to permit purchase of
several copies to accompany a single copy of
the designer package.
Employees using the form fillers are unable to design
or alter forms; instead, they fill in information on screen. Related
forms can be grouped into folders-- for example, customer invoices
be grouped together with payment records, or personnel forms with
payroll forms. Entering a name on one form would cause it to be entered
on all related forms in a folder, saving time and minimizing errors.
Forms can be designed to include graphics--
potentially useful for personnel or real estate forms, for example. Bar
codes can be created and included on forms, in a variety of formats. As
well, forms can be set up to automatically perform simple arithmetic
(calculate totals, and add on GST and PST for example), or to use
tables. Data can be saved and accessed in DBase format, ASCII format,
or in Perform's native format.
The Filler includes a number of sophisticated options
for printing data. While forms may simply be printed, a page at a time,
complete with data, this is by far the slowest method. If pre-printed
forms are available, a user may choose to send the just the data to the
printer. As well, if using an HP Laserjet or IBM laser printer, the
layout information may be sent to the printer as a macro. This lets the
printer lay out the form design just once, adding the data only, rather
than having to start from scratch on each new page. These options are
clearly explained in the documentation.
Security can become a problem in an electronic data
environment such as this. Perform Pro provides an optional module
devoted to minimizing this problem. The person installing the software
is asked to provide a
password. After that, they provide a user list, and the program
randomly creates passwords for those users. In addition to controlling
user access in this way, persons issuing forms can be provided with
secure, electronic 'signatures', ensuring that only they can 'sign'
their names to electronic documents.
Perform Pro must be installed from Windows. It gives
the user a number of options, such as whether to install the security
module or some or all of the 122 sample forms included. In each case,
the amount of hard drive space required is indicated. As well, Perform
Pro users are given the option of installing the Agfa Type
Designer system, for providing screen and printer fonts for a wide
of printers. A full installation will take up about 6 megs. Eliminating
the fonts, which are redundant if another type manager such as
Adobe Type Manager is in used, will get the installation down to a more
reasonable 3 megs. Even a minimum installation installs both the
designer and filler modules; while the filler module can be purchased
separately, the designer module is only sold as part of the complete
The system comes with a wide range of sample forms,
which can be easily modified to meet a user's unique requirements. It
well documented, including separate manuals for program set up, and for
the Designer and Filler modules. It does fall down in the area of
on-line help, however; while it makes use of the standard Windows help
system, the help provided is only a sketchy outline of the menu
commands. I was unable, for example, to get help for a process as basic
as importing a graphic.
If your business makes use of forms (and what business
doesn't), this software is well worth considering. If used to its
fullest potential, it can result in significant productivity and cost
benefits, even for a small business. As well, users can get that warm
glow from using a product that is truly environmentally friendly.
Perform Pro Forms Designer and Filler
1945 Leslie Street
Don Mills, Ontario
1-800-268-6082 Fax (416) 441-0333
list price: $594 (CDN)-- (Has been on sale in
Vancouver for as low as $149.
Form FILLER module-- available separately in Windows,
GEM, or DOS Text Editions, (MacIntosh version expected)
$239 (CDN) list.
PerForm 2.1 (older GEM version) --Designer and
$179 (CDN) list.
Windows version requires a Windows-compatible computer
(see sidebar), with Microsoft Windows v.3.x already installed, and 3-6
meg of free hard drive space.
PROS: This Windows product offers a powerful system
for forms design and filling. It provides true on-screen display of
forms and data, and (relative) ease of use. Form FILLER module can be
purchased separately, for multiple users.
CONS: A weak on-screen help system. Can not purchase
or install just the Forms Designer module.
(Note from the year 2003): The above
article was originally published in 1992, as a review. A decade and
later, I've gotten a series of emails from XTree fans hoping that I
could sell them a copy of this software or direct them to a place where
it is still available. While I have reviewed software since 1991, I am
not a vendor of r any products. I suggest to everyone looking for
of older software to check at eBay or at OldSoftware.com.If
you check on my Files webpages, you'll find links to a number of (mostly
freeware) downloadable software, some of which may be good replacements
for older programs.
-- AZ (September 15, 2003)