graphics software gives you just what you need, and nothing more
by Alan Zisman (c) 1996 First published
in Business in
Vancouver , Issue #329 February 13, 1996 High Tech
and I recently
went to the movies, and as is now customary, we got to sit through
several commercials before the film. One was a public-service
that told the story of an engineer at Waterloo University who drew
on his Mennonite farming background to design a water pump that can
be used by foreign-aid workers to bring water to African villages
that lack electricity. Appropriate technology: just enough to do the
job, simply and elegantly.
when I find software that seems to fit that criterion. It doesn't
happen all that often. Most of the time, it seems that we get bigger
and bigger programs with more and more features. Even as user
become better-designed and easier to learn, the increased number of
things going on conspires to keep the user just as confused as before.
And these added features require more hard-drive space, more RAM,
and a faster processor--a hardware upgrade just to run at the same
speed. As the Red Queen told Alice: "You have to run as fast as you
can just to stay in the same spot."
once in a
while, some piece of software gets my attention by doing less, but
doing it well. One such example is ASAP, a presentation graphics
from Software Publishing Corporation (SPC).
SPC had a
flagship presentation program, Harvard Graphics, had pretty much
the genre back in the '80s, but it was a DOS program, and, like Lotus
and WordPerfect, SPC missed the big shift to the Windows
in the early '90s. Eventually, it did come out with a Windows version,
and it was pretty good, but by then it was too late--most business
users were now buying their software as part of a suite of
And they were primarily buying the suite for the word processor and
getting a presentation graphics program thrown in.
Harvard Graphics was better than Microsoft PowerPoint
Freelance, users who got their presentation program free as part of
a suite usually saw little need to look elsewhere. The market for
big, stand-alone presentation graphics had pretty much evaporated.
took a look at the market, however, and thought it saw an opportunity.
While some users are able to take the time to master the big programs
and, in some cases, have lots of time to fine-tune special effects
to produce a presentation, lots of other users find themselves needing
to throw together their speech, slides, and notes at the last
on the plane on the way to the meeting. (I know you've never
been in that situation.)
with the way
people work in the real world, SPC designed ASAP as a program finely
tuned to those needs. It's small, shipping on a mere two disks, takes
up 3.5 megs of drive space, and requires just one meg of RAM over
Windows' base needs. So it can run on your average four-meg
quick to learn
and easy to use. If you have an outline in your word processor, you
can just import it, choose a pre-made colour scheme and slide style,
and you've got your presentation. Maybe spend a few minutes fussing,
and your slide show can be ready for your audience in 15 minutes or
trade-off: no fancy fades and dissolves, no multimedia hooks, no
of ready-made clip-art (although you can use the clip-art from most
other programs). Still, the result is certainly more than presentable
for most situations.
is even extending ASAP with add-ons to allow you to show your
as part of an Internet Web page. All in all, a great little
the thing for many users, even if they already have a big-time,
presentation package as part of a suite of applications.
have one grumble:
at a price point of, say, US$49 or CDN$69, I wouldn't hesitate to
recommend it. Instead, SPC is pricing it at US$99, which means you'll
have to pay about CDN$149. That's more than you'll pay for a
word processor or spreadsheet these days, and enough that it may cause
many potential customers to hesitate.
can buy an expensive
tool kit filled with gadgets you may never need. But if you need to
bang in a nail, all you need is a hammer, and SPC has done a good
job of producing the tool to fit the need.