Mapping as easy as 1-2-3

by Alan Zisman (c) 1994. First published in Our Computer Player, November 1994

Lotus 1-2-3 Release 5 for Windows
list $495 (US), $129 (US) upgrade
Lotus Development Canada: 1-800-GO-LOTUS

Let's see... a new spreadsheet release. Still has rows and
columns. Still lets you add text and numbers, change a value, and
all related cells change instantly. Has anything changed since
1978 and VisiCalc for the Apple II?

Well, Lotus 1-2-3 did add charting and some database functions--
back in 1983, wasn't it?

And Excel let users drag column width, and view fonts on screen,
first on the Mac, and then in Windows. Back in '88 you say?

So what's left? Isn't it still just those rows and columns--
page after page?

Well, while all spreadsheets still build on that basic
technology, it's been a hotly contested three-way features war
between Microsoft's Excel, Borland's (now Novell/Word Perfect's)
Quattro Pro, and Lotus's 1-2-3, with all three competing in
the Windows market.

While a DOS pioneer, Lotus's Windows spreadsheets were late, and
initially weak contenders... offering good compatiblity with
their DOS teammates, but little else to recommend them. Release
4, however, was an elegant example of Windows programming,
especially recommendable for users in workgroups.

Release 5 builds on the strengths of the previous release, and
adds a classy feature, mapping, not available in the
competitors' products.

Enter data that varies by province, or US or Mexican state, by
Japanese prefecture, or by countries of the European Community.
Select the range, and click on the globe icon. The program
recognizes the geographic area being referred to, and quickly
creates a map, colour coded for up to six groupings of your
data. As with a chart, the map is linked dynamically to the
data-- when the data changes, so does the map. The program was
even smart enough to correct my spelling of 'Saskatchewam'.

Additional maps can be added from third-party suppliers.

That's not all. The program beefs up Release 4's OLE-abilities,
adding more drag and drop features. You can drag a cell's
contents across a worksheet, or across open files. Drag a chart
into a word processor document. It doesn't utilize OLE 2's
feature of changing your word processor menus to 1-2-3's ('in-
place editing')... and
as a result, minimizes the ram and resource hit that this
feature has brought to the newer Microsofy applications.

Like its new Lotus team-member, database Approach release 3, 1-2-
3 now features templates, which can be involked when you choose
to start a new file. The 'Invoice' template, for example, is
easily customizable with your company's name, address, and logo,
and already contains all the layout and formulas to be a usable
document. If you need to, you can create your own templates, as

Like Approach as well, the SmartIcons now feature balloon-help...
when your cursor rests on an icon, a bubble pops up explaining
its function. This is an illustration of the creative '
borrowing' of features that has helped simplify program use...
initially, realizing that many users were overwhelmed with icon
glut, Lotus's Ami Pro offered a feature where by right-clicking
on an icon, a user could read a description on the title bar.
This was copied by other Lotus applications.

Microsoft took this idea one better, adding the automatic pop-up
explanations with their toolbars for Word 6.0, Excel 5.0, and
Works 3.0. This was copied by PC Tools, among others. Now Lotus
has added their attractive version of Microsoft's improvement of
Lotus's original idea. (And this is why "look and feel" lawsuits
in the software industry only hurt the end users).

And if you have a copy of Approach (version 3 or later)
installed, you'll find that you can call on its capabilities,
directly from 1-2-3. You can make use of that database to create
forms, reports, crosstabs, and mailing labels, right from your 1-
2-3 menus, and using your spreadsheet data.

While Lotus has recently pulled the plug on its innovative
alternative spreadsheet, IMPROV, it has included an Improv-like
feature, dynamic crosstabs into 1-2-3. This enables multiple
views to be created from a single set of data.

While Release 4 added the Version Manager to help workgroups
share a single spreadsheet, the new version goes further. Range
Routing lets you spread just part of your sheet around. And you
can e-mail a range, direct from 1-2-3, working via Lotus Notes,
or any VIM/MAPI e-mail program. When you get the data back, the
Version Manager lets you keep it under control.

You can work with data in external databases... dBase, Paradox,
SQL, and Notes drivers are included, and others can be freely

Print Preview now lets you view multiple pages at once. You
still can't alter margins from within Preview mode, however, a
long-time Excel feature.

Installation of Release 5 takes between 11 and 23 megs of drive
space, depending on options selected. You'll need at least 6
megs of ram to make use of the mapping features... 4 megs if you
pass on them.

If you're using spreadsheets in a workgroup environment,
especially if you're a Lotus Notes user, this is the spreadsheet
for you. Similarly, if you're working in Windows with any
version of 1-2-3 prior to Release 4, you really should upgrade.
And even if you're happy with Excel or Quattro Pro, the mapping
feature alone is worth a look.

(Note from the year 2003): The above article was originally published in 1994, as a review. A decade and more later, I've gotten a series of emails from  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 copies of older software to check at eBay or at 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)



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Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan