ASAP does a lot with less

by Alan Zisman (c) 1996. First published in Computer Player, February 1996

Software Publishing Company
P.O. Box 54983
Santa Clara, CA
95056-0983 USA

Computers get more powerful-- software adds more features-- users get more confused-- software adds more features to make it easier for users, requiring more powerful hardware, allowing software to add more...

Sound familiar? Are you really using all the advanced features of your word processor, spreadsheet, page layout or presentation software? Maybe yes-- but if most of us are honest, we use the advanced features of these sophisticated products about as often as we drive at 180 km/h.

One such product that helps buck the trend is Software Publishing?s ASAP. It?s from a company whose Harvard Graphics defined the field of presentation graphics, beginning a decade ago. But trying to do any kind of graphics in the non-graphical DOS environment was inherently complicated. Newer products for the Mac and Windows environments stole away much of the market... and took advantage of the relative ease of working in these graphical environments to add features and complexity.

Fancy dissolves between slides, integrated sound and video, complex backgrounds... all marks of a classy presentation. Requiring fancy hardware... the last couple of presentations I made using Lotus Freelance resulted in 4 meg data files-- I can?t simply copy those onto a floppy disk, put it into my pocket, and waltz in to give my speech.

But many, if not most presentations accompany speeches that are written or modified at the last possible moment-- and the presentation graphics need to be created as soon as possible. Hence ASAP... no multimedia hooks, just an attractive presentation, that can be created in a few moments, from an outline from your word processor.

ASAP, in fact, adds itself as a toolbar button to Word... write an outline of your speech, click the button, and the outline becomes the text of your presentation. Select one of 17 colour schemes and your choice of 13 overall designs, then leaf through the slides, picking the most effective of 22 formats for your individual slides. Slides can look like organizational charts, agendas, graphs, tables or more. Finally, if you want, add a logo or a few enhancements-- you can be done in 15 minutes or so.

This minimalist program comes on a mere two floppy disks, with no manual-- just a tiny Getting Started Guide, and a 20 page ?Guide for Compelling Presentations?. The data file I created with it, following up on a pair of Lotus Freelance behemoths weighed in at a svelte 160kb. Requiring a humble 3.5 megs of drive space and 1 meg of ram, it will run happily on a older Windows 386 or under-powered laptop... and will be positively perky on any more modern, more powerful machine. It doesn?t try to recreate the wheel-- it makes use of the clipart manager and wordart that Microsoft ships with virtually all of their applications, or can use other standard clipart formats. (It does, however, come with yet another spell checker).

It doesn?t do everything... in many cases, it doesn?t try to do everything. However, I couldn?t add a title slide, after the fact-- I simply couldn?t find a way to insert a page at the beginning. It?s awkward to try to move pages around-- there?s no thumbnail view, like in its more full-featured competitors. I miss being able to print handouts with 6 of my slides to a page, like I can in Freelance. But it does what it claims to do-- and generally quite well.

No Wizards, no bundled clipart or fonts... just an effective program that you can probably be up and running with in half and hour or so. It lists for under a hundred, US dollars... and you can buy it locally for about CDN$149.

Put it on your laptop, and use it for all those times you need a presentation right now. When you?ve got a month lead time, let the art department make you something fancier, using all those other sleeker power-software products. If you?re still not convinced, Software Publishing is prepared to let you try a free trial version that does everything that the full product does-- but only for a couple of weeks. You can download this 2 meg file from CompuServe (GO SPCONLINE), AOL (keyword SPC), or on the Internet (

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