by May 1, 1999 0 comments

SmartSuite 96 for Windows 95 is a parallel
offering (see SmartSuite for Windows’, PC Quest, April 1996) for Windows 95 users.
Our review copy came on 42 floppies, all of which are needed even to selectively install
components! A CD-ROM version became available subsequently.

While Approach, Freelance Graphics and SmartCenter have
been re-coded and ported to the 32-bit environment, WordPro is just a code-upgrade of the
16-bit version included in SmartSuite 4. And strangely enough, the earlier 16-bit versions
of 1-2-3 and Organizer included with SmartSuite 4.0 have been included in this release.

What”s New

SmartCenter 96 is a 32-bit version of SmartSuite’s
task bar and launcher and has many innovative features. WordPro 96 has the same features
of its predecessor, but the recoding gives it a marked performance increase. Freelance
Graphics 96 and Approach 96 too have been upgraded with new features to 32-bit. And this
review focuses only on those components with significantly new features.

SmartCenter 96

Redesigned to mimic the Windows 95 task bar, it too can be
aligned with the top or bottom of the screen. Instead of launching applications, its
buttons provide access to a filing cabinet with drop-down drawers, each containing tabbed
pages. The drawers hold shortcuts to other applications, files, appointments and
addresses. You also have direct access to suite components via the tray icons on the
Windows 95 task bar.

The task bars are impressive and are elegantly implemented;
typical of the innovative approach characteristic of most new products from Lotus.

Approach 96

This is a database that despite limited front-end
capability, is easy to use and very capable. Even without a programming language, power
users and developers can use macros to create applications, automate tasks and perform
calculations that use expressions.

These improvements make Approach a fairly capable DBMS,
despite lacking the more advanced features of Access or Paradox. Approach also integrates
very well with other suite components. And while competing suites include DBMSes in their
professional editions, Approach ships with SmartSuite”s standard edition itself.

Freelance Graphics 96

This 32-bit upgrade to an already powerful and
well-designed product probably makes Freelance the best presentation package on the
market.

This is a significant upgrade over Version 2.1 reviewed
earlier. Freelance now shares the look and feel of WordPro and Approach, and shares
SmartMaster templates, named styles for text formatting, customizable icon bars, status
bar, tabbed notebook interface and InfoBoxes. It has also been enabled for workgroup and
team computing, and features the tight integration of Lotus’ other groupware apps.
With this version, Lotus redefines the usability standards for presentation software.
Simply stated, the best is even better now.

New Features Approach 96

Thirteen new templates for tables, views and remote scripts
have been added to the existing 50 SmartMaster templates. The Query-by-Form utility too
has been extended. Find Assistant”s tabbed dialogue is accessible from the action bar, and
features tabbed-pages for the search type, conditions and sort order. You can also save
your queries for future use.

Chart Assistant helps
create four different 2D or 3D charts. You can also change the typeface, and add text and
graphics. Besides graphic information, charts can include a title, subtitle, legend,
cross-tab table, and note. Opening large tables in earlier versions of Approach would
generate lots of network traffic. Now use the SQL Assistant to frame a SELECT query and
retrieve only the needed data set.

LotusScript is a
BASIC-compatible cross-product script that works with other SmartSuite modules, and can be
used with macros to create applications. There are also user interface controls such as
customized lists, check boxes and radio buttons that earlier versions allowed only in
association with database fields. Macros and scripts now display forms as dialog boxes,
just like traditional DBMS environments. And Team Security makes it possible to
restrict access to tables and design documents.

Freelance Graphics 96

The detailed implementation of SmartMasters is impressive
and you can create new presentations using any of the 30 templates, each with 120
backgrounds, up to 30 pre-formatted slides, and 12 different layouts per slide. Also new
is the Rehearse Mode to practice presentations and monitor elapsed time. At the
end, Freelance summarises the time taken overall and slide-wise. The screen show is now
customizable and supports animation and multimedia effects. You can also control
transition for pages and individual objects. A new drawing and text toolbar to lets you
create business diagrams and flowcharts. And InfoBoxes now allow for easier test
formatting.

Team Computing is available from the File menu. Most
corporate presentations are composed of inputs from a team and Freelance lets you draft
presentations before using TeamMail to send it to your colleagues for comments; attached
as electronic sticky” notes. All the inputs can be later consolidated into a single file.
And Lotus Notes’ users can post presentations into a special database for the whole
team to review simultaneously.

You can make presentations remotely using TeamShow.
First connect to the remote machine through a modem, then transfer the presentation and
finally run (and control) it from your computer. And you can also use a second phone line
to provide a voice-over.

What Next

Word processors are important, and WordPro”s bold and
innovative approach redefined industry standards. Competing products now contain features
that WordPro pioneered.

At PCQ Labs we have seen WordPro evolve from a 16-bit Beta
through a 16-bit production version, and finally to a 32-bit version. But we were
disappointed to find it locks out the growing developer segment because it can’t
create .RTF Help files.

Other than this, the other 32-bit apps in SmartSuite 96
display the same bold innovation of WordPro, and SmartCenter is probably the best office
manager. Approach stands in a class of its own and Freelance Graphics is a delectable
presentation package. We would have preferred 32-bit versions of Organizer and 1-2-3
included in SmartSuite 96, but phased upgrade policies have their merits too.

SmartSuite 96 is an excellent buy for corporate users,
especially Notes users, who have migrated to Windows 95.

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