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REVIEWS: Through the Looking Glass

More Shareware for the HP Palmtops

Ed reviews some good shareware for the HP Palmtops, including: 20/20, a text editor for the 100LX that displays large characters; Ex, a super-scientific calculator for both Palmtops; and Rebel, a spreadsheet program that does matrix mathematics.

By Ed Keefe

While preparing this year's Subscriber PowerDisk, I discovered three really great shareware programs. We excluded them from our "freeware" PowerDisk because they were shareware. However, they are worthwhile programs that deserve some attention in The HP Palmtop Paper. I trust that a brief description of each program will help you decide whether they're applications that you "must-have" or "can live without".

The programs are: 20/20, a text editor for the HP-100LX that can display large characters; EX, a super-scientific calculator for both Palmtops; and REBEL, a spreadsheet program that does matrix arithmetic (works best on the 100LX).

100LX -- 20/20 Text Editor

20/20 is actually meant for those with less than 20/20 vision. 20/20 is a simple text editor that lets you work with text ranging in size from small (15 lines per screen) to huge (3 lines per screen).

20/20 Editing Screen: Graphic

 20/20 requires standard CGA (or better) graphics. Thus, it won't work on the HP 95LX. 20/20 uses ASCII text files, so anything written in 20/20 can be imported into MEMO or VDE (ON DISK ICON) for editing or spell-checking. It's fairly fast, but it lacks the bells and whistles other text editors have. 20/20 will let you cut and paste blocks of text, find and replace words or phrases, and write marked sections of a document, or a whole document, to disk. And that's it!

A separate menu lets you change the size of the characters, toggle the screen from black-on-white to white-on-black, select between wide or narrow characters, and decide whether you want to use a higher resolution or a faster display.

20/20.ZIP is available on the IBMAPP forum, Lib 2 of CompuServe and this issue of The HP Palmtop Paper ON DISK. The registration fee is $15. The author of the program provides little support and does not respond to mail nor to CompuServe messages.

The copy of 20/20's program file (20.EXE) on CompuServe is compressed with an older version of DIET. It takes up to 30 seconds to load. You can speed things up by following these instructions: Use either DIET 1.20 (ON DISK ICON) or a program called TRON (TRON.ZIP (ON DISK ICON) available on IBMPRO forum of CompuServe) to decompress 20.EXE. Then use either PKLite (ON DISK ICON), or DIET 1.44 (ON DISK ICON), to re-compress 20.EXE. This will let 20.EXE start in under two seconds, on the HP 100LX. [Editor's Note: The copy of 20/20 on the Nov/Dec 93 issue of The HP Palmtop Paper ON DISK will have had this done to it.]

95LX 100LX -- EX Scientific Calculator

EX, by J.A. Wrotniak, is a scientific calculator that features numeric differentiation, integration, plotting, probability distributions and a whole lot more. The program will accept an expression (like 12*log1000=t ), display the result (36) and store it in the variable (t).

You can then use the results in other expressions. For example, the expression ln(sq sin 2t + sq cos .5t) = u would yield -.69225 . EX gives you 27 variables and has 12 lines in which to store expressions.

All work-in-progress is saved in a file called EX.ENV which is loaded when you start the program.

If you need more than 27 variables or more than 12 expressions, you can rename EX.ENV to EX.OLD and give yourself a fresh EX.ENV file. This gives you another 27 variables and 12 lines.

On the downside, the only way for EX to send an expression or variable to a printer is by pressing the PRT SC key. In addition, the EX.ENV file created by EX to store expressions, is not easily readable.

EX SCREEN AND FUNCTIONS

To give you an idea of the program's appearance, here's a picture of a typical screen.

EX Calculator Screen: Graphic

 The top line in the screen above shows the math expression being evaluated. Note that you can use fractions, degrees, minutes, and seconds, as well as constants such as Pi and "e". You can use the ESC key to clip this expression and paste it into another of the 12 lines reserved for expressions.

The left box on the second line indicates that the expression has been saved in line 7. The middle box displays the results of the expression and indicates that they've been stored in variable J. The three right boxes on the second line tell you that there are 16 numbers after the decimal point; the Radian mode is in effect and you're at the Top menu level.

The middle portion of the screen displays the values stored in the 27 variables (@ and A through Z).

The bottom line of the screen displays a function key menu of EX options as follows:

F1 (Hlp) -- displays an index to the help screens for all the built-in operations of EX.

F2 (Set) -- lets you configure the program.

F3 (Plt) -- starts EX's plotting function. EX's plotting function is somewhere between the plotting capabilities of 1-2-3 and HP Calc-Graph. It will let you scale a graph for logarithmic plotting and it will let you plot more than one function on a graph. The graphs produced on the HP 95LX are superb.

F4 (Num) -- lets you perform numeric integration, numeric differentiation, and even find the sum of a Taylor or Maclaurin series.

F6 (Con) -- lets you convert a decimal number to feet and inches, pounds and ounces, or to a fraction. It also will let you convert between units of area, energy, force, length, mass, power, pressure, speed, time and volume. (The registered version of the program lets you add other conversions as well.)

F7 (Def) -- lets you define your own functions.

F8 (Sho) -- shows any variable, a previous plot, or any user-defined function.

F9 (Clr) -- clears the expression.

F10 (Exit) -- quits EX.

EX Plot on 95LX :  Graphic

 EX supports trigonometric, hyperbolic, logarithmic functions, Euler's Beta and Gamma functions, as well as cumulative and discrete probability functions. If you know what these are used for, you should definitely take a look at EX.

EX doesn't have all the power and flexibility of DERIVE. On the other hand, it doesn't have the learning curve or the price of DERIVE either. EX's shareware registration fee is $30.

95LX 100LX REBEL 3.0 Spreadsheet

REBEL 3.0 is a spreadsheet program driven entirely by function keys. There's no Lotus-type menu bar at the top nor any built in help screens. It has 128 columns, 1024 rows, and 4 pages of spreadsheets. Cell addresses are given as a pair of numbers. And, when you move around the spreadsheet, there's no indicator telling you where the cursor is at.

Rebel 3.0 Opening Screen:  Graphic

 Rebel is so different from Lotus 1-2-3 that veteran users of 1-2-3 may find themselves rebelling against REBEL. However, matrix math is REBEL's strong suit and REBEL blows the socks off Lotus 1-2-3 when it comes to finding the determinant of a matrix or solving systems of simultaneous equations with hundreds of unknowns.

Matrix math has many scientific, engineering, medical, and statistical applications. Each cell in a REBEL spreadsheet can hold an entire matrix, with up to 8000 elements. With REBEL, you'll be able to compute dot products, cross products, and coordinate transformations with speed and accuracy. REBEL also let's you do "what if" scenarios with matrices.

Rebel Matrix Math:  Graphic

 Fortunately, REBEL can also do the things a typical spreadsheet can do, including financial math and statistics.

Programmers will appreciate REBEL's bitwise operators and may even find a use for all REBEL's text manipulation functions. REBEL does not do macros: instead it uses a C-like script language to automate its operations. You get all the power of the C programming language with the flexibility of a spreadsheet. And you get all this for the unbelievably low price of $6.00 (That's right: six, not six hundred dollars.)

REBEL comes complete with an on-screen tutorial and several sample script files. The tutorial walks you through all the operations of the spreadsheet program. One script file shows you how to work with matrices. Another one presents a simple check book reconciler. A third script file gives an example of how to create a spreadsheet that does "coordinate geometry" (COGO). (However, Bruce Small, a professional surveyor, says that this application should be viewed as a piece of clever programming and that's about all. The COGO routines presented are about 25 years behind the times.)

For an additional $30, you get a script language compiler. With this you can customize REBEL to suit yourself. You could turn it into a digital-electronics spreadsheet complete with help screens, or make it behave like a text editor.

I would recommend that you try Rebel on a high speed desktop computer to see what it can do and to get a feel for the program.

When you run Rebel on the HP 100LX, use the "-B" command line option to force the program to use black and white only. Be sure to run DISPCTL -C before starting REBEL to shut off cursor tracking.

The REBEL.EXE file can be compressed to about 112K bytes with PKLite or Diet. You'll need an additional 30K bytes for the standard library file (STDLIB.REB) and a few sample worksheets.

Until next time, Happy Porting.

iPhone Life magazine


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