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Access CompuServe with acCIS

Access CompuServe with acCIS

The world of CompuServe is an enormous branch of the Global Information Highway. The HP Palmtop and the acCIS CompuServe access software can help put you in the driver's seat.

By Alex Arancio

acCIS/SM by Shier Systems & Software provides a feature rich handheld communications solution for the business traveler, but don't let its power fool you. This is one of the most user friendly, easy-to-use programs I've ever come across, with wonderfully usable documentation.

Adapted for the HP LX Palmtop series, acCIS was designed to be used for off-line navigation of the CompuServe Information Service. A simple series of menus allow you to schedule all activities free of connection or phone charges.

The program works by building a list of commands, called "scripts" that are automatically executed when connected to CompuServe. acCIS/SM supports 40/80 column zoom on the 100LX and 200LX and runs on the 95LX screen. More importantly, acCIS/SM does not require additional software to run, like the earlier shareware versions did.

Easy to Install

Out of the box, acCIS is almost ready to run. Your first task is to install it on your HP 95/100/200LX Palmtop. Installation is completely automated and requires the HP Connectivity Cable. If you use a PCMCIA modem for communications, you'll want to install acCIS to your C drive. External modem users have the option of installing acCIS to a memory card in the A drive. Following the on-screen installation instructions is a series of questions with yes/no answers. The process is nearly idiot proof!

acCIS "scripts" automate on-line communications

As mentioned, acCIS comes with a powerful scripting language to automate its functions. Once installed, a built-in script configures your CompuServe account to work with acCIS. These settings will not alter your connection profile for other CompuServe navigation utilities such as NavCIS or TapCIS. Another built-in script will automatically join a new forum for you or configure one of your favorites.

Other built in scripts allow quick and easy access to weather, stock quotes, AP Online News and much more. Just before leaving for a business trip, I use MEMO to edit the state abbreviation in the weather script, and then download the local and destination city's weather reports. Then I run the scripts for news highlights, stock quotes, my e-mail and forum messages. When I'm on the plane I have a personalized electronic newspaper in my pocket, ready to read. acCIS comes with a number of useful scripts, which can be modified by the user. New scripts can be added by the experienced user. In addition, acCIS has a built-in script interpreter that lets you run scripts for TAPCIS <Available ON DISK>, another popular program that automates CompuServe access.

.acCIS scripts simplify the process of connecting to CompuServe, saving you time and money. The commands to retrieve CIS information can be performed by acCIS scripts, letting you do the reading off-line. Activities that must be done on-line, can be automated and performed more efficiently, cutting your on-line charges significantly.

Send faxes from the Palmtop with acCIS and MEMO

acCIS, the built-in MEMO program, and a modem can turn your HP Palmtop into a portable fax machine.

Type the document to be faxed in MEMO, and send it via e-mail with the fax number of the recipient in place of the CompuServe ID. CompuServe reformats the message and faxes it directly to the number. Although you can't receive facsimiles through CompuServe (yet!), you have a quick handheld way of sending letters, memos, spreadsheets or any other document (converted to ASCII format) to anyone with a fax machine. The receiver does not have to have a CompuServe account. Although I have a PCMCIA fax machine, I use this method to send multiple page documents to our regional offices. The process is quicker and the output is neat and professional.

The real power of acCIS lies in the fact that it is completely System Manager Compliant (SMC). There's no need to exit the Application Manager to run the program. This also means that you can use the clipboard feature to cut information from other applications into your acCIS messages. I often SmartClip information from a custom Database and NoteTaker file to MEMO when replying to company E-mail. The program uses very little System RAM. (The program itself uses 51K of System RAM, but Shier Systems suggests configuring a minimum of 200K of available RAM to handle data, etc.) This small foot print allows you to have additional applications open.

Read CompuServe E-mail Off Line

Perhaps the handiest use of acCIS is off-line reading of e-mail and forum messages. Go to the main screen of acCIS and mark the forums you wish to visit. acCIS does the rest.

Main acCIS Screen : Graphic

 You have the option to quick scan message headers, download full threads, or retrieve personal messages only. The quick scan feature allows you to read through subject headers off-line and mark those you want to read for later retrieval.

Replying to, or posting a message is just as quick and automated. You can configure acCIS to let you compose your Email messages in the Palmtops' built-in MEMO, or another text editor, such as QEDIT <Available ON DISK>, VDE <Available ON DISK>, etc. After composing the message, you can access a customizable user list to select a recipient and his or her ID. acCIS also downloads the library list for each forum you join, making it easy to pick a destination for your message. You also have the option to key in a name and CIS ID manually.

Other acCIS Features

Would you like to surf the Internet this easily? You can with acCIS! You must first have a "slip" or "shell" account with an Internet provider (see Internet article, page 16 this issue). Set up your Internet account so your e-mail is automatically forwarded to your CIS ID using the format ID@compuserve.com where "ID" is your CompuServe identification number with a period rather than a comma used as a separator (e.g., 73023.1546@compuserve.com). Since any Listserv subscriptions are sent via e-mail, you can receive and respond to Internet e-mail or Usenet groups in the same convenient way.

acCIS also handles CompuServe binary file transfer easily. Let's say you read about a file you want in a forum message or CompuServe magazine. Press the Download function key, type in the file name, choose the library number from the library list, and the next time you log on, acCIS will retrieve the file automatically.

acCIS has a big brother

All in all, carrying the HP Palmtop, a modem, and acCIS around is like having a personal post office in your pocket! But for those times when you're sitting at a desk, acCIS also has a new big brother. acCIS/DOS runs on any DOS-based computer giving you the same quick access to the world of CompuServe. acCIS/ DOS is included free with the purchase of acCIS/SM.

Support for both programs is readily available, since the authors and beta-testers frequent CompuServe's HPHAND forum. At $69.00 US, acCIS is the smartest most inexpensive business communication solution you can buy for the HP Palmtops.

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