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DOS Connection: Finish Line

Finish Line

This software program "remembers" the words you use and finishes typing your words for you, saving you time on the 95LX's diminutive keyboard.

By Hal Goldstein

The one downside of the compact 95LX, for me, is its keyboard. The size of the keyboard slows down typing and discourages entering lots of text. Columnist Ed Keefe introduced me to a possible solution: A software program that types much of your text for you. Innovative Design's Finish Line could prove a boon for the HP 95LX.

 When in MS DOS, Finish Line learns the words and phrases you type into your HP 95LX and the likelihood of occurrence. Once Finish Line recognizes the first part of a word or phrase, it pops up a window with possible choices to complete the word or phrase. You pick one of these choices with a hot-key, or you keep on typing.

 If you continue typing, the "Prediction Window" winks out until the next time Finish Line sees something familiar. Pick from the choices and Finish Line completes the word/phrase for you.

The following screen comes from a text editor I use in DOS. Let's say I type e. Finish Line remembers the most common words previously entered beginning with "e."

Finish Line

 If the word I was about to type was "education", I would simply type 7 on my numeric keypad. If I wanted to type "elephant", I would type "elephant" in the normal way and the screen disappears as I type the word. The next time I type e, "elephant" will likely be listed as an "e" alternative.

 The screen popping up is distracting at first, but once you get used to it, Finish Line is quite helpful. The more you use the program, the "smarter" it gets.

Finish Line is simple to install and use. It is very flexible. That is, it lets you customize how it works according to your preferences by pressing <CTRL>-<TAB> any time. For example, on my 95LX I want Finish Line's menu to pop up often. In Finish Line's easy-to-use "Predict" configuration screen, I choose "Often" as opposed to "Rarely" or the normal "Default."

I could further refine what I mean by "Often." For example, I could tell Finish Line to guess after I typed 1 letter or 2 letters, or even 0 letters (enter 0 and Finish Line guesses based on last word typed.)

You can also customize where on your screen the Finish Line window pops up (upper left, center, and so forth) as well as what keys will be your "hot keys." I use the maximum of nine hot keys and choose them to be the numeric keypad. The Finish Line default hotkeys are:

<CTRL>-a, <CTRL>-s, <CTRL>-d and <CTRL>-f.

 There are other customization choices. For instance, you can tell Finish Line what characters you want to be considered as first characters. That way DOS users can have Finish Line recognize \ as the start of a word. With such a Finish Line configuration you can use DOS commands to change directories (e.g. cd \_dat). You won't have to type all the keys since _DAT will pop up after you type \.

 The most obvious use of Finish Line is in word processing applications. However, Finish Line could be useful in many other applications. For example, Lotus users could type @ and the user's favorite functions would pop up. Ed Keefe tells me he uses it for computer programming. Since there is a relatively small vocabulary for any programming language, Finish Line is a boon to programmers. It also works with most DOS-based text programs.

Besides the fact that HELP and the configuration menus are in English, the program is not language-dependent. That means Finish Line learns long German words or Spanish accented letters without difficulty.

 What makes Finish Line even more attractive to HP Palmtop users is that it takes very little disk space. The main Finish file FINISH.EXE takes 44,546 bytes. The data file that stores the words typed does not grow. It stays at 16,384 bytes. There is an optional help file that is 65,501 bytes.

I DIETed FINISH.EXE and FINISH.EXE was reduced to 27,677 bytes (see Fall 1991, page 18 for more on DIET *). The only degradation was that the configuration screen was much slower to pop up. That means Finish Line at the minimum only takes up about 40K. Finish Line operates as a TSR program. That means it borrows some of the HP 95LX's System RAM to operate. It needs 39K extra of System RAM to work properly. (To use Finish Line you'll probably need to increase System RAM from the SET UP menu.)

The Down Side

Installing Finish Line on the 95LX

The Future

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