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DOS CONNECTION: Lotus Agenda

Lotus Agenda on the HP 95LX

Agenda lets you enter random information and reorganize it later. This article tells you how to set it up and enhance its performance on the HP 95LX.

By David Hamachek

Lotus Agenda has unique capabilities for text data base management. It allows you to enter random information now, and reorganize it as you desire at a later time. Agenda is a program that may be personalized to meet individual needs, but the amount of time needed to personalize it is not insignificant. Fortunately, Agenda is adequate for most needs without this effort.

System Memory

Agenda requires at least 435K of System RAM to operate on the 95LX. The more available, the faster it runs. A 1MB 95LX is necessary to prevent Agenda from being intolerably sluggish (Agenda loads three times faster on a 1MB 95LX than on a 512K machine). System RAM should be set to 626K, and Agenda should be run from DOS (not from the $SYSMGR shelled to DOS) without any large TSR programs loaded -- in other words, you must create or modify a file called A:\AUTOEXEC.BAT. This file must contain the following lines:

PROMPT=$p$g

PATH=C:\;C:\_DAT;C:\_SYS;A:\

PAUSE Press Ctrl-C to DOS without TSRs

REM load TSRs here

$SYSMGR

Each time you want to start Agenda (and again when you've exited Agenda), save any open files, then press (CTRL)-(ALT)-(DEL) to reboot your machine. At the prompt, press (CTRL)-C, Y, AGENDA and (ENTER) if you want to run Agenda. Press any other key at the prompt to start the built-in 95LX applications.

You must also create or modify a file called A:\CONFIG.SYS so that it has the following lines (make sure you have a blank space before /E and /P):

SHELL=COMMAND /E:512 /P

BUFFERS=8

You will also need another file called A:\AGENDA.BAT that has the following lines:

DISPCTL -C

A:

CD\AGENDA

AGENDA A:\AGENDA\PLANNER.AG

DISPCTL +C

CD\

These three files can be created in MEMO.

Despite the fact that expanded memory will speed up Agenda on desktop machines, do not use an EMS simulator on the 95LX. The simulator just adds one more disk read and write operation in memory that is no faster than the 95LX RAM, and actually slows Agenda down. (On a desktop machine, in contrast, read and write operations are much faster to EMS than they are to the hard disk.)

RAM Card Memory and File Compression

You will need the following files in your A:\AGENDA directory: A.EXE, AGENDA.EXE, AGENDA.RI, and PLANNER.AG (or XXX.AG if you've renamed Planner).

(Actually, AGENDA.EXE is optional, but it allows you to shell to DOS. The AGENDA.EXE file consumes very little room compared to the other files.)

Because Agenda uses overlays, PKLite cannot be used to reduce the disk space required. DIET (ON DISK ICON) does not make any sense for file compression, because it needs unused disk space at least as large as the largest uncompressed file (in this case, 662K) -- this requirement more than offsets any compression savings.

Stacker does offer some space savings, but it takes twice as long to load Agenda and 20% longer to change Views when Stacker is used.

The first three files mentioned above require 834K uncompressed, and 569K after being compressed with Stacker.

In addition, you need room for your .AG file (say 125K uncompressed, or 70K compressed). Agenda also needs roughly 100K for temporary files. A total of 1,059K uncompressed or 739K compressed (not counting Stacker). You should also consider including AG_CHK.EXE and AG_CHK.RI -- these files allow periodic checking and repair of minor data base file damage, similar to using DOS's CHKDSK (but at a cost of an additional 61K of disk space uncompressed or 43K compressed).

Performance Enhancement

Open your .AG file in Agenda, and select (F10) (Menu). Then press File Properties, highlight Auto-assign settings and press (<Spacebar>). Then turn "Assignment conditions" Off, and "Assignment actions" Off. (Leave "Text matching" On, and leave "Apply conditions" set to Automatically.) Then press (ENTER) twice to return. These settings will speed up Agenda substantially, while still making automatic assignment to categories based on the text of items that are entered or imported. (Contrary to advice elsewhere, do not set "Apply conditions" to On demand -- it will double your loading and View changing time. Leaving Assignment conditions and actions On does not affect loading and View changing time, but does slow down text matching.)

You should keep your item entries as short as possible and enter details in notes to the items, to minimize response time.

Reading entries is much easier if you do the following. First highlight the section head, press (F10) (MENU) View Column Width. Then use the Left Arrow key to reduce the column width (making the entries narrower than the 95LX screen width) and press (ENTER). Use the (ALT)-Arrow Keys to scroll the 95LX window on the 80 x 25 Agenda page.

Note that turning the 95LX sleep mode off does not give any performance improvement over the above approach, and will only consume batteries more quickly.

It will take about 20 seconds to load your Agenda file. It will take 10 to 20 seconds to change Views. While this is about three times as long as a 386 machine would take, it is certainly acceptable performance.

Advanced Users Only

If you must apply actions and conditions other than text matching after an item is modified or a new item is entered, you can either leave the Assignment conditions and actions On, or you can use Utilities Execute and select Apply conditions Against Marked items and Apply actions to New assignments only. (Utilities Execute against all items and all assignments takes forever on the 95LX.) You can apply conditions (only) to a highlighted item by pressing the (ALT)-E combination.

Due to the time required to load Agenda, and the fact that Agenda is very slow when shelled to DOS from System Manager applications, you may want a way to add new items to Agenda that does not require opening the program. This can be done by creating a MEMO file that has all the required assignment and date information in the item paragraph, separating each item by a double carriage return, running the memo file through the TXT2STF program (61K uncompressed or 34K if you compress it with DIET), and importing the resulting .STF file into your .AG file. This lets you easily enter new items from System Manager. (Note: Do NOT use the automatic import .STF file option. It will substantially increase your file loading and saving time.)

If you spend most of your time in DOS, an alternate approach to adding new items is to use the Items accessory in Metro. This will automatically create an .STF file that can be imported. (CAUTION -- Metro will hang your machine if you try to pop it up over any System Manager application.)

I have also created a view for my 95LX with sections for: Meetings today or earlier, calls today or earlier (with a column for inserting phone book names, so that phone numbers pop up in an adjacent column), and TODO or follow-up items that are due (or overdue) today. This reduces the amount of view changing that has to be done, while minimizing the size of the View to improve response. Note that Datebook views do not allow adding sections, so in order to do this, you will have to create your own sections, and have the sections sorted by start time. (Datebook Views increase loading and View changing time substantially, but do allow faster movement within a view.) I have other views for meetings and calls through the end of next month, to allow faster scheduling of meetings or revisions to existing entries. All methods of date browsing are extremely slow in Agenda on the HP 95LX and you should avoid them.

Conclusion

Agenda will be slower than on your desktop machine, but it can work adequately on the 95LX, and adds significant capabilities over the built in PIM applications. Stacker slows down loading time substantially, but offers considerable disk space savings.

iPhone Life magazine


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