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COLUMN: Savvy User

COLUMN: Savvy User

Tom makes some design suggestions for the visually impaired, gives some advice on how not to bend AC adapter prongs, and lists some tips on analyzing the built-in_STAT.WK1, or any Lotus worksheet.

By Thomas R. Page

Years ago I had what I thought was a horrible bout with the common cold. As it turns out, I was infected with the "Histoplasmosis" fungus, which in most cases causes respiratory distress, but with some unfortunate individuals (me) can cause scarring on the retina of the eye. This can lead, 20 or 30 years later, to vision problems, which I am now experiencing.

(The Histoplasmosis fungus is common, found in the accumulated droppings of birds, pigeons, poultry and bats. Over 50 million Americans have been infected by this fungus. My ophthalmologist recommends that those people who have had a Histoplasmosis infection or have lived in a high risk area have their retinas examined by an ophthalmologist for signs of a past infection.)

My vision difficulties have caused me to consider ways the 95LX might be used or modified to assist people with a vision impairment. One of the first things that comes to mind is the Dialtone (ON DISK ICON) program (mentioned in this column, May/June 92 issue, page 31). With Dialtone, you can hold your 95LX up to the speaker of a touchtone telephone and let the 95LX "dial" the phone by making the touchtone beeps. Dialing a phone is one of the most difficult tasks for me at present.

It would also be nice if programs such as Phone Book could be modified to display larger characters. I think this program and the HP Calculator program could be modified to effectively display larger characters. (The numbers on the 95LX's calculator display look pretty wimpy compared with the numbers on my old HP 12E calculator.)

Although I would not change the size of the 95LX, I think a new version with fewer, larger keys makes sense, especially the more commonly used keys. I also think that newer versions of the 95LX should be designed so that it is easier to install custom ROM chips. This would make it easier for specific users, including those of us with a vision impairment, to customize the Palmtop.

Enhancements for the visually impaired would benefit others. Sure, a brighter, higher contrast display would be a big help for me with my current problem, but it would benefit others with less serious visual problems, and even make the 95LX easier to use for the general population. Curb ramps were originally designed for people in wheelchairs, but benefit delivery men. Just so, programs and computer hardware that benefit the visually impaired can help people with normal vision.

Avoid Bending the Prongs On Your AC Adapter

I used to throw the power adapters used with my various portable toys in a briefcase, giving no consideration to their protection. Consequently I spend a lot of time straightening bent prongs. I have discovered an almost elegant solution to this problem -- an extension cord end!

Female extension cord ends may be purchased at the electrical supplies section of your local hardware store. Plug the transformer into one of those and it will protect the prongs from bending.


I had planned to give a detailed analysis of the _STAT.WK1 spreadsheet contained in the 95LX's ROM, but unfortunately my eyes aren't up to it. If you want to review it, you're on your own. To retrieve the spreadsheet, enter Lotus and press (MENU) File Retrieve. Then use your arrow keys to highlight _STAT.WK1 and press (ENTER). Let me give you some tips that will help you analyze any spreadsheet:

  1. 1. Read and follow directions
  2. 2. Try a sample problem
  3. 3. Examine the formulas
  4. 4. Examine the macros
  5. 5. Enhance and customize the spreadsheet to meet your needs
  6. 6. Incorporate the knowledge you gain into your spreadsheets.



Step six is most important. It is why you are doing steps one through four. Step five is great if you need the spreadsheet.

All writers develop a unique style, and this includes writers of spreadsheets. The style of _STAT is very different to that of _EXPENSE analyzed on page 31 of the May/ June 92 issue. The most distinctive feature of _STAT's style is its diagonal organization, where each "page" of the spreadsheet is below and to the right of the previous "page," much like the diagonal red or black squares on a checker board.

I can not bring myself to use the diagonal organization. When I first learned to use spreadsheets, memory was conserved by cramming everything in the upper left corner of the spreadsheet. Memory management has improved since the days of VisiCalc and 1-2-3 Release 1A. Today the diagonal organization may be used without significant, if any, memory penalty but I still don't want anything in cell GA3382, it's just too far away from cell A1.

I did not find any hidden cells in _STAT. This is another element of style. Some spreadsheet writers try to protect the users of their spreadsheets from the inner workings of the spreadsheet by hiding key areas of the spreadsheet. I never liked hidden cells. They cause more trouble than they save. (If you remember, in _EXPENSE the cells containing the macros had to be unhidden.)

One interesting feature of _STAT is its macro subroutines. Subroutines save memory by eliminating repetitive codes. There is a small penalty in execution speed when a subroutine is used instead of repeated code, but it is not significant, and is far outweighed by the advantages of using subroutines.

To create a subroutine, separate the common code and assign it a range name. The subroutine is called in macro code by enclosing the subroutine range name is brackets, for example, {print}. It is a good idea to assign a meaningful name to the subroutine.

Examination of the macro code in _STAT shows that the programmer was a bit of a smart aleck. He assigned meaningless single letter range names to his subroutines. He may have wanted to save memory, but the savings using this technique are minimal.

You should take a look at all the spreadsheets in your 95LX. There is probably something that can be learned from each of them. Compare the overall styles and programming techniques. I think you will find that _EXPENSE is somewhat the odd one. The others appear to be very similar.

I have one suggestion that I think will significantly improve _STAT. Replace the menu that identifies the various macros on the spreadsheet with a macro menu invoked by pressing (ALT)-M. There is no reason to waste valuable worksheet display with a menu. Having only to remember the name of one macro, no matter what spreadsheet you are using, is also easier.

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