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SWITCH! 2.0 Makes It Easy To Create and Run New System-Compliant 95LX

SWITCH! 2.0 Makes It Easy To Create and Run New System-Compliant 95LX Applications

SWITCH! 2.0 will bring about many new system-compliant applications, including SWITCHable versions of ACT!, VDE, COMMO, UNO, Personal Food Analyst, and myREMOTE.

By Mark Scardina

Hewlett Packard's HP 95LX was a success from the first day it was introduced. Not only did the 95LX come with Lotus 1-2-3, but it also included a group of very useful, easy to use, and easy to access personal information manager (PIM) applications.

One of the things that made the built-in software easy to use was the fact that you could switch from one application to another at the touch of a button. HP and Lotus (the software developer for the 95LX) made this possible by adding a second, more powerful and user-friendly operating system to 95LX. This built-in system is called the "System Manager."

All of the built-in applications are written to be "compliant" with the System Manager. This, among other things, means that they can be left running when other programs are accessed. For example, you can go to MEMO to make a note, switch to PHONE to call someone to ask a question, and go back to MEMO again and note down the answer.

It's possible to create additional "System-Manager compliant" (also called "system compliant") applications to work in conjunction with the built-in applications. For example, a developer could create a more sophisticated word processor with a spell checker and install it on the 95LX to work like any of the built-in applications. To be able to create system compliant applications, developers need specific technical information on how the System Manager operating system works.

HP has provided some of this information and other programming tools to third party developers so that additional system compliant applications could be developed. However, much of the Lotus/HP information has not been released, making it difficult for the over 1,000 registered third-party developers to write system compliant applications.

Loaders: The First Step Towards System Compliancy

Many programs that run on a desktop PC can also run on the 95LX. But if a program is not system compliant, then all other applications need to be closed before the program can be run from FILER. About a year ago an Israeli programmer named Uri Thier developed a "loader" program as part of Essex Marketing's UTIL Forth package. The loader, which partially remedied the situation, is a small .EXM software program that allows DOS applications to be run while the PIM applications (except Lotus 1-2-3) are still open. However, Uri's loader did not allow you to switch back and forth between applications.

SWITCH! 2.0 Expands HP 95LX Customizability

This newest version of SWITCH! greatly enhances System Manager's capability to accommodate DOS applications. Developers can easily modify their DOS programs to become "SWITCHable" while maintaining their application's DOS compatibility. Here's how it works.

Any DOS application advertised as being SWITCHable will come with a special Switch (.SWI) file. Any 95LX user with a copy of SWITCH! 2.0 will be able to use a SWITCHable application like it was a built-in, system-compliant program. That means single hotkey launching, and switching back and forth between all other built-in or SWITCHable applications. You will be able to pick and choose from SWITCHable applications and customize your 95LX exactly the way you want to.

New SWITCHable Applications Coming Soon

Ed Keefe takes a more technical look at SWITCH!, in this month's Programmer's Corner (see page 52). The rest of this article will describe some of the third-party applications that will soon be SWITCHable.

ACT! -- Contact Manager

One of the most eagerly awaited application for the 95LX has to be ACT!. This industry-standard contact management program makes perfect sense in a pocket size computer. Unfortunately, its initial release was not System-Manager Compliant. This reduced its appeal greatly even though it was quite reasonably priced. The new version will be SWITCHable and share all of the characteristics of the built-in applications. For example, you will be able to switch between price lists or financial models in Lotus to your contact file in ACT!.

ACT! is a big program, requiring a 1MB 95LX to take full advantage of its SWITCHability, but with this new capability it will quickly set the contact management standard in the palmtop world.

fastCOMM! -- COMM Alternative

Many of you are familiar with Fred Brucker's {COMMO} <ON DISK ICON>. (See review, page 24 of the Jan/Feb 92 issue and product announcement, page 44, July/Aug 92 issue.) This new version is not only SWITCHable, but includes Function-key menus similar to those of the built-in applications.

FastCOMM! also supports the 95LX's 16-line screen and uses the MENU key to pop up a menu bar of Bulletin Board Services, which includes CompuServe, Genie, or any other BBSs. FastCOMM! also adds CompuServe B+protocol (9600 baud) to its protocol set which includes X-Modem, Y-Modem, Y-Modem-G.

A SWITCHable fastCOMM gives you the ability to be online in CompuServe and get information from MEMO, PHONE, or APPT without having to disconnect.

fastWRITE -- MEMO Alternative

Many consider MEMO the 95LX's most limited application. Fortunately, Eric Meyer has created an advanced 95LX version of VDE <ON DISK ICON>, his highly popular word processor (see product description, page 41 of the Fall 91 issue). fastWRITE! is a SWITCHable word processor that includes a fully-integrated spell checker (fastSPELL!). Import from, and export to a wide variety of word processors, including WordPerfect, WordStar, Microsoft Word, and XyWrite. A two-line Function-key menu helps access fastWRITE!'s many features.

Unlike MEMO, fastWRITE! supports a wide range of printers, has the ability to use proportional fonts, and allows editing of multiple files. fastWRITE! brings a full-featured word processor to the 95LX, using one tenth the memory of equivalent PC products.

fastNOTES! -- Freeform Database

Many people have used the PHONE application as a simple database but long for a more flexible and useful one. I reviewed Mike Gardi's Useful Notes, UNO on page 10 of the Jul/ Aug 92 issue. UNO <ON DISK ICON> is a small, fast, freeform database that lets you create notes that can be edited, searched, and indexed at any time. FastNOTES! is the new, SWITCHable 95LX version that, like PHONE, is now loaded with a hotkey such as (ALT)-(PHONE).

Cut and paste capability and other features have been added to fastNOTES!, including a two-line

Function-key menu. FastNOTES! is the ideal program to keep track of all the various pieces of information that you pick up during the day. While it does not have the reporting and query capabilities of a more sophisticated database program, its array of features and presentation are ideally suited to the 95LX.

A New Set of PIMs

SWITCH! lets the user assign a hotkey to start a SWITCHable (or any other system compliant) application. For example, the user could use SWITCH! to assign (ALT)-(MEMO) as the hotkey for fastWRITE! You can even have SWITCH! make fastWRITE! the main word processor by assigning it to (MEMO) and relegating the built-in MEMO program to (ALT)-(MEMO).

This means that one could have a much more powerful set of Personal Information Management (PIM) tools than provided by HP, available at the push of a button. Simply use SWITCH! to assign fastCOMM! to (COMM), ACT! to (APPT), fastNOTES! to (PHONE), and fastWRITE! to (MEMO). Lotus 1-2-3 and HPCALC do not need replacements. Since these alternative programs are small and customized for the HP 95LX, they could reside on, say, a 512K RAM card. This combination turns the 95LX into a more powerful pocket-sized tool.

Conclusion

Other applications are being made SWITCHable, including Personal Food Analyst from Mirical and myREMOTE from ACE. SWITCH! version 2 will be available in December from ACE Technology.

The HP 95LX is an ideal computer for specialized applications. Physicians use it on their rounds; lawyers use it in the court room; surveyors use it on site, and world-class bicyclists use it (literally) on the road.

Ironically, one of the only major criticisms of the 95LX is that it's not as easy to customize as it should be. Hopefully SWITCH! will help to change this situation. As developers make more SWITCHable applications available, a 95LX equipped with SWITCH! 2.0 will truly become a versatile "Personal Digital Assistant."

iPhone Life magazine


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