TapWorks: Integrated Software for Newton
©Copyright 1994 David MacNeill
There you are, waiting for another delayed plane in some airport lounge, going over your regions quarterly sales numbers the boss e-mailed to your Newton that morning. "Wow," you say to yourself, "these numbers look great!" You decide to fax a bulletin to all your salespeople in the field. But all youve got is your trusty Newton and a half hour before the plane leaves. How the heck do you format a letter size page with a spreadsheet, a chart or two, and some splashy graphics?
Piece of cake. Use TapWorks from Avail Technology. TapWorks is the first integrated software package for Newton MessagePads. The wizards at Avail have managed to cram a text processor, page formatter, spreadsheet, charting module, and a drawing module into one trim 315K application. The finished software is smooth, acceptably fast, and loaded with features to make creating pages of organized information a simple and intuitive task.
Launch TapWorks and you are presented with a scrollable window view of a standard 8.5" x 11" page. This window on the page is the size of your Newtons screen. Choose either Text, Draw, Table, or Graph, from the floating toolbar to begin creating an object. Objects can be dragged out to any size you wish, although very large objects can be tricky to select later on when you are in the final layout stage. (Hint: select around the center of a large object.) Any object may have a border box, in shadowed rectangle or rounded rectangle styles.
Depending on the module you chose, an appropriate editor window pops up to accept your data. Text, for example, is entered in a text entry box with an interesting selection of editing buttons and controls. These controls include access to the elusive Espy font, an attractive and compact typeface that is built in to all Newtons but is not accessible using the regular Notepad. TapWorks also gives you styling options such as right, left, and centered justification, a 14 point text size, and styled text, including italic and outlined text. (I was not able to get the outlined text to print on either a Personal LaserWriter or a LaserWriter IINT, however.) If you create form letters youll appreciate the macro feature for single tap access to blocks of text you use all the time. Special buttons give you convenient access to special punctuation, math, and financial characters, and a tab size control menu rounds out the list of text tools.
Select Draw from the poplist and a variety of object drawing tools fill the floating toolbar. In addition to standard MacDraw-like drawing tools, there is a palette of pre-drawn shapes including starbursts, a selection of arrows, and other shapes suitable for business communications. Unfortunately, I was unable to edit these shapes once I had created them, as you can with standard Newton graphic objects. They can, however, be resized freely or proportionally (if you tap the Constrain box) by dragging. Another minor limitation is the lack of direct support for digital ink for scribbled annotations or signatures. The work around is to use the Drawing modules freehand tool to scribble on the screen.
Building a spreadsheet
As impressive as TapWorks other modules are, it is the Table module that really shines. The Table Editor is a full-featured spreadsheet program with over 100 functions for general math, statistics, finance, trigonometry, text, dates, and conditional expressions. You can build worksheets with up to 52 columns, with the number of rows limited only by available memory. These specs alone put TapWorks at the top of the list of Newton spreadsheets. It even has support for NewtonScript code entered directly into spreadsheet cells, if you want direct access to your Newton at a very non-trivial level! To make things attractive, most of the formatting features you rely upon in Excel or 1-2-3 are here, as well.
What all-in-one package would be complete without a charting module? The Graph Editor lets you easily create a variety of data-driven graphs including single/double/stacked bar charts, single/double line charts, bar and line combo charts, and the obligatory pie chart. The bar and line charts can include one or two data sets per chart. I was surprised to find that there was no direct integration with the spreadsheet module. You must enter all your chart data in the Graph Editor. To be fair, you arent likely to be graphing extremely sophisticated data on a Newton, anyway. I found the Graph module to be fast and easy to use, with printed output comparable to Mac and Windows programs.
Even for a die-hard Newtonian, nothing is quite so daunting as the prospect of entering pages of data into your Newton by hand. The good people at Avail understand this, so they included a button in both the Text Editor and Table Editor that connects your Mac or Windows PC to the Newton via a serial cable for direct data entry using your keyboard. All you need is a standard terminal program (MicroPhone, ProComm, etc.) and a serial cable, such as the one supplied in the Newton Connection Kit, and you can type right into your Newton. This feature also supports importing and exporting standard tab-delimited text files to and from your Mac or Windows PC.
Avail also includes two small (30K) utilities to make sharing and faxing your TapWorks files easier. The Viewer utility is a freely distributable program you give to any Newton user who does not have their own copy of TapWorks but needs to view or print TapWorks documents. The Fax utility is specifically for users of PCMCIA card modem users. It allows you to fax a TapWorks page without using TapWorks itself, which solves the problem caused by the PCMCIA card taking up the slot your RAM card normally occupies. The problem, of course, is that the RAM card contains the TapWorks application, so without this little utility you would be stuck. I hope other Newton developers follow Avails lead is this area.
All together now
After you have created all the pieces for your page, TapWorks makes the layout part simple. Just drag and resize all your text and graphic objects wherever you want on the WYSIWYG page, keeping an eye on the convenient page center marks for alignment, until you are satisfied with the look. Its like using PageMaker with a pen.
TapWorks 1.01 is a very well integrated set of tools for mobile types who need to communicate graphically as well as textually. At US$119, its a bargain. Contact StarCore at 800-708-STAR for the nearest dealer, or call Avail at 408-730-6855.
David MacNeill is a teacher and Internet consultant for the IconoClass, a Macintosh, Windows, Internet, and Newton training center in Sacramento, 916-565-3535. He can be reached on NewtonMail/eWorld at DaveMacNeill, or on the Internet at firstname.lastname@example.org.