By Colin Fisher-McAllum
We all have our favourite accessories. You know what I mean, those useful little programs with the *.acc extention that we just can't live without. Starting today we will be running a series of reviews, written by a different person each issue, who will tell us all about a couple of their most used accessories. With the onset of friendly multi-tasking on the Atari platform we will include in this section any applications you run as programs as long as they can normally be run as accessories in a single-tasking environment. If you would like to submit an article for this section please request a copy of our stylesheet and let us know what accessories you would like to review.
To get the ball rolling I have chosen to chat about "NameNet Access" and "To-Do"...
I'm cheating by kicking off this new theme with NameNet Access because
although it is an accessory, you do need the full program to set up
the data. Well, as I am one of the AtariPhile bosses I'm allowed to
Elsewhere in this issue Roger Derry, the author of NameNet, has told you about why he wrote the program. As you know, the Falcon FacTT File use it as the engine for the membership listing. Well I use the accessory to gain access to the information in the data files I have already written using the main program. Obviously as NameNet Access is an accessory, I can do this while using other programs that allow access to the GEM menu bar.
The main display
NameNet Access like all accessories reserves its space in RAM during the boot process. It is impractical to reserve enough space to load a huge file so the main program creates index files. The accessory reads these indexes and then obtains the needed data from the full listing. This is not a problem if you have a hard drive but if you are using a floppy based system you will find the retrieval of data to be very slow.
With the exception of editing the data most of what you can do in the program, plus some useful extra options, can be done in the accessory. For example, if you have a modem attached to your computer you can dial any of the listed 'phone numbers. Re-dial is possible, even if you are viewing another entry, just by clicking on an icon. The calls can be timed and a log kept. Depending on how you have NameNet set up, you may choose to dial via your direct server [BT/Cable] or Mercury using your serial number [for security this is encrypted]. As each entry may have a default Mercury 'cost centre' allocated you are asked at the time of dialling if you wish to dial with the default or enter another. Local STD codes can be ignored and calls placed direct.
Those of you that have used NameNet will know of the very useful entry linking ability. The accessory can also use these links to gain quick access between linked entries. The way the accessory displays these links can be set or even switched off. In fact much of NN-Access is configurable on the fly via the "Tweaks" menu. Useful little texts are displayed to explain the option currently under your pointer. A built in help option is also available.
Data can be output to a printer, the keyboard buffer or the Atari clipboard. This means while I'm in my wordprocessor I can, by writing or appending to the clipboard, create a list of chosen entries. In practice, to enter a single address to a letter I only have to output the data via the keyboard buffer. This automatically 'types' the selected data direct to the document. The selection of which fields to output is simply done via a menu option.
Up to six of your main NN databases can be accessed and each of these six can be saved with 10 user defined filtered lists. For example, the main FFF listing is selected, this file is subdivided into filtered groups of Falcon members, TT members and PAK members as well as a listing of all members who have E-mail addresses etc. These sub-lists are only a mouseclick away!
Searching for an entry is just a matter of entering the name and pressing return, but you can also search for a string within the full listing using "Find Text". All options are available via drop down menus or keyboard shortcuts. The accessory can even be called from keyboard shortcut.
To-Do is one of those little accessories that, to be honest, when I first tried it I thought "Oh, that's pretty, but it doesn't do a lot. Do I need it?". My answer to that is... Yes!
Quite simply To-Do, is a little notebook. I could say more about what I would like to see implemented into the program than I can about what is already there. However what is available is very useful and easy to use. Joe Connor, who is supporting the product in the UK via his InterActive scheme, has put forward a list of "useful extras" to Reiner Rosin, the programmer who has indicated a willingness to include many of these options in future updates.
The main display
However, what does the present incarnation do? The main window is split into two sections, "Projects" and "Jobs". Projects is where you list your um... projects! I think of it as a title or heading, each entry can have a six line comment. Clicking on the Project opens up the relevant Job window where you list each task. You can have any number of jobs appended to a project and each job can have a six line comment.
|A system of
flagging the jobs with a number helps you to prioritise the tasks.
Editing any part of the data kept in To-Do is easy. Both menus and
icons are available for the most commonly used actions and a couple of
less needed options are tucked away in the menu, but even these have
The pure simplicity of To-Do is what makes it so usable. You can't keep copious notes, you can't date or time jobs to be flagged automatically or set off alarms. But this little accessory is used many times every day on my system as an aide-memoire.