By DAVID BROWN
VIEWSHEET is a ROM based spreadsheet program marketed by Acornsoft
and written in house, rather than commissioned from another software
The pre-release version came with a pre-release type manual.
It is therefore not possible to comment on the presentation of
the documentation as it will finally appear, only on its content.
There is little doubt, however, that the final form of the package
will be up to Acornsoft's usual high standards.
The manual is very well written. The first part is a "try
this and watch what happens" tutorial approach which assumes
no prior knowledge of spreadsheets and expects a reasonable standard
of intelligence from its reader.
There are consequently no condescending "Did you notice
what happened then .. ? I bet Teddy did!..." lines to make
one want to rip the book to pieces.
The tutorial covers all the facilities offered by the program,
not just the simple ones. The second part is a more curt reference
section which concisely explains all available facilities.
To access the spreadsheet one types *SHEET or *SH. This puts
one in the Viewsheet command mode from which one can load, save
and print sheets as well as perform a number of other functions,
including changing mode.
The system works equally well in all seven modes, which means
that those using TV sets don't have to squint at 80 column layouts
and those with particularly bad eyesight can use Mode 5 if they
The foreground and background colours can be changed to good
effect using the usual Ctrl-S,n,n,0,0,0 technique.
Mode 3 with yellow writing on a blue background makes the whole
system look very attractive and is more restful on the eyes than
white on black.
Pressing Escape takes you into sheet mode, in which you can
manipulate the sheet in memory. Pressing it again takes you back
into command mode (Wordwise users will have no problems here).
One thing that did strike me is that there is no use whatsoever
made of the *HELP command. It seems unlikely that ROM space is
at a premium, and it therefore seems a shame not to make the most
of this facility, even if only to provide a list of commands available
in command mode as is done in the DFS ROM.
The maximum size of the sheet itself is 255 columns by 255 rows,
which means there is no real restriction on the size of the application
save that imposed by the amount of memory. (For those with an
academic interest in such things, the package will work with the
6502 second processor.)
Facilities are all fairly standard. Moving around the screen
is simply a matter of using the cursor keys.
Unfortunately however, the GOTO cell function is rather awkardly
hidden on function key number seven.
All cell entries are simply typed in and once entered they are
interpreted to be values or labels.
Very annoyingly, there is no facility for forcing an entry to
be interpreted as a label so that 1981-82 comes out as 1899!
As one would expect, ranges of values can be totalled, averaged,
"minimum-ed" and "maximum-ed" without difficulty.
Replication is done in a standard way and is both powerful and
easy to use.
Rows and columns can be inserted and deleted, although accidental
deletion can be protected against.
The numerical (but not textual) format of the information can
be specified on a cell or window basis. The default row and column
headings can be redefined or even turned off.
There is a comprehensive IF statement and a facility for reading
and writing elements of random access disc files. At first sight
it seems that nothing has been overlooked.
Unfortunately there is one major oversight. Presumably in order
for the reverse video cursor to show up in Mode 7 there is a mandatory
gap between columns which cannot be filled.
This means that any text which is entered into the sheet has
to be typed in on a one word per cell basis.
If you wish to write "Uncommunicative" on your sheet,
you either have to have a column width of 15 (in which case one
can only get about three columns on a screen) or be satisfied
with something along the lines of "Uncommu nicativ e".
As a result headings, and for that matter all labels, are a pig's
breakfast. To compound the error, column widths are not variable.
One can only suppose that the answer is to transfer the computed
sheet, complete with mnemonic labels, to a word processor - one
feels sure that Acornsoft would recommend View -and tidy up the
dog's dinner when the number crunching has been completed. That
strikes me as being a distinctly unsatisfactory solution.
Having got over that hurdle we come to another problem. Acornsoft
has gone overboard on windows. One can define up to 10 (yes 10)
screen windows and another 10 print windows.
The idea is to enable you to dissect your sheet into logical
subsections in order to view and print these as inter-related
There is a facility for loading and saving window definitions
separate to the sheets, thus enabling you to swap from one perspective
of the sheet to another by loading in a new window definition.
While this is a very laudable aim, there is a considerable obstacle.
Defining and manipulating window definitions is uncannily difficult,
being about as user-friendly as a kick in the teeth.
Fumbling around defining and redefining windows in order to
get the display right is not easy. One might feel that the struggle
would be worth it if the end result were to prove useful, but
I have yet to be convinced.
My view is that an ability to split the screen into two - or
at most four -different windows is a very useful facility, but
the usefulness of 10 screen windows is dubious.
The printer windows, which allow one to define the area of the
sheet to be printed and to some extent the format of the output,
could be useful for very big sheets.
More work needs to be done by Acornsoft to find the best compromise
between flexibility and user friendliness.
In conclusion, Viewsheet's major failing is to provide adequate
facilities for textual labelling." Apart from this it succeeds
in providing all the basic spreadsheet functions in a well presented
The only real advantage it has over its competitors at the moment
— and one which may evaporate before its release - is that it
is ROM based. Acornsoft is capable of producing better programs.