Fortunately you don't have to write a program for every problem to be solved. Instead, you can use packaged or off-the-shelf programs that are designed for specific classes of applications. Everyday more and more packaged software (software written by the manufacturer, a software house, or central design agency [CDA]) becomes available for general use. It may be up to you to set up and process a job within the specifications of a packaged program. Let's look at four classes of packaged software you may work with: word processing, data management, spreadsheets, and graphics.
You can use word processing software for any function that involves text: letters, memos, forms, reports, and so on. At a minimum, it includes routines for creating, editing, storing, retrieving, and printing text. Under the word processing software control, you generally enter the text on the keyboard and it is printed on a display screen as shown in figure 3-8. At that point, you may store it on disk or tape, print it on a printer, or change (edit) it. Using the edit functions you can add or delete words, characters, lines, sentences, or paragraphs. You can rearrange text; for example, move a paragraph or block of information to another place in the same document or even move it to a different document. Word processing is particularly useful for text documents that are repetitive or that require a lot of revisions. It saves a lot of rekeying.
Figure 3-8. - Word processing example.
Other features and software often available with a word processing software package include: spelling checkers, mailing list programs, document compilation programs, and communications programs.
Spelling checker software helps find misspelled words but not misused words. It scans the text matching each word against a dictionary of words. If the word is not found in the dictionary, the system flags the word. You check it. If it is misspelled, you can correct it. You will still have to proofread the document to see that everything was keyed and that the words are used correctly.
Mailing list programs are for maintaining name and address files. They often include a capability to individualize letters and reports by inserting names, words, or phrases to personalize them.
Document compilation programs are useful when you have standard paragraphs of information that you need to combine in different ways for various purposes. For example, you may be answering inquiries or putting together contracts or proposals. Once you select the standard paragraphs you want, you add variable information. This saves both keying and proofreading time.
Communications software and hardware enable you to transmit and receive text on your microcomputer. Many organizations use this capability for electronic mail. In a matter of minutes you can enter and transmit a memo to other commands or to personnel in other locations. You can transmit monthly reports, notices, or any documents prepared on the microcomputer.
Data management software allows you to enter data and then retrieve it in a variety of ways. You define your data fields and set up a display screen with prompts. You enter the data records according to the prompts. Figure 3-9, view A, shows an example. The system writes the records on a disk or tape. Once you have a file keyed and stored, you can retrieve records by a field or several fields or by searching the records for specific data. For example, if you wanted a list of all personnel who reported aboard before January 1988, you could tell the system to search the file and print selected fields of all records that meet that condition. You tell the system what fields to print (that is name, rate, SSN, date reported) and where (what print positions) to print them. At the same time, you can specify in what order you want the records printed. For example, figure 3-9, view B, shows the records printed in alphabetical order by last name. The software also provides routines so you can easily add, delete, and change records.
Figure 3-9A. - Data management example. PROMPTS (IN BOLD) AND DATA (IN ITALICS).
Figure 3-9B. - Data management example. SAMPLE PRINTED REPORT (SORTED BY LAST NAME).
You can also generate reports by specifying what records to use, what fields to print, where to print the fields, and which data fields, if any, need to be combined. For example, your supply officer wants to know the value of the inventory. You can specify that the extended price is to be calculated by multiplying the item quantity by the unit price, and that the extended prices are to be totaled.
You can also specify the information to be used in report and column headings.
While the data management programs on micros are not as sophisticated as the data base management systems on mainframes and minis, they do provide an extremely useful capability in offices or aboard ship.
Spreadsheets are tables of rows and columns of numbers. Figure 3-10 shows an example. Spreadsheet processors allow you to set up a table of rows and columns and specify what calculations to perform on the columns. You enter values for the basic information into the appropriate rows and columns. Then the processor performs the calculations. In our example (fig. 3-10), we used a spreadsheet to project magnetic media costs. You enter the item descriptions, column headings, report title, and data for columns 1, 2, and 4, and the software calculates column 3 by adding columns 1 and 2. Then it multiplies column 3 times column 4 and puts the result in column 5. It also subtotals and totals the columns you specify; in this case, columns 1 through 3 and column 5.
Figure 3-10. - Spreadsheet example.
Graphics capability is available on many microcomputers. One use is to produce datadisplays, like bar charts, pie charts, and graphs. See figure 3-11, view A and view B. Onsome micros, you can do line drawings; on others you can create sophisticated engineeringdrawings. High resolution color graphics are also available for specialized applications.
Figure 3-11A. - Graphics examples. PIE CHART
Figure 3-11B. - Graphics examples. BAR CHART
You cannot use all printers for graphics output. They must be capable of producing graphics and also be compatible with the software. Some character printers can be used for limited graphics. Dot-matrix printers and plotters work well for graphics output. Laser and ink jet printers are also good for both text and graphics.
Q.29 What is packaged software?