HEADQUARTERS LIBRARY

                ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTIOM AGENCY
                WASHINGTON, D.C. 20 )
        Consumer Report
            Graphics Software for Scientific Applications
                       Desktop Printers

                         Open Forum:
                     MS Windows DOS Extension
                      Macintosh 35mm Slides
                          Report *2
                         September 1989
EPA
220/
1989.17 !
PC Technology Assessment Program
EPA National Data Processing Division
Information Centers Branch - RICII, MD-35
Research Triangle Park, NC 27711
Telephone: (919) 541-0568 (FTS) 629-0568

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                              PC TAP CONSUMER REPORTS
CD
CD
      From the Editor's Desk
      Welcome to the second publication in our PC TAP Consumer Reports series. In this issue we are
      featuring a report about our recently-completed PC Technology Assessment Program study of
      graphics software for scientific applications.  The purpose of the study was to investigate the suitability
      of commonly-available graphics packages for displaying scientific data, as opposed to the business
      information that is often presented in graphics format. The report begins on page 2.

      In another report on page 19, the results are presented of a survey conducted at RTP to assess user
      satisfaction with three popular desktop printers. Chanya Harris, RfC N's WordPerfect specialist,
      conducted the survey while visiting secretaries and other heavy users of WordPerfect in the Research
      Triangle Park area. Open Forum, beginning on page 24, contains two items. The first is a synopsis of
      a Microsoft Windows 286 information paper published by the EPA National Data Processing Division's
      Architectural Management and Planning Branch. The second article, contributed by Theresa Rhyne of
      RICII, provides a step-by-step description of a recommended technique for making 35mm slides on
      Macintosh computers.

      The response to the first PC TAP Consumer Report, published in August, has been encouraging.
      We're pleased that readers like our informal format, and that you find the reports readable and
      informative.  In upcoming issues we will be publishing findings from our in-process studies of PC
      graphics file conversions, color output devices, and desktop scanners.  We hope you will continue to
      enjoy these reports, and that you will find them helpful. Also planned for future  Consumer Reports is
      a regular summary of "what's going on around the Agency" in terms of technology assessments that
      are planned or in progress by groups other than PC TAP.
                                                                     David A. Taylor
                                                                     PC TAP Coordinator
                          CC  tAP CQfi$um.er  ft*ports do not present formal findings,
                          represent official policy, or make specific fecommeftdations about
                          which products our readers should o< should not use.. Rather, they
                          aceimended as an information exchange through which our readers
                          may share opinioDs, based on tfi ejrowneicperier>ces, about various
                          ttems of hardware and software.  The last page in this issue has
                          Inlormation about how to submit material for publication in PC TAP
                          Consumer Reports.
CVI
_                                         HFAnQUARTERS LIBRARY
g                                         •.-ku»WVMFNTAl PROTECTION AGENCY
2£                                           -"..JiN.'noN D.C. 20460

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               GRAPHICS FOR SCIENTIFIC APPLICATIONS
Introduction
Those who use desktop computers to prepare scientific data for hardcopy publication have long
struggled with the limitations imposed by PC-based graphics software. The market has traditionally
catered to the requirements of business graphics consumers with software that makes attractive pie,
bar, and word charts, but which can't construct the kind of graphics required for scientific data
representation. Although the "scientific graphics" software that has been marketed for some time has
been largely a collection of band-aided business graphics packages, vendors are beginning to show
signs that they are at last hearing the cries of the scientific computing community.

One of the goals of this PC TAP project was to present an objective assessment of software commonly
in use throughout the Agency for scientific graphing. We asked participants in our study of PC
software for scientific graphics to assess the qualities of a number of such products. An informal
survey  was conducted among some of the EPA scientific compting community, and the products
mentioned most often as either in use or of significant potential interest were selected for evaluation.
Our objective was to determine how suitable this group of products is for typical EPA applications, not
to perform a detailed investigation  into all the characteristics and capabilities of each package. Our
report,  then, reflects the findings of your peers as they applied these software solutions in their
particular working environments. Here are the products that were assessed in this study:
                          EnerGraphics
                          Grapher
                          Graph Plus
                          Harvard Graphics
Lotus Freelance Plus
Lotus Graphwriter II
Sigma Plot
SlideWrite Plus
Three additional products-Arts & Letters, TempleGraph, and Xerox Graph-are also undergoing user
assessments. However, because these evaluations were begun late in the project, the reports on those
packages will be the subject of a followup Item in a future Consumer Report.

Each study participant was asked to use the software being evaluated to prepare a graphics image
typical of those normally used in his organization. A standard evaluation form was provided on which
users were asked to record their assessments of the software from a number of perspectives. To
ensure the completeness of the evaluation form and the appropriateness of its contents, it was
reviewed by a several scientific users who are experienced in the preparation and use of graphs for the
analysis and presentation of scientific data.  A composite summary of the input from these evaluations
is presented in a table on page 16.

Beginning on page four, each of the software products evaluated in this study is described in some
detail. In these discussions we have attempted to create a verbal synopsis of the quantitative data
extracted from the evaluation forms. Evaluator comments are quoted when they are available and they
amplify or clarify the text. Additionally, when related information has been found in trade publications
the appropriate citations are provided.

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About Graphics Software for Scientific Applications
To the uninitiated it may seem that a PC graphics package should have universal applicability. After all,
a graph is a graph, isn't it? However, after closer investigation one learns quickly that the requirements
that scientific graphics must satisfy are much more elaborate and specific than those for graphs
typically prepared for business applications.

Except for sharing the term graphics in their labels, scientific graphics and business graphics have
little in common. For example, a recent feature in infoworld ("The New Power of Presentation
Graphics," Infoworld, April 3,1989, pp. 55-74) pointed out that text charts account for 70 to 80 percent
of the data-generated graph charts in the typical business presentation. On the other hand, in
comparison with features like error-bar creation, curve fitting, and missing-value processing, text-
handling is a low priority in graphics for scientific applications.

Scientists' requirements for graphics have been summarized as "high-quality output that can be sent as
is to a scientific journal for publication. And they need to be able to produce it quickly, make changes
in a straightforward manner, examine the results of the changes on-screen, and then print the graph.
Another requirement... is flexibility in determining the appearance of the graph..." ("Scientific Graphing
Software:  Not Just a Pretty Picture," PC Magazine, March 14,1989, p. 259). Perhaps the contrast
between business and scientific graphics can best be illustrated by listing some of the evaluation
criteria used by PC and Infoworld in their respective studies.

                      Scientific                          Business
                      Performs arithmetic                     Bulleted lists
                      Calculates standard deviation            Free-form text charts
                      Maximum points per data set?            Bar charts
                      Scientific & Greek symbols               Line charts
                      Line style options                       Pie charts
                      Line thickness options                   Area charts
                      Grid line options                       Variety of type fonts
                      Composite graphs                     Shaded fill patterns
                      Log and log-linear plots                  3-D effects
                      Error bars (x and y axes)                 360-degree rotation
                      Bar graphs w/optional error bars          Predesigned text charts
                      Polar plotting                         Preformatted templates
                      Curve fitting options                    Drawing capabilities

Clearly, although the fundamentals of graphics imaging are involved in both of these areas, we are
dealing with a case of apples and oranges when we  try to compare them. And while our purpose here
is not to compare business graphics with scientific graphics, one should understand the
fundamental difference between the two categories  when assessing the suitability of software for one
of them. This is especially applicable in our current  situation, because while most people have at least
a passing  acquaintance with business graphics, few are aware of the meticulous, exacting
requirements often associated with the graphic depiction of scientific data.  But now that we're all
adequately grounded in our subject we can begin looking at our software evaluation reports.

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 Product Reviews
 On the following pages, product reviews are presented in alphabetic order by product name.

                                   EnerGraphics Overview

 EnerGraphics is a general-purpose graphics package. It makes standard pie, bar, line, and text charts,
 and also has the capability to create statistical and symbol charts; and scatter graphs.  Special fonts are
 available to customize charts generated in EnerGraphics, and charts can be imported into the
 product's DRAWING module where logos and symbols can be added and lines, curves, and graphics
 can be drawn on the chart. ASCII files can be imported directly into EnerGraphics.

 Although this product certainly has the capability to generate certain charts and graphs that would be
 useful for presenting some scientific data, its orientation strongly favors business/presentation
 graphics. This is clear from a list of things the user's manual says the product is well suited for:
 organization charts, flow charts, special logos, floorplan layouts, electrical circuits, mechanical
 drawings, musical scales, advertising layouts, designing letter fonts, and preparing graphics for
 desktop publishing applications.

                             User Assessment of EnerGraphics

 Our software evaluator-an experienced, sophisticated PC user- found EnerGraphics version 2.2 fairly
 intuitive and easy to use. However, the documentation, the tutorial, and the online help features were
 all found to be average-to-poor in quality and usefulness. Initial creation of a graphic image required
 some study before success was achieved.

This package provides most of the features generally considered minimal requirements for scientific
 graphic use, but it doesn't support output in Postscript or matrix camera format. During the
 assessment, the graphs were printed on the HP LaserJet Series II printer and the HP plotter. Using
program defaults, output on these two devices was judged "average," with some changes in shapes
and sizes in comparison with the original screen image. Our evaluator felt the quality on the HP Series
 II was acceptable, but considered the HP plotter output to be below average. The graph below was
 produced on the HP LaserJet Series II by EnerGraphics.

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Several apparent bugs were encountered in the software. For example, the screen went blank and the
file was lost if HELP was called while customizing a graph. Also, the EGA driver was unstable,
sometimes necessitating a reboot of the PC in order to return to the Automaxx menu when exiting from
EnerGraphics.

This product's best feature was reported to be its ability to handle 2 or more items in 3-D.
Nevertheless, EnerGraphics was rated unacceptable overall, and our evaluator commented that he
"would not recommend this program to anyone..."

         EnerGraphics, List $395
            Requirements: 512K; DOS 2.0 or later

            Manufacturer: Enertronics Research, Inc.
                   5 Station Plaza
                   1910 Pine Street
                   Saint Louis, MO 63103
                   (314)421-4682
                                     Grapher Overview

Golden Software calls this product a "powerful and flexible tool for creating high resolution XY graphs
for viewing on screen or output to a printer or plotter." Grapher employs pull-down menus to offer over
100 options for creating XY graphs, but defaults also provide pre-selected options that allow users to
create graphs by simply entering their data.  The basic package comes with two additional modules
called View and Plot.  View allows the user to look at disk-resident graphs, and zooming and panning
functions are supported. The Plot module produces hard copy output; it can also serve as a
standalone program to plot existing graphs from disk files.

One of Grapher's strong points is said to be its flexibility in tailoring the appearance of a graph. Nearly
every element of a graph can be edited; the size, shape, orientation, and color of symbols, axes, and
labels can be adjusted. The inability to adjust line thickness when outputting to a laser printer or when
creating slides, however, limits the potential quality of the results. Other shortcomings of this product
include an inability to use calculated standard deviations to plot error bars, and the total absence of bar
graphs from its inventory of graph types. Nevertheless, Grapher was selected as an "Editor's Choice"
in PC Magazine's March 14,1989 feature on scientific graphing software.

                                User Assessment of Grapher

Despite media claims to the contrary, our reviewer, a working EPA scientist and acknowledged "PC
hacker," found Grapher to be somewhat difficult to use. Needed information was found to be
unavailable or hard to find in the "not very helpful" tutorial, initial creation of a graph was "difficult," as
was the generation of a "nice looking plot." The latter problem was  attributed to the print program
being separate from the plotting program. Plots generated on an HP LaserJet (one is reproduced on
the next page) were rated as poor-to-average with some alterations in shapes and sizes and color
variations. File importation was rated "cumbersome" (import files must be ASCII text); file export is not
supported by Grapher.

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                                    Graph Plus Overview

Micrografx calls Graph Plus "a program designed to let you create professional business and scientific
charts." The emphasis, however, is clearly on the business/presentation graphics end of the spectrum.
PC Magazine included this package among a group of "business-oriented presentation graphics
packages (that) claim to have the features that scientists need." The package's reported strengths
include attractive output as a result of having access to all the fonts and drawing capabilities of
Microsoft Windows, along with great ease of use and editing power.

Graph creation is accomplished by specifying the data to be graphed and the type of graph desired.
Graph Plus provides a "worksheet" file into which the user may enter values, or into which existing files
may be opened for editing or adding more data.  Certain external data files (Graph Plus, VisiCalc,
dBASE III, Multiplan, Excel, Lotus  1-2-3, Symphony, and comma-delimited ASCII) can also be imported
into a Graph Plus worksheet. However, few graphics images can be imported; only files created in
Micrografx Designer or those that can be brought from other Windows applications via the clipboard
can be imported.

Available chart types include tables and area, bar, column, line, pie, and scatter charts. Once the user
has selected the type of graph to be created, the software displays a "Gallery" dialog box containing
examples of the formats in which such graphs can be created, with the default highlighted. When the
user selects the type of graph desired, Graph Plus creates it using the previously-specified worksheet
data.  A Graph Plus sample chart is reproduced below.
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                               User Assessment of Graph Plus

Our Graph Plus reviewer, an experienced programmer and user of graphics software for analysis and
presentation of scientific data in his day-to-day work, felt that Graph Plus would be a viable option for
someone who Is already working in a Windows environment. Although the product was easy to install
and become familiar with, overall ease-of-use was rated average to-poor. Items considered to be
below par were those typically of most interest to scientific users: handling of curve smoothing, Greek
characters and mathematics notation, error bars, missing values, regressions, and super/subscripts.

Graph Plus's strong points include a short learning curve, maximum control over the image's attributes
(height, positioning, fonts, titles/labels, etc.), and the ability to edit all aspects of existing graphs. Hard
copy output was reported to be fair, with some variations in shapes and sizes in comparison with the
original screen image. Graph Plus also comes with both a Postscript driver and a matrix driver that can
be used to build a SCODL file for creating 35mm slides. According to Micrografx, the capability to
convert files to PICT format for the Macintosh is in the works.

         Graph Plus, List $495
           Requirements: 512K; DOS 2.0 or later
                  Microsoft Windows 2.0 or later

           Manufacturer:  Micrografx
                  1303 ArapahoRd.
                  Richardson, TX 75081
                  (800) 272-3729
                                 Harvard Graphics Overview

Harvard Graphics is another of the presentation graphics packages that are often considered
appropriate for scientific use. While it can produce the usual pie, bar, line, text, and area charts,
additional options within the standard menu items provide for the creation of additional types, including
dual y-axis, scatter, histogram, and logarithmic charts. A wide variety of optional utility and clip art
packages are available, including what Infoworld called "a superb map-making program* ("The new
power of presentation graphics," Infoworld, April 3,1989, p. 63).

Compared with most of its competitors, Harvard Graphics has been around for some time. As a result,
it has a few limitations that have been overcome in some newer products. For example, you can't draw
fitted curves, arcs, or freehand shapes; nor can you rotate, flip, or mirror images. When creating new
objects, there is a limitation of 16 on-screen colors at the same lime.  Documentation, while polished, is
rather formal in style, a characteristic that may put off some  individuals who are used to the more
conversational style that is becoming increasingly visible in the marketplace. The product gets mixed
reviews with respect to the ease with which it can be learned and used. Users also need to be aware
that set-up for this package requires loading of a number of  drivers, the presence of which can prevent
some other software from executing due to lack of available memory.

Compensating for Harvard's shortcomings is an Impressive  list of advantages.  It supports a wide
variety of output devices, including laser printers, Postscript printers, color printers, plotters, and film
recorders. Macros can be written to automate command sequences or to facilitate forms completion.
A batch capability allows you to collect a number of files, then route the group to a printer or save it to a
disk or directory of your choice.

                                             8

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                                                                                                       1
                           User Assessment of Harvard Graphics

So far, the evaluators of the software we have discussed have all been working EPA scientists. Harvard
Graphics was assessed from a different perspective, that of an information center consultant. The
software was found to be easy to install and use, with predictable keystrokes for most functions.
Although there is no tutorial with the product, online help was rated "very helpful." "Ease of use" was
rated the best feature of this package, along with the capability to quickly generate standard charts
while also having fairly sophisticated capabilities to call upon for more complex applications.

Graph creation was rated simple and straightforward, with control over all graph components except
the position of the graph on the page. With respect to editing, only the legend size could not be
modified. The criteria our scientific community wants in graphing software were all rated average or
excellent, except for an important exception: error bar creation is not available. On the other hand, up
to 240 data points can be handled

The quality of output produced in a variety of formats was rated average or good in each case. Hard
copy obtained on the HP LaserJet, HP 7550 plotter, and HP 7510 slidemaker were said to be very good,
while output to the PTI Montage film recorder was rated "excellent." Hard copy output was said to be
an exact replica of the screen image.  ASCII and Lotus files can be imported into Harvard Graphics;
Metafiles can be exported.  In response to an evaluation form item asking for the product's
shortcomings, our participant offered "A little buggy for output. Weak telephone support." The chart
below is a standard Harvard Graphics horizontal bar chart that was stored as a symbol, then broken
into individual elements and edited. The result was printed on an HP 7550A at high resolution.
                EMSL 60 8%
              CER; 33 4%
           ECAO 39 5%
           TSD 34 4%
          HERL 29 4%

        OTHER 13 2%
RREL 136 17%
                                       OARIV 448 57%
                                                               OARM
                                                              by Division
                                                        HRMD 73 16%
            Work Requests
              by Organization
                                                    FMSO 75 17%
                                                      DR 76 17%
                                                                      CSSD 129 29%
         Harvard Graphics, List $495
           Requirements: 512K; DOS 2.0 or later

           Manufacturer: Software Publishing Corporation
                  1901 Landings Drive
                  Mountain View, CA 94039
                  (415)962-8910

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                               Lotus Freelance Plus Overview

Although Freelance Plus didn't even make PC Magazine's list of "presentation graphics packages
with potential for scientific use," this product has received some attention within the EPA scientific
community. At the Agency's largest research facility, this package is heavily used to import and polish
graphics images created in other, more scientifically-oriented packages like Graphwriter or Sigma Plot.
Infoworld called Freelance Plus "one of the two best presentation graphics products" (along with
Harvard Graphics), and named it an excellent value.

Twelve chart types can be created with Freelance Plus: standard vertical and horizontal bars, stacked
vertical and horizontal bars, line, pie, xy scatter, text, area, bar-line, high-low-close-open, and table.
More than 40 text-chart templates are available for those who can make do with the professionally-
designed defaults. Those who wish to exercise their creative talents will appreciate the extensive
editing and drawing capabilities. Objects can be rotated, flipped, mirrored, arrayed, and precisely
placed. An extensive symbol library (over 400 items) minimizes the need to draw original figures.

Lotus PIC files and Graphwriter II files, Metafiles, and ASCII files can be imported; exports are in
Metafile format only. However, spreadsheet data from a variety of sources can be imported, and data
from a Lotus file can be dynamically linked with a Freelance Plus graph so that when the data changes
the graph is automatically updated.  In Infoworld's speed tests of file import capabilities, Freelance
Plus imported a Lotus .WK1 file in only 2.1 seconds, the fastest time among ten products tested.
                                             10

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                          User Assessment of Lotus Freelance Plus

Although online help is available with Freelance Plus, our evaluators found it to be 'not very helpful."
That wasn't a problem, however, because the manual contains a good tutorial and use of the product is
very straightforward and predictable. Ease-of-use and ease-of-learning were both rated "excellent," as
was file importing. The inability to export files in multiple formats (although you can create EPS and
TIFF files, only Metafiles may be exported) was felt to be a significant shortcoming of this package.

Chart creation was straightforward after some study of the documentation. A suggested technique that
some users may find advantageous is to create graphs with other software, then import them into
Freelance Plus for final editing and outputting. Imported images were reported to be very faithful to the
originals, and they could be edited in all aspects. The capability to create specialized drawings and to
enhance existing graphs were reported as the product's best features.

Output from Freelance Plus was rated excellent on the HP 7550A plotter; HP LaserJet, HP PaintJet,
Apple LaserWriter, and matrix camera output was considered average. None of the "scientific"
functions on our evaluation form were scored, since they are not available with this product.

         Lotus Freelance Plus. List $495
            Requirements:  512K; DOS 2.1 or later

            Manufacturer: Lotus Development Corporation
                  55 Cambridge Parkway
                  Boston, MA 02142
                  (617)577-8500
                               Lotus Graphwriter II Overview

Graphwriter II is Lotus Development Corporation's entry into the graphics software world. Although its
primary function is to serve as a "linked" graphics connection to Lotus 1 -2-3 and Symphony
spreadsheets, it can also read data directly from dBASE, .DIP, SYLK, and ASCII files. When
Graphwriter If graphs are linked to data files, the graphs are automatically updated by the software
whenever the linked data files are changed. By executing a single command, the product's "Automated
Charting System" enables you to print up to 100 different charts in one run.

Chart creation is a menu-driven process. When you start up Graphwriter II, the first screen you see
displays the main menu of commands across the top of the screen in  Lotus 1 -2-3 fashion. And, like 1 -
2-3, you can cursor to the desired command and press the enter key, or you may simply type the first
letter of the command name you wish to execute.  Selecting "chart type" from the main menu causes a
•pop-up" menu containing all 24 available chart types to be displayed. To build a chart, you simply
select the type of chart desired, then fill in the blanks on the "forms" Graphwriter II presents to specify
additional chart characteristics like titles and labels. Data can be entered on the forms or imported
from a spreadsheet or other compatible data file. A preview command allows you to look at your
finished chart on the screen before you print it.

To provide a capability to enhance Graphwriter II charts, you can create .DRW files for further refining
in Freelance Plus.  Charts can also be written as Metafiles for use by other products. A wide variety of
output devices as supported.
                                             11

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                           User Assessment of Lotus Graphwriter II

 Our evaluator, a programmer in an EPA lab, reported using Lotus 1 -2-3 to edit tables of data which are
 then input to a Graphwriter a chart (he prefers XY-scatter), These graphs make slides, but for
 presentation-quality output exporting to Freelance Plus for further editing is recommended. This
 product was rated fairly easy to use, with an excellent tutorial and online help. The documentation is
 superb in all respects.

 Most of the criteria EPA scientific users want to see in their graphing software were rated "excellent" on
 the evaluation form, with one important exception: error bar handling was said to be poor. However,
 up to 500 data points can be accommodated. Graphwriter II's ability to copy data directly from
 spreadsheets, to have process different X-values for each set of Y-values on the same X-axis, and to
 export Freelance .DRW files were listed as its best features. The worst shortcoming was found to be
 that tic-marks are on the Inside edges of axes where they obscure data.  A remedy for this problem was
 found, though: bring the graph into Freelance Plus and "flip" the tic marks! This chart is from a
 Freelance .DRW file created in Graphwriter II using data from a Lotus 1 -2-3 spreadsheet:
                                          LOG-L-MEAE
                 YJV. XU ar.C X-.;
                       IS.
                                          xi AH: :-::A
Initial chart creation with Graphwriter II was reported to be simple and straightforward. There is
excellent control over typical components like title size and location, axis labels, colors, fonts, etc., and
all components except the overall object size could be edited. A wide variety of output devices are
supported, but our evaluator prefers the Apple LaserWriter for fast processing and high-quality hard
copies.

         Lotus Graphwriter II, List $495
           Requirements: 512K;DOS2.1

           Manufacturer:  Lotus Development Corporation
                  55 Cambridge Parkway
                  Boston, MA  02142
                  (617)577-8500
                                             12

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                                     Sigma Plot Overview

Although Sigma Plot was named an 'Editor's Choice" in PC Magazine's review of scientific graphing
and presentation graphics software, they also called its user interface "awful" (Scientific graphing
software: not just a pretty picture. PC Magazine, March 14,1989, p.276). A case in point is the
product's inconsistency in menu selection options: depending on the screen, you may (a) select a
numbered option; (b) select a letter option; or (c) use a function key to make your selection. Editing of
labels was also reported to be laborious.

Sigma Plot gets good marks in areas of particular interest to the scientific user community. Error bar
treatment is excellent-PC says "the best we've seen so far" (p.273). There is also a high degree of user
control over the appearance of graphs, including determining line thickness in output sent to a laser
printer (remember, lack of this capability was considered a significant shortcoming in Grapher).
Plotting to an HP LaserJet was called "painful," with some complex graphs taking as long as two hours
to print.

This product supports all of the "scientific" functions listed on our evaluation form, and allows control
over all components of automatically-generated charts. All aspects of chart images can be edited.
Importing and exporting of ASCII, .DIP, .PIC, .WKS or .WK1. and Metafiles is supported. Sigma Plot
charts often are imported into Freelance Plus for further processing.

                               User Assessment of Sigma Plot

Despite its limitations, one of our users evaluated Sigma Plot very favorably. Where our evaluation
form asked for a list of shortcomings, this participant, an EPA research biologist, wrote "There are no
shortcomings..." It was also noted that the product allows maximum creativity on the part of the user.
Usage of Sigma Plot was characterized as "fairly intuitive," with an excellent tutorial and online help.
Initial graph creation was said to be simple after reading the documentation.

Chart quality was rated "excellent" on the evaluation, an exact replica of the original screen image. It
was noted, however, that it "takes awhile" to output a plot on the LaserJet. Faster output is available on
the HP 7550A plotter, but quality suffers somewhat in the process.  The best features of Sigma Plot
were listed as "the ease of plotting standard error bars, performing basic statistics and least square
regression analysis." A typical chart created with Sigma Plot appears below.
        METABOLITES OF 1-NITRO[14C]PYRENE PRODUCED BY
                HUMAN FECAL ANAEROBIC BACTERIA
          2500
                 5  10 15 20 25 30  35  40  45
  METABOLITES OF 1-NTTRO[14C]PYRENE PRODUCED BY
            FECAL FLORA
2500-
                                                           10 15 20 25 30 35 40 45
                                              13

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Just to illustrate once again that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, a second participant who
assessed this product was less enthusiastic. This evaluator found the product difficult to use without
frequent references to the documentation or help, which were fell: to be only "average." To illustrate
this point, it was commented that "calculating error bar data is very easy once one figures how to set
the data up (this is not explained well in the manual)." This person rated the quality of the final output
"good."
         Sigma Plot, List $395
            Requirements: 640K; DOS 2.0 or later

            Manufacturer: Jandel Scientific
                   65 Koch Road
                   Corte Madera, CA 94925
                   (415)924-8640
                                  SlideWrite Plus Overview

This product has had two significant upgrades over the past two years. The latest release, version 3.0,
was used by both of our evaluators. Unlike several other packages in our review group that were
designed primarily for presentation graphics applications, SlideWrite Plus appears to have  been
originally designed for scientific applications. Error bars, curve-fitting, calculation of means and
standard deviations, and handling of super /subscripts have been in the repertoire in previous versions.
With each upgrade, enhancements have been introduced to provide capabilities usually associated
only with presentation graphics packages. As a result, SlideWrite Plus now pops out when  computer
data bases are searched for "presentation graphics software."

This easy-to-install product provides many powerful features. Support is included for 16 VGA or EGA
colors, 46 fonts for HP and PostScript printers, and a powerful drawing module. Twelve graph types,
12 line types, and 7 line sizes are included.

SlideWrite Plus tied for first place, along with Harvard Graphics, in PC Week's presentation graphics
user poll, the results of which were published in the November 14,1988 issue. The consensus among
the 762 poll respondents was that output quality is the single most important factor in selecting
software in this category.  SlideWrite Plus received the highest ratings in ease of learning and use,
quality of documentation, and vendor support.

                             User Assessment of SlideWrite Plus

Both of our SlideWrite Plus evaluators said this product was predictable and easy to use. They
disagreed on the quality of the tutorial, however; one said "excellent," the other only "average.*  Under
"best features," were listed these items: "wide range of graphing and clip art features; easy file
handling; very few limits imposed; and data options-statistics, curvefit, equation." This product does
offer all the functions that the EPA scientific user community considers necessary for scientific
graphing software, with support for up to 4000 data points and 21 fill patterns. Our evaluators gave
'excellent' ratings to curve smoothing, Greek and math characters, Log X and Log Y scales, missing
data, regressions, and super & subscripts.
                                             14

-------
An impressive list of output drivers are supported by SlideWrite Plus, and output quality was rated
excellent. All the usual chart types are available except for contour and Gantt, and mixed and 3-D line
charts can also be generated. Charts generated with this product could be fully controlled by the
users, and all design components could be edited. Both evaluators reported "minor differences"
between screen displays and printed output. ASCII, CGM, .WKS or .WK1 files can be both imported
and exported; EPS, HPGL, PCX, LL, and SCODL files can be exported. A user-generated SlideWrite
Plus chart follows.
                    120

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                                 [RETINOIC  ACD](M)
        SlideWrite Plus, List $445
          Requirements: 360K; DOS 2.0 or later

          Manufacturer: Advanced Graphics Software
                 333 W. Maude Avenue, Suite 105
                 Sunnyvale, CA 94086
                 (408) 749-8620
                                          15

-------
Summary	

If you've read the assessment summaries of all nine products included in our study, at this point you're
probably asking yourself "What have I learned from this? ... Which product or products will do the job
for me in graphing scientific data?" The answers to the first of those questions will no doubt vary from
person to person, depending upon individual perspective and how much one previously knew about
the topic. With respect to the second question, certainly each specific application has requirements
and characteristics that might be handled better by one product. But in general, if we stay in the
context of scientific graphing, there are criteria that a software package should meet; we established
that in "About Graphics Software  for Scientific Applications" on  page 3. Referring back to the features
the EPA scientific computing community said they want in graphing software should help us re-focus
on specifics, and in so doing help point to answers to the question "Which product or products will do
the job for me?" The table below  will help in the re-focusing process.
                                    E
                                    n
                                    a
                                    r
                                    O
                                    r
                                    a
                                    p
                                    h

                                    C
                                    1
Q
r
a
P
h

P
I
0
m
a

P
I
o
t
                                    w
Feature
Handles Error Bars
Performs Regressions
Supports Log Scales
Supports Curve Fitting
Supports Curve Smoothing
Has Greek/Math Characters
Has Super/Subscripts
Handles Missing Values
Imports/Exports Files
Maximum Number of Data Points
Maximum Number of Fill Pirns
Number of Output Drivers Supported*
Yes
Yes
No
Yes
No
No
No
No
Yes
250
8
3
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
No
30,000
N/A
4
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Unlmtd
38
5
No
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
240
12
8
No
No
NO
No
Yes
Yes
No
No
Yes
N/A
15
3
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
No
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
500
9
6
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
No
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
128
3
5
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
4,000
21
8
            •from this lot on our mtuitien sheet: Apple LattrwrMr, COM, HPOL, HP LaserJet, HP Plotter, Matrix Camera, Postscript, Metafile.
                                              16

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List of Study Participants
  John Ashton
  Information Center Consultant
  EPACSSD/CSC
  26 W. Martin Luther King Drive
  Cincinnati, OH 45268
  (513)684-7766 (FTS) 684-7766
  Andy Barnett
  NSI Technical Services
  EPA Environmental Research Center, MD-8
  RTF, NC 27711
  (919)541-5193 (FTS) 629-5193
  Cecil Brown
  Information Center Manager
  EPA/CSC
  944 E. Harmon
  Us Vegas, NV 89119
  (702) 798-2640 (FTS) 545-2640
  Leon King
  HERL
  EPA Environmental Research Center, MD-68
  RTP, NC 27711
  (919)541-3932 (FTS) 629-3932
  Dr. David Reese
  OHEA/GTAB, RD-689
  US EPA
  401 M Street SW
  Washington, DC 20460
  (202) 382-7342 (FTS) 382-7342
  Jeff Ross
  HERL/GTD/CMB
  EPA Environmental Research Center, MD-68
  RTP, NC 27711
  (919)541-2974 (FTS) 629-2974
                                         17

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David Taylor
Coordinator, PC Technology Assessment Program
EPA National Computer Center
information Centers Branch, MD-35
RTP, NC 27711
(919) 541 -0568 (FTS) 629-0568
Mark Tolton
Manager, RTP Information Centers
EPA National Computer Center
Information Centers Branch, MD-35
RTP.NC 27711
(919)541-0092 (FTS) 629-0092
Steven Waltrip
PC Site Coordinator
US EPA
26 West Martin Luther King Drive
Cincinnati, OH 45268
(513)684-7386 (FTS) 684-7386
                                        18

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                               DESKTOP PRINTERS

A User Satisfaction Survey
Chanya Harris, RIC ll's WordPerfect consultant, has had considerable personal contact with a number
of heavy WordPerfect users in RTP recently. This group includes managers, secretaries, and other
administrative personnel who do lots of word processing tasks. Since it's likely that these folks also
work their printers harder than other users typically do, we asked Chanya to talk to them about what
they do and don't like about these devices.

Seventeen users participated in our printer survey.  All of these individuals are using either the Hewlett
Packard DeskJet or LaserJet Series II printer. They were asked to rate their printers in three categories:
(1) print quality; (2) speed; and, (3) ease of use. A five-point scale was employed, with a score of five
being the most favorable rating. The survey questionnaire also allowed for application-specific ratings
and comments for six applications: WordPerfect 5.0, Lotus 1-2-3, Freelance Plus, Freelance Plus 3.0,
dBASE III +, and dBASE IV. Not surprisingly with this population, there were few responses to
applications other than word processing so we won't go into detail regarding application-specific
issues.  The averages for WordPerfect 5.0 (all respondents rated this product) are summarized below.


                                        Print          Print          Ease
                                       Quality        Speed         of Use

              HP DeskJet                 4.3           3.0           4.0

              HP Laser jet Series 11         4.6           3.2           3.8


User comments reflected a high level of overall user satisfaction with both these printers. No
mechanical or maintenance-related problems were  reported.  Reliability and quality are apparently the
strong points of the HP desktop printers.

Two complaints surfaced fairly consistently.  One complaint, slow printing speed, is evident in the
numerical ratings listed above. The second is realty a group of complaints that refer to ink-related
problems on the DeskJet. These issues range from "ink smears if touched too soon after printing" to
"ink smears even when touched the following day."  One person would like to see some kind of
indication of the amount of ink remaining or a "low ink" warning, so users would know when it's time to
replace cartridges instead of being caught off guard.  Sounds like a good idea to us.

In conjunction with this study, Chanya conducted speed and print-quality evaluations of the printers
available in the RIC II at RTP.  In addition to the two  printers addressed in  the user survey, this group of
devices includes the Apple LaserWriter and the HP DeskJet Plus. The results are shown in the charts on
pages 20 and  21; the contents of the five test files are reproduced on page 22.  The chart on page 23
shows the impact of fonts on times for printing a 6-page document on each printer. The first document,
Testdoc 1, contains all Helvetica text of varying sizes and styles, with some italics and bolding.
Testdoc2 is the same document, but with a mixture of Helvetica heads with Courier body text, and
some italics and bolding. 7esfdoc3 is the same document with everything converted to the default
Courier font.
                                             19

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                       PRINT QUALITY - SUMMARY






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 characters ran together.
  HP DESKJET PLUS
  As with the regular DeskJet, the DeskJet Plus does a less than average job of
  printing objects with gray fill-in.
  However, the DeskJet Plus is comparable to the Apple LaserWriter in printing
  graphics lines. K far exceeds the Series II in that category.
  Also, the DeskJet Plus had no problem printing line draw boxes.
  Overall, this is an excellent letter quality printer.
APPLE LASERWRITER
  The AppleLaserwriter handled objects which required gray fill-in the best.
  Also, lines which were created using the graphics lines features were smooth
  without much distortion.
  Overall, this is an excellent laser printer.
   HP SERIES II
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 objects with gray fill-in.
 Also, the lines created with the graphics line function had a small amount of
 distortion.
 Overall, an above average laser printer; the quality level is not
 as high as the AppleLaserwriter.
                                   20

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                        PRINTER SPEED - SUMMARY
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                                              7.31 min.
          2.51 min.
          5.71 min.
          5.83 min.
This printer is extremely slow. It is unable to duplicate levels of
gray shading (most of the shading was too dark).  However, the amount of fill
present in the document did not hinder its speed, the complexity of the file
seems more Important in determining printer speed. This printer has problems
printing graphics lines.
   HP DESKJET PLUS
                                   20.51 min.
3.1 min.
 .7 min.
 2.9 min.
                                        2.71 min.
Much faster than the regular DeskJet. Complexity seems to be a print speed factor.
The DeskJet Plus is slower when printing graphics lines (especially vertical),
but is faster printing larger, simpler objects and line draw boxes.
 APPLE LASERWRITER
                                    0.41 min.
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 2.1 min.
2.18 min.
                                        2.25 min.
    The complexity of the fife was the deciding factor for printer speed. The clip
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    draw file took twice as long to print.
     HP SERIES II
                                    0.38 min.
 0.5 min.
0.66 min.
1.75 min.
                                       2.58 min.
  Documents without much dark shading printed much faster on the Series U,
  i.e., graphics lines, text boxes and line draw boxes. However, the Series II
  was noticeably slower on clip-art images and Freelance .GMF files.
       These tests were run twice, to verify the difference in printer speeds between
        the Apple LaserWriter and the Series  II in the text box and line draw box categories.
                                        21

-------
Freelance  File
Clip Art
   Screen Capture lets  you capture any  EGA PC
   text or graphics screen image and save it in
   a PCX paint file format for use in Harvard
   Graphics on-screen slide shows.

   Screen Capture lets  you capture any  EGA PC
   text or graphics screen inge and save it in
   a PCX paint file forat for use in Harvard
   Graphics on-screen slide shows.

   Screen Capture lets  you capture any  EGA PC
   text or graphics screen image and save it in
   a PCX paint file format for use in Harvard
   Graphics on-screen slide shous.

   Screen Capture lets  you capture any  EGA PC
   text or graphics screen image and save it in
   a PCX paint file format for use in Harvard
   Graphics on-screen slide shows.
Text  Box
Graphics  Lines
Line  Draw Boxes
                                      22

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                      23

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                                  Open Forum

           Open Forum provides an opportunity for users to share with others their own
           innovations, or the results of their own technology assessments. The PC Technology
           Assessment Program neither verifies nor endorses the contents of Open Forum
           items, but we are pleased to offer them as a service to u&ers.
              :: -This item contains a synopsis :p<-a: paper published recently:by the:EPA
               National Data ftocesslog Division's ArchH&ctural Management and
               Planning Branch, itpresentslhetindlnasf/omatflcJmology assessment
                                   '    ''' '
                         MICROSOFT WINDOWS:
                 A DOS ENVIRONMENT ALTERNATIVE
                          FOR SELECTED USERS

The Microsoft Windows study was undertaken because of interest within EPA in the product, and
because Microsoft has announced plans to package MS Windows with MS-DOS in 1990. Windows
was evaluated as a possible alternative to the AUTOMAXX menu software for certain EPA users who
presently require context switching-that is. switching between two or more applications without
exiting any of them. The long-term answer to this requirement is OS/2. IBM's operating system of
the future.  Under OS/2, multitasking allows multiple programs to execute simultaneously. It is
expected that use of OS/2 will be an evolutionary process, and little software is currently available
that takes advantage of its power.  However, although estimates vary of how soon OS/2 use will
become widespread, that it will eventually dominate the industry is certain.

Over the past two years, MS Windows has become the most popular DOS extension for making the
DOS user interface easy to learn and use, and for overcoming some of DOS' limitations. Windows
provides a graphics-based operating environment within which all items, including text, are
depicted graphically on the computer monitor. For applications written specifically for MS
Windows, it provides a consistent user interface, sharing of text and graphics among applications,
and true multi-tasking. Although existing EPA standard applications will not take full advantage of
this environment, MS Windows does allow context-switching between them. Furthermore, cut-and-
paste of text between concurrent applications is also supported.

During this assessment, WordPerfect and Lotus 1 -2-3 were tested under MS Windows 286 on an AT
compatible with 2M bytes of expanded memory, a mouse, and an EGA display. Both applications
performed satisfactorily, but there was less available memory than when running under DOS alone.
Originally context switching was slow, nearly as slow as exiting and re-entering applications in the
AUTOMAXX DOS environment.  However, after some experimenting and consultation with Microsoft
technical support, significant improvement was realized.  Context switching between Lotus 1-2-3
and WordPerfect, which initially took about 18 seconds, was taking only 2.5 seconds after the fix.
Other tests included running two Lotus spreadsheets at the same time, and cutting and pasting text
between Lotus and WordPerfect.

To achieve this performance, several problems had to be overcome.  First, context switching
between a Lotus spreadsheet and a WordPerfect document sometimes resulted in the error
message "COM PORT IN USE, CANNOT SWITCH BETWEEN APPLICATIONS." A system boot was

                                         24

-------
generally necessary to abort the COM port. This problem was resolved by arbitrarily changing the
order of the "DEVICE =" statements in the CONFIG.SYS file. The increases in context-switching
speed were accomplished with two other changes.  First, the parameter */e" was added to the
"SWAPDISK =" statement in the WIN.INI file, forcing MS Windows to save the inactive application to
expanded memory before using the hard disk.  Next, it was found that the size of the SMARTDRIVE
ram disk, which is a part of MS Windows, had an effect on switching time. After some
experimentation, 512K was found to be the optimal  size.

Clearly there are advantages in the MS Windows environment for users who require context
switching: running multiple applications concurrently, and switching between them without loosing
one's place in either application and without having to reload data. Additionally, one can become
acclimated to an OS/2-like environment and to the use of a mouse while  continuing to use current,
familiar software. On the other hand, most users would have to buy a memory expansion card,
additional memory, a mouse, and the MS Windows software for their current machine in order to
implement this capability.

It is expected that EPA's strategic plans will include the powerful multitasking environment that
OS/2 will provide.  Meanwhile, the recommendation for most EPA users is that they continue with
DOS 3.3 and AUTOMAXX, and that they migrate to OS/2 when applications that will run in that
environment are readily available. However, for users who must have context-switching now, MS
Windows is  an available and viable alternative.
                                         §§§
              :  ThlsHtem was contributed by Theresa Rhyiie, an Information Center
                Consu liant and Macintosh ex pert at the fltCtiinfiesearchTfianale Park
              \  :|t:;desbrlbes .a meshed Jor Deducing :35mrh. slides on the Apple
                Maefniosh cornpirter. Ypu can reach Theresaat<9>9) 541-02Q7 ar PTS
              ..; .62?-0207i or by :EMAIL.atT,RHYNE. x.:;::...:. .-"•::: ':'" •'• ••', •'•: -::;::'.:.-: •'• :'.'
                      MACINTOSH GRAPHICS FOR
                       35mm SLIDE PRODUCTION
Here are some suggestions for creating 35mm slides in the Macintosh environment. Producing
detailed graphics like those usually required for presentation slides requires plenty of computing
power. Thus, it is recommended that a Macintosh with at least 2 megabytes of memory be used for
composing slides.  Use of a computer with minimal memory will result in an excruciatingly slow
processing pace. If color is desired, a Macintosh II or SE with a color monitor is recommended.

A number of software products that create bit-mapped graphic images are available for the
Macintosh. A bit-mapped  image is composed of dots of light on a computer screen. To present
the image, each light dot is either on (black/colors) or off (white).  The rough edges of bit-mapped
images can be smoothed and contoured by using one of another group of products called drawing
software. Two good products for creating illustrations on the MAC are Claris' MacPaint, which
operates only in black and white, and Pixel Paint from SuperMac Technologies, which supports


                                          25

-------
painting in color. For flow charts or schematics, try Claris' MncDraw, Deneba Software's Canvas,
or Freehand from Aldus Corporation.

After graphic Images have been created in one of the painting or drawing packages, they are moved
to desktop presentation software where text may be added and the final slide images can be
prepared. Presentation software does for slides, overheads, and computer screen presentations
what desktop publishing software does for material destined for printing on paper: it facilitates
layout and design. In order to move the graphics files, they must be in PICT format. Painting
software automatically creates PICT format files, but those created by drawing packages will have
to be converted before they are moved to presentation software. Examples of presentation
software include Computer Associates' Cricket Presents, Microsoft's Power Point, and Persuasion
from Aldus Corporation.

The final step in slide production is to transfer the finished slide images to film recorder software
where they can be shot onto a roll of 35mm film. The film recorder software is the interface between
the Macintosh and the camera. Matrix Instruments produces both software (Conductor) and a
camera for shooting Macintosh files onto 35mm film. The final result is sure to enhance any meeting
or presentation.
                                         §§§
How to Submit Items for Open Forum
In keeping with the PC Technology Assessment Program's objective to have the user community
actively involved in TAP projects, users are encouraged to submit items for inclusion in future PC
TAP Consumer Reports.  If you have independently investigated the capabilities of a software
product or a hardware component, we would like to hear from you. We'd also like you to share with
others your solutions to any problems you may have encountered with a particular application or
device, and about tricks, shortcuts, or unique applications you have devised. Although we can't
promise to publish every contribution, we will evaluate them all in terms of their potential interest to
our readers and their conformance to the spirit and intent of PC TAP.

There are no additional rules for Open Forum contributions, but here are some guidelines:

              1. Contributions must be typed. Our first preference is that they
                be submitted on a floppy disk in WordPerfect format. If that
                isn't possible, the next best method is to EMAIL the text to
                DAVE.TAYLOR, EPA3099. The least preferable method, but still
                acceptable, is to mail a typewritten article to TAP at the
                address on the cover of this publication.

              2. The length of your contribution will be determined somewhat by
                its complexity. However, keep in mind thai we're primarily
                interested in the purpose of your study project and how pleased
                you were with the results, not in the nitty-gritty details of
                how you did it. We will publish your name, address, and phone
                number for those who want more details. Two to three pages is
                probably a reasonable maximum length. On the other hand, a
                paragraph containing a nugget that may be useful to others
                would be equally welcome.
                                           26

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              3. All material submitted by users is subject to our editing, and
                 you will not be given an opportunity to review the final
                 manuscript before publication. Sorry, you'll just have to
                 trust us. If we have questions or don't understand any part
                 of your text, we'll contact you for clarification.


We hope you enjoy PC TAP Consumer Reports, and we look forward to hearing from individuals
who have insights or discoveries to share with others. Thanks for your interest and your
participation in the PC Technology Assessment Program.
                                           27

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