Skip to main content
© Stigels of Elektra

PROTEXT OFFICE by Piper

Reprinted with permission from:
The ST CLUB Newsletter
9 Sutton Place
49 Stoney St.
Nottingham


When Arnor brought out Protext, they also announced that they
would be giving it full support and introducing other programs
to interface with it. Surprise, surprise! They actually have. The
first two in the promised series are Protext Filer and its
larger sibling Protext Office. Filer is a data management
system, with which you can make records, sort them into order and
search through them to select items according to certain
criteria, basically a simple data base. Office includes the Filer
program and also has the option to write invoices, credit
notes and statements, doing discount and VAT calculations as it
goes.

Protext, as if you didn't know, is a command-based word
processor, meaning that it doesn't use GEM, and if you want
something, you have to ask for it politely by name instead of
just rudely pointing to a menu item. The list of commands
that are available are impressive and include conditional
clauses for mail-merge operations, repeat until loops etc.
Office is basically a collection of these commands linked with
explanatory prompts to guide you through the on-screen action.

The first thing to realize is that it's not a stand-alone
program: If you haven't got Protext, you can't use Protext
Office. It's called from within the word processor as an EXECUTE
file, meaning that Protext acts on any commands it might find
instead of just displaying everything on screen. Once loaded,
data file management is your first option, courtesy of the
Filer section of the Office program.

Filer allows you to set up data files, which can be used
simply to store information, listing your collection of rare
antique toilet brushes, for instance, or they can be the basis
of further operations.

One of these "further operations" is mail merging. The
example templates provided show how to print address labels
with up to three addresses side by side, and how to merge names
and addresses into letters. Not incredibly exciting stuff,
admittedly, but the clever bit comes from the fact that the
addresses you use can already have been selected under various
criteria (i.e. must live in London, must have telephone etc.) and
the merging is only carried out with those records which fulfil
these criteria. The template files themselves are easily edited
using Protext. Files can be printed to screen, to see how they
look, to file for later use, or directly to printer.

Sorting can be done either from the Filer menu or from the
desktop, since the FSORT program is not just a subset of Protext
commands, but a runnable piece of code. If you only have a 520
(like me) then you may have to run it outside Protext because
of memory considerations. It is mainly configured to be used
with name/address data, having an option to look at the last
word in a name first so that it can sort by surname, but it can
be used for just about any type of data.

Once your data files are set up, you can use them in
Office. Office can be selected from the Filer menu or directly
from Protext if you don't need the Filer options.

Again you are presented with a list of options to select
from, this time concerning such things as invoices, statements
and credit notes, those dull but quite essential little items
which can clog up a small business' paper work. With Office,
generating an invoice is greatly simplified, after an initial
piece of hard work setting up the necessary information,
consisting of such things as a product list, with the relevant
rates of VAT and discounts, and a customer list, if required.
Using this information, all you have to do is state which
items any specified customer has bought and Office can print a
complete invoice, VAT and unit price after discount being worked
out automatically. The invoice is immediately saved to a file
using the invoice number as a file name (i.e. invoice number
1002 is saved as I1002.POI), the default value of the invoice
number being increased for every invoice generated. A summary
of the invoice, stating the invoice number and date, the account
name and the invoice total, is saved in a summary file, with each
subsequent invoice adding a new line to the list, so that a
statement of the entire week's or month's transactions can be
printed out.

Also shown in the statement summary are any credit notes that
you might have had to send out. The system for making credit
notes is identical to that for invoices, except that the note
has a "This amount has been credited to your account" message
at the end and is titled "Credit Note". The statement summary
records it as a negative amount.

The layout of the invoices, credit notes and statements is
easily changed to suit your own needs, either by using the
"Edit Configuration" option, or by loading the relevant section
of the program into Protext and editing directly. This latter
option gives enormous control over exactly what you want the
program to do, but it also leads to a great deal of
disappointment when you start to think "But I could have done
that". Excluding the FSORT program, only about 80K is taken up
by Office's 51 files, 27 of which are less than 1K, 17 are under
100 bytes, and one is just 3 bytes in length. Of course, as we
all know, size isn't important, it's what you do with it, but
this approach has led to an enormous time overhead as the system
constantly accesses different files on disc instead of having a
full program in memory. If you have a hard disc, or have the
space to put the whole thing onto a RAM disc, then this
probably won't be much of a problem, but it's still inelegant,
reminiscent of what you'd expect to find in Public Domain; I
had expected something a bit better from Arnor considering the
quality of Protext.

Another disappointment lies in the manual, which seemed
rather haphazard at times and, even worse, had no index. There
was very little guidance in it to tell you how to change the
program, rather than just the page layout, to suit your
business, so you're left to figure out for yourself how to
get rid of product codes if you don't want to use them.
Presumably, we're all meant to have read the relevant details in
the original Protext manual. But if we had, why would we
spend our money on Office?

The final results that you can get from using Office
are good, with everything arranged in neat columns, clearly
identified and itemised, names and addresses in all the right
places, correctly dated and individually numbered. It can also
save time and effort - not having to constantly work out VAT is a
great relief. I can't help feeling, however, that the price of
£34.95 is rather high and the implementation is either slow and
clumsy if the intention is to provide a professional package, or
badly documented and disorganised if it is meant to be a
template on which to build your own personalized program.
At £25, I'd recommend it. At £35, I'd suggest you give serious
consideration to trying to come to grips with Protext commands
yourself and write something which precisely suits your business.
You'll probably end up having to do so anyway.

Product: Protext Office
Supplier: Arnor
Price: £34.95

Points for: End result very good, saves lots of figure work,
easily changed.
Points against: Slowed down by disc access, documentation
not good for changing program, program too inflexible without
changing, expensive.

Value for Money: 6

Disclaimer
The text of the articles is identical to the originals like they appeared in old ST NEWS issues. Please take into consideration that the author(s) was (were) a lot younger and less responsible back then. So bad jokes, bad English, youthful arrogance, insults, bravura, over-crediting and tastelessness should be taken with at least a grain of salt. Any contact and/or payment information, as well as deadlines/release dates of any kind should be regarded as outdated. Due to the fact that these pages are not actually contained in an Atari executable here, references to scroll texts, featured demo screens and hidden articles may also be irrelevant.