SmartFILER Review
by Kent Davenport
From: SPRITE CHASER
Vol. 1 No. 1
October 1984



Manufacturer: Coleco Industries
Data Pack

When I received my SmartFILER in the mail I quick tore open the packaging, inserted the program data pack and pulled the reset switch. Coleco had finally released its first software package that could be put to practical use and would probably be a good indicator of things to come. Enclosed with the program tape was a 33 page manual and a quick reference card. The manual was indexed and the guide highlighted all the major functions and commands. All that and electronic notebook seemed to be there. But the true test of a 'data base' for the home user is the ease with which you can create, store, retrieve and print your valuable information.

After loading the SamrtFILER program, you then insert a blank data pack to be formatted for record storage. As with SmartWRITER all prompting is done at the bottom of the screen using 'Smart Key' labels. These prompts are used throughout the program's various options and help make it user friendly. If you prefer there is an example file in the manual that you can create step by step as you become familiar with the various functions.

File design is accomplished with the form creation screen where you are asked to enter the 'field names, type, length and searchability. You are allowed up to 32 separate fields totaling up to 255 characters. Searchable fields, there are 4 maximum, are limited, to 24 characters in length but all designated as a 'text' field taking up only 2 characters of your record but allowing notes or comments of up to 2 full pages. When you're sure you've laid everything out the way you want it, you push 'store form' and your form is transferred to tape.

While it is in the process of storing your form, a message appears on the screen informing you the maximum number of records you can store on your file. A quick look at the manual indicates there is no reference to the number of records or any formula figuring it out. I found with some trail runs that a record length of 18 characters (maximum record length) you were allowed 180. Still this is not too bad considering you also have 2 full pages of text for each record.

Your records can be retrieved using either the search or index methods. Indexing simply sorts the whole file based on your choice of 1 of the 4 search fields. All records are then listed and you can select which ones to retrieve or print. The search option allows you search using any combination of the 4 search fields. This allows you the flexibility to bring in a group of records or any particular one. The print function allows you to print your records in format you design with SmartFILER- or you can merge with a form you design earlier and stored using SmartWRITER. I found the print options lacking in ability to specify items such as fanfold paper and auto page numbering. More interaction with the SmartWRITER ROM would have greatly enhance its ability. Another annoying quirk was the way your file entries and notes were printed in 'compressed' format as they appear on you screen and not at the margins indicated (1-80) by print format screen.

It should come as no surprise that record retrieval and sorting are a bit slow due to the magnetic tape medium. i found that once your file begins to fill up the average time to retrieve a record was 1-1/2 to 2 minutes. Overall the cost and quality of this program can only give hope that the best is yet to come.
 

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