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An open letter to Alpha Software

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  • An open letter to Alpha Software

    I been following everybody's comments about Alpha 4 and Alpha 5 and some are very interesting. I felt it was time for me to add my two cents.

    I don't care how great, pretty, neat or Windows compatible a piece of software is. If I can not manipulate the software to do what I want it to do, then it's about as useful as a car in the desert with an empty gas tank and as valuable as a flat tire.

    I've been using Alpha 4 for about 10 years. I've developed a number of applications, some of which I sold with runtime
    licenses. No, I'm not a programmer, I'm an airplane pilot. I just tinker with computers in my spare time. The only programming I did was years ago with Quick Basic, that was way too much work. None of my Alpha applications are what I would call simple. They all have multiple sets with bunches of scripts with many calculated and summarized fields. I use many typeset mode reports. I have to say that I'm absolutely amazed at what a non-programmer can develop with Alpha 4. The end user has no idea what is going on behind the scene. My users don't even know
    they're using Alpha 4. All of my application are menu driven.

    I purchased Alpha 5 ver. 1,3,4 and 4.5. I never was able to do anything with version 1. What little I've done with Alpha 5 has been very slow and painful, although a few times it has been rewarding. I'm not a stupid person, but there is something not right here. If you want to make a simple database, Alpha 5 is fine for the non-programmer. But if I'm going to make something that's USEFUL TO ME, they will need to add a lot more Genie's than they have now.

    In my mind the real problem is that the documentation REALLY STINKS. The Xbasic manual appears to be written by programmers for programmers. Everything is simple once you understand it. I've spent hours going around in circles with Xbasic. The user's manual has good examples of basic routines, but it never has any examples for things that I'm trying to do. I remember with one version of Alpha 4, there was an audio tape that had lessons on it. That was great. That's what got me going with Alpha 4.

    I'll keep on struggling with Alpha 5, but right now if I need something important, I most likely will make it in Alpha 4. DOS has been dead for a long time. But you know what, I'm glad. Alpha 4 runs better under Windows 98 than it ever did under DOS. You can window the program, cut and paste and even run multiple instances of the program. I'm confident that someone will keep making a DOS like environment that Alpha 4 will be very happy to run in.

    As far as printers go, I get the impression that people think they have to have just one printer. I have three printers connected to my computer; a dot matrix, an inkjet and a laser. One to LPT1, one to LPT2 and one to LPT3. And I can have all three printing at the same time, I tried it just to see. I picked up a brand new HP inkjet printer that was DOS compatible for $49.00. I hooked it up LPT2 and it's dedicated to Alpha 4. Printers should not be a
    problem, especially now with version 7.

    Sorry, I got a little long winded.

    Alpha Anywhere v3.5
    Version 12.3, Build 2999
    MySql56 & DBF's

    Alpha 4, 5, Anywhere

    Ron Anusiewicz

  • #2
    RE: An open letter to Alpha Software

    Right on Ron:

    Our backgrounds are about equal for both the time-at-it and the type-of-applications developed. Like you. I have been super happy with DOS Alpha for many years and amazed at its ability to SNAP screens into place – take and store many user entered keystrokes – and run complicated filtered reports like lightning. Like you, I’ve not had printer problems as my clients use Laser and dot matrix printers quite capable of handling dos printer codes.

    I’m convinced that an absolute Genius wrote the tutorials and manuals for A4. The documentation for A5 was apparently was written by his tech-head brother. Mind you, I’m not good at the Adobe Acrobat reader and every time I do a search for anything, I get NO HITS. This leaves me to scrolling the darned pages one by one hoping to come up with what I’m looking for. I’ve been relatively successful with much trial and error augmented with begging for information on the message board. There, I find good intentioned people providing 30 or so lines of Xbasic doing something that A5 has already automated with a genie or a field rule switch. That’s even more confusing.

    The Help for instance, has a number of helpful “How do I do…”. These, however, are indexed on ‘How’ and are of little value displayed in that way. It would seem that the list could be ‘Range, How do I create one…’ or … ‘Index, How do I create one’, etc, etc. That little cookie REALLY TICKS ME OFF.

    After seeing all of the possibilities with A5, though, I don’t regret the time I’ve had to spend ‘learning’ it. Get into it any way you can and experience its awesome power! I guarantee that you’ll be both amazed and gratified.



    • #3
      RE: An open letter to Alpha Software

      ...and to be fair, the A5 documentation really isn't as bad as it's frequently described. Compared to the A4 docs, which were excellent, it leaves something to be desired, but compared to a lot of what passes for documentation in the industry today, the A5 stuff is really pretty good.

      I know that more than once I've found things rereading the documentation that I was sure weren't there from the first two or three readings. Some of it has to do with not having my mind aligned to the A5 way of doing things.


      • #4
        RE: An open letter to Alpha Software

        I also have used Alpha4 for several years to make numerous applications for various charities. I'm not a programmer, but Alpha4 doesn't require programing skills, just common sense. I've tried to learn Alpha5 because everyone says it's the future. I failed. It's ust too awkward. Besides Alpha4 does every application well. Since Windows appears to run on underlying DOS code for many basic functions, I think it will be a while before it's replaced.


        • #5
          RE: An open letter to Alpha Software

          I have also been using A4 since v2, and now on v6. I have bought all versions of A5 to date and am using none. They just wouldn't do what I want with the ease of A4. HOWEVER from what I see of the beta of A5v5 it appears that A5v5 is to A5v4 what A4v6 was to A4v4 -- a huge improvement. I think that v5 will be the one to get me switched. It certainly has a lot of features that are/will be useful to me. Dos may not be dead but MS is doing its best to make it irrelevant. Its hard to run a business on DOS when the rest of the world is on windows. They don't always communicate the best or it requires a lot of work. I just wish they'd finish the damn thing and get it out. I'm trying to be patient but it's hard.

          my 2 cents


          • #6
            RE: An open letter to Alpha Software

            i'll make amother effort to switch (to alpha5 or access) when i am shown that it can do something important that alpha4 can't do better. that hasn't happened yet. i won't switch just because it's popular. i think that it is good to have a little diserveity in the pc software world.


            • #7
              RE: An open letter to Alpha Software

              Russ, you mentioned a Beta version. Is there one that is available to look and how you I get a copy?


              Still use A4 and Love it. But would like too look at V5


              • #8
                RE: An open letter to Alpha Software

                I had a look at the features of A5v5. It sure looks (at least on the surface) we will still have to learn X-basic to know what is going on. Most of us do not have the time for this.



                • #9
                  RE: An open letter to Alpha Software

                  If the people at Alpha want us to buy and learn A5, how about coming up with a "Hands On Tutorial" something like the "Video Professor" product.

                  With this, you would simply install A5 and then put the tutorial CD in the computer. It would show people how to make a to build and index in X-basic....etc...etc. and ALL ON SCREEN. You can rewind and play as many times as required to learn the basics; the benefit here is you can learn each phase before going on to the next.

                  It's all done "on screen and hands on" instead of having to slog through the "over our head" high tech typed documentation. I am sure alot of you out there are like me once and I remember it for life.

                  I think alot of people just need to be shown the basics. Then as all true A4 students...the sky is the limit. That is why A4 is such a great product. The easy to grasp documentation says "do this and you get that". It is straight forward and easy to use and learn.

                  That is why A5 has a limited number of users and A4 converters.

                  I think the on screen tutorial is a great idea. I certainly would pay extra for a product like this. Maybe then more A4 users would at least try the A5 product.



                  • #10
                    RE: An open letter to Alpha Software

                    "It sure looks (at least on the surface) we will still have to learn X-basic to know what is going on."

                    Gentlemen, virtually anything that can be done in A4 can be done in A5 W*I*T*H*O*U*T knowing a shred of XBasic.

                    Instead of menus to run your keystroke macros like in A4, you create a form and populate it with buttons, one for each task that would have had it's own A4 menu entry. For simple tasks, A5 has a "button genie" that will attach the proper action to the button for you -- you just select from a list.

                    If you need something more complex, A5 offers "action scripts" where you can select a series of actions from lists of choices.

                    If you can't find what you want in the button genie or action scripting, turn on the script recorder which will record your actions as you work through the steps you want, and you can attach that to a button.

                    All of this without knowing ANY XBasic.

                    I sympathise with the attitudes toward A4. I agree with most of them. But someone said they wouldn't switch to A5 until there was a good reason, and there are a fair number of participants participating in this forum requesting that some new version of A4 be made to do what A5 can already do. Hmmmm.

                    A5 isn't that much more difficult than A4. It's just that the A5 way of approaching things is different than the A4 way. Trying to learn A5 by thinking it should operate like A4 has frustrated (ok, really, really frustrated) more than one, including me. Once you get past that and accept that A5 is different and try to understand how it works, learning A5 will get a lot easier.

                    I've worked with A4, with Filemaker Pro, with Lotus Approach, and minimally with Access. Whatever it's faults, A5 is the best of the lot -- which is not meant to diminish the charms of A4 in the least.


                    • #11
                      RE: An open letter to Alpha Software

                      so what important thing can a5 alone do that a4 can't?


                      • #12
                        RE: An open letter to Alpha Software


                        Very well said!!

                        Rick's crystal ball is still very cloudy at best.

                        TYVM :) kenn

                        Knowing what you can achieve will not become reality until you imagine and explore.


                        • #13
                          RE: An open letter to Alpha Software

                          For a partial list:

                          - it can utilize more of the services and features available in Windows.

                          - it can produce typeset quality output with any version of Windows and any printer you can operate through Windows.

                          - it can do virtually all the things that folks on this forum are asking Alpha to insert into a version 8 of Alpha Four, and more.

                          - and for those who WANT to learn XBasic, you can make A5 stand up and do things neither A4 or A5 will do straight out of the box. But straight out of the box, A5 will do virtually everything A4 will do and more. It just does it differently.

                          Don't get me wrong. For an awful lot of what I do, A4 would be the perfect tool if the rest of the world wasn't busy trying to make DOS software inoperable, but once you get past learning how A5 wants things done, you'll discover just how good a tool it is as well.


                          • #14
                            RE: An open letter to Alpha Software

                            here's my response:

                            - it can utilize more of the services and features available in Windows.
                            REPLY:I don't know exactly what you mean. I haven't found a d/b job yet that Alpha4 can't do, except recently for the Windows printer problem which I quess is solved with version7.

                            - it can produce typeset quality output with any version of Windows and any printer you can operate through Windows.
                            REPLY: I quess that version7 solves this problem, but I have to test it.

                            - it can do virtually all the things that folks on this forum are asking Alpha to insert into a version 8 of Alpha Four, and more.
                            REPLY: What are some of these things the folks are asking? Are they important?

                            - and for those who WANT to learn XBasic, you can make A5 stand up and do things neither A4 or A5 will do straight out of the box. But straight out of the box, A5 will do virtually everything A4 will do and more. It just does it differently.
                            REPLY: I haven't tried Xbasic. Alpha5 was enough. I'm just not interested in learning a major new program unless I know that it is going to be of significant help.
                            p.s. Alpha4 runs faster than Alpha5 or Access. Try running a serch.


                            • #15
                              RE: An open letter to Alpha Software

                              Your argument started with a statement that people would need to learn XBasic to get very far with A5. I attempted to explain why that isn't necessarily true.

                              Then you asked what important things A5 can do that A4 can't. I listed several that have been important to those who have made the switch. In addition, there are regular participants to the A4 forums lobbying for additional enhancements to A4 so it will be able to do things A5 already does. You indicate you don't know what those things are and that A4 already does everything you want.

                              I'm not trying to convince you to switch to A5 if you're satisfied with what you have. I'm only attempting to clarify the XBasic issue and explain why many have already made the move from A4 to A5. And why, despite the difficulties, most are glad they did.