Magazine article Computers in Libraries

ProComm Plus and OCLC's Epic

Magazine article Computers in Libraries

ProComm Plus and OCLC's Epic

Article excerpt

An online reference service demonstrates ProComm Plus's many features.

In the past we've looked at telecommunications programs and automation of the log-on process. A few months ago we examined ProComm. one of the most popular shareware programs, and found it to be excellent telecommunications software.

This month we'll look at the commercial successor to ProComm, Pro Comm Plus, and begin to learn how to write scripts for it. In the process, we'll use EPIC, OCLC's new online reference service, to demonstrate many concepts and features.

ProComm History

ProComm began - shareware in the mid-eighties and has become a software best-seller. It was so successful in fact, that Datastorm, the publisher, took it commercial. However, the company left ProComm version 2.4.2 in circulation as shareware, and offered its new product dubbed ProComm Plus through commercial outlets.

For users this a bonanza. They can still try the software, and if they decide to use iL have the option of purchasing the enhanced commercial version. If you try ProComm and like it - take my advice, don't bother to register it - buy the commercial version instead. The price difference between registering the shareware and ordering the commercial version from a mail-order house is negligible, and Plus is quite an improvement over 2.4.2.

Those who are familiar with an older version of ProComm will feel right at home with ProComm Plus. The same exploding windows are there, as are the sound effects. The ALT key combinations are nearly unchanged. ALT-D still brings up the dialing directory; ALT-P will open the parameter window to control line -d port settings; and ALT-L continues to toggle the printer on and off.

Cosmetic Changes

A couple of changes are worth noting. ALT-F7 no longer sends a break sequence; this is now done with ALT-B. Also, ALT-F10 won't open the help window; you must press ALT-Z instead, no doubt a concession to the function keys running across the top of the enhanced" keyboard.

Although many of the key combinations have not changed, the waY YOu move about in the windows they open has changed. For example, in the dialing directory you must now highlight the entry you wish to revise or dial. In previous versions, you could enter the number of the entry. If you had EPIC listed as the fourth choice, you "4" and pressed Enter. With plus you must first highlight the entry then press Enter.

The way you enter the data into the dialing directory has changed as well. you now receive substantialy more help creating each entry. when you choose to add another entry, YOU are PrOmPted for the name and the number, then YOu are presented with a list of possible speeds, terminal emulations, and downloading protocols. Nothing could be easier.

ASPECT Script Language one of the major enhancements in ProComm plus is its script language. For those unfamiliar with scripts, drink of them as mini-programs that take control of your computer -d modem from the time of dialing through the logging on process, and even, if you desire, to the point of automatically moving you about the online system you have entered.

proComm Plus's new script language, ASPECT, is a huge improvement over the script language found in version 2.4.2. So many commands have been added that ASPECT is in many ways a respectable programming language itself

An EPIC Example

The procomm Plus program disks contain a number of sample script files You can use or modify for your own purposes. We'll take the file written for CompuServe and rewrite it to log us on to EPIC. …

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