Magazine article Computers in Libraries

RagTime Rhythms

Magazine article Computers in Libraries

RagTime Rhythms

Article excerpt


The music dictionary New Grove. in a relatively lengthy essay complete with bibliography, defines ragtime as "the effect generated by an internally syncopated melodic line pitted against a rhythmically straightforward bass." RagTime, the Macintosh program, however, in no way pits one element against another. Rather it brings together a number of separate elements to achieve a single unified and harmonious whole.

Basically, RagTime is a construction program. In it you build a document of specialized building blocks. RagTime's building blocks are boxes you define on the computer screen. They are called "frames." Depending on what you want to do, you choose one of four different frames.

To use words for a narrative, you choose the text frame. To present a tabulation of numbers, you use the spreadsheet frame. To transform those numbers into a chart, you select the graph frame. Finally, to embellish your document with illustrations, you use the picture frame. Text, spreadsheet, graph, and picture: these are four frames that together give RagTime its special rhythms.

RagTime has been available on the Macintosh for several years now. Authored in Germany, it has proved popular on the continent and has had several distributors in the United States. In the past year another American distributor has appeared with a new version of the program. Named RagTime 3, the program includes numerous enhancements over its previous versions and well merits examination and use.

Although called a construction program, RagTime is probably most closely linked with page layout software for the Mac. But this program has special virtues that set it apart - principally the spreadsheet and charting capability.

Forms Preparation

The spreadsheet capability of RagTime, complete with formulas, macros, and table look-up that work interactively, makes this program particularly attractive for the preparation of forms such as purchase orders and invoices.

Such documents will list items and their individual prices, insert the number requested, calculate the total price for each item, add taxes and shipping charges, and finally present a total. Such forms need not be limited to one page, but can flow from page to page, and RagTime will keep track of the entire operation.

Along with the tabular information, you can add related text in a separate frame on the form and add a graphic at the top as a logo for your firm or institution. The tutorial furnished with RagTime shows a variety of ways in which forms can be prepared.


The basic element in RagTime is the frame, drawn as a box and defined as to its use: text, spreadsheet, graph, or picture. A new document starts with an empty screen, a menu bar, and toolbar at its top - the basic frame mode. Its menu bar and toolbar are shown as A" in Figure 1. Using the rectangle tool (the second tool in the toolbar), you can draw a box on the screen and click on its border to select it. Now you can define the kind of frame by pulling down the Frame menu and selecting text, spreadsheet, graph, or picture.

Once you click in the new frame, the menu bar and toolbar change to reflect the needs of that frame. Additionally, the frame itself will take on the attributes necessary for its use. This is most obvious in the spreadsheet mode, where the frame is composed of the numerous cells used in a spreadsheet.

The second example "B') in Figure 1 shows the menu bar and toolbat for the text mode, C" the menu bar and toolbar for spreadsheet, D" for graph, and E" for picture. If you don't make a choice, the frame will become a text frame by default.

When you are in a specialized frame, you can return easily to the basic frame mode by clicking on the frame border or the toolbox icon (it looks more like a set of building blocks), the first clement in the toolbar.

As you use RagTime, you can combine all kinds of frames on one page. …

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