ONLINE LOG: Tracking Costs
Tung, Sandra, Searcher
Tool Kit Reviews, scheduled to appear five times a year, will review soft-ware products that help online searchers make effective use of time or produce excellent research packages. This includes software like ONLINE LOG--a time/cost record keeper reviewed in this issue--as well as postprocessing software, database management software designed explicitly for online search results. Front-end search aid software that simplifies connecting to an online host and automates searching also interests us. All software reviewed should be commercially available in the version tested. We will not review Beta versions, although we might test particularly interesting products on occasion. Shareware can also be reviewed, provided its producers offer some support for the product.
At present, I have the capability to test and review packages running under DOS and/or Windows on several different platforms. I invite readers who can evaluate software for the Macintosh environment to send me a description of their background and availability. However, software reviewers should not be software producers. Software producers who wish to submit a product for review can correspond with me at the address and phone numbers above.
Searchers have a continuous need to track the time and costs associated with online searching. From a one-person information brokerage, to a reference staff at a single location, to a large research staff at several locations--all want quick, easy, regular reviews of costs and time. Searchers and managers use the information to prepare invoices, write activity reports, review vendor bills, and evaluate search activity.
Some institutions have developed in-house software to collect time, cost, and vendor data, especially when a staff of searchers is involved. See the article by Kwan and Raeder, for example. Time and billing software packages like TimeSlips can be adapted to this need, but they aren't designed to handle the specific data searchers want (vendor, database, connecttime, and costs). DialogLink's account manager works well with Dialog, but was not designed to manage sessions with other vendors.
ONLINE LOG, from Et Cetera, Inc., is a time and cost recorder flexible enough to work with any online service. Using its easy report function, you can quickly prepare reports for invoices, reconcile vendor bills, review cost-to-date, and produce regular activity reports.
The ONLINE LOG automated logging system works with IBM PC compatible telecommunication software. It keeps records of al sessions run by the communications software and lets you enter the cost of each session with a database name, client or subject, and project or file number.
The software runs on IBM PC, XT, AT or PS/2 100 percent compatible computers and needs MS-DOS or PC-DOS version 2.1 or higher. Use communications software which operate under DOS, like ProComm Plus, Crosstalk, Smartcom, etc. The program uses very little disk space (107 kilobytes), so you can run it from a floppy disk if necessary. However, hard disk installation will work faster. The program will run under Windows as a DOS window.
I tested the version 1.0 successfully on stand-alone and networked machines: two 486 clones and a Toshiba T1600 laptop (AT-compatible). Crosstalk, Lexis Research Software, and Smartcom II were the communication programs used.
Using ONLINE LOG
You may install ONLINE LOG in any subdirectory on your hard drive or on a floppy disk. [See "Installing ONLINE LOG," below.] Navigating ONLINE LOG is simple, using arrows keys to move around the program's menus. The user manual is very clearly written, and provides excellent instructions for installing and using ONLINE LOG.
To use ONLINE LOG in a search, call up the program. From the main menu, press G for GoOnline. The screen shows the online services you listed in installation (Figure 1). …