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Microfile Hints

William G.S. Smith 17 Keeler Close Ridgefield, CT 06877

I have solved a practical problem I was having with MICROFILES: I have files of information on people. I often want to print their names first-name-first for mailing lists and other purposes. But, if I want to alphabetize the list, I must enter people's names in the stilted last-name-first format. One way around this problem is to have one field for the last name and another field for the first name, middle name, etc.

This arrangement allows me to sort on the LAST NAME field, yet still print the last name at the end of the name where it belongs. However, this is not an ideal solution. I must leave enough space in the FIRST NAME field for long first names, middle initials, titles, etc. This can lead to some pretty strange looking mailing labels, with huge gaps between first name and last name because of the unused spaces.

I was confronted with this problem and tried all sorts of complicated solutions. I wanted normal looking labels, but I also wanted to sort alphabetically. Then I realized the simple solution; that I could have my cake and eat it to by having TWO name fields.

One field is strictly for printing; I type in the full name just the way I want it to appear: Then, "Dr. & Mrs. Aloysius T. de B. Bindlestiff, III" and "Mr. Joe Smith" both look normal on the label. The second name field is for the last name only and is used for sorting. I also use it when all I need to print is the last name. I call this field simply "LN" for "last name." It is true that I have to type the last name twice, but the results are worth it.

The manual does not make it clear that the page break function will work only if you also use a heading. If you want a printout that leaves space between the pages you must, therefore, include a heading. However, you need not have unwanted printing at the head of each page. Simply make the heading consist of a few blanks. That way both you and the program will be happy.

Computer Customer Service

Questions We Ask You

Our column often includes some of your most frequently asked or most interesting questions. In today's column we are going to repeat some of the questions we most frequently ask customers and share with you why these questions are really important.

Question 1: Have you got a BACKUP?

Reasons for BACKUPs: BACKUPS are a resource in case of burglary, fire, employee theft or accident. Remember that BACKUPS should be done in pairs (program and data) to help maintain equal wear on your disks. Take a BACKUP copy of your disks home with you at night. This can help you recover your information and can help the insurance company in any claim which might arise.

Accidents that might occur could be caused by hardware or input error. Misalignment of drives, dirt in your drives, mishandled disks, power surges, or excessive vibrations can create a "glitch" on your disk. A disk left on a printer can be wiped out just as easily as if it were bulk erased. Sometimes an employee is so upset by a problem they have created that they increase the problem themselves.

If a crashed index (particularly in Accounts Receivable and Accounts Payable) occurs (usually caused by exiting a program improperly) it is best to go to BACKUPS. Remember to exit the program as prompted, for example, "PRESS @ TO EXIT" means just that. If you get back to the main menu and then pull the disks out or hit RESET, the index-file will not be written. If you have noticed that the computer accesses the disk when you exit, this is when the index-file is being written to disk.

BACKUPS made frequently and kept updated, save hours of work and often save having to do a program over completely.

Question 2: What version of the program do you have?

Reason for asking about version number: Many of our programs are updated to meet different needs. In some situations there are new laws or tax changes that require additional information be kept. This may or may not be part of your problem or question about a program, but it does tell us where we are starting from. In many programs the version number is in the very beginning of the listing, and some programs incorporate a command for asking for version number (VisiCalc /V). It would be a good idea to make a printer copy of the whole program (if it is written in BASIC) by LLISTing it.

Question 3: What version of TRSDOS are you using with this program?

The reason for asking about TRSDOS (Tandy Radio Shack Disk Operating System): different models of TRS-80s use different TRSDOS versions for different programs. For Model I business applications programs that have been converted for use on a Model III, the TRSDOS should be 1.2. On the current Model III programs (that did not require converting), the TRSDOS should be 1.3. Model I programs are on 2.3 TRSDOS.

TRSDOS numbers, although similar to program version numbers, are different in meaning and the numerals do not reflect the computer model the TRSDOS is associated with or the newness of the program.

You may also think that we don't want to help you when you tell us that you're using xDOS. This is not really the case. We have not tried the program on anything other than the TRSDOS on which it was released. We can not support all the operating systems which have been released by other companies. While we are flattered that so many people are supplying both software and hardware for our computers, we are unable to support anything other than what we sell. We hope you understand that we'd like to help you, but just can't.

Question 4: Have you made any changes in the program or are you using it differently then it was intended?

Also, tell us if you have applied a patch to your program, even if it is one that we have sent to you. It might change the program slightly. You should also let us know if any other changes have been made to your program. Tell us also about any variations or changes in use or programming. We might not be able to help you if any large changes have been made, but at least we will be able to tell you right away if a correction could be made with those changes that are already in the program. Often we try to solve a problem and, after many hours of input by many members of our staff, we find out that a large change or deletion has been made in the program.

Speaking of staff, the folks here who answer your questions have spent a great deal of time learning about the software packages and often have specialized areas of expertise. Our main goal is to help you as quickly and as efficiently as possible. As a result, we will not only go to the best possible source in our department for an answer to an unusual question, but we will also spend time replicating your problem if necessary. Sometimes we will ask you to send us BACKUPS of your disks and copies of your paper work to help speed up the process or clarify the issue. We appreciate your help and support in solving your problems.

Now for some final areas where you can help us. If you have heard from a friend that there is a patch for a program, don't assume that the patch is necessarily needed in your copy of the program. Call us and check first. Patches are not always "preventive medicine".

The worst problems always seem to happen over a weekend or in the evening when we are not available to answer your questions. Please take notes on every thing that is happening and that happened before the problem occurred, note all error messages and their numbers. Write down in detail what the program did, what the hardware did and especially what you did.

Check Writer 80

We now have an opportunity to tell you about one of Radio Shack's newest programs, Check Writer 80™, our an swer to "pegboard accounting."

Check Writer 80 is one of our most versatile programs, with the capacity for storing information on up to nine bank accounts. The program also has the ability to display that account information automatically, by just entering the account number. Check Writer 80 can be an asset for the small business person and/or the home record keeper.

Check Writer 80 (which is also a check register), maintains a file of seventy-five payees and up to thirty expense codes, and allows the user to determine the "To-Date Balance" in any of the expense areas.

Payee number codes can be alpha or numeric or a combination of both. The expense code most frequently associated with a payee is displayed on the check entry screen. For instance, for paying checks to the xxxx oil company you might have created a code for transportation expense. When you enter the oil company's account number the display will show not only the name and other payee data but also the expense code for transportation expense. You can override the code number, if necessary. You can also write or record checks for non-regular payees stored in the system by using 00 for the payee account number. Normally the payee data will only show if the account number is valid.

In the bank reconciliation section, the bank name will automatically display after the account number is entered. There is an entry location for a service charge and for the ending balance listed on your bank's statement. The reconciliation section allows five fields to be displayed. A "CL" in the first field denotes each entry which has been previously cleared, check numbers or a blank for deposits will be in the second field. The third field will exhibit the payee's name or the word deposit. The check or deposit date fall into the fourth field and the check or deposit amount display in the last area. Checks can be written for amounts as large as nine hundred ninety-nine thousand, nine hundred ninety-nine dollars and ninety-nine cents.

When writing checks, the next check number is auto-generated after the bank account number is entered. You have the option to print checks with either tractor or friction feed printers. A sample check for a proper alignment test is included in your program manual. Your Computer Center or Radio Shack Store with an expanded computer department will be able to help you in ordering checks.

This program generates several end of period reports. After entering your bank(s)' statements, reports can be run. The general check register bank reconciliation lists deposits, checks and ending balances. It lists the name(s) of the bank(s), the account(s), the last check listed, the closing date and the ending balance.

The report options on the payees are by name sequence (you only have to enter the first ten characters) or by ID number sequence. Other options include an ongoing expense list as well as a year-end expense report.

We mentioned that Check Writer 80 can be used for your small business and we are sure that you can think of many ways it can be an aid for your business as well. One of the areas where it can be used is for keeping petty cash accounts separated. Check Writer 80 is a computerized bookkeeper, giving you truly simplified accounting.

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