Solvit-Plus 3
   A Review by Timothy Swenson

Geoff   Wicks  has  upgraded  Solvit-Plus  2  to  a  full  Pointer
Environment program and called it Solvit-Plus 3.  This review will
cover  Solvit-Plus 3 and point out  the differences between it and
Solvit-Plus 2.


INTRODUCTION

For  those that  don't know  what Solvit-Plus  is, it's  a program
designed to assist  in  various  word  games,  such  as  Scrabble,
Jumble, and Crossword puzzles.  It allows for 4 different types of
word searches  on a dictionary;  Wild Card, Anagram,  In Word, and
Scramble (Scrabble).  Each search is different in what information
you  have to find a specific word.   The Wild Card search is great
for Crossword  puzzles where you know how  many letters are in the
word,  but only a few of the  letters.  Anagram search is used for
solving jubbled up words that you must figure out the real word.

Besides an English dictionary, other languages are available, such
as   Dutch,  German,  Spanish,  French,  Italian,  Welsh,  Danish,
Norwegian,   Swedish,  and   American.   For   non-native  English
speakers, the  only differences between English  and American is a
few changes in spelling (i.e.  color instead of colour).

THE PACKAGE

The entire package consists of three disks (2 DD and one HD) and a
16-page A4 manual.  The disks are labeled as such:

MASTER DISK 1 - Non-Pointer Version, Word List.

This  disk includes a  couple example BOOT  files, some extensions
that need to be loaded, the Solvit-Plus 2 executable, and a medium
English dictionary (64,500 words).

MASTER DISK 2 - Pointer Version, Utilities.

The disk includes the Solvit-Plus 3 executable, and two utilities,
detokenize_obj and unzip.

MASTER DISK 3 - Mega-Dictionary

This disk contains  a zip file  of the LARGE  English dictionary (
253,000 words) and requires an ED drive or larger to unzip.

Disk 1 is pretty much what came with Solvit-Plus 2.  Solvit-Plus 2
requires two different extensions to  be  loaded  and  comes  with
example  BOOT files.  The  Solvit-Plus 3 version  does not require
any other extensions other  than  the  Pointer  Environment  ones.
This makes it simple to load from the start.


THE MANUAL

The manualis the same that came with the Solvit-Plus 2 and has not
been updated to  include Solvit-Plus  3.  For  someone new  to the
program,   I  would  recommend  using  the  Solvit-Plus  2  first,
following the manual  exactly, and  the move  on to  Solvit-Plus 3
when you become familiar with Solvit-Plus 2 and how it works.

The  "Quick Start" section works as-is  for the Solvit-Plus 2, but
will  not work for Solvit-Plus 3.  There are a few items that need
to be done to get Solvit-Plus 3 running.

Solvit-Plus 3  reads  in  a  definition  (or  configuration)  file
(solvit_def)  that defines how Solvit-Plus runs.  The default file
has  the program looking on FLP1_  for the dictionary file.  Since
the Solvit-Plus  3 is on Disk  2 and the dictionary  is on Disk 1,
this  will not work.  You need to it all setup so that the program
can read the dictionary file when it executes.  One way to do this
is to  copy the executable and dictionary  onto a working disk and
run  it from there.  It looks like they both should be able to fit
on one 720K  disk.  Another option  is to put  the dictionary file
someplace else  and change the  solvit_def file to  point to where
the dictionary now is.

This is basically  what I did.   I copied the  english_dic file to
RAM1_.   I then used a text editor, such as QED or QD, and changed
the  one line to point to RAM1_english_dic.   I then put in Disk 2
and executed Solvit-Plus 3.  The program read the definition file,
went to RAM1_ to read the dictionary file and was off and running.
I  believe the program reads the dictionary file into memory, so I
really  had two copies of the dictionary  in memory.  With a 2 Meg
Gold Card system, this was not much of a problem.


DIFFERENCES BETWEEN SOLVIT-PLUS 2 & 3

Before going too far  I wanted  to point  out the  key differences
between Solvit-Plus 2 & 3.  There are a lot of features in version
2  that are not in version 3.  Since  both version 2 and 3 come in
the same package, I don't see it as a major problem, I just wanted
to point them out.

Solvit-Plus 2 supports six different ways to search to dictionary.
Solvit-Plus  3  only  supports  4  and  leaves  out  Backward  and
Palindrome.  It does not allow  you  to  check  a  text  file  for
spelling errors.  It also does not allow you to import a text file
as a dictionary or to generate a number of staticical figures on a
dictionary.

To keep the development time down, it looks as if Geoff Wicks took
the core part  of Solvit-Plus and  moved that part  to the Pointer
Environment  version.  A decision was  made that balanced features
versus effort to  provide  in  version  3.   Since  version  2  is
included  in the whole package, there  is no loss of functionality
to the user.  Any  one wishing  the older  features can  still use
them.


RUNNING THE SOLVIT-PLUS 3 

Once the program comes up  it  pretty  much  takes  up  the  whole
screen.  The  obvious PE options are there;  the move item and the
sleep/button  item.  I've seen a number of PE programs that do not
support  being a button, so  it is nice to  see this feature.  The
four main search options  are to  the left  of the  screen.  Below
that is the Help and Paramaters items.  Paramaters is what Defauts
used  to be in version 2. The bottom of the screen has an item for
selecting  the Word List (dictionary).  There are also some greyed
out  items for Main Menu, New Search,  Page Up and Page Down.  Any
items  that are not selectable are greyed out and do not function.
The  rest of  the screen  is a  window to  display the  results of
searches.

Starting a  dictionary search is as easy  as selecting the item of
the search you  want.  My  first try  was a  Wild Card  search.  I
moved the  mouse to  that item  and hit  the Hit/Left  button (the
Do/Right button  will also work).   A small window  pops up asking
for  the query string.  If you selected this item by mistake, just
hitting return will take you back to the main menu.

To test out  Solvit-Plus 3  I grabbed  the Bonus  Crossword puzzle
from  my local paper and started working  on it.  I found one word
that gave  me trouble, so  I decided it  would be a  good test for
Solvit-Plus  3.  The clue was "Theater Feature" and was a 6 letter
word.  I knew  that the 2nd letter  was C, the 3rd  was R, the 5th
was E and the 6th was N.  The query string I entered was "?cr?en".

The small query window went away and the main window on the screen
went  black (from being grey) and the words that matched the query
were  displayed.  In this case it was the one word "screen", which
seemed to be the answer I was looking for.

I next  tried the query string "??f?ld".   To do another search, I
just selected the  New Search  item.  I  could have  selected Main
Menu and  WildCard, but one click is  better than two.  This query
brought up three words, but I did not know if they were the ones I
wanted.  My  next search was  for the query  string "?ig??".  This
search brought up a bunch of words, so many that Solvit-Plus 3 had
to  stop finding them and display what it had already found.  When
I was  done reading that list, I just  select Page Down to get the
rest of  the results.  When I was done  with all of my searches, I
selected the Main Menu item.

When  I did these  tests, I also  timed them with  my watch.  Each
search took about 7  seconds.   The  third  search  took  about  6
seconds  to return a screen  full of words and  then a few seconds
more after I selected Page Down.   I  ran  the  same  tests  using
Solvit-Plus 2 and came up with about the same timing, just about 7
seconds.  Since I am  using a  Gold Card,  your timings  will vary
depending on your platform.

The  other searches are: Anagram, In  Word, and Scramble.  In Word
is used to  find words  that can  be formed  from the  query word.
Scramble another name for  Scrabble,  and  finds  all  words  that
contain all the letters of the query word.

The Help item  brings up a  4 screen help  display.  Moving though
the  Help screens is done by the Page Down item.  The screens give
a brief explanation of each search, the Paramater options, and the
Word  List.  The Help information is stored in the program and not
on  a file on disk.  This is helpfull  as I turn off my disk drive
often.   Since the disk drive has it's own power supply and fan, I
turn it off to keep down the noise.

The Parameter item is used to change the program defaults.  Things
that can be  changed  are:  Sound  On/Off,  Word  Length,  Colors,
Printer,  Device, and Word List.  These options are changed in the
program  instead  of  in  a  Config  Block.   When  you  save  the
Paramaters they  are saved in the  "solvit3_def" file.  Since this
configuration  file is just a text file,  you could edit it, but I
would  only edit it for something like the Word List.  Some of the
other options are just numbers and its hard to tell what you might
be changing.  So, edit it at your own risk.


THINGS I'D LIKE SEE

The biggest failing I saw was  the  lack  of  any  update  to  the
manual.  Granted  that once  a user  knows how  to use  version 2,
version 3 is pretty easy.  Some coverage of the configuration file
and  how it affects start up could be covered.  An UPDATE_DOC file
could be  created or  a short  version 3  printed manual  could be
included.  Once the user is past the initial installation then any
questions can be answered in the version 2 manual.


SUMMARY

It's  pretty obvious that the main  point behind Solvit-Plus 3 was
to take  the main features of the version  2 and adapt them to the
Pointer Environment.  No new features were added.  Actually, quite
the opposite, some features were removed.

The program ran well.   The only  "crash" was  an "out  of memory"
error.   I  was  running  Solvit-Plus  3,  Xchange,  and  had  the
dictionary  file in memory.  When I selected the Paramaters item I
ran out of memory.  I think this is one of the few times I've ever
used up  all of  my 2  Meg.  Obviously  I did  not really  put the
program to  a thorough test.  I'm sure that  are bound to be a few
bugs  found, but as the core part  of the program probably has not
changed between  the versions,  the only  bugs that  should appear
will be releated to the Pointer Environment screens.

Since  Solvit-Plus 3 includes Solvit-Plus 2, I don't know if there
is any increase in the price, nor do I know what the policy is for
owners  of Solvit-Plus 2 ( they don't  tell things like that to us
reviews).  If you  are a current  user of Solvit-Plus  and use the
Pointer  Environment, I would recommend  getting version 3.  Using
the same consistant PE interface speeds up the program.  If you do
not use the PE  then you  really are  not missing  out on  any new
features.   As for non-owners of Solvit-Plus, base any purchase on
your  need.  Its all a matter of having or not having the patience
to wait the next day for the answers.

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