RISC World

In business with RISC OS

Dave Bradforth

With our DTP item coming to a close, David Bradforth asked the next question: how many of you use RISC OS in a business environment? Again, his inbox was overflowing...

One of my favourite parts of Acorn Publisher were the case studies Mike Williams would write. Identifying the ways in which different industries make a commercial use of RISC OS, these features would certainly inspire those of us using the machines at home to look at commercial uses for our favourite machines.

It was, while reading these back issues, that I started to wonder how people made use of RISC OS in a business sense. Hence, early in February, I posted the following to comp.sys.acorn.apps.

Date: 10 Feb 2005 05:10:52 -0800
Local: Thurs, Feb 10 2005 5:10 am
Subject: In business with RISC OS

I'm preparing an article looking at the different options for those looking to run a business with RISC OS, and am thus opening the floor to those with experience in such matters.
Which software applications do you use on a daily basis, and why?
Why RISC OS above Windows or Mac OS?
Any difficulties experienced, and how you got over them?
That sort of thing.
I'm going to provide an overview of the applications available, both freeware and commercial, and hopefully sort out some deals so anybody who needs that sort of thing can get them a little cheaper (for a limited period, of course).
If you've got screenshots/illustrations, more the better - don't leave any personal business data on the screen though... sharing your bank details with hundreds of other users is never a good idea.

Dave Bradforth

After posting this, I went to sleep expecting that, within a few hours, I'd have a couple of responses. As it turned out, the couple of responses became 20 or so via email, and the beginnings of a 400+ comment newsgroup posting that is still going as I write today.

This time, we'll focus on the replies that came directly to my email, if there's suitable interest next time we'll dig through the newsgroup chain and highlight any other points that have yet to be made here.

The first response came from Russell Hafter.

Russell runs a holiday company, the main thrust of which seems to be walking holidays in and around Germany.

Key applications he makes use of include EasiWriter, Pipedream, Pluto, Masterfile (even though it crashes far too often) and ArcFax. Given that Masterfile is now (even in its most recent form) eleven years old, we're inclined to believe it's amazing that it works at all, and would recommend an alternative database such as DataPower for business use.

When updating websites, Russell makes use of things like ChangeFSI and InterGIF which is quite understandable. ChangeFSI and InterGIF both give you immediate access to the settings necessary on images allowing you to easily alter the dimensions, save the file in various different formats and generally provide the functionality they do without any thrills. If all you need is a quick job, you often appreciate the tools that let you do it quickly rather than requiring multiple mouse clicks.

Russell continues to make use of a number of program he wrote in BASIC or COMAL (on the BBC B) for processing holiday bookings, and producing VAT records. The ability of BBC BASIC has never been in dispute for the ease at which you can produce complex utilities without fuss; but nowadays there seems to be a certain snob value attached to the use of it. Given that more software than you'd think is written in BASIC, there really should be no such snob value.

One area that Russell has given up on RISC OS is web browsing. He says, 'I have largely given up on RISC OS for web browsing - I need to access far too many sites that use lots of Javascript, Java, weird framesets and so on. I also use Windows for all Internet banking - in the UK, Germany, France, Belgium and Switzerland'. Unfortunately, I'd have to agree. If in a business sense you need to make daily use of the Internet, you'd probably have difficulty catering for all of your needs with RISC OS software.

Russell makes use of Acrobat in preference to !PDF or RiScript, though he does make use of RiScript for producing PDF versions of documents such as booking forms, that people can then download from the various websites.

He continues to use RISC OS as his main work machine because of the programs written in BBC BASIC, and that he didn't want to have to start all over again. While his web browsing is on the PC, his email goes through RISC OS - and as a result he needs not worry about Windows e-mail viruses.

As for coping with Word and Excel documents, these days EasiWriter copes with 99% of the former; and ViewXLS deals with the majority of the latter.

The next response came from Chris Bell at Highpath Engineering.

Chris Bell runs Highpath Engineering, a company that from the sound of its name you'd think runs TurboCAD on a PC. His software of choice, ProCAD - every aspect of his business is run using RISC OS software; from manufacture (ProCAD+, ProCAM and EGGrings (custom software) to publicity (Impression, WebWonder, et al); internet (Fresco, Pluto et al) to accounts (Resultz) and more besides.

Why? Simply because everything does the job and, in the business sense, that's pretty much what you're looking for. The best tool, for the best job.

We've had many similar comments, so we're going to continue through them in the next issue of RISCWorld. Some of them have scope for on-site visits so we can see the RISC OS use in action, and that will certainly aid to the visual element of a RISCWorld article.

In the meantime, contact us with your own RISC OS in business experiences.

Dave Bradforth