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February 15, 1989


By CBR Staff Writer

Lotus Development Corp has announced Magellan, a new utility for finding, viewing, and retrieving text stored on MS-DOS hard disks. The company claims the product transcends the speed limitations of existing search utilities, and offers a growing proliferation of non-technical MS-DOS users a simple alternative to shells and hard disk utilities. According to its architect, Bill Gross, the key to Magellan is its transformation of a standard word search into a mathematical vector operation. At the explore level, this enables both rapid word, phrase or concept matching on a maximum of 250 characters, and the listing of finds in their percentage order of relevance. Matching speeds claimed range from two seconds on 40Mb, through to four seconds on 100Mb hard disks. In addition, Magellan uses file-format readers or viewers for 10 standard application packages, to enable users to inspect a file’s contents without having to load the relevant software. Applications currently offered are Lotus’ own 1-2-3, Symphony, Manuscript, and Agenda, WordPerfect, IBM Displaywrite, Ashton-Tate’s dBase, Microsoft Word, WordStar, and MultiMate. Consequently, by pressing the down arrow cursor key, users can scroll between documents within a file, and can browse files stored on different sub-directories. Finally, information can be gathered from different sources and stored in a single file. Existing information in the file is automatically appended with each new addition; users can also mark any files that need copying, and copy them, without reformatting, on to a floppy disk in the A drive. As regards ease-of-use, Lotus says the top 10 functions have been placed on 10 single keys. Although the majority are reserved for moving around the text, one has been allocated to enable users to switch from the viewing mode into the appropriate application, without having to exit and return to MS-DOS. Gross also claims that Magellan offers zero blank screen syndrome; apparently, the user can exploit the product without having to move beyond the the first screen, ensuring productivity within minutes of installation. For technical users, Magellan also includes a macro language, designed to automate a number of processes. The software occupies 5Kb of disk space, runs under MS-DOS 2.1 or above on any machine with 512Kb and a hard disk. Lotus UK chief Paul Bailey says the product will start shipping in May, and will be availble at an introductory price of UKP95 until September. The price will subsequently rise to UKP140. Before being acquired – along with his company GNP Development – by Lotus, Bill Gross developed the HAL Human Access Language, now sold by Lotus as a 1-2-3 co product.

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