Software GmbH, go
to the web site
(PC) Pentium of faster CPU, Windows 95 or higher, 32MB RAM;
(Mac) OS8, 32MB RAM
Free (Ragtime 5.x.x commercial version: US$495; 10 user Education
Brüning and Thomas Everth released the first version
of RagTime for the Apple Macintosh in 1986. RagTime integrated
word processing and spreadsheets into one program. The software
was successful in the European Macintosh market right from
its introduction. It found about 250,000 users in education,
small and big business. Germany was a veritable hotbed for
other desktop publishing software development between '86
and '96, with DMC Publishing's Calamus SL and other products
which gradually migrated to either Windows or Mac when their
original Atari and Amiga platforms disappeared.
time that someone started using the much-hyped need for a
universal application document container. Ragtime Solo is
frame-based, but there is only one frame type - a generic
one which can hold any type of data: formatted text, graphics,
spreadsheet data/cells, graphs, buttons, etc. Data from one
frame can be used in any other frame, or exported to another
application altogether. Usage within Ragtime is seamless -
no OLE embedding, no complex filter settings or scripts. Frames
can be internally linked, text can be piped from frame to
frame and page to page. Data can be scanned directly into
a frame. Exotic text handling and formatting is as easy as
pointing and clicking different (and extensive) selections.
Ragtime has a true three-dimensional spreadsheet engine (and
does regular spreadsheets too). A single spreadsheet can be
made up of multiple planes. Formulas can be used to address
the set of planes in a single range. The ability to demonstrate
and model complex analyses and system types is very powerful
and easy to use (compared to specialty modeling applications).
Microsoft Excel sure can't do any of this.
As a page
layout program which is designed around integrated word processing,
graphing and spreadsheet tools, Ragtime Solo represents competition
for MS Office, Quark XPress and Adobe InDesign. Ragtime Solo
is also free. RagTime Solo asks the user during each startup
to acknowledge that it may not be employed for commercial
use, but beyond this does not require any authorization or
registration. RagTime Solo runs on one computer only at any
given time in a local area network. Some color profiles for
high end output devices are left out to reduce download size.
Dictionaries for spell checking and hyphenation are not included
in the download but can be purchased separately.
I like best about Ragtime? Plenty. You can set frame transparency
on the fly. HTML export of a transparent text frame which
has been placed on top of a bitmap graphic is perfectly preserved
- transparency and all. Frame layering works flawlessly. Free
frame rotation, no matter what it contains. The typographical
tools are excellent, albeit disorganized. The integrated program
tutorial is excellent and reasonably thorough. Ragtime documents
can be moved back and forth between Windows and Mac versions
without the need for any sort of conversion. Professional
output and export options for desktop printing, image setting,
color separation, overprinting, PDF and HTML. Excellent Keyboard
Accelerator (shortcuts) editor.
I like least? Character spacing, kerning and justification
controls each reside in a different dialog sheet - the Ragtime
function groupings are generally poor. There doesn't seem
to be any spacing/offset adjustment to move text flow away
from the edges of images. The user interface, in particular
the various settings dialogs, need a lot of work. For example,
the powerful typographical tools in the "Get Info"
dialog, accessed by right clicking on a text frame, have cryptically
named tabs such as Typography and Typography 2. There's plenty
of cryptic language in the dialog sheets as well, including
this bit in the text component settings: " Torn Off Even
If Not Installed In Any Container." So what happens when
you select the setting? I'm not sure and the balloon help
in the dialog is equally opaque. There's lots of non-standard
language in the UI, which uses descriptives and references
that are native only to Ragtime. Curiously, there's no keyboard
shortcut to turn snaps on and off. Being able to snap frame
positions to a hidden grid is one of the most powerful layout
tools for creating accurate work.
Ragtime Solo is reminiscent of StarOffice - the product is
essentially free unless it's being put to commercial use.
Nice, but the usual question arises - is there any money in
it? Ragtime Solo and StarOffice are terrific products and
we'd hate to see them orphaned. Unlike StarOffice however,
Ragtime Solo is not intended as a replacement for the full
MS Office suite. The Ragtime Solo online help system is extremely
detailed but an experienced copy editor should be let loose
on it in order to impose some standardized layout and publishing
language. We encountered a number of minor bugs, including
double underline simply won't work with certain fonts; EPS
import stumbles from time to time - ditto for FlashPix; character
spacing breaks text flow formatting around objects.
Ragtime Solo has some excellent European lineage, which means
that attention to the fundamentals of text formatting and
production output is front and center. This is a serious DTP
program which can be an all-in-one tool in any home or office
publishing environment which regularly has the need to combine
word processing, spreadsheets and supporting graphs to create
a professional document ready for publishing and distribution.
If you don't need all of the massive capabilities in all the
different parts of MS Office, try Ragtime Solo. The feature
and functions set is enormous. There's a learning curve here
that's not to be sneered at, but with text and spreadsheet
formatting and layout this powerful, the effort is worthwhile
for anyone who really wants to make productive and extended
use of a publishing program. Online help is extremely detailed.
Ragtime Solo is well worth a serious look.
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