ATP and IS-PC both provide software that treat the output of most major tabulation packages such as Quantum or Merlin as input to their own particular transformations. ATP's Winyaps is setting new standards in terms of stylish publication-quality printed output while IS-PC is about to release ITE 97, a full 32-bit version of their ground-breaking data delivery, archiving and report library tool that virtually eliminates the need to print tables at all.
Winyaps is a Windows version of ATP's YAPS package. Its mission is to transform ugly tables into beautiful ones. YAPS was created to post-process Quantum tables on UNIX systems. Winyaps handles all manner of tables within a simple point and click Windows interface, making this a product for the majority rather than a specialist minority. It contains a clever "parsing" routine that deconstructs each table into its components of headings, captions and figures as it reads it in. It then applies "styles" to all the different components it has identified (there are over 20 of them). Each one is given a consistent treatment throughout the batch of tables. Graphics, icons or pictures can appear automatically anywhere on the page, or in half-tone in the background. The real beauty is that the transformation requires no human intervention.
Winyaps comes in two forms. Winyaps "Professional" lets you stylise tables mass-produced by any of the old-style tab packages. In my test, on a middling Pentium PC, Winyaps devoured over 200 fixed spaced tables and turned them into something much more presentable in around 20 seconds. This would be hours of tedious work in a wordprocessor. Winyaps other format is as an add-on to three other research products. Here, ATP deserve praise for their efforts in forging links and providing seamless integration in an area still characterised by a singular lack of co-operation. At the moment, Winyaps can be called up from Quantime's Quanvert real-time analysis system, from Merlinco's Fastab - another on-line tab program - and from ITE. With the exception of Quantime, these providers are now offering Winyaps as an optional add-on module to their own products.
Leslie Sopp, Head of Survey Centre at the Consumers' Association, said "We loved what we saw. We had been badgering Quantime for better output. When ATP produced Winyaps we welcomed it - it's great! It is much clearer, crisper and looks more professional". Justin Pieris, Survey Analysis Manager at CA was equally enthusiastic. "We are big users of Quanvert. But the Quantime products just don't do the business when it comes to output. Winyaps maintains all the styles. You can produce tables that look just like they do in a magazine. It's marvellous and it's dead easy to use." After a day spent defining all the styles for YAPS, all their tables come out to the standards of their house style - not the standards of a lineprinter circa 1979.
ITE takes a more revolutionary approach. It provides a complete solution to the need to produce and distribute large or bulky volumes of tables on paper by providing the means to disseminate them electronically by disk, CD-ROM and now, the Internet. The new full-32 bit version, ITE '97, is eagerly awaited by thousands of users. It offers much better searching and browsing facilities, a neater, tidier interface; better options for selecting and sorting information and better support for dropping selected data directly into spreadsheets, charts and wordprocessors.
CA are also interested in ITE and the connection with Winyaps means that the tables will have the same appearance no matter how they were produced. Justin Pieris commented "We are excited by ITE as a method of delivery to our internal clients."
Mike Leigh, as DP Director at Millward Brown International, has considerable experience of ITE, and now, after beta testing it, of ITE '97 too. He told Research: "You can now do more in the way of formatting and add graphics and logos. Navigation is easier, which I thought was good. You can also access many libraries at once. Overall, I'm quite impressed. The downside is that it is a 32 bit application which will compromise supplying clients who are still restricted to 16 bits". Windows users must upgrade to Windows 95 or NT to use 32 bit software, something which some sites are still reluctant to do.
I asked Mike Leigh how he felt Millward Brown had benefited from using ITE. "Eventually we are hoping we will get away from sending out paper copies of report and tables. It is a nicer way of distributing reports. It's pretty efficient in terms of disk space and it has a good library mechanism. It is essentially a simple product and it's easy to use." ITE is not limited to distributing tables, and allows users to attach other items too. Millward Brown frequently attach all the other paperwork associated with a survey, such as graphs, written reports and even the original questionnaire. Information about sampling methodologies or weighting or all the other loose ends that can easily get mislaid can be attached to the ITE reports. As Mike Leigh pointed out: "Our client service people find it very nice in that they have access to all their projects and their old data on screen... they can review all aspects of the job from the one place."
Perhaps the most encouraging development is the co-operation of three independent software houses: ATP, Merlinco and IS-PC, to share secrets about how their software works and produce proper integration for their clients to enjoy. With SPSS purchasing Quantime (not known for their willingness to integrate) and In2itive, who have looked for common standards from day one, we can only hope that this spirit of co-operation will start to intoxicate all the major players.
© Copyright Market Research Society/Tim Macer 1997. All rights reserved. Reproduced with permission.
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