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Selecting a Package for Graphics Presentation

Selecting graphics software to satisfy a particular presentational task can be a daunting business. The range of packages available, particularly on microcomputer systems, presents a potentially bewildering choice. The lack of any standard, de facto or otherwise, for presentation graphics means that it is not possible to decide easily whether or not a particular package will produce the sort of picture type that you require for your work. The package documentation has to be examined and, often, experts in the use of the package consulted, to determine if a particular type of diagram or image can be produced. Again, a package may produce the type of picture that you require, but may not be capable of outputting it to the sort of device that you wish to use. In general, a great deal of time and effort may have to be expended before you can be satisfied that a particular package will fulfil your needs.

A document to help speed up the package selection process, entitled "Selecting a Package for Graphics Presentation", has been produced by Computing Services at the University of Edinburgh, with support from AGOCG. The document works by distilling the characteristics of graphics presentation requirements into a matrix of facilities which can be interrogated to find a suitable candidate item of software. The document also looks in some detail at the anatomy of various types of chart and provides examples of those charts in common use within the University for research or educational purposes. The reader can then make use of the old adage that a "picture is worth a thousand words", by picking out the sort of chart or diagram of interest and then checking to see which of the software packages can be used to produce it. Sections on graphics file formats and graphics output devices are also included.

The document is principally intended to help users and user support staff find their way through the maze of graphics software. The packages described in the matrix are ones which are generally popular throughout the HE sector and include: Access, Corel Chart, Corel Draw, Cricket Graph, Cricket Presents, Designer, Micrografx Draw!, Excel, Fig-P, Harvard Graphics, Illustrator, MacDraw PRO, Mintab, MS-Works, Origin, Paradox, Persuasion, Powerpoint, Quattro Pro, SlideWrite, SPSS, Systat, UniEdit, UniGraph, UniMap, Word and Wordperfect.

Machine readable postscript copies of the document can be obtained via anonymous ftp from the FTP server in the directory /pub/misc/agocg/documentation in compressed tar format and in a subdirectory /pub/misc/agocg/documentation/micros in ZIP format. The index file gives details of the contents.

Alex Nolan
Computing Services, Room 2002, JCMB
University of Edinburgh, The King's Buildings
Edinburgh, EH9 3JZ UK
Tel: +44 31 650 4968
Fax: +44 31 650 6552