Electric Desk | Everygamegoing

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Electric Desk

Published in Personal Computer News #101

For a reasonably priced, integrated package, Electric Desk features all you'd want. And, says Geof Wheelwright, home or small business users will find it easy to understand.

Electric Office

For a reasonably priced integrated package, Electric Desk features all you'd want. And, says Geof Wheelwright, home or small business users will find it easy to understand

Integrated software is what everybody would like, but they don't want the hole in the bank balance that comes with it. However, they might think seriously about Electric Desk, an IBM integrated software system for under £400.


Electric Desk includes a database, word processor, spreadsheet and communications package. The application conspicuous by its absence is a business graphics system (which manufacturer Alpha considered an unnecessary luxury). Within each application you can open up as many 'services' as the memory of your machine can hold. (A service is a spreadsheet, document, database file or communications set-up).

Because all your work is held in memory, you can swap from one service to another with just a few key strokes.

There are no 'windows' in the conventional sense, although a split screen serves much the same purpose (Alpha Software says it can't see the usefulness of more than two windows, i.e. you can't concentrate on more than two things at once).

One area where this split-screen approach beats the more conventional windowing is in help menus. Electric Desk's split-screen context-sensitive help facility gets round the problem with most help menus - even context-sensitive ones - i.e. that you must write down or remember what the help menu says.


The documentation could be seen either as pleasantly simple or disappointingly inadequate. It consists of a single manual, slightly thinner than the BBC Micro User Guide, and bound in the same spiral-wire fashion.

The manual is separated by tabbed dividers into sections on each package within the system and a chapter dealing with the overall work environment. All you need to know for most common tasks with each package is included, provided you're not trying to establish a huge, complex database or a particularly tricky spreadsheet. There are 45 pages devoted to the word processor, 69 to the database, 60 to the spreadsheet, but a mere 18 set aside for the communications service. Much of it covers US communications systems that are largely irrelevant to UK users.

As with most low-priced integrated packages, Electric Desk is pretty easy to use and most of the applications can be operated within even so much as a passing look at the manual.

In Use

The word processor is a simple full-screen type with on-screen automatic reformatting of text, reminder menus at the top of the screen and a line showing tabs and statistics at the bottom.

On-screen underlining, bold, italics and roman typefaces are supported, margins can be changed easily and pasting and cutting is simple. All this is menu-driven. There are no macros or embedded formatting directly from the keyboard. To embed a command, you must select the embedded commands option from the menu by hitting the F8 document commands key.

Most other functions in the word processor are menu-driven. For a beginner, it's probably a blessing, as it avoids having to learn lots of key commands right off.

The word processor also scores on its print-spooling facility, which works quickly and effectively. With most print-spooling mechanisms in integrated packages, the type ahead buffer slows right down and the machine keeps having to jump between the disk, the keyboard and the screen in its I/O handling. However, I found the packages kept up easily with my typing speed.

The database application is the most complicated in the package. From the limited time I had to look at the database, it seemed quite complete, but possibly not as friendly as the other three.

Electric Desk's spreadsheet has all the functions you'd expect, with one odd difference; rows and columns are both accessed by number. So, instead of the spreadsheet starting at A1, it starts at a cell reference called R1C1 (Row 1, Column 1).

This is relatively easy to get used to, however, and the spreadsheet is otherwise menu-driven and as easy to use as the word processor.

The communications package supports all the common baud rates and was successfully used with Prestel (300/300 service), One-to-One and transferring information between micros. The menu-driven approach helped again and made the application usable without even so much as a glance at the manual.


Electric Desk is a good all-round easy-to-use integrated package for about half the price of most integrated software suites. It may lack the fancy graphics features of Symphony or Framework, but it isn't anywhere near as memory-hungry and runs without a memory expansion card. For serious home users, small offices and professionals, Electric Desk can be considered something of a bargain.

Report Card

Features 5/5
Documentation 3/5
Performance 4/5
Overall value 4/5

Geof Wheelwright