Reviewed by: Howard
by: SmartLite Software, go to the web site
3.1, 95, 98, or NT4, 386 or higher CPU, 8MB RAM
(single user license) up to US$699 (school site license)
(Ed. Note: reviewed in 1999)
Professional is a questionnaire and survey design application.
It provides a range of basic formatting and design functions
which can be used to create everything from classroom tests
and question sheets, to straightforward survey and statistic
gathering forms. The software installs as a series of separate,
semi-integrated modules. The software has reporting and basic
analysis functions which allow automatically created reports
to be loaded into the spreadsheet module, analyzed, charted
and graphed. Questionnaires and surveys created for use on
a computer can also display images and play sounds and videos.
The WinAsks Professional package consists of a spiral-bound
printed manual accompanied by the software on three floppy
We tested the software on one computer - our workhorse Pentium
II/400MHz running Windows 98, with 128MB RAM and 8MB ATI
All-in- Wonder Pro video card. Installation of the software
appeared to be flawless.
The product overview animation which ran automatically at
the end of the installation was a waste of time. Accompanied
by unerringly ghastly MIDI/chip music, it went on far too
long and provided only the barest hint about how the software
works, making the effort more of a marketing piece than a
tutorial. These sorts of animations are of only marginal
use to begin with, since they don't actually allow you to
participate in or interact with what's being displayed.
Our principle test of the software involved creating three
different forms, each of which were used in two different
mediums: computer and print. We assembled a series of 40
extremely silly questions, each of which provided one of
three answer styles: Multiple Choice, True or False, or Association.
After creating and compiling the questionnaire, we gathered
a bunch of friends one Friday night, fed them copious quantities
of free pizza, and forced them to complete every single question.
Half the group filled out the printed forms, while the other
half filled out the online forms. By a vote of 10 to 2, the
pizza-stuffed testers mainly agreed that WinAsks Professional
created some very average-looking questionnaires. Rather
than accept insults of course, we immediately challenged
a few of the testers to create better looking (and therefore
more interesting to fill out) questionnaires.
Because questionnaires and surveys are used in a variety
of ways, it's important to be able to visualize how your
questions or inquiries will appear to people who actually
have to give answers. WinAsks Professional can be used to
create questionnaires and surveys which can be answered using
the WinAsks Player via mouse clicks, or which can be printed
out and filled in using a pen or pencil. What You See Is
What You Get (WYSIWYG) UI design would seem to be an absolute
necessity therefore. One of the problems with WinAsks Professional
however is that the software creates questionnaires and surveys
in a completely non-WYSIWYG way. Our testers had a lot of
difficulty understanding the software and the help documentation.
The rudimentary graphics and font formatting in WinAsks
Professional is a perfect example of how non-WYSIWYG software
fails to provide users with effective and creative tools.
If you add appropriate graphics to your questionnaire, they'll
be displayed in the upper right corner in the WinAsks Editor
and WinAsks Player. Print the same questionnaire however,
and you'll find the graphics printed to the left of each
question. In addition, there is no indication (except in
Print Preview) about the location of preparatory comments,
page layout, and so on. There's no Preview for online forms
either, so the final appearance of the form is always a surprise.
The software possesses only limited and very basic font formatting
as well, making truly intuitive questionnaire and survey
design that much more difficult. WinAsks Professional is
most definitely not a professional quality package.
The installer leaves a bit to be desired - it also tends
to leave bits
of itself on screen after exiting - bits
which can't be eradicated (only a reboot or a low-level screen
redraw will rid you of the leftover final dialog). Printing
is painfully slow, which is completely unacceptable these
days. It took 15 minutes(!) to print 8 black and white survey
pages to our trusty Epson 800 (although the virtually identical
Keys pages required only 80 seconds). That is unbelievably
slow. Handling of True/False formats is very poor and completely
unintuitive. There are hundreds of funny errors in grammar
throughout the UI, online help system, and printed manual
which (although they're quite funny) make it even harder
to understand a UI which is difficult to begin with. Any
software which bills itself as "Professional" needs
to incorporate top-notch online help, top-notch printed documentation,
and top-notch UI design. WinAsks Professional has none of
them. SmartLite Software is based in Italy and should therefore
be able to take advantage of good quality, inexpensive, US/UK
English localization services, and any number of good UI
designers. Programmers should NOT do UI design!
Pros: WinAsks Professional seems to be an acceptable choice
for the creation of very simple, unadorned classroom or office
type tests and surveys. But it is most definitely not a professional
package. Teachers, corporate or industrial Trainers, and
small office administrators may find a use for WinAsks Professional,
but with its inherent UI difficulties and poor documentation,
the software may turn out to be more trouble than it's worth.
We recommend this software for learning the basics of questionnaire
and survey creation.
to the Editor are welcome and occasionally abused in public.
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