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Zip Zapping Away - Lookups for the United States

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If you rarely call or send mail to people within the United States, the software reviewed in this article will probably be of limited interest, but if you frequently send piles of mail or talk on the phone to people in the U.S., keep reading to find out about two utilities that might help you out - TrueBASIC's ZipZAPP and Montage Software Systems' ZipQuest Pro. Both programs help you look up information (such as a ZIP code) based on other information (such as an area code).

As a former phone-based software support person, a number of possible uses for these programs jump out at me. If you want to check a customer's time zone before accidently calling her at what would be 6 AM her time, you can do it. If you just want to see what time zone someone is calling from, you can check (customers calling around 6 PM their time tend to have limited attention spans). Both of these programs beat dog-eared, excessively-photocopied sheets of paper for efficiency, usefulness, and elegance. Besides the basic lookups, each program offers a few more specialized options. ZipZAPP offers information about the population of a given location, and ZipQuest Pro computes the distance between any two locations.

ZipZAPP -- ZipZAPP enables you to search for information based on city name, ZIP code, or area code. By knowing one piece of search information - say the city name - you can discover not only the area code and ZIP code, but also the state, population, and time zone.

ZipZAPP has three menus: The File menu offers a Quit command, the Edit menu a Copy selection command, and the Help menu a Time Zones command. When it comes to quitting, clicking the close box in the ZipZAPP window quits the application, but pressing Command-W (the usual close window command) does nothing. This actually works properly in the sense that if you did close the ZipZAPP window without quitting the program, there would be no window to reopen. The Time Zones command brings up a window that explains how to figure out what time it is someplace else, although you'll have to fire up a few brain cells to figure out and compute the time.

In addition to the menu commands, ZipZAPP offers a simple search interface at the top of the window where it displays found information. To do a search, you use a pop-up menu to indicate whether you are searching based on ZIP code, city, or area code. Next, you type what you want to look for in the Search For text box. ZipZAPP responds pretty much instantly to search requests on a wide range of Macs - I tested it on a Classic and a Power Mac 7100.

ZipZAPP shows found information in columns labeled City, State, Zip Code, A.C., Population, and Time zone; the somewhat inconsistent capitalization of the labels exactly matches the way they are printed in this review. The window displays rows of information and the found item is always highlighted at the top of the window (if you search for a city called Washington, ZipZAPP finds several and highlights the first one). Although ZipZAPP presents found information in a clear manner, you cannot customize the font, column width, which columns display, nor any other aspect of the interface, except for the highlight color (which is the color you set in your Mac's Color control panel). The newest version of ZipZAPP, version 2.0, has improved the interface somewhat over the previous version - the window can now be resized vertically and looks more attractive on a color monitor. ZipZAPP weighs in at 864K of disk space, but only consumes 100K of RAM.

ZipZAPP comes in DOS, Windows, and Mac 68K versions (there isn't much need for a PowerPC version; the program is already plenty fast). TrueBASIC sells ZipZAPP to individuals for $29; annual data updates cost $9.95. You can also purchase a $49 bundle, which includes ZipZAPP and ABBREV, a program with a similar feel to that of ZipZAPP that defines some 34,000 abbreviations and acronyms, with an emphasis on airport codes and stock symbols. Performa users may already have ZipZAPP; apparently it comes bundled with some of Apple's Performa bundles.

TrueBASIC also sells ZipZAPP with a volume discount to companies who want to distribute the program with a logo and mini-advertisement in the bottom inch or so of the ZipZAPP window.

ZipQuest Pro -- ZipQuest Pro is ahead of ZipZAPP in terms of interface, but it's also far more than a pretty face. It can search based on a city or ZIP code and return the corresponding city, state, area code, time zone, and county. If you tell ZipQuest Pro where "Home" is and set your Mac's clock correctly, lookups also return the time at the lookup location and the distance between the lookup location and Home. According to the well-done manual, ZipQuest Pro correctly accounts for daylight savings time when it accounts for the time. You can also perform lookups based on knowing all or part of the name of a city, view a reference table matching area codes to states, and view a reference table matching abbreviations to state, U.S. Possessions (such as Palau), and U.S. Military Addresses (such as Military-Atlantic).

ZipQuest Pro has elegance - the first part of the manual is unnecessary for anyone who groks the Macintosh interface. As icing on the cake for serious Macintosh users, ZipQuest Pro comes wired with Apple events so that other scripting-savvy applications can query it for lookups. The second half of the manual explains how to use ZipQuest Pro in an AppleScript context, and the program comes with demos that should help get you started in QuicKeys, 4D, ACT!, FileMaker Pro, and TouchBase Pro. ZipQuest Pro started life as an add-on for 4D and also comes with a 4D external which helps with performing lookups from 4th Dimension.

Montage modified the stock database that comes from the U.S. Postal Service so that ZipQuest Pro can give information for cities that are not the primary city for a given ZIP code. Judging from the manual and press materials that came with ZipQuest Pro, this is an important feature.

Complete with ReadMe files and demos, ZipQuest Pro consumes 1.6 MB of disk space and loads into 120K of RAM. Get rid of all but the application and the data, and the disk size drops to 1.3 MB. To run the program, you need a Mac Plus or newer and System 7 or greater. ZipQuest Pro lists for $49.95. Montage offers data updates on a biannual basis; updates cost $24.95 each or $19.95 if you get them through an automatic update service, though the package comes with a coupon for 50 percent off your first update.

I am impressed with the product and with the quality of information that Montage provided, both in the manual and the advertising sheet. You can find a 329K demo version of ZipQuest Pro at:

ftp://mirrors.aol.com/pub/info-mac/info/nms/ zip-quest-pro-demo.hqx

Comparative Thoughts -- Although in many ways the programs offer the same information, ZipQuest Pro stands out as the more professional and more Macintosh-oriented product. ZipQuest Pro also contains cities that are not the primary cities for a given ZIP code. If you need population data or one product that works on PCs and Macs, ZipZAPP is clearly the way to go; otherwise, ZipQuest Pro is most likely your product of choice.

Montage Software Systems, Inc. -- 800/266-6824 -- 203/834-1144
203/762-9601 (fax) -- <71521.34@compuserve.com>
TrueBASIC, Inc. -- 800/436-2111 -- 603/298-8517
603/298-7015 (fax) -- <sales@truebasic.com>

 

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