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Panorama V for Victory

Throughout the nearly 20 years of its history, ProVUE’s flagship database application, Panorama, has been ahead of its time; now the times have caught up, and Panorama has risen to the challenge. Panorama, as you may recall from my original review (see "Seeing the Light with Panorama" in TidBITS-606), is lightning-fast because it keeps the entire database in RAM, and this of course makes today’s speedy RAM-packed computers and Mac OS X’s advanced memory management a perfect platform. Thus, a Mac OS X-native version is a natural for Panorama. Such a version has been available in developmental form for over a year; now, with Panorama V, it’s official. (The Roman-numeral version designation is doubtless a nod to Apple’s "X".)



The whole look and feel of the program has leapt into the 21st century. Colors, 3D gradients, and form widget appearances harmonize with Aqua; dialogs are cleaner and non-modal; support has been added for scroll wheels, text-to-speech, vCards, the color picker, and phone dialing; and the thoroughly revised documentation looks great in Preview. There are numerous new or improved wizards (many of these work seamlessly with the Internet, using the command-line based curl utility in Mac OS X) and lots of new features. Particularly slick is the Live Search feature, with an interface like the search-as-you-type field in the Panther Finder or Apple Mail.

Panorama developers will find the native scripting language greatly expanded in some profound and thoughtful ways. There are hundreds of convenient new functions and procedure commands, along with the capability to create custom global routines. A function can now assign a value to a field or variable as a side effect. Running and debugging procedures are now much more convenient, and procedure menus can be created dynamically. The handling of custom dialogs and menus is much better. Support for calling AppleScript has been improved, and of course it’s now also possible to call the Unix shell. Many wizards assist with common programming tasks.

The installation and registration procedure, always a bit dicey for me in the past, is now clean, simple, and reliable. The Web site has also been improved to provide information more clearly. Basically, if you’ve been holding off on trying Panorama because it wasn’t Mac OS X-native, now’s the time to dive in. (At the same time, Panorama V is a Carbon application and runs fine on Mac OS 9 too.)

Panorama V is free to download, and you can use it free forever if your database has a fairly small number of records, or if you are willing to play a simple but inconvenient game (find and click the bold letters in a dialog) every time you save. Otherwise it’s $300 ($140 for Panorama 4 owners), with a $30 option for a license that lets your copy run on unlimited personal machines. There are generous terms for distributing your database along with a special non-developer version of Panorama, in case you want to share your database with friends or you use it to develop a killer app. For Mac OS X, Panorama V requires Jaguar or later; the download ranges from about 65 MB with developer tools and documentation down to 5 MB for just the application itself. Next on ProVUE’s plate: updating the Windows version.

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