capsule review

Panorama 4.0

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ProVue Development's Panorama has been hailed as a speedy, flexible database since its 1988 debut. With version 4.0, Panorama is finally native to Windows and PowerPC (though not to Mac OS X), so you can now easily share Panorama databases with PC-using colleagues. Panorama 4.0 may be the ultimate relational database for your desktop--as long as you don't need extensive workgroup or Web-publishing features.

Thanks for the Memory

Panorama has always blown away competing products, such as FileMaker Pro and 4D, in the performance department, because it keeps data in RAM instead of constantly shuffling information on your hard drive. Searching, sorting, and replacing are amazingly fast, even in huge databases: searching more than a million Web-server log entries for a unique record took less than half a second on a beige Power Mac G3/300.

FileMaker Pro may be lauded for its easy database-form creation, but that program's results have nothing on Panorama's user-friendly databases. These databases' interface tools are powerful and flexible, and they're fully relational, so you can link multiple databases to better manage and organize your information. Swift cross-tab and summary features encourage you to analyze your data more deeply.

New wizards help you create databases, enter complex formulas, edit form and window properties, manage fonts, and more. You can use AppleScript to communicate with other applications or to trigger procedures written in Panorama's built-in programming language. Panorama 4.0 also provides comprehensive documentation in the form of well-written PDF files and QuickTime video demos.

Age before Beauty

Panorama may be powerful, but it's showing its age. For example, dialog boxes are modal and immobile--you can't switch to another application or online help while one is open; nor can you move a dialog box to reveal information in other windows. Objects remain limited to a palette of 256 oversaturated colors, and many features seem to have been tossed into the program rather than thoughtfully designed; some are easily accessible, while others can be reached only via a modal dialog box.

Panorama 3.0 introduced the capability to share databases (and subsets of databases) among multiple users via Everyware's Butler SQL. Panorama 4.0 has this capability, but Butler has been a dead product since Pervasive Software acquired Everyware in 1998. ProVue plans to introduce a new server for sharing Panorama databases, but until then, Butler is the only means of enabling multiuser access.

And while Panorama's speed and flexibility could someday make it a fantastic Web-enabled­database program, it still has no built-in Web-publishing capabilities and can't be used with middleware such as Blue World Communications' Lasso.

Macworld's Buying Advice

Although Panorama 4.0's age makes it a little eccentric, the program lets you create powerful databases whose interfaces, features, and performance blow FileMaker Pro out of the water. The only real drawbacks are the absence of Web-publishing options and the fact that multiuser access is currently available only by way of a defunct SQL database product.

Speed and Depth: Panorama 4.0 lets you create fast relational databases with sophisticated interfaces.
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