Full Description of File
Now start your own answering service with
this speech friendly program. Now with
import from anywhere and pop up customer
listings from anywhere.
Now version 1.2 with instant customer quick
message report generation!
Free, and get it!
Version 1.2 by Charlie Crawford.
Contents of the ASA.DOC file
THE ANSWERING SERVICE ASSISTANT!
Written by Charles H. Crawford.
The "Answering Service Assistant" (ASA) was created in
response to a request of the operators of an answering service
who require a speech friendly program to assist in the business
operations. While I had already written a message taking
program, it was old and could have stood some improvement and I
needed a worthwhile project to test the latest version of Clipper
and it's speech capacity using routines written by Jamal Mazrui.
I sincerely hope this software will evolve into something really
useful for folks who need speech output to take on the challenge
of operating their own business and making millions!
Of course, neither I nor anyone else in the known Universe
can take any responsibility for what happens when folks use the
software, but I've tested it and it seems to operate fine. The
best thing is that it is free!
To run the program, 1) simply unzip it into a subdirectory
of your naming and go there, and 2) type "asa" and press enter.
Can't get much simpler than that, huh!
The ASA operations are fairly simple since they really only
allow you to encode customer information, take messages for them,
edit the messages if needed, and produce text file reports
between selected dates with the prices calculated. Now here's
how to do it.
The first thing is to bring up the program. Typing (without
the quotes) "ASA" when in the subdirectory you have created will
bring up the program.
The first thing the program does is to take a look at your
video card and if it detects color, then it will output bright
green text on a black background. You can change the color
settings later if you like. also folks who don't need speech can
pass a parameter to the program when first bringing it up to skip
the speech operations and simply display to screen. That would
be done by typing "ASA quiet" at the DOS command line when
starting up the program.
The next thing the program does is to check the files in the
subdirectory. It looks to see if there are existing databases
from previous versions of the program to make sure that it does
not destroy information you may already have. If it finds
existing active databases, then it will simply move on to the
main menu. If it does not find existing active databases, then
it copies the failsafe databases that come in the zip file to
active ones. Say, I bet that makes a bunch of people sleep
better. WARNING! Only in version 1.0 will folks who have used
the beta (test) versions have to erase their "CC.dbf" database
before running ASA. This is because I have added a new rate field
to cover per call costs. Failure to erase "CC.dbf" before
beginning with Version 1.0 will probably crash the program.
Once we get past all that setup stuff, the program presents
you with a list of choices. You can; 1) add a message to the
database as if you were getting one from the phone, 2) browse,
edit or delete existing messages, 3) add new customers to your
customer database, 4) use a different screen color configuration,
5) generate a text file report or invoice for a customer, or 6)
get our of the program.
1. Adding a message to the message database is pretty
simple. The main menu option is pressing he letter "A" and it
will immediately execute the command since all single letter
entries in the program are what are called "hot keys". If you
press a key that does not correspond to the menu options, the
program will beep and let you know the valid choices.
Once having entered the option to add a message, the program
automatically records the date and time of the entry and then
begins a series of questions you must answer. These are like the
customer code which must match a customer record in the customer
database for the program to move forward. If you select to add a
message when you first run the program, then you will not get any
further and will be told to use menu option "C" to get a customer
record first. This is necessary since the program must relate
the message to be taken to a customer.
You will get to a point in the message adding module where
the speech seems to disappear! This in the actual long message
area where the Clipper full screen editor is used to get the
information. It works pretty much like any word processor where
the arrow keys move the cursor and you simply type in the message
and it will later do the word wrap to keep the text properly
formatted for a DOS IBM screen. Here it is important to say that
the combined control and "W" keys are used to exit the editor and
save the information you put in. It is easy to forget how to get
out of the editor and so remember to keep the Ctrl-W key
combination in mind.
Once you have entered the message, the program looks to the
customer database and get any Per call, per day and per minute
rates for that customer. It then automatically records the time
you ended the message and calculates the minutes times the rate,
then adds the daily and per call rates and places the cost to the
customer in a cost field in the database. You are shown the
information and then sent back to the main menu. This allows you
to set up varying rates for varying customers. You may decide to
have a service that only has a daily rate or a per minute rate or
a per call rate; or you may decide to have a combination of all
of them. In any event, you can set the rates for your customers
based upon whatever plan they may have selected and ASA will
calculate each call based upon their individual plan and produce
invoices (reports) within their rate structiure. Not bad huh!
The second menu option allows you to browse through your
records of messages and just read them, edit them as you go
along, or delete messages you don't want to save. Pretty simple,
but again remember that when in the full screen editor, you will
need to use the combined control and "W" keys to get out.
One nice thing you will notice when doing the browse, is
that the messages from the screen editor will be quite easy to
understand with speech. this is because the program displays the
message with some filters to make sure that it all fits nicely on
the 80 column display used by the IBM stand screens.
3. The Customer database.
The third main menu option is the customer database which
really should be the first option you choose. This one asks you
for a customer code and then brings up a screen of information
you need to fill in. The screen is silent until you move the
arrow keys to go to another field or edit existing text in fields
you have already worked on and want to change. You will need to
press the enter key to confirm your input into these fields in
order to make sure that all the information is gotten.
Be sure to fill out the entire screen since the information
you put in goes into the text files that come up in the invoice
or report generation to be discussed later. also be sure that
you enter the proper rates for the customer in the three rate
fields of per minute, per day, and per call. These rates will be
read by the program when you take a message for the customer who
matches the customer code and the calls will be charged using
these rates. Enter 0 if you don't want to charge that particular
customer a particular rate or rates. For example, let's say you
like customer number 1 who is testing out the service and you
want to give them an introductory rate of just a per minute rate.
Just answer 0 at the per call and baseline (daily) rates and that
customer will only be charged on the per minute rate you put in.
Later, you can edit the record to increase the rate or add other
rates or whatever you choose. The combined charges for all calls
make up your revenues.
4. Using a different color combination.
Some folks with low vision see different color combinations
better than others. Hence, I have included the familiar color
selection program that I use in the Talking Checkbook and other
programs I have written. Type "U" at the main menu to select a
different screen color combination. future versions will have
the capacity to store your choice to a disk memory file and then
you will always get that color combination when you bring up the
5. The report generation module.
The most important thing that the computer can do for your
business is to accurately compute the cost you charge to folks
for your service, documenting how it got to that figure, and
printing a list of the messages.
The "R" menu option immediately checks to see if you want a
text file generated that is more spacious with blank lines or
very tight with no blanks at all. This is to allow you to
produce reports that will not take too much fax paper or to
produce reports that are more easy to read.
Then the program asks you for the customer code and checks
the customer database to make sure that they are there. This is
important because you want to produce a report for customers you
really have and need to get all their name and address info to
put into the report.
If the program finds a customer match, then it moves along
to the next question of what dates you want to have reported on.
If it does not find a customer, then it assumes you have not
entered that customer into the customer database and tells you
that it can't find a match. Once you give the computer the
starting and ending dates of the messages you want the customer
to know about and pay for, then it goes off to do it's thing.
The program will add in your name and address and all that
information you have placed in the "Owner" record of the customer
database. It will also do all the necessary calculations and
The software asks you to give it a legitimate DOS file name
like "ASA.txt" or something you create with the normal DOS rules
and it generates a text file report. This report (in addition to
your name&address info) contains: 1) the mane and address of the
customer being billed, 2) the summary information of the number
of calls/messages/minutes/rates between the dates in question
(including the dates you gave to start and end), 3) a listing of
all messages taken between the dates, and 4) select information
on the priority of the message.
You can take the text file you create with the program and
put it into a word processor and make it prettier if you like.
You might want to run it through one of those shareware format
programs if you like to get the margins better if they don't turn
That's about all the program does right now, but future
versions will be written to incorporate suggestions of folks who
have done the wide area testing of it. Call Charlie Crawford at
area (617)-727-5550 extension 4503 v(voice) from 9 to 5 Eastern
time to talk about the program or leave messages on the MCB BBS
(617)-451-5327 to the Sysop to help improve the program. It's
all about helping folks who need speech output to get the
business moving and I hope you'll get in touch to let me know
what you need.
Some of the speech features work a bit slower with Clipper
version 5.2 since the work-arounds to get speech take a bit more
micro-processing time, but I think the speech works pretty well.
Give the program a bit of time to respond to keystrokes
especially in the editor and you'll be fine.
-Charlie Crawford: May 31, 1993.