REVIEW OF VILLAGE APRAISAL FOR WINDOWS

Click on http://plan.eclesfield.googlepages.com to go
to the Ecclesfield Village Plan home page

This software has been written to help survey villages and perhaps other comunities produce survey forms, enter the survey results, and analyse and print the results. As such it is an alternative to either time consuming use of paper, pencils and calculator, or more expensive general purpose spreadsheets and other software. The overview booklet claims that prior to the introduction of Village Appraisal for Windows, questionaires were copied "without too much thought sa to local relevance", and "questions" had unfortunate biases.

VA for Windows can be obtained from Gloucestershire http://www.glos.ac.uk/faculties/ccru/village-appraisal/index.cfm. It was preferred to "Compass" from Leeds University for two reasons, Firstly, it allows the area to be survayed to be divided up into areas, and each area analysed separately. Secondly, VA makes provision for a single form to contain details from up to five people in that household.

Stated limitations of VA for windows include an overall limit of 100 Questions, an overall limit of 15 self written questions, and an overall limit of 15 text response questions.

The software was ordered by telephone, requested as urgent, and arived next day.

A useful large plastic carrying folder contained an introduction to Villlage Plans, a large and well printed manual, a printed list of the standard questions incorporated within the software, and a CD-ROM sealed in the usual sealed copyright envelope.

The manual specifies a minimum system requirement that includes a 13MHz Pentium I, 16Mb RAM, running windows 95, 98,ME, XP, or 2000, but prefers a 550MHz Pentium 2, with 64Mb RAM. Entry of survey forms can be split across several computers, but the manual suggests that questionaire creation and final analysis is done by a more powerful computer.

The software was tested on two XP systems, a lap top running XP home, and a desktop running SP Professional. Both systems were updated to SP2.

The CD-ROM auto-booted to an installation menu which suggested that all other applications be closed before the installation be completed. However, the full screen instalaion screen itself prevented mouse bringing XP's auto-hide out of hiding in order to enable other windows to be closed. This meant that Alt+TAB had to be used to bring each of the other windows up and allow them to be closed in turn. The installation screen also made it difficult to get into System Restore to create a restore point for use when removing the software. The message here is to do all the housekeeping before inserting the CD into the drive.

 Confirming that we had exited from other software, VA for Windows offered directory C:/VA/ as a possible installation directory. According to XP conventions, this was changed to C:/Program~/VA/, which the software accepted and used.

Installation files totalled about 2 MBytes. Since none of the files installed into the VA directory exceeded 1.4MBytes, they could easily be transfered to four standard high-density 3 1/2 inch disks, if the program needed to be transfered to a machine without a CD-ROM drive.

Strangely, installation left an explorer window open at the start menu directory containing the link to start VA for windows. Clicking on the link, or going to start menu > All Programs > VA > VA invoked the main VA for Windows screen.

Although the main VA Window has both a "Full-screen" mode, and a "Restore" mode, both are fixed to full screen size. Thus the only way of seeing both VA Window and another window in order to copy text between them is to switch the VA Window into Restore mode and move it partly off-screen.

The first operation is to create a "Project", This requies a name which then appears as the title of the questionnaire. It also requires the number of areas into which the survey area is to be divided and a name for each of the areas.

VA for Windows has the following question type limitations...

SINGLE ANSWER MULTIPLE CHOICE

MULTIPLE ANSWER MULTIPLE CHOICE

CODED / TABULAR

YES / NO

NUMERIC

MULTIPLE NUMERIC

TEXT / COMMENT

1) Numeric entry questions are confined to a single number per question.