Ready for more weird Finnish software? Survo is an interesting computer program. That's just about the only thing that could be used as a description from a complete outsider.

To be more specific, Survo (it was explained the name came from "survey", given its statistical background, and the Finnish verb "survoa", meaning "to crush (berries)", apt description for a number cruncher) is "an environment for creative processing of text and numerical data". It was written by prof. Seppo Mustonen. It began its life in 1960s as a statistical tool, and evolved into an all-consuming monster that does everything from number crunching to preparing printouts, web pages and interactive demos. In other words, a program that's best left undescribed.

Since the program is quite expensive and I have only seen the demo and read the book in library ("Survo ja Minä", by Seppo Mustonen), I can only give a brief overview of its guiding principles. The program looks like a word processor. In fact, the work in it is done with what's called "editorial interface", having its roots in 1979. Everything you do is based on the document you're editing; everything in the document can be used to produce data. Almost like "command history" on GUI, but commands can be taken from any place. Almost like a spreadsheet, except instead of cells, you have characters of the document as your playing field.

Suppose you're writing a mathematical paper. You write, for example, this (right out of the web demonstration): Let the sides of the triangle be a=13, b=14, and c=15. The area of the triangle can be calculated using the so-called Heron's formula area=sqrt(p*(p-a)*(p-b)*(p-c)) where p is half of the length of the sides, p=(a+b+c)/2. Therefore, area is area= ... Your cursor is right after the equals sign of "area=", the space highlighted, and you hit the "activate" key. Boom! You see "area=84". The program remembers all of the definitions you write - you say a=13 and it remembers that a is 13 - and you can use all formulas in text right this way. Sort of like Mathematica on steroids. =) The functions to be activated can take input from just about everywhere in the document and dump the results just about anywhere. There's a good library of existing functions, and the program can be expanded by writing "sucros" in the macro language, or by writing extensions in C.

Survo can produce interesting graphs of any kind, and this has got even better in the newest versions. The output is done in various formats (everything from PostScript to HTML and beyond).

Survo is definitely a frosty application, definitely something the other applications should learn from.

The only thing that sort of bugs me is the fact that it's for Windows only, and you can't buy it, it's only licensed for year at a time for pretty heavy price... Fortunately, there is a free, fully functional demo version available.

Home page of Survo Systems: http://www.survo.fi/

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