software called Platypus

Steve at Steve at
Wed Aug 6 10:18:49 CDT 1997

As one of the developers of Platypus I guess I should comment on the
software (but keep in mind I might be a bit biased in my opinion ;-)).

First, the Platypus Web site is at  This site gives on
overview of Platypus as well as providing a free demo version (this is the
full Platypus program but is limited to 50 taxa and/or 50 references until

As for the speed of Platypus, yes this can be a problem for some of the
forms.  Part of this performance problem is due to the Visual Basic ver. 4
development environment and part is due to the data access methods used
within Platypus.  As for VB4, when we started Platypus development VB4 was
in late beta testing and hadn't been officially released.  We made the
discussion to move away from Visual Basic ver. 3 so we could use the extra
features of VB4.  Although we haven't benchmarked things, VB4 seems to run
slower than VB3 did.  Not a good situation, we know.  To overcome this we
are currently moving Platypus to Visual Basic ver. 5.  VB5 has huge speed
advantages over VB4 and should solve many of the form loading issues.  We
are currently testing the new Platypus code and should release the new
version by the end of the year.  The only down-side is that the new version
will be 32-bit which will limit Windows 3.11 users to those with the Win32s
subsystem.  (Sorry about that, but to move forward we sometimes have to
loose a few people along the way, and we feel we've waited as long as we
can for the migration to Windows95/NT to take place.)

Some of the current data access methods are also causing performance
problems.  The load times for one or two of the forms is directly related
to the amount of data held in the database being used by Platypus.  This is
most noticeable with the Reference List form.  During development we used
modest datasets, anticipating that no more than a few hundred or possible a
thousand references would be used in any single database.  If this
assumption holds true then performance isn't a real problem.  But if you
load up 15,000 references then it's a different story.  We understand the
problem and are working on a major overhaul to fix the problem (as well as
addressing some useability issues at the same time).

The bottom line is that we feel Platypus does a very good job at what it
tries to do and we are unaware of anything that come close to it in terms
of ease of use and data richness.  At the same time Platypus is still a
ver. 1 product and the several hundred real-world users who have registered
Platypus are giving us invaluable feedback.  We are giving this feedback
serious thought and will continue to improve Platypus based on this input.
The future is looking very bright and I can only see Platypus improving
with age.

As for the future, we are currently working on a specimen-based databasing
system to complement Platypus.  This system will use the Platypus checklist
so that taxon names and classification information is entered and
maintained centrally between both systems.  We are also developing an easy
to use and flexible searching and reporting facility.  This new system will
allow detailed searches of a Platypus database with custom, user-defined
report generation of the results.  These (as well as other) developments
will be released over the next year or two.

Thanks from your humble Platypus caretaker.

Steve Shattuck
Systematics/Biodiversity Informatics
Australian National Insect Collection
CSIRO Entomology
P. O. Box 1700
Canberra, ACT  2601, Australia
phone (06) 246-4273, fax (06) 246-4264
steves at

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