Feb 1996 Reviews

For a full listing of this month's reviews, click here.

(Editor's Note: The WinMag Box Score rates products on installation, usability, supporting materials, functionality, performance and utility. We use a 5-point scale:
1 poor, 2 fair, 3 good, 4 very good and 5 outstanding. A list of recommended desktop systems is at the end of the Reviews section; in future months, other hardware and software products will be added to the Recommended list.)

NEC PowerMate V100

Workhorse with Thoroughbred Components

by: James Alan Miller

We spend enough of our lives working. The NEC PowerMate V100 incorporates features that facilitate your work flow. Whether it's on a LAN using the included 3Com EtherLink III adapter, or exchanging information via the integrated infrared port, this system has the tools to get your business moving.

The infrared port lights up with every boot, seeking other like devices ready to exchange information. The preinstalled-TranXit 2.0 software from Puma Technology provides a platform for infrared, parallel and serial communication between PCs.

Another immediately apparent feature is the Suspend button--located below the Reset button on the upper-right side--which is usually exclusive to notebooks. Press this button to halt operation and put the computer into a low-power mode; press a key or move the mouse to resume operation.

The 100MHz Pentium system comes with a speedy 1GB Quantum Fireball hard disk, 16MB of EDO RAM (expandable to 128MB) and 256KB of level 2 cache. The keyboard and mouse are comfortable to use and provide excellent feedback, while NEC's own MultiSync XE15 15-inch monitor produces a clear picture with excellent color and good antiglare protection. On-screen controls provide a simple and ergonomic solution for monitor configuration.

An excellent NEC MultiSpin 6X CD-ROM drive runs off a SCSI card that's installed in an ISA slot. NEC's typically superior speakers give terrific sound reproduction. Sound and video (2MB of DRAM) are located on the motherboard, freeing up slots and space for upgrades. This is extremely important: Although thumbscrews make it easy to get into the mini-tower case, it's cramped inside. Removing the hard disk or adding RAM could be adventurous. For expansion it has only one ISA and one PCI slot free, as well as a free shared slot. Also empty are two 3.5-inch internal and two 5.25-inch external drive bays.

The system ships with Windows 95, Midisoft's Audio Works (a full-featured multimedia sound software solution), TabWorks (a personal document management application) and the informative NEC online guide. Though there's no modem installed, software for America Online, Prodigy and CompuServe are included.

The PowerMate V100 is easy to set up and has good documentation to get you started. Its excellent performance and ergonomics will make your workday a lot more manageable.

--Info File--
NEC PowerMate V100
Pros: Infrared port; suspend and resume; ergonomics
Cons: Lacks expansion room
NEC Technologies
800-NEC-INFO, 508-264-8000
WinMag Box Score: 3.5

Dell Dimension P100t

Low-Priced Pentium Purrs at 100MHz

by: John Gartner

If the Dell Dimension P100t were a car, it would be neither a Cadillac nor a Miata, but a comfortable midsize that sells like crazy. The clean design emphasizes functionality rather than extras.

The mini-tower case is held by a thumbscrew at the top and two plastic tabs at the bottom, so getting to the motherboard takes seconds. The Dimension P100t has a more spacious interior than other mini-towers. The on-board S3 Trio 64 video chip saves real estate by integrating the RAMDAC.

My test unit came with two 4MB SIMMS, which leaves two slots available and easily accessible. The six expansion slots--three PCI, two ISA and one shared--are equally unobstructed save for the dangling floppy drive ribbon. The Creative Labs FM synthesis sound card is the only adapter installed, leaving five slots free. The system comes without an external cache, but the motherboard supports either asynchronous or pipelined burst cache.

The hard drive is perpendicular to the unit's base, which smartly provides plenty of room to attach the cables. The 4X CD-ROM drive occupies one of the three externally accessible drive bays.

The Dimension P100t's performance is on track for a 100MHz unit, but not out in front. Our Wintune 95 benchmarks and application macros show that it's marginalized by mediocre video and lack of an external cache. The Word and Excel scores were 44 and 24 seconds, respectively. The Quantum Fireball 1080A hard drive scored a 2MB per second uncached disk speed.

The system came with a 17-inch monitor and Windows 95 preloaded. A CD-ROM is not included, but clicking on the Program Disk icon let me create my own copy. The documentation is easy to scan with plenty of illustrations and praiseworthy prose.

A diagnostics and troubleshooting manual is dedicated to solving common problems.

--Info Files--
Dell Dimension P100t
Pros: Flexible design; documentation
Cons: No external cache
Dell Computer Corp.
800-613-3355, 512-338-4400
WinMag Box Score: 4.5

Quantex QP5/120 SM-1

Penny-Pinching Performer

by: Marc Spiwak

These days, it's hard to say what's most important when buying a PC: Is it performance, features or price? The Quantex QP5/120 SM-1 provides a good measure of all three. You might expect to pay more than $3,000 for a feature-packed system that provides great performance, but the QP5/120 lists for just $2,749.

The system I reviewed comes with a fast 120MHz Intel Pentium processor, 16MB of EDO RAM, 256KB of pipelined burst cache, a 1.2-gigabyte Western Digital hard drive, an Aztech 6X CD-ROM, STB Powergraph 64 PCI video card, a 28.8Kb-per-second modem and a 17-inch MAG

InnoVision monitor. There's also an Ensoniq Soundscape 16-bit wavetable sound card and a pair of Altec Lansing multimedia speakers.

Our Wintune benchmark testing indicated that the QP5/120 can run with the big boys, with performance numbers matching or beating those of similarly configured systems. The

CPU scored 218MIPS, while the hard disk and video scored throughputs of 1.97MB per second and 9.4Mpixels per second, respectively. Completing our Word 7.0 and Excel 7.0 macros in an average of 24.3 and 13 seconds, the QP5/120 earned its stripes as a truly fast PC.

The system's roomy tower case houses three 3.5-inch internal bays and four 5.25-inch external bays. When I received the unit, one internal bay was loaded with the hard drive and one external bay contained the CD-ROM. The case is easy to open; all you have to do is remove four thumbscrews.

The QP5/120's motherboard contains three PCI slots, one filled with the STB Powergraph 64 video card with 2MB of DRAM, and four ISA slots, two of which are occupied by the sound card and modem. The STB Powergraph card is fast and delivers excellent video, especially when paired with the 6X CD-ROM drive. The 17-inch monitor is bright and clear, and more than adequate for day-to-day needs.

The only problems I found were one of the cheapest mice I've ever seen and a so-so keyboard. Strangely, the system's mouse is a serial model, and there is no bus mouse connector on the back of the computer. The keyboard, which does include the special Win95 keys, could do better in the tactile-feedback department.

Nevertheless, performance and reliability are what counts, and this system does perform. It's also well-made (the mouse and keyboard aside), with attention paid to details such as providing two cooling fans--one in the power supply and one in the case.

Quantex must indeed be confident that the QP5/120 will last: The company offers a 30-day money-back guarantee, one year of express parts replacement and one-year on-site service.

--Info File--
Quantex QP5/120 SM-1
Pros: Performance; construction; multimedia
Cons: Mouse; keyboard
Quantex Microsystems
800-987-7209, 908-563-4166
WinMag Box Score: 4

Quantex QP5/100 M-2

SOHO Recipe--Just Add Software

by: Jonathan Blackwood

I live in Jersey, so I'm used to the jokes. When I found out Quantex is based in New Jersey, I thought, "If Gateway makes all those units in South Dakota, and if Texas makes half the PCs on the planet, why can't the Garden State serve up a decent computer?"

Happily, it does. The Quantex QP5/100 M-2 multimedia computer offers a lot of value for the money. This midsize tower model features an Intel motherboard, a 1.0-gigabyte Western Digital Caviar EIDE hard drive with 256KB disk cache, 8MB of EDO RAM, 256KB of level 2 write-back cache, an Aztech 6X CD-ROM drive and Altec Lansing ACS-5 speakers. There's also a 15-inch monitor with 0.26mm dot pitch, an STB Horizon 64 video adapter with 2MB of DRAM, a 16-bit stereo sound card and an Askey International 14.4Kb-per-second fax modem.

The machine ships with Windows 95 preinstalled. Other software includes Novell PerfectHome, PerfectWorks, Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia 1995 and more.

Unfortunately there is no full-fledged office suite pre-installed, and performance is somewhat lackluster. Though the Wintune 95 benchmark results were acceptable at an average of 178.33MIPS, 1.5MB-per-second for the hard disk and 5.2Mpixels per second for the video, our applications macros ran slowly. The Word 7.0 macro took an average of 41.67 seconds to execute, while the average time for the Excel 7.0 macro was 22 seconds.

Even though it's not a barnstormer, the QP5/100 M-2 is quite an enjoyable computer to live with, day in and day out. See? Good things can come from Jersey.

--Info File--
Quantex QP5/100 M-2
Pros: Components; price
Cons: No business software; performance
Quantex Microsystems
800-987-7209, 908-563-4166
WinMag Box Score: 3.5

IBM Aptiva PC Model M51

Big Blue's Pint-Sized Pentium

by: David Gabel

Using the IBM Aptiva PC Model M51 is like using a modern home appliance: It has all the bells and whistles that make life a little easier.

It's a cinch to set up: Just plug in the various peripherals and turn on the machine.

The keyboard and mouse are both IBM-branded, as are the monitor and speakers. My slim desktop review unit came with a 100MHz Pentium processor, 8MB of RAM, a 1GB hard disk, and Super VGA on the motherboard. Windows 95 was preinstalled on the Model

M51. Its sister unit, the Aptiva PC Model M50, is equipped with both OS/2 Warp and Windows 3.11/DOS 6.22 in a dual-boot configuration.

The monitor is crisp and clear at 800x600-pixel resolution with 256 colors. Controls on the front include position, size, tilt, pincushion and

color-temperature. Push one of these controls, and a small on-screen menu comes up. The keyboard is very nice, with enough tactile feedback to suit most people. I thought the mouse, a two-button type, suffered in comparison with the Microsoft mouse, but it was accurate and the buttons were precise.

The computer opens very easily: Depress one catch in the front, and the case slides off to the front. To get to the catch, you have to open a fairly flimsy front cover that rotates down, exposing the user-accessible drives. Inside, there are only two available slots, both shared PCI/ISA types. But two serial ports and a parallel port are on the motherboard, so you won't need a card for them. And the Aptiva comes with a combination card--based on the IBM Mwave DSP--that has sound, CD-ROM control and a 28.8Kb-per-second modem.

If you want to swap out the hard drive, be prepared for a real experience. Suffice it to say that changing the hard disk involves removing all the other drives, as well as the bracket that the riser card with the expansion slots attaches to, before you can get to the disk. Fortunately, the manual explains how to upgrade with clear prose and diagrams that got me through with only a minimal amount of head-scratching.

Buy this computer to use with delight, especially because of the tons of bundled multimedia titles. Approach mechanical upgrades with caution, however.

--Info File--
IBM Aptiva PC Model M51
$2,199 without monitor(15-inch monitor, $654)
Pros: Setup; performance
Cons: Upgrades
IBM Corp.
800-IBM-2YOU, fax 800-IBM-4FAX
WinMag Box Score: 3.5

Gateway 2000 P5-75 Best Buy

Say Good Buy to This Budget Box

by: Jim Forbes

I used to think my $3,000 33MHz 386 machine was greased lightning. Now even my cat sneers at it. But you can't wait forever for the price of that turbo-speed Pentium to drop. At some point, you have to decide you're getting value for your money and you don't need more speed. Gateway's P5-75 Best Buy will show you that you're right.

The 75MHz Pentium system ships with just about all the hardware you're going to need for multimedia computing. It also offers room to grow and a basic software set that makes it easy to write reports, budget your money, connect to the info highway and more. And the $1,823 price tag makes it a smart (and safe) purchase.

The unit I tested came with 8MB of RAM, a Western Digital 850MB hard drive, a quad-speed CD-ROM drive, a 14.4Kb-per-second modem and Gateway's Crystal Scan 14-inch 1024NI Super VGA monitor. Although a 15-inch monitor is as small as I like to go, the PCI-based graphics adapter includes 2MB of video memory and, combined with this 14-inch unit, is capable of meeting most requirements.

A Creative Technologies sound card and Altec Lansing ACS40 speakers round out the multimedia features. The system even has a good 104-key keyboard with Windows 95-specific keys.

The motherboard has three open slots--two PCI and one ISA--which should be sufficient for future expansion. The PCI and ISA slots are easy to access, but I can't say the same for the SIMM slots; if you want to upgrade RAM, you'll have to do some disassembly.

Performance was better than expected in most areas, especially considering that the P5-75 Best Buy has no secondary cache.

Running the Windows 95 version of our Wintune benchmarks, this system's processor clocked an average of 133.66 MIPS. Its video and hard-disk storage subsystems had average throughput rates of 4.16Mpixels per second and 1.53MB per second, respectively. The system ran our 32-bit Microsoft Word macro in 45 seconds and the Excel macro in 26 seconds. Even my cat was impressed.

--Info Files--
Gateway 2000 P5-75 Best Buy
Pros: Value
Cons: 14-inch monitor
Gateway 2000
800-846-2000, 605-232-2000
WinMag Box Score: 4.0

NEC Ready 7022

Infrared-Letter System

by: Serdar Yegulalp

What's in a name? Plenty, where the NEC Ready 7022 is concerned. With plenty of eyebrow-raising features, this 75MHz Pentium system is indeed ready to meet most business- and home-user demands.

The Ready's snazziest features are the IR port and the remote control that goes with it. The remote governs the CD player, as well as the telephony and voice-mail functions. All the IR remote functions are managed in Windows 95 through a program called, appropriately enough, Remote Control.

Thumbscrews make it easy to open the system case. Expansion cards are mounted on a riser, and the motherboard's layout facilitates adding and removing cards. Only one slot is taken up, by the Rockwell modem, leaving a fair amount of expansion room considering this is a mini-tower. "Hidden" screws (to hold down the hard disk, for instance) are made accessible through strategically placed holes in the inner chassis. One minor gripe is that the SIMM sockets are directly underneath the power and hard-disk cables, making it necessary to pull a few plugs before upgrading.

The Ready ships with 8MB standard and 128KB of level 1 cache RAM, although there's room to expand both. Wintune 95 and the MS Office 95 benchmarks registered decent results.

NEC's own mouse is a slender, two-button low-profile model that fits the hand nicely. The 102-key enhanced keyboard includes a pair of Windows 95-logo keys, but the keyboard's feel is on the soft side. The NEC MultiSync XV15 monitor is about what you'd expect from the company: excellent, with detailed images full of deep color. However, the monitor controls are only analog knobs.

Bundled software includes a generous mix of Microsoft products, including the now ubiquitous MS Office 95, as well as Works, Publisher, Bob and Encarta. Puma's TranXit 2 allows file transfers between computers over the IR port, and netsters can get webbing with Netscape Navigator, which is initially set to use its own custom dialer instead of the Windows 95 Dial-Up Networking system.

NEC has assembled a handy mini-tower with plenty of unique work-saving features like IR and remote control. This system will keep you ready for the future.

--Info File--
NEC Ready 7022
$1,799 (street)
Pros: Remote control; accessibility
Cons: Expandability;
RAMNEC Technologies
800-NEC-INFO, 508-264-8000
WinMag Box Score: 3.5

Robotech Cobra XL-100

486 Offers Easy Entry

by: Serdar Yegulalp

Even the most accomplished techno-nerd had to start from scratch, and the Robotech Cobra XL-100 is just the system to initiate beginners. A good entry-level system, this 100MHz 486's upgradability makes it an even more promising place to start.

The system's 8MB of RAM is enough to get a casual user started with the preinstalled Windows 95 and Novell PerfectOffice. No information highway features here, though: There's no modem or comm software installed.

The Cobra XL-100 has plenty of room to grow. The 8MB of RAM fill one of four 72-pin SIMM slots, allowing you to upgrade--up to 128MB of RAM--without junking a whole set of chips. Disk drives are mounted on sliding rails that are easily removed and reattached without screws. The motherboard's ZIF socket make processor upgrades a snap. A few jumper changes make it possible to accept processors of just about any clock speed. Jumper settings, which are printed on the motherboard for quick reference, also are listed in the manual.

The mouse is a typically excellent Microsoft Dove-bar model, but the keyboard's average feel and lack of a full-size backspace key leaves something to be desired. The 15-inch monitor's settings are easily adjusted, and you can store resolution and refresh rate settings. Award's system BIOS is fully documented in the manual and configured out of the box for maximum performance, although a little tweaking with Windows 95 was necessary to get the most out of it in 8MB.

Robotech not only bundles and binds all of the component manuals together, but also has written its own system manual. The documentation includes a huge glossary and covers everything from formatting floppies to installing SIMMs.

--Info File--
Robotech Cobra XL-100
Pros: Mouse; expandability
Cons: RAM; no communications
800-563-0633, 801-565-0645
WinMag Box Score: 4.5

Digital Venturis 575 Slimline

Small Footprint System Treads Lightly

by: David W. Methvin

Digital's Venturis 575 is a minimalist's dream. Its spartan design doesn't have all the frills of higher-end systems, but it can handle the jobs that most people do.

Getting inside the Venturis is easy. Two little "ears" pop off the top when you turn them. If you're planning to start small and add extras later, the compact case may not offer the elbow room you need. There are only three expansion slots, usable as one PCI and two ISA slots or vice versa. Under the swing-out power supply lurks the hard disk and room for another, which you'll need if you opt for the 420MB Maxtor model that came with this unit.

Everything the Venturis offers is built into its system board. Along with the standard serial, parallel and mouse ports, there's 256KB of level 2 RAM cache that helps to pep up performance. The onboard S3 Trio64 video chip includes 1MB of DRAM, expandable to 2MB for higher color depth. The basic 8MB of RAM is soldered onto the system board, and there are two SIMM slots for additional RAM. The review unit had one free external 5.25-inch bay, which is where the CD-ROM drive goes if you buy that opton.

Performance was average for a 75MHz Pentium unit. Wintune 95 logged scores of 136MIPS for the Venturis' CPU, 1.4MB per second for its uncached disk and 4.5Mpixels per second for video. Our Microsoft Excel 95 macro was done in 30 seconds, and the Word macro took 67 seconds.

For Pentium power on a budget, the Venturis 575 just might fill the bill. If you can spare a few more dollars, you'll be happier if you add at least another 4MB of RAM and a CD-ROM drive to the package.

--Info File--
Digital Venturis 575 Slimline
Pros: Design; setup
Cons: No CD-ROM
Digital Equipment Corp.
800-DIGITAL, 508-624-6400
WinMag Box Score: 4.0


This Month

Turbo Tax for Business

Perfect Works 3.0

Claris Works 4.0

Head to Head: Decision Processing:
DecideRight 1.0
Which & Why

QuickBooks Pro 4.0

SureTrak Project Manager 1.5

AutoCAD Release 13c4

Esperant 3.0

MapInfo Professional

MediaStudio Pro 2.5

CoSession 6.0

Now Up-to-Date for Windows 95

Instant Multimedia

Arcada Backup for Windows 95

HotDocs 3.0



Select Street Atlas 1.0

Schedule It

Kiplinger's Small Business Attorney

Decisive Survey 1.0

Head to Head: Internet Suites
All-In-One Internet Kit 2.0
Crosstalk 2.3
Explore Anywhere 2.0
Internet Chameleon 4.5
InternetSuite 1.0

TurboTax for Business

Make April 15th Less Taxing

by: Joel T. Patz

This year, you'll actually enjoy preparing your tax returns if you use TurboTax for Business. Last year's version let you fill in each form and then did the math for you. This year's edition features Easy Step, the step-by-step, fill-in-the-blanks approach that works so well in the TurboTax personal version. I

tested an early beta of the 1120S (Subchapter S Corporation) form. The final product's CD-ROM will also include Forms 1065 (Partnership), 1120 (Corporation) and 1040 (for individuals with sole proprietorships who use Schedule C to report income).

Easy Step first requests some basic business details such as name, EIN number and SIC code, before leading you to the questions you'll need to answer to complete your tax forms. You'll have to respond to questions about assets, interest payments, and whether your business has interests in foreign corporations, among others. The 1120S version asks about shareholders and prepares a K-1 form for each. The QuickZoom feature lets you choose from a shareholders list--click on a name and TurboTax displays the corresponding K-1 form.

Most of TurboTax's questions include jump topics that you click on to view definitions of terms. At almost every point you can summon help or see IRS instructions for the current topic. The help system includes the major IRS publications, and most of the help information is cross-referenced.

TurboTax's TaxLink will also import data from last year's form (for depreciation). It can also import QuickBooks data for corporate filings or Quicken data for sole proprietorships, although this feature was not functional in the beta.

You can skip Easy Step and fill in the form directly or use a combination of the two methods. For example, calculating depreciation is much easier using Easy Step, but the balance sheet may be easier to fill in manually. You can jump back to any Easy Step topic (check marks indicate the topics you've already covered) and revise your entries. Likewise, you can jump to any form you've already filled out or one of the other included forms.

As Easy Step leads you through filling in the forms, you can double-click on any line and itemize that entry.

At any point, you can see what you've entered on any form's field by checking the Summary dialog. It provides an overview of your return and makes it easy to play "what-if" to help you with tax planning.

After you enter your data, Final Review checks for errors. It flags conditions that might trigger an audit, identifies fields where information is missing and verifies that your balance sheet is, indeed, balanced. The Deduction Finder looks for deductions you may have missed. And there are tax-saving suggestions galore.

The beta version I tested let me enter data but didn't print IRS-approved forms. The final version should be available by the time you read this. State tax modules will be available, too.

TurboTax for Business is packed with dozens of helpful features, including the full text of Fred Daily's Tax Savvy for Small Business and all IRS business publications.

Even if you do your taxes at the last minute, TurboTax offers such outstanding help that you'll smile all the way to the mailbox.

-- Info File --
TurboTax for Business
Pros: Help, hints and advice
Cons: None
Platforms: Windows 3.1, 95
800-695-7778, 619-453-4446
WinMag Box Score: 5

PerfectWorks 3

App Array's No Disk Hog

by: James E. Powell

Small suites offer an economical alternative to the big "office" suites that fill your hard disk with features you won't ever use and that also put a dent in your wallet. PerfectWorks, a popular mini-suite, makes its Windows 95 debut with only a few core component changes to go along with its new operating system environment.

PerfectWorks' main screen offers six QuickStart tabs. The tabs provide quick access to common tasks, such as envelope and label printing, address book updates and speed-dialing. There's even a button to launch Quicken so you can keep in touch with your personal or business finances without leaving PerfectWorks. The Recent Files tab lets you open the last 14 files used, and the Templates tab provides 42 good-looking sample documents for business, correspondence, education and personal use.

The PerfectWorks user manual contents are displayed on the Reference page, although the manual itself remains on the program's CD-ROM. You can view multimedia videos illustrating product features from the Tours tab, although this feature

was not implemented in the beta version of the program I tested. The Online tab--also not available as it was still under construction--will access online services such as America Online and will maintain a list of your Web browser's bookmarks so that you can jump directly to specific Web pages.

Although not extensively revised, the suite modules are still feature-packed. The word processor's QuickCorrect fixes typing errors on the fly. It also offers a spell checker with a 110,000-word dictionary, a 60,000-word thesaurus, variable zoom, multiple columns with auto balancing, object alignment and snap-to grids for positioning objects in text. Envelope printing now supports five- and 11-digit Postnet and FIMA bar codes and custom paper sizes.

The spreadsheet has added a QuickCalc button. Select a range of cells, click on QuickCalc, select a calculation type

(average, count, minimum, maximum, sum, standard deviation or variance) and the program returns the value in the status bar. PerfectWorks will support data linking between spreadsheets (not yet functional in the beta) and helps you add any of 100 formulas by pasting in a function declaration with dummy parameters.

PerfectWorks' database and its forms designer don't have the simplicity or flexibility of ClarisWorks 4.0's database component (see the ClarisWorks 4.0 review). Still, there's ample horsepower for building effective flat-file database applications. You can define sophisticated number-crunching routines for calculated fields, and new dialog boxes help simplify the process of record sorting. You can hide selected or unselected records, but there is no status indicator for useful updates, such as "10 of 25 records selected." Label printing with database records is easier, with an option that lets you start printing at a specific label position on the sheet.

PerfectWorks' drawing module (for vector graphics) and paint module (for bitmaps) sport straightforward interfaces. Draw now has 16 border styles that you can apply to objects such as frames, rectangles and even database fields. There are five new gradient options that you can use in database forms, too, to enhance field borders and other form elements. Five special effects--including tremor, quake and engrave--have been added to the previous version's 11 effects.

PerfectWorks has added a pager feature that can use commercial paging services to send alphanumeric messages. You can use speed dial to send a default or custom message.

There are several general user interface improvements, from thumbnail previews to QuickAdvice tips. The Address Book is accessible from all modules, including speed dial and paging services. Small icons at the bottom of each screen let you jump between documents, and rulers now have both tab and column information. The 100-step undo/redo makes it easy to fix mistakes or change your mind. You can specify which PerfectWorks module you want to open automatically when you start the program.

Also included in this version of PerfectWorks are the obligatory Windows 95 features, such as long filename support, and fax and e-mail support via Microsoft Exchange.

PerfectWorks' nimble performance, breadth of features and excellent output are as impressive as its respect for your hard disk real estate.

-- Info File --
PerfectWorks 3
Not available at press time
Pros: Improved interface
Cons: Weak database table and form designer
Platforms: Windows 95
WinMag Box Score: 4.0

ClarisWorks 4.0

Small Suite for All Tastes

by: James E. Powell

Easy. That's the key word for ClarisWorks 4.0, the newest version of the popular application suite designed specifically for Windows 95. Version 4.0, which includes a word processor, spreadsheet, database manager, drawing tools and a presentation facility, brings new meaning to the phrase "ease of use."

ClarisWorks' word processor offers the usual fare--spell checker, indents and tabs, font control and so forth--but it does so with an elegantly simple interface. For example, it's a snap to set up footnotes or endnotes, and when you do, you're immediately positioned in the area where the note will actually appear. The sections feature lets you include different types of documents in a single file. You can specify that a section begin on a left or right page, and set other options such as the number of columns, footer positions and whether to restart page numbering with each section.

ClarisWorks has several features that are most helpful when creating professional documents. These include setting the spacing before and after paragraphs, smart quotes and predefined styles for quickly formatting text, such as converting a list into bullet items.

Version 4.0's enhanced mail merge lets you pick a database file, select fields and

indicate their placement. ClarisWorks then takes the process a step further by letting you view any of the database records' data in your document. I tested this feature with a name and address list, and the program handled text sizing and comma placement without any manual intervention.

ClarisWorks' ordinary built-in HTML translator turns documents into Web pages, and you can use new type stylings such as double underline and superiors and inferiors (like superscript and subscript but smaller) to give your work a professional look.

ClarisWorks' two drawing tools (one for vector images, the other for bitmaps) are easy to learn and use. The tools' feature list is comprehensive. With the toolbar displayed, just about everything you need to start sketching is within reach. You can now rotate objects, and a new 500-piece clip-art collection is organized into libraries.

The suite's spreadsheet has some pretty slick features. Searches, sorts and reports can all be saved, modified and re-executed quickly. This version also adds cell shading and special fills (to fill a column with the date of

every Monday in 1996, for example). The charting module, which is adequate for pie and bar charts, offers easy control of basic chart elements.

The flat-file database resembles Claris' FileMaker Pro. The Assistant will help you create a database, including some very pleasing layouts. You can search a database, list records in a grid and use another Assistant to create labels. Designing a report is essentially the same as building a layout.

The database has several new field types, including radio button, check box, pop-up menu, serial number, value list and record info. The name field type lets you enter a first and last name but sort only on the last name. However, it doesn't properly sort names containing a suffix such as "Jr."

ClarisWorks is well integrated, so it's easy to merge components, such as embedding a spreadsheet or chart in a word processing document. Some basic functions of OLE are supported. You can, for example, drag and drop an Excel chart into a document, but you can't edit the chart once it's in place.

Assistants and a rich set of templates help you prepare newsletters, calendars, certificates, resumes, name-and-address lists and presentations. The package's built-in presentation feature lets you turn a word processing document into a slide show, complete with looping for continuous display.

There are some glaring omissions in ClarisWorks. You can import a graphics file into a word processing document and wrap text around it, but there's no simple way to expand a graphic to automatically fill a frame. The spreadsheet module lacks a quick summation feature that would enable you to easily total a column, and you can't automatically resize a column based on the largest entry. The suite does not have a communications component--you have to supply your own communications application or use Windows 95's HyperTerminal.

Despite these deficiencies, ClarisWorks packs a lot of punch into a few megabytes. With its use of consistent interfaces across its various modules and a generous offering of sample documents, the suite is easy to learn and use.

--Info File -
ClarisWorks 4.0
Through Jan. 31, $49; upgrades, $39
Pros: Well designed; easy to use
Cons: Meager spreadsheet
Platforms: Windows 95
Disk Space: 12.5MBRAM: 8MB
Claris Corp.
800-544-8554, 408-727-8227
WinMag Box Score: 4.5