Back to April 1996 Reviews
Up to Table of Contents
Ahead to April 1996 Recommended

April 1996 Reviews

Reviews Table of Contents


Internet Mania

Much Ado About Netting

By James E. Powell

The world has gone crazy over the Internet, and the madness hasn't escaped Corel. The company's Internet Mania CD-ROM offers eight utilities-some quite useful, some less so-to help feed the cyber-frenzy.

IM's Lycos Web Search probes 400,000 of the most popular Internet sites for data; Internet addresses for these sites are stored on the CD-ROM. The disc's Web Catalog offers access to the same set of sites but instead organizes them in a different hierarchy, similar to what you'd find in a telephone directory.

Another utility, NewsScan, searches Usenet newsgroups for the specific topics you've chosen. List the sites that you want to scan, add a few keywords to lend a helping hand, and NewsScan takes off on a search, working quietly in the background while you do other tasks.

Likewise, IM's QuoteScan utility lets you select and follow up to five stocks on the Web. It returns prices with just a 20-minute delay, displaying them one stock at a time or in ticker-tape fashion across the screen. You can set QuoteScan's display colors so that, for instance, all rising prices show up in green while falling prices are displayedin red. QuoteScan can also list the volumes traded for each stock; you can specify updates at 5-, 15-, 30- or 60-minute intervals, or tell the utility to check your stocks once a day.

Changes are also at the heart of Web Page Update Notifier, a feature that searches specified Web pages for changes that have been made to those sites since your last scan; the utility then shows you a list of those sites.

Assuming you have a dedicated Internet connection and users know your machine's name, you can use another tool, Personal Web Server, to make files on your hard disk available to authorized users across the Internet.

The Internet Mania collection doesn't include a Web browser, although it does offer its own ftp utility to let you find and download your choice of browsers. I tried it with a beta of Netscape 2.0 and found that everything worked well.

CorelFTP wasn't very intuitive, however; I clicked on several Web sites with no response at all, and nothing appeared to tell me that I had to wait for a connection.

The best part of the package, though, is the Web page builder. Home Page Author is simple, straightforward and easy to use; the utility supports standard HTML conventions including backgrounds, marquees and links.

You choose the object you need-text, image or bulleted list-then select parameters or enter text as indicated. After spending hours struggling with another Web authoring program, I was pleased to discover I could achieve the same results with Home Page Author in about 15 minutes. One drawback: Home Page Author isn't WYSIWYG, but it lets you quickly jump to your Web browser to view the final result-just the ticket for Net fanatics.

--Info File--
Internet Mania
Pros: Useful utilities fill in gaps of Internet suites
Cons: Documentation is minimal; most utilities are nothing special
Platforms: Windows 95, NT
Disk space: 3MB
Corel Corp.
800-455-3169, 613-728-3733
WinMag Box Score:3.5

Peachtree First Accounting 2.0

Small-Biz Accounting App Grows Up

By Joel T. Patz

First Accounting is much better the second time around. Peachtree has greatly improved version 2.0 of this beginner's accounting package, including a fully integrated payroll and an inventory control system that works with both receivables and payables. Another boon is the redesigned new-company-setup procedure for getting a new business up and running quickly. FA 2.0 includes 75 sample company accounting systems, 15 more than the previous version, with business examples for everything from an auction gallery to a manufacturing firm or video rental store.

The new payroll module calculates gross wages as well as federal, state and local taxes, and also figures SSI and Medicare deductions. It supports weekly, biweekly, monthly and semimonthly payrolls and can print payroll checks. It's possible to add custom fields for tracking other employee information, such as hire and termination dates. You can set a maximum of 29 payroll fields, in addition to gross pay, to calculate deductions or track reported memo amounts, such as tips and meals, or accumulated vacation hours.

First Accounting's inventory module maintains stock, nonstock, labor and description-only items with up to five pricing levels for each item. You can combine items into assembled goods and optionally print these components on an invoice. FA's standard reports list includes stock status, physical inventory lists and cost of goods sold. This inventory module, however, only supports average costing. If you need LIFO and FIFO you'll need a more advanced system, such as Peachtree Accounting 3.5 (see Peachtree Accounting Release 3.5 in March).

The product functions smoothly and detailed pop-up help is more evident-a real improvement. First Accounting offers 100 different reports, including cash flow and vendor lists. You can drill down to details on many, but not all, reports. You customize the reports by adding or hiding fields, reordering fields and adjusting column widths. But if you need a custom forms designer, once again you'll need to buy big brother Peachtree Accounting 3.5.

This is a standalone product for small-business and accounting novices, without its predecessor's stripped-down feeling. If your accounting needs are modest, it's worth a look.

--Info File--
Peachtree FirstAccounting 2.0
$49 (street)
Pros: Improved features
Cons: Inventory somewhat limited
Platforms: Windows 95, 3.1x
Disk space: 18MB
Peachtree Software
800-228-0068, 770-564-5700
WinMag Box Score: 4

LapLink for Windows 95

Data Swapper Adds Flexibility, Features

By John J. Yacono

Venerable LapLink's new 32-bit edition-a remote-control, file transfer and chat program-offers tools to please the weathered global nomad as well as the less-experienced homebody. For Internet fans, LapLink for Windows 95 includes TCP/IP support. For newcomers, it offers "Quick Steps," automatic help screens.

Completely rebuilt, LapLink for Windows 95 offers many more options than prior versions. Tabbed dialog boxes are used judiciously so configuration screens aren't overly busy.

You can choose to start LapLink 95 before the Windows 95 log-on screen appears, letting callers establish a LapLink session without automatically being granted access to your network. This useful feature was available in previous versions of LapLink but needed to be keyed into the Win95 Registry to work properly.

The program now uses data already stored in Windows 95's Dial-Up Networking, a welcome addition. It also supports Win95's long filenames and will automatically truncate them when posting files to older software.

Experienced users will appreciate LapLink's new TAPI support, which lets multiple programs share modems. TCP/IP support lets you connect via subnets or Internet, providing truly global access for the cost of a local call. The program still provides robust IPX/SPX support.

Our tests showed that the 32-bit LapLink's file transfer speeds are definitely faster. Transfer rates for direct cable connections increased 50KB to 100KB per second over the old version.

I give LapLink for Windows 95 a thumbs-up.

--Info File--
LapLink for Windows 95
$149; upgrade fromLapLink 6.0, $49
Pros: TCP/IP and Dial-Up Networking
Cons: Physical security
Platforms: Windows 95
Disk space: 7MB
Traveling Software
800-343-8080, 206-483-8088
WinMag Box Score: 4

Designer's Edge 1.0

Computer Tutor Construction Kit

By James Bell

Developing computer-based training (CBT) materials can be tough. Not only do you have to master the technical intricacies of creating a multimedia program, you also must learn to organize information effectively.

Designer's Edge 1.0 helps you define your needs, audience and training goals. You'll learn how to create an appropriate course structure, produce materials and evaluate their effectiveness.

Your first step is to analyze training needs, identify your audience and create objectives. Then you build a course map of content, approach, activities and testing options. Finally, you produce an application storyboard, build the course and conduct pre- and post-training evaluations.

Designer's Edge acts as a project manager throughout, tracking task completion and automatically sharing data among tasks. A "medialog" database tracks data files needed for final application production; it even generates talent release forms and video logs.

The volume and quality of the software's online assistance are impressive. Context- sensitive instructions, often featuring Wizards, explain the relevance of each task and in some cases offer recommendations. The program's structured approach keeps you from skipping important steps in your rush to complete your project.

As with most first releases, the program has some rough edges. It's easy to delete key items, but there's no undo option. Designer's Edge doesn't include authoring tools, so you'll have to use a separate authoring program such as Allen Communication's Quest or another third-party package. Quest design templates are included.

Designer's Edge offers valuable instructional tools and strategies that will benefit novices and experienced developers alike. Getting your purchasing department to spring for the $2,995 price tag may be a challenge, but the program's detail-oriented techniques can reduce your chances of making costly mistakes.

--Info File--
Designer's Edge 1.0
Pros: CBT planning and organizational tools
Cons: Price; lacks word processing, flowcharting and authoring tools
Platforms: Windows 95
Disk space: 11MB-100MB
RAM: 8MB (16MB recommended)
Allen Communication
800-325-7850, 801-537-7800
WinMag Box Score:4.0

AutoMaker 1.0

Diplomatic App Offers Document Détente

By James Alan Miller

Imagine the U.N. without translators: people with different languages and customs trying to communicate with no common ground for understanding.

Scary, isn't it? Yet our PCs have radically different applications and purposes and, until recently, very few methods for reading other file formats. We wind up either restricting software packages or working from paper. Common Ground 2.0 created a common document format, DigitalPaper, to get around this problem.

AutoMaker 1.0 can centralize and automate DigitalPaper operations over a network.

AutoMaker automatically converts electronic network documents to DigitalPaper and places them in an output folder. Any networked PC that has the viewer can read documents produced by a single machine's applications. The included Personal AutoMaker lets you convert documents locally.

You must have Common Ground installed to annotate documents after conversion. The converting computer must also have all the original documents' fonts and all the source applications.

AutoMaker runs in three modes: Single pass, which checks any documents in the input folder and transforms them to DigitalPaper; Continuous mode for constant automatic conversions staggered over a predetermined period; and Selective mode, which lets you manually select files for conversion.

AutoMaker is not cheap. But it could be a great help in reducing file translation problems for busy networks.

--Info File--
AutoMaker 1.0
Pros: Bulk document conversion to common format
Cons: Price
Platforms: Windows 95, 3.1x
Disk space: 4MB
RAM: Windows 95, 16MB; Windows 3.1x, 8MB
Common Ground Software
800-598-3821, 415-802-5800
WinMag Box Score:3.5

Crystal Info 4.5

Read, Write and Route Database Reports

By James E. Powell

You expect good database reporting tools from Crystal Services, the maker of Crystal Reports. Crystal Info 4.5 is a unique tool for building client/server decision support systems, which lets workgrouped users share reports in an e-mail-like environment.

The Info Desktop provides lists of when reports were run. You view the results directly or send them to others through VIM and MAPI e-mail systems. Its tools analyze further, building summarized results, changing sort orders and adding data groups. You can filter groups that appear, create charts in 80-plus styles or drill down to the result's details.

It's possible to schedule report runs according to your business calendar, and run specified reports on a recurring basis. You can restrict when users can run certain reports or set reports to run automatically after a predefined event, such as a database refresh.

All of Crystal Reports' power is here, from creating calculated fields to building custom date formats. You can quickly create SQL statements for commonly performed queries such as getting sum, average, minimum, maximum and count values of fields. Queries are run on the server, reducing network traffic and increasing processing speed.

Crystal Info runs a report only once, even if two or more users accidentally schedule it.

You can build in report access levels with Crystal Info's security tools, and let users create powerful ad hoc queries, build and schedule reports, view or delete results. The Info Desk administrator can step in to prevent "runaway" queries, where a user specification error would result in too much returned data.

A custom Info View, or "meta abstraction layer," predefines accessible databases, gives fields new, more descriptive names and preestablishes table links. It simplifies report writing, for minimal IS involvement.

Crystal Info's Report Experts help create reports and export results to other applications. Experts use Smart Linking to identify potential table links.

Crystal Info packs just about every data analysis tool an administrator needs.

The documentation, while well done, is skimpy. But this is an excellent choice for extracting and sharing precious data.

--Info File-
Crystal Info 4.5
$350 per user (5-user minimum)
Pros: Breadth of features
Cons: End-user documentation
Platforms: Windows 95, 3.1x, NT
Disk space: 35MB
RAM: Desktop, 8MB; server, 16MB
Crystal Services
800-877-2340, 604-681-3435
WinMag Box Score:4.5

Corel CD Creator 2

Spin Your Own CDs

By James Bell

Corel's CD Creator software has offered the simplest way to record your own CDs. It retains that distinction in its second iteration while adding more extensive features-and a higher price tag.

CD Creator 2 makes extensive use of Wizards to walk you through the CD creation or duplication process. You select directories and files with the browser, or drag and drop them from Explorer.

I tested a beta version of the package with Sony's Spressa CSP-9211S external double-speed CD-Recordable drive.

CD recording is usually a slow process where making even a tiny mistake can ruin a disc and force you to start over. But CD Creator 2 did an excellent job monitoring my selections and advising me beforehand of potential problems.

In addition to data CDs, CD 2 can produce audio, mixed-mode, Photo CD, Video CD and CD Plus discs. The program tests your equipment for proper operation and warns you if file information is inaccurate. You can simulate a recording session as a final error check before creating your CD.

You can move frequently accessed files closer to the CD's center for better performance. But CD Creator 2 doesn't simulate CD performance, an aid in file placement.

Corel includes a disc duplication Wizard, sound editor and music database, plus utilities for creating Video CDs, playing MPEG files and converting .AVI files to MPEG.

At $495, CD Creator 2 has almost doubled from the original price, making it less of a bargain, but it's still the best choice for nonprofessional CD-ROM authors.

--Info File--
CD Creator 2
$495 (upgrade $99)
Pros: Ease of use
Cons: Lacks some high-end tools
Platforms: Windows 95, NT
Corel Corp.
800-772-6735, 613-728-3733
WinMag Box Score:4.0
Back to April 1996 Reviews
Up to Table of Contents
Ahead to April 1996 Recommended