See a complete listing of this month's product reviews.
(Editor's Note: The WinMag Box Score: rates products on installation, usability, supporting materials, functionality, performance and utility. Our overall ratings follow this scale: 5,Outstanding or breakthrough product, best of its kind; 4, Exceeds expectations, superior to most competing products; 3, Works well, meets all our expectations, no major problems; 2, Has serious difficulties or limitations; 1, Has critical flaws. A list of recommended products follows the Reviews section.)Microsoft Exchange Server 4.0winlab REVIEWS/Software
By John J. Yacono
As King Solomon knew all too well, it's tough to please everyone. It's especially tough when the topic at hand is upgrading your network. C/S Solution Advisor manages to satisfy the communities' divergent agendas.
Solution Advisor will first analyze the network environment, reaching out even across server boundaries to examine all aspects of the network. The program then builds an analysis based on disk space needed for various file types, number of users, types of computers and other factors. The resulting report shows tables and graphic profiles of a network's computer systems, available memory, storage capacities, equipment age, potential for storage growth, and user and file compositions.
The network administrator can then use this information to better handle existing resources. The reports also detail areas where resources are lacking; IS professionals can use the data as a weapon in the ongoing battle to justify long-overdue upgrades.
CIOs and CFOs can pump this data, along with standard cost metrics bundled in the package, into Solution Advisor's Expert Inside cost-of-ownership engine to determine what it costs to own the current network, plus the cost of upgrades. Seven tabbed dialog boxes let you drill down to details.
You can alter any cost to reflect actual totals. You can project costs over the next three years based on your estimates of network growth, and view the "bottom line" of your projections on a single summary screen.
In simple cases, Solution Advisor could actually save the cost of a network consultant, especially since the reports are written in terms financial professionals will appreciate.
For the IT vendor, Solution Advisor is a great selling tool, making it a snap to show customers the current cost of network ownership.
All networks can be improved in some area. C/S Advisor's impressive level of detail makes finding that area much easier, especially if you can't always muster up the wisdom of Solomon.
C/S Solution Advisor
Pros: Ease of use; built-in estimates
Cons: Dearth of graphs
Platforms: Windows 95, 3.1x
407-260-5551, fax 407-260-6893
WinMag Box Score: 4.0
By Ellen DePasquale
DacEasy Accounting & Payroll 95 offers tremendous flexibility, but at a price. If you're an experienced and computer-savvy bookkeeper, the program's flexibility can translate into easy customization. But accounting novices may find themselves inadvertently "cooking the books."
DacEasy's menu structure differs from the typical accounting package. Instead of the expected accounts receivable, accounts payable and inventory modules, there are customer, vendor, invoice, purchase order and product modules. Each offers a great deal of information that can be easily sorted. You also can set criteria for including invoice date ranges and dollar amounts.
DacEasy assumes you have your accounting requirements well in hand and offers little or no help in determining which methods, such as cash or accrual accounting, you should use. Unless you make some judicious changes, for example, all transactions except for invoice and purchase orders will post when you enter them-in other words, by the cash method. You must specifically choose to include figures from your invoices and purchase orders by selecting Update Ledgers from DacEasy menus. This could lead to a problem if you forget to update some purchases or neglect to add an invoice. DacEasy doesn't check, or remind you to check, for nonposted transactions, even during end-of-period processing. If you're not careful, you could wind up with incomplete financial reports.
DacEasy includes a contact management system that lets you enter notes about each call you make or receive. A reminder window, invoked whenever you start DacEasy, will display all the notices you've set for that date. Unfortunately, action items not completed don't automatically forward to the next day.
DacEasy Accounting & Payroll 95
Price: $99 (street)
Pros: Flexible, powerful tools
Cons: Documentation; learning curve
Platforms: Windows 95, 3.1x, NT
Disk Space: 11MB
RAM: 4MB (8MB recommended)
WinMag Box Score: 2.5
By Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols
OLD PCs AND Windows 95 don't always go well together, particularly on a network. Before you put that thinnet noose around your neck, however, consider offering your Win95 users Artisoft's LANtastic for Windows 95-call it "LAN95" for short.
A robust, 32-bit peer-to-peer network operating system, LAN95 installs on and connects powerful new Windows 95 machines to anything from an 8088 DOS PC to Power Macs or a bulky NetWare server. Its cross-platform compatibility makes it a good choice for offices that can't settle on just one operating system.
LAN95 lets you use the resources of older DOS machines as if they were your own. Almost any arthritic 286, for example, can act as a print server, extending the unit's useful life long after it has stopped depreciating. In contrast, Win95's native peer-to-peer connections are limited to dedicated servers and machines running Windows 3.1x or later. The rest of your network, from Macs to WARPed systems, can access your Win95 system's hard drives and printers; a PC running LAN95 can see and share resources with any machine operating LANtastic 5.x or higher, including OS/2 units.
Interoperability isn't the only reason to go for LAN95. Unlike Win95's network security, which is anemic at best, LANtastic comes with a full, multiple-level security system that assigns individual security ratings from the file level on up.
LAN95 also has a speed advantage over Win95. In my informal tests connecting from a Win95 or a LAN95 networked system to a Novell NetWare 4.1 server, LAN95 performed file transfer operations about 10 percent faster than Win95. This advantage also held up when I connected to Windows for Workgroups systems.
Of course, Win95 peer-to-peer networking comes free with the operating system. LAN95, on the other hand, adds extra per-user costs that could wind up being an expensive proposition. A two-user starter kit ($349) comes with CD-ROM software, two Artisoft NICs (network interface cards) and cable. A similar kit for each additional user is $169. If you've already got the network hardware, software costs $119 per individual user license and drops to $72 per license for a 25-user pack.
Is LAN95 worth the price? If your network is solely Win95 and Windows NT PCs, no. For everyone else, the answer is yes.
LANtastic for Windows 95
Price: 2-user starter kit (NICs, cable and software), $349; each additional userkit, $169; software only, $72-$119 per user
Pros: Speed; allows networking of older PCs
Cons: Adds extra cost to Win95 networking
Platforms: Windows 95
Disk space: 6MB
WinMag Box Score: 3.5
By James E. Powell
WINDOWS drivers for color ink jet printers are, to put it politely, mediocre. Substitute those found in LaserTools' ColorFast, and you'll have far more control over the quality and speed of your color output.
The package lets you fine-tune print resolutions, the halftone pattern used and color settings such as brightness, contrast, saturation and RGB.
ColorFast 1.0 currently supports HP DeskJet 500C, 550C, 540, 560C, 600c and 660C printers, as well as Canon BJC 600, 600E, 610, 4000 and 4100. In addition, support for the HP 855C and Canon BJC-610 printers should be available when you read this.
ColorFast will speed printer performance, although my tests showed the degree of improvement depends on the model of printer, file type and settings you've chosen. My HP 660C printed an average of 20 percent faster with ColorFast drivers.
What's really stunning about a ColorFast upgrade is the print-quality improvement, which made me sit up and take notice. Reds are truer, for example. ColorFast also resolves detail-dropping, a common Win95 printer deficiency.
ColorFast's vastly superior color printing has a downside, however. It doesn't do nearly as well with monochrome output, such as business letter text; the quality isn't quite as good as with the original drivers. That's not much of a problem since Windows lets you switch between drivers.
If you rely on great color output from an ink jet printer, LaserTools could quite possibly be the best $40 you'll ever spend.
Price: $40 (street)
Pros: Improves output detail and color
Cons: May slightly degrade monochrome output; speed enhancement varies
Platforms: Windows 95, 3.1x
Disk Space: 200KB
510-420-1319, fax 510-420-1150
WinMag Box Score: 3.5
By Rich Castagna
Not too long ago, creating your own Web site took a fair amount of time and some serious bucks. Now you can peel a single C-note off your bankroll, buy a copy of QuickSite and become your own Web designer in about the time it takes to do the Sunday crossword puzzle.
You start your Web work with a wizard that guides you through the creation of an entire Web site--not just a single page. QuickSite's wizard gives you a choice of three starting points, each differing in complexity. Wherever you start, you can always go back and change elements or add detail.
As the wizard walks you through the process, you get to name your home page, choose a background and add other embellishments such as header and footer rulings and bullet styles. At the end of the wizard's trail, you end up with a tabular display that shows all the pages you created. Besides your home page, you can have menu, text and form pages. Double-click on a page to finish your design by adding text, images and links to other pages in your project or to other sites.
You do just about everything in QuickSite by point-and-click, but you can do down-and-dirty HTML coding, too. Better yet, use the pop-up menu to click on HTML commands without getting stuck on syntax or mistyping any of the language's arcane character strings. If you have existing HTML files that you want to include in your site, a toolbar button renders this a simple point-and-click operation as well.
When it's time to see the results of your Web-spinning, another toolbar button compiles your authoring efforts. Using your own browser, you check to see that every page is perfect. Then, click the Create Web Site Publishing Package box; QuickSite creates a new directory for you, depositing all site elements into it.
QuickSite comes with a library of page elements-like New! and Hot! starbursts, plus templates for order forms and guest books-that you add with a couple of clicks. As you develop your site, elements can be turned into a library and reused for other projects.
After using QuickSite, I wondered why DeltaPoint didn't call it "ClickSite." You don't need any Web authoring experience to build a site-as long as you know what you want to create and your mouse is within reach.
Pros: Wizard; speed; testing
Cons: Interface not always intuitive
Platforms: Windows 95 (16-bit), 3.1x
Disk space: 2MB
408-648-4000, fax 408-648-4020
WinMag Box Score: 3.5
By Joel T. Patz
CorelFLOW 3 is an eye-popper in more ways than one. Corel's Windows 95 diagramming tool gives truly professional results for business and technical users. Offering an incredible clip-art library, this CD-ROM can produce organization charts and flowcharts, family trees, schematics and space-planning layouts.
The software's developers have added an interesting twist: Symbols can become links to other diagrams, or connections to the World Wide Web when attached to URLs and activated in the program's new Project Viewer.
CorelFLOW offers drawing features such as multicolor fountain fills, shadows, text and color controls, plus new shape- and line-drawing tools. Object Transformation, a fancy name for creating new shapes from the overlapping area of two or more objects, makes it easy to create complex elements in a drawing without resorting to a freehand tool.
Layer control, vastly improved in this version, lets you create named layers of a drawing that can be individually locked, viewed independently or made invisible to speed up screen redraw and print times. At long last, CorelFLOW's line-routing function redirects connecting lines as objects move within a diagram. Corel has added a spell checker and Roget's Thesaurus, and adds a CorelFLOW 3 icon to the Microsoft Word for Windows 95 toolbar during setup.
About the only real downside to this program is the fact that its manual is little more than a clip-art catalog. Fortunately, an on-screen tutorial and a useful help feature will help you go with the flow.
Price: $199; upgrade $79
Pros: Tools; functions; libraries
Platforms: Windows 95
Disk space: 37MB
RAM: 8MB (16MB recommended)
800-772-6735 (U.S.), 613-728-3733
WinMag Box Score: 3.0