Article Archives 1 (A-N)
ABC Graphics Suite
Finishes, Go with the Flow, or Draw, Pardner!
PC users who
think that powerhouse Corel has the graphics suite for Windows 95 market
locked up had better think again.
attack on the CorelDRAW! 6.0 package is an admittedly scaled down product,
ABC Graphics Suite. Yet while it doesn't give you some of the stuff you
get with the Corel package, like a zillion fonts (you "only"
get 250), and programs that do 3D animation, presentations, and the like,
it offers something Corel doesn't: the suite interfaces directly with
Microsoft Office - you can even add buttons for some of its applications
right onto your Office toolbars.
To be fair,
we shouldn't really call ABC Graphics Suite scaled down, because it's
only scaled down if you compare it with the multitude of stuff you get
with CorelDRAW! And, really, most people will never use a lot of what
you get from Corel. So by offering you a little bit less, Micrografx also
lowers the package's price to an estimated $300 US
For that, you
can create illustrations, 3D graphics and flowcharts, and do image editing.
You also get a book full of some 20,000 clipart images and 7500 photos,
though Corel does a better job of presenting its clipart: ABC's "thumbnails"
are in black and white and there's no table of contents or index, which
makes finding graphics a bit of a chore. You also have to import much
of the clipart in bunches, which means you have to delete some of the
images you've imported once they're on screen.
But you don't
buy a package like this for its clipart - you buy it for what you can
do with the software itself, and you can do lots with ABC Graphics.
The Suite comes
with Micrografx Designer 6.0 (the "draw" program), ABC FlowCharter
6.0, Picture Publisher 6.0 (the image manipulation program) and ABC Media
Manager 6.0. The applications are fast, make full use of OLE functions
like drag and drop, and in-place editing. The programs load and operate
quickly and the interfaces are functional and easy to figure out, for
the most part.
So, for all
but the heavy duty power user, ABC Graphics Suite has enough features
to let you do most jobs required of such software.
says it's aiming the Suite at users of Microsoft Office, which makes sense
considering the way the suite configures. But you don't have to own Office
to use it; in fact, you may never take advantage of the toolbar buttons
it puts into Office.
If you're like
the people around here, you like to work on your design in its native
application, then move it into its final resting place, which could be
generated in Office or any number of other applications.
those creations into the other apps is easy, because ABC is a full 32
bit suite that takes advantage of the Windows 95 operating speed, long
filenames, shortcuts, multitasking etc.
We really liked
the online help in the graphics suite. When you click on a tool's button,
not only do the rest of the toolbar buttons change to reflect the type
of work you've chosen to do (drawing, text manipulation, dimensioning,
or whatever), but a little box also gives you a quick description of what
you're doing. This help is great; you get helpful hints regardless of
where the cursor is, and the help is in the context of where your cursor
Picture Publisher allow you to do projects similar to what you can accomplish
(as well as other packages like Illustrator and PhotoShop) so we won't
dwell on all those nifty features. Again, ABC Graphics' capabilities aren't
as all-encompassing as those other packages, but it's close enough for
most purposes or tasks.
We didn't think
Picture Publisher did a great job of anti-aliasing bitmaps that you've
stretched, but other than that we thought it worked just fine. Likewise,
Designer's text layout capabilities fall far short of CorelDRAW's (in
that you won't really want to write and lay out a magazine with it), but
since the program is designed to work with Microsoft Office (hence Word
7), this point may be moot.
6.0 lets you design organizational charts and that type of thing. The
new version includes a new "data analyzer module" that uses
Wizards, and data fields can be loaded into the module automatically.
You get 60 shapes to use, and intelligent line routing simplifies the
ABC Media Manager
gives you drag and drop access to the clipart, though we found it wasn't
particularly intuitive and we usually ended up importing/exporting straight
into or out of Designer or Picture Publisher.
Long and Short
We found the
ABC Graphics Suite to be a reasonably powerful performer that works pretty
much as advertised. We liked the way it works hand in hand with Microsoft
Office (even though that wasn't our preferred way of using it - we liked
it as a standalone) and the fact that it's an affordable alternative to
the Corel suite. While it isn't as complete as Corel's product, it's capable
of doing most of what you'd want to do with CorelDRAW or PhotoPaint, the
heart of the Corel package.
suite requires a 486 DX or higher IBM compatible PC running Windows 95
(or Windows NT 3.5.1). You also need a minimum of 8 meg of RAM (16 recommended),
30 meg of hard drive space, a CD ROM drive, pointing device, and VGA display.
and possibly peerless
phones, in fact telephones in general, have come a long way. But one thing
that's been missing - and that would be a real boon to the home office-
is the two line cordless phone.
Some home businesses
like to use that second line to separate the business from the home, whether
it be for the fax and/or data line, or just to make sure your long distance
phone bills are separated properly to make 'em easy to keep track of.
But most two line phones still keep you attached to the base unit with
that damn wire, which means you can't wander around the house while using
the phone. And what's the point of working out of your home if you don't
have the freedom to unchain yourself from your desk. Or what happens when
you're on the phone but need to find something that may not be exactly
within arm's reach? There's been a distinct void in this field.
model 5552 (approx. $150 US) fits nicely into that niche. It's a fully-featured,
cordless, two line speakerphone that performs with the best of the conventional
wireless phones (as opposed to the 900 MHz phones, which are better yet)
we've used. With a couple of exceptions
We tested it
in a real home office situation, to make it as fair a trial as possible,
and were for the most part very impressed. Thanks to AT&T's "Clarity
Plus" circuitry, you get a very quiet phone. We sat the base unit
within inches of a computer, and it didn't cause any interference in the
sound quality at all. We even tried a "torture test" by sticking
our heads between the monitor and the tower, each being about four inches
from the handset, and there was no appreciable loss of quality. So on
that point, the 5552 does an excellent job.
however, it didn't seem to perform any better than its competition. That's
not really a flaw, though; most cordless phones are pretty good. The 10
channel capability is also pretty standard, as is the little button you
can press to switch channels manually. It worked fine, mostly, though
we experienced some noise in different areas of the home. Sometimes changing
channels would clear it up - sometimes it wouldn't, so we'd score the
5552 as typical in this area.
And as a speakerphone
the 5552 is also typical. It works fine, but as with most speakerphones
the person at the other end gets the impression you're talking to him
from the inside of a toilet tank. Granted, today's speakerphones are a
lot better than the ones of a few years ago, but they're still not good
enough. Naturally, if you've sat the base unit too close to the computer,
it'll pick up the noise from its fan much, much worse than if you were
using the handset in the same place.
we weren't particularly concerned with its speakerphone performance. As
a rule, we think the speakerphone function should only be used while you're
on hold or dealing with voice mail systems; when talking with a human
being you give the impression you're not paying attention, or don't care,
which we feel is rude.
call is a notable exception to this rule of thumb, of course, and the
5552's two line speakerphone capacity lets up to four people network at
a time, one person calling in on each line, one person on the 5552's handset,
and one on the speakerphone. This is a nice bit of flexibility.
we liked was the redundant dial keypad: you can dial from either the handset
or the base unit, which is exactly as it should be - but usually isn't.
The buttons on the base unit are a bit small, but they're spaced widely
enough that it almost makes up for this.
features include a volume control and "directory card" (for
keeping track of your stored "speed dial" numbers) on the handset,
2 way page and intercom and a handset locator that helps you track the
thing down when you inevitably leave it someplace and forget about it.
A volume control
is mounted on the base unit, too.
a lighted dial, but it isn't that lighted. Still, it's better than nothing
and more than we expected.
was fine, though we never ran it down in the first place - we kept it
stored on the base unit when not wandering around (that was where we used
it most of the time anyway).
redial works well, and of course you can redial from either line.
You can only
store 9 phone numbers into memory, which is a lot fewer than some phones.
We didn't have a problem with this, though, especially since we could
also dial out on the second line from the numbers stored in the computer's
All's not sweetness
and light with the model 5552, however. There were a couple of things
that annoyed us.
you're using the handset to talk on one line and a call comes in on the
other, it rings both in your ear and in the ear of the person with whom
you're already conversing. We don't know how this could be gotten around
(short of it not ringing for the second call, which kind of defeats the
purpose of the second line!), but we still didn't like it.
We also didn't
care for the "off" button (on both handset and base) you press
to disconnect from the call, for either line. We'd have rather been able
to hang up by pressing of the "Line one" or "Line 2"
button a second time than have to find a separate button. This is more
a matter of preference than a design or manufacturing flaw, though. Some
of the people who used the phone were perfectly happy with the "Off"
button - but the majority didn't like it. Still, it's a pretty small criticism
and it certainly didn't impede our enjoyment of the phone.
The other problem
we had was intermittent, fortunately, because it was much more serious.
Periodically, the phone would just shut down and refuse to work. It usually
didn't happen while we were using it, though it did a couple of times.
When it decided to take a siesta it would just be dead when we picked
up the handset or pressed the speakerphone button. And nothing we could
do would wake it up. We shook it, yelled at it (we stopped short of throwing
water on it - for obvious reasons), but nothing would work.
A while later,
however, it would function just fine - as if nothing had been wrong. It
was very frustrating when it happened, but fortunately it didn't happen
often. It did make us wonder if there's a design flaw in this phone, however.
we took all things into consideration, we liked this phone a lot. The
two line, cordless aspect of it is a powerful selling point; the rest
of the handy features are gravy. And we're confident that the occasional
problem of it becoming comatose would be covered by AT&T's warranty
service, though we didn't try that part out.
boiling - and splattering - Road Action
it the racing game for the chemically imbalanced, and that says it all.
If you like
driving simulations, but find they don't satisfy your craving for senseless
violence, then Carmageddon may be just the game you've been seeking. It's
packed with full-throttle, pedal to the metal driving action, with enough
mayhem thrown in to satisfy the most desensitized gamer.
is like a rally race simulator, except that you're only going to succeed
if you manage to take as many pedestrians and other vehicles (but especially
pedestrians) with you as you can. If you have impressionable youngsters
you don't want exposed to the sort of game you keep hearing about - this
is the sort of game you keep hearing about.
you're a little more comfortable with blood and guts being splattered
across your windshield, well friend, strap yourself in for some pulse
pounding people pounding.
It's kind of
like Doom meets Andretti Racing.
is set in a reasonably fictional near future and the object of the race
is to survive and flourish. You fight your way across 36 different tracks
in five different environments, careening off any of the other vehicles
with whom you're competing. You'll have to drive across snowscapes, cityscapes,
construction sites, and underground tunnels in a well-rendered 3D environment
that whizzes by your virtual vehicle so fast you'll be on that next sharp
corner before you have a chance to think about it. If you aren't careful,
you'll slam hood first into a concrete abutment, slide off a high ledge,
or find out halfway around an apparent loop the loop that - PC game or
not - the laws of gravity still apply.
into a stationary object like scenery is nothing compared to the battering
you can take from your opponents. They'll be on you before you know it
if you're not careful to avoid them, and they want to waste you and your
vehicle as much as you're supposed to want to waste them.
the game using the keyboard to control our vehicle, and it was lots of
fun. But when we attached a real racing wheel to our game port, the action
came positively alive. Using the steering wheel you get incredible skid
recovery capability and, though we haven't tried it on our city streets
lately, it felt very real indeed.
If you get
off the track, you have the whole 3D environment to drive around in, which
may not garner you all the points you want, but which can certainly be
entertaining. It's easy to get lost, too - but fortunately there's a map
that'll let you know just how far off course you've gotten yourself.
that impressed with Carmageddon's graphics when we first installed it,
but discovered that the game's so fast moving that you scarcely notice
it.. And the action more than makes up for it. As mentioned, the feel
is very good.
can win Carmageddon three different ways: you can pass all the checkpoints,
hit all the pedestrians, or climb from 99th to 1st place in the standings.
Our experience was that we couldn't pass all the checkpoints on most levels
in the time provided, so we had to mow down our allotment of pedestrians
because doing that extends your time limit. Diabolical.
there's a multi-player mode as well which lets you play against up to
aside, Carmageddon is one heck of a hoot to play. The driving experience
is terrific, the tracks are a lot of fun to figure out, and the fact that
you can wind down from a frustrating day at the office by pretending to
run down all the jerks you've met during the day only adds to the game's
chemically imbalanced, too.
A classic game
has been re-tooled for the 1990's.
Civilization" was one of the most popular titles of yore and, even
though it's now "technologically challenged," it's still a terrific
opportunity for would be Napoleons to practice their strategy.
II, Microprose Software is seizing the opportunity to wring a new generation
of sales from this old generation game. "II" recreates all that
was great about "I," adding today's expected multimedia razzle
dazzle for good measure.
your empire starts with the founding of your first city and spreads across
the globe like a plague, meeting and - eventually - fighting other civilizations
to the death. As you grow, your "wise people" discover new sciences
or technologies, adding to you strength and knowledge; you can also build
Wonders of the World. The object is to advance your civilization to as
high a level of sophistication as possible while ridding the world of
competing civilizations. They should call it the Game of Life
between Civilization I and II are mostly form, rather than substance.
The new graphics are far superior, as is the audio (though the music's
annoying). The world map is now 3D (like the one in "SimCity 2000"),
there's a menu of musical themes from which to choose, and video sequences
play when you finish building a Wonder. The latter's more of a distraction
than anything, though. Fortunately, a mouse click sends the movie to electronic
oblivion, allowing you to get on with the game.
II lets you form cooperative alliances with other cultures (before stabbing
them in the back, of course), develop more technology than before and
there's even a sixth level of difficulty - Deity - which will undoubtedly
send you very quickly back to a more "down to earth" level:
the object is not, after all, to see your people wiped from the face of
the Earth within minutes.
system has also been expanded, and you can add many more improvements
to your cities, including sewage, supermarkets and an airport.
In short, Civilization
II gives you Civilization I, Plus. And that's exactly what it should offer
the millions of customers who lapped up Sid Meier's first classic over
the years. As a sequel, it offers more for your disposable income than
some of the other "Parts II" on the market today. For example,
Descent II, while a terrific game, was released close enough on the heels
of Descent that you don't see much new technology leaping off the screen
at you (the advances are more subtle), except for its terrifically-rendered
was a technological dinosaur, and the sequel brings it up to date, making
it competitive in today's extremely crowded computer games marketplace.
It's also fun.
II is available just about anywhere that sells computer games.
is targeting multimedia makers with "Click & Create," an
authoring tool that lets you make glitzy digital brochures, screen savers,
Click & Create
(Windows 3.1, 95, NT) is easy to use - for the most part. But the documentation
and online help are pretty sparse, which means youll get lots of
trial and error experience while learning how to use the product.
The software comes
on two CD-ROMs and includes the usual Corel cornucopia of extras
in this case clip art, animations, sounds, and even an abundant
selection of frame-to-frame transitions.
Developing your project
is done via "frames" and "storyboards." You start
in the "Storyboard Editor" screen (above), which displays thumbnails
of all the screens in your masterpiece. Clicking next to a frame loads
it into the "Frame Editor" (below), where you actually assemble
each screen - by adding a background, typing in your text, and inserting
whatever artwork and animations you want. Later, you switch to the "Event
Editor" and add the interactive elements that bring your project
to life. This interactivity can include mouse clicks, joystick controls,
the activation of audio or video clips, etc.
youve clicked and created a project, you save it as a standalone
application. Then, when your clients receive your floppy disk, they just
run the "Setup" utility Click & Create includes, install
the program to their hard drive, double click the icon, and marvel at
your creative genius.
Click & Create
comes with both 16 and 32 bit versions, and users of Windows 95/NT will
obviously want to run the 32 bit program. Be careful, though: if you do
that your work will be unusable to those whore still saddled with
Windows 3.1, and that means a huge segment of your audience will be frustrated
with your presentation, instead of blown away by it.
We created a nifty
multimedia brochure with the 32 bit version, then had to install the 16
bit program to make it "old Windows compatible." This created
software conflicts that meant neither version of Click & Create worked
We ended up uninstalling
both versions, then re-installing them together. This worked fine
but running the 32 bit file in the 16 bit Click & Create would cause
the onscreen text to disappear once the screens had loaded. We had to
translate the 32 bit brochure into 16 bits by running both versions of
Click & Create simultaneously, then copying and pasting between them.
From then on we worked in the 16 bit version.
You can get beautiful
results with Click & Create and, once youre used to it, its
quite straightforward to use. But we wish Corel could have included a
"Save as 16 bit" option in the 32 bit program so you can best
exploit your own computer while clicking and creating something any Windows
user can view.
| Check out the rest of TechnoFILE's features,
from Audio/Video & Home Theater to Computer Hardware & Software, Gadgets,
Guides, Letters, News, Advice, and Lots More.
TechnoFILE is copyright © and a registered trademark ® of Pandemonium
No part of this magazine may be reprinted without the express written
consent of the publishers. Sodrop us a line if you want to use
And for information on TechnoFILE's advertising opportunities, send an E-mail here.
Point, yes - fast?
FTG Data Systems
FastPoint is a light pen that replaces your mouse so you can interact
directly with the monitor as if it were a touch screen.
we thought, "especially for illustration and paint programs."
What better way to draw besides a graphics tablet, perhaps - than
by actually drawing with a pen? So we begged for a demo unit and salivated
The FastPoint hooks
between your monitor and the computer, and occupies the serial port usually
claimed by your mouse. Another version uses an ISA expansion slot, but
our test computers slots are stuffed with other goodies so we needed
the serial model.
Calibration is easy;
the software paints a line along each edge of the screen in succession,
and you just run the pens point along the line until it disappears.
joy of anticipation came nowhere near the actual pleasure of using the
FastPoint. In fact, we quickly pined for our more familiar mouse.
The first thing they
have to do is get rid of the connecting wire, which catches on the edge
of the keyboard, wrist rest, anything nearby. It may not be as bad if
you use the little holster that comes with the FastPoint; it attaches
to your monitor and holds the pen out of the way, but since we were only
borrowing the beast, we didnt want to use up FTGs stickum
and left the pen parked on the keyboard.
The second thing they
need to do is make the thing work better when there are dark colors on
screen. Its okay when the background is light, but if youre
trying to paint it black (or even a darker shade of pale), the pen slows
down or stops working. Theres a "screen flood" feature
for Windows 95 thats supposed to correct this, but well still
take a mouse it doesnt care what colors youre using.
And since the version
we tried replaces your mouse, you need to replace the mouse buttons. Left
clicking is accomplished by pressing the pen onto the screen, while right
clicking requires you to hold down the "ALT" key while pressing
onto the screen. Alternatively, you can click the onscreen "virtual
button" the FastPoint installs. Neither ways particularly handy
We found another unexpected
"drawback" while drawing and painting: when working closely,
especially pixel-by-pixel, your hand and the pen get in the way and you
cant see what youre doing!
FastPoint, at least
for us, also seems to encourage bad posture. Every one of us found ourselves
leaning into the screen with our elbows on the desk, a habit that would
make our mothers cry after all their hard work.
Dont get us
wrong. We love the FastPoints concept, but having lived with it
we wouldnt spend $400 US on it. Yet.
Maybe next time around.
Do you suffer
neck spasms from staring down at your desk-mounted computer monitor?
wants you. No, they aren't Chiropractors; they want to sell you
their "CD Monitor Deck," a plastic stand that raises your monitor
four inches off the desktop. The extra elevation doesn't seem like a lot,
but it lets you look more directly at the screen, keeping your head erect.
This could make a difference in your long term comfort.
the stand holds 21 CD-ROM's, organizing them right in front of you, within
easy reach, and it's awfully nice being able to actually find your favorite
disks for a change. The only drawback is that, depending how close you
like your monitor to be, your keyboard (if it sits on your desktop) might
make it a bit difficult to get at the bottom rows of disks. This isn't
a big deal, though.
at eye level, my fifteen inch screen actually seems bigger; the stand
supports 19 inch monitors weighing 32 kilograms, making it a visual treat
for desktop publishers and game players alike!
Here's a gadget
we were just dying to try. You see, our office is cursed with dust and
cat hair (not only do we have lots, we never seem able to get rid of it
all) that has caused a series of mouses (?) to clog up, refusing to let
us drag and drop till we drop.
Glidepoint, a little pointing device you drag your finger across
instead of dragging yourmouse across the desktop. With no little ball
to get fouled up, the only moving parts being the two buttons you click,
we figured it might be the greatest thing for our environment since sliced
is a breeze to hook up. All you have to do, for the average computer,
is unplug your current mouse and plug in the Glidepoint. Even I
could do that! It runs right from the installed drivers on your computer,
too, for the most part; if it doesn't you also get the appropriate software,
including a tutorial, on a floppy disk.
lay of the land
On the desk,
Glidepoint mounts with the buttons on the bottom, closest to you. This
is a 180 degree change from what you're probably used to with your mouse,
and it requires some major getting used to. The thing can also accept
taps of your finger as well as clicks on the buttons.
across which you glide your finger is a little square about 1½
by 2¼ inches, which initially seems excessively small. Actually,
it probably is, but you can control the speed sensitivity to make up for
most of that shortcoming. It's easy to set it so you can drag the cursor
from opposite top to bottom corners, but it always has a kind of claustrophobic
feel to it and we found ourselves moving so quickly we had a new problem:
overshooting our destination and slamming whatever we were dragging into
the edge of the screen. Fortunately, little damage was done.
We were a bit
worried that putting continued pressure on the finger pad would end up
leaving permanent depressions in it. This would have been very depressing:
we'd had an experience like that with a flat-faced calculator some years
back that ended up with more holes in its face than the most prolific
As it turned
out our fears were groundless. Very little, in fact virtually no, pressure
is required from your finger on the surface. In fact, it's so sensitive
we often found ourselves grabbing and dragging objects we didn't want
to grab and drag, which tended to wreak havoc on our desktop and our work.
We got very used to the "UNDO" command while using the Glidepoint.
If you load
Glidepoint's "mouse" driver, you get several different options.
You can set the contraption to restore the 'buttons-on-top' configuration
you know and love, by reversing buttons and flipping the unit over, but
then the wire runs out of the left side, which may not be as convenient.
There are also shortcuts and a few other wrinkles, but we found the straight
Microsoft Mouse driver we ran through Windows to be the best compromise.
we preferred keeping the buttons on the bottom was that since you run
your fingertip across the flat, gray surface to move the cursor, and the
index finger was the finger of choice, it was much more comfortable using
the thumb to click the left button. That made clicking the right button
more than a trifle uncomfortable, and we never really did get quite used
So if you're
running Windows 95 or applications that give you a lot of right button
flexibility, Glidepoint will be more or less a waste of these features.
We found it generally as quick, and much easier, to zip up and use the
menu bar for those features, as if there were no right button at all.
Playing a game with a mouse can be pretty rewarding, but the Glidepoint
really fell down there. Trying to control your movements in something
like Doom or Dark Forces was pointless (but not clickless!) and we quickly
tired of it, going back to using the keyboard.
It was also
a challenge to use in programs like CorelDRAW!, which require some accuracy
of pointer control. The tutorial that comes with the unit says you can
roll your fingertip on the thing's surface for fine positioning, but we
didn't like that and think that, like tapping the surface to click instead
of using a button, it could lead to those permanent depressions on the
using the Glidepoint did teach us the value of keyboard shortcuts. In
fact, it was so much faster using "Ctrl-x" to cut (and the other
keyboard commands) that we're permanently spoiled and even a return to
a conventional mouse won't make us go back to just dragging and clicking.
So our experience
with the Glidepoint wasn't the happiest time of our life. Does that mean
it's a product without any redeeming social value? No.
will shine is in conjunction with a laptop or notebook computer. Its tiny
footprint means you can take it with you easily and use it almost anywhere.
It's at least as good as some of those chintzy "mouse compatible"
devices they stick on the little computers. When asked to compete with
the likes of trackballs that fall off the side of the keyboard or little
"pencil nib" projections from just above the 'home row' of keys,
it aquits itself admirably. In fact, a couple of major notebook makers
are now offering a Glidepoint-like device on their wares, and in this
environment it should work just fine.
But as a full-time
"mouse substitute" for your primary computer, we can't recommend
us wiping tears from our eyes and looking for a better mini-vacuum to
get all that damn hair and dust away from the desk again.
How do You spell relief?
this tutorial will also be helpful to new users of Windows 98, though
some of the interface is different.)
Here's a cool
way to make the transition from no computer to Windows 95 (or from DOS
to Win 95). Electric Eye Entertainment Corporation has unleashed this
80 minute video "Windows 95 Without Headaches," and it's a pretty
fair introduction to the new operating system.
that, it's also an intro to the Windows concept itself, so even if you've
never used Windows 3.1 or 3.11, this video can help make you feel more
comfortable pointing and clicking your way around your monitor screen.
on this videocassette, right from the box (which proudly claims the tutorial
is "magnetically coated & easy to swallow"). The company
claims it used award-winning comedy writers to produce its script and,
while we might argue that point, the lighthearted touch is welcome and
doesn't get bogged down in silliness (much) or inanities.
is used extensively to help illustrate concepts, including onscreen icons
- that appear when a particular topic is being covered - telling you if
this is a new feature to Windows 95, a longtime Windows convention, or
whatever. There's even an "acronym buster" icon that appears
whenever the subject matter is in danger of degenerating into 'technish'
and quickly explains (in virtually layman's terms) what it is they're
This conductor is prone to popping up periodically, pointing out particular
or peculiar parameters people might appreciate being apprised of.
meat in this video to keep novice and more experienced user interested,
though if you're already comfortable with Windows 95 and are looking for
more detailed info on some of its more complex features you'll be out
of luck. That's 'cause this video is only Part One in a series; an "extra
strength" sequel should contain the more complex stuff seasoned Windows
however, the video still covers plenty of space, from basics like how
to open and close windows, adjusting your mouse and keyboard (there's
a nice tour of the Control Panel), installing hardware and software, and
file management. You're given a nice overview of Windows Explorer (we
even learned a few things we probably should have known anyway, but had
never bothered to try) and an introduction to the Briefcase feature that
lets you keep current files on more than one computer without getting
hopelessly confused over which one's the most up-to-date.
A nice wrinkle
is an overview of how to get help in the Windows environment. This might
not seem like a big deal, but if you've ever been frustrated trying to
find something in the help menus, you might be pleased at this feature.
You even learn how
to format disks, manage files, exploit the clipboard, use shortcuts and
the accelerator keys. It's a good introduction.
values are good; Electronic Eye Entertainment has put a few bucks into
this: it's not one of these talking-head-sitting-at-a-computer tutorials
that look like they were shot in someone's home office.
In short, "Windows
95 Without Headaches" is a worthwhile tool if you've just embraced
this operating system and are unsure where to begin. Even if you use the
old Windows, you can use this as a way to familiarize yourself for the
inevitable upgrade (and it'll happen to you some day!).
We look forward
to volume two
95 Without Headaches" sells for $19.95 US.
this tutorial will also be helpful to new users of Windows 98, though
some of the interface is different.)
A Whip-snapping Time Waster
has come up with a nifty new way to kill time.
Jones and His Desktop Adventures" ($20, for Windows), is a cute little
game that lets you be Lucas/Spielberg's famed action hero, without squandering
more than an hour per adventure.
As a "desktop
adventurer," it's your job to guide Doctor Jones through what's actually
a series of "short stories" set in Mexico during the 1930's.
LucasArts says there are millions of possible paths that take you toward
fifteen different quests. And, though each game looks much like the last,
the adventures are set up randomly and there's always enough difference
between adventures to throw a monkeywrench into your natural born cockiness.
Brody sets up each adventure, outlining the "crisis du jour"
(unless he's been kidnapped and is himself the subject of the quest),
after which you grab your bullwhip and sally forth in search of lost relics
and not-nearly-lost-enough bad guys.
Along the way
you'll barter for artifacts or other items that'll help you solve the
mystery. One of the first things you'll want to do is find a map of the
playing area, because it can be a real pain keeping track of where you've
been if you don't have it in your inventory, especially since each game
is slightly different from the last in its layout as well.
And watch your
step! There are Nazis, spiders, and snakes galore, and you know how much
Indy likes them
with other characters, and they're in abundance, is via "speech balloons"
similar to those in comic books.
first desktop-based game, "Indy" fits well with such Windows
office favorites as Solitaire and Hearts in that it's ideal for playing
during slow periods at the office, over lunchtime, or on the road.
Adventures" comes on a single floppy disk and, despite that comparatively
minuscule amount of data, you get a pretty neat game. The graphics are
admittedly not on a par with most of the CD-ROM games of today, but they're
good enough for what's needed here. There's also minimal sound: a synthesized
version of the "Indiana Jones" musical theme, and assorted weapon
and/or action sounds, like thuds or "oofs."
You can shut
off the sound and hide the game in the background - much to the chagrin
of employers everywhere - so you can look like you're hard at work when
the boss checks up on you. Unless your boss is familiar with Windows 95
(if you're running that), of course, and can pick out the minimized icon
on the taskbar.
simplicity of "Indiana Jones and His Desktop Adventures" can
turn you off initially if you're used to the latest multimedia masterpieces.
Don't be fooled, though; this is a well thought out game that's more than
capable of letting you happily while away many otherwise productive hours
as you chase down priceless trinkets and evil scientists. And the brevity
of the scenarios ensures you won't have time to get bored
Read all about
absolutely knocked my socks off when I looked through the table of contents.
It's easy to see why...
of the Future - Third Edition" is jammed with about 1750 works of
literature, history, science, religion, you name it. Designed to run under
either DOS or Windows, it's probably the greatest reference library a
family can have without adding an extra wing to the house.
You get Aesop's
fables and fairy tales by both Hans Christian Andersen and the Brothers
Grimm. Beowulf is here, as is the Hippocratic Oath, the U.S. Declaration
of Independence and Constitution. The list goes on: the Magna Carta, the
King James Bible, the Koran, the Egyptian Book of the Dead, Casey at the
Bat, Ben-Hur, War and Peace, Shakespeare's works, Conan Doyle's works,
Frankenstein and Dracula, Uncle Tom's Cabin.
Alice in Wonderland,
Through the Looking Glass, Wizard of Oz, Gulliver's Travels, Don Quixote,
Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. Get the point? If you can think of something
that could possibly be in the public domain, it's probably here in this
You even get
illustrations and a few video clips! All for $149 U.S.! Why this collection,
if sold separately in stores (not to sound like a K-Tel ad!) would cost
thousands of dollars and take years to collect.
All this gushing
doesn't mean "The Library of the Future" is without flaw, however.
But it's such an outstanding value that it's easy to over look them.
We still have
to talk about 'em, though! First, while you can search by word, subject,
phrase, date etc., it's not the most sophisticated search engine you can
find and you might find it frustrating at times. But only a little.
And the whole
shebang is a gigantic text file, through which you scroll up and down.
It would have been nice (though probably not available for $149!) if the
viewing interface (i.e. the computer monitor) were set up like an old
fashioned book, and you could "page through" it from left to
right as you would with a real book. That's admittedly a pretty nitpicky
point, but it would have made the reading experience more enjoyable.
It would also
have been nice to have the illustrations appear in the text, as they would
with a real book. You have to go searching for them, though they're easy
enough to find.
that, however, you can also cut and paste the quotes or passages you want
and, to a certain extent, you can change the typefaces you're reading
to make it easier on your eyes. Of course, you can also print out your
favourite book or section, though it comes out as ASCII text, which isn't
as easy to read as one might like.
Still, a real
In short, this
is a work that every home should have. It's not only a terrific tool,
it's a way to catch up on all those classics you were supposed to read
in school, but opted for the "Cole's Notes" digest version instead.
And you know, there's a lot of good and enjoyable reading here that'll
keep you busy for years.
And if there's
ever a nuclear war, you've got Mankind on a disc, all ready to use in
the rebuilding process! Assuming, of course, that there's still electricity....
Gamers with a penchant
for exploration, colonization, and vaporization can take strategic warfare
to the M.A.X., thanks to Interplays new game.
M.A.X., short for
Mechanized Assault & Exploration, is set in a future in which Earth
has been ecologically destroyed (how original!) and humanitys remnants
have split into eight opposing clans. These gaggles build gigantic "generational
starships" to take their descendants to the strange new worlds their
probes discover for them.
than one clan is likely to claim a particular world, and neither is neighborly
enough to share.
off with a basic colony and as you wait for the inevitable conflict you
build factories to construct various types of vehicles, from scouts to
heavy duty ordnance. Youll also want a few gun turrets and the other
staples of a colony that just happens to be in the middle of a war zone.
You need to be strong
enough to make your opponents think twice about messing with you, though
chances are it wont take them long to think twice anyway, and you
might find your fledgling colony under attack before youre ready
I never did master
M.A.X.; even when I hamstrung my computerized opponents (via settings
in the options menu), they had a nasty habit of showing up at the most
inopportune times. More often than not, they provided me with the same
nasty surprises I was planning for them and very rudely blew my
hard-working colony into mounds of rubble that littered the planetary
It happened depressingly
quickly and depressingly often.
The gaming area is
a birds eye view of your new homeworld, and you can zoom in and
out to your hearts content, which is nice when youre trying
to find those pesky other folk before they find you. Secondary windows
include readouts that are supposed to help you cope.
If youve played
Warcraft II, youll find M.A.X.s concept familiar, though its
more like Dune 2 than the fantasy world of Warcraft II.
M.A.X. features 24
different worlds to conquer and exploit, and lots of different vehicles,
tactics, and campaigns from which to choose.
If it sounds tough,
it is. Fortunately, theres a generous series of training missions
that teach you the various ins and outs and I was grateful they
were there, for all the good they did me.
You can play up to
three computerized opponents at a time, if you have a death wish; up to
four people can duke it out over a network, and two can have at it via
Interplay says M.A.X.
will run on a 48666, but it got choppy at times on my Pentium 133
with 32 Meg of RAM and 6X CD-ROM.
Maybe it was just
slowing down to match my skill level
2: Mercenaries is the "prequel" to Activisions popular
Mechwarrior 2 computer game. Mercenaries (DOS/Windows 95) is set in a
time before Mechwarrior 2, before the development of the clans, but unlike
Mechwarrior 2, where you fight for your clans honour and survival
and your basic needs are taken care of for you, in Mercenaries your incentive
and reward is cold, hard cash!
There are three
different modes of play: you can manage a Mercenary outfit, be a member
of an established Mercenary outfit - which is basically the same
type of play as Mechwarrior 2 - or play individual missions (as opposed
to a tour of duty).
As the Boss,
youre responsible for the smooth operation of your company. You
choose your missions based on how much you get paid for them, and whether
or not there are bonuses.
your own Mech in combat, so you still get all the adrenaline youve
come to expect from the genre. The hard part comes when you return from
a mission: in Mechwarrior 2, you were automatically reloaded and repaired,
but now you have a business to run and a damaged Mech requires a certain
amount of money to repair and reload. Youd better hope you earn
enough dough to pay for it, or youll quickly go bankrupt!
A nice addition
to the game is the ability to salvage parts from damaged Mechs.
If you play
as a member of a Mercenary group, the game is more or less like Mechwarrior
2. You are assigned a mission to complete, you go out and fight, and you
complete it or die trying!
Your Mech is
repaired and reloaded, as in Mechwarrior 2, so if you dont want
to worry about the business side of things, you can devote all your effort
to blowing up your foes!
Action" is the third type of play. The big difference between this
and Mechwarrior 2s version is its flexibility. In Mercenaries, you
can choose from any Mech in the game, big or small, (as opposed to the
more limited choices of Mechwarrior 2) and there are a lot more of them.
"thermal view" of your Mech from Mercenaries)
You can also
pick your enemies Mechs (or have them picked at random), your type
of mission (attack, defend, etc.), and have nearly any kind of showdown
you like. This mode is great if you dont have time to start a tour
of duty, or if youre more into battle than politics and dont
care about the story.
virtually identical to the original, except for a few minor changes: for
example the light amplification view is now a thermal camera, and one
or two key controls have been moved. One feature that some of us missed
was "image enhancement" view, which made targets stand out (though
some hated it because it wasnt as realistic). One thing it was good
for, though, is speed: if your computer isnt up to snuff, its
much smoother and faster than the other graphics modes.
discovered that this mode is just disabled by default, but is still included
in the game - though youll have to find someone who knows how to
enable it (we found it through links at Activisions Mercenaries
web page). This is a life saver for older systems (DX4s and below)
because the 320x200 resolution is really crummy to use, and Mercenaries
is even more of a resource hog than Mechwarrior 2!
If you are
a fan of Mechwarrior 2, youve probably noticed the musical score.
We always thought the music went really well with the game; it was well
composed, upbeat, and overall one of the better musical scores for a simulation.
Mercenaries is a more aggressive score (which we liked because it
gets you riled up and thirsty for enemy blood), and reflects the Mercenarys
surly, self-centred viewpoint rather than the Clan members code
in this game are first rate, if you have the hardware. The graphics are
basically like those in Mechwarrior 2, with good depth perception, shading,
textures, etc, but are better rendered and smoother edged. There is more
detail to the Mechs and the buildings, too.
however, of the hardware youll need. As mentioned, if you have an
old DX2 or DX4, be ready to use the 320x200 resolution or enable the "image
enhancement," because even with all the detail turned off, Mercenaries
is noticeably more choppy than Mechwarrior 2 was. If you want to do it
justice, youll need a decent Pentium.
not joking! Weve run many programs that recommend a Pentium but
that ran with little or no problem on a DX4 with extra RAM, but this aint
one of em! If youre running Windows 95 (Both DOS and Win95
versions are on the same CD), youll want at least a Pentium 133,
and even then some of the detail must be turned off at 640x480 resolution
to keep it smooth. But if you have the resources for all the detail, Mercenaries
will knock your socks off!
If you liked
Mechwarrior 2, or if you like first person simulators with a "blow-up-everything"
theme, youll probably love Mechwarrior 2: Mercenaries.
you need a graphics suite but dont like the ultra power and high
cost of mighty packages like CorelDRAW or Adobe Illustrator, theres
a smaller, easier to manage suite you might like.
Business Graphics and Print Studio is not only a mouthful to say, its
a pretty good set of applications with which you can draw, paint, create
3D images and more, quickly and easily. And while it isnt as all-encompassing
as its larger competitors, thats okay because its aimed more
at the entrepreneur than the professional graphic artist.
(2 CD-ROMS for Windows 95/NT 4.0) lets you use Wizards to walk through
the creation process, as well as an abundance of ready-to-print designs
for things like business cards, letterhead, brochures, and such.
And if youre
more into tasks like creating landscape plans than the next Mona Lisa,
"SBGAPS" may suit you well.
Naturally, it also
comes with the requisite bundle of stuff, including some 20,000 clipart
pictures and photographs and 250 fonts. You also get a bunch of sample
logos, and support for the PaperDirect designs.
too. MicroGrafx tosses in ABC Media Manager, which lets you catalogue
your graphics, and the ABC QuickSilver application that lets you place,
view, and even edit Windows Draw files inside Web pages. And theres
a selection of sample Web pages, buttons and bullets to sweeten the deal.
the heart of the suite is Windows Draw 5, Picture Publisher 6, and Instant
3D.Draw 5s ready made designs include everything from business cards
and newsletters to Internet graphics (icons, buttons, dividers, logos,
etc.) and customizing them is point and click easy. Of course, you can
also throw caution to the wind and start a project from scratch, and Draw
does a pretty good job. Its fun, too, which makes the learning curve
much more pleasant.
With Picture Publisher
6 you can retouch photos to make them a little more, shall we say, newsworthy
(or correct defects in them), including adding nifty special effects.
You can use masks, manipulate a picture, and partake of most of the main
features of this type of software, though we didnt find Picture
Publisher as intuitive as Corels PhotoPaint.
Then again, weve
been using PhotoPaint for several years and only messed with Picture Publisher
for a short time.
As for Instant 3D,
it isnt an application wed use a lot, but we certainly had
fun playing with words - sort of visual, virtual punning. Instant 3D does
a neat job of extruding, adding bevels, and the like, and its reasonably
flexible so if youre looking for a quick and easy way to
make a 3D logo or picture, this may be a good choice.
The only real problem
we had with the suite was when we tried using the "buttons"
templates for Internet graphics in Draw: the program would crash on our
NT-equipped system. Everything else worked fine, though.
All in all, "SBGAPS"
is a bargain at the price, and while it may not have all the power of
its bigger brothers, it does manage to pack a lot of punch for relatively
Tell us at TechnoFile what YOU think