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August 2002, Week 2 -- See All, Know All

   

  Quick View Plus

   This is the cat's pajamas, the trick pony, the widget in the works that makes the wheels go round. It's "Quick View Plus 7." It lets you see and print the contents of files from just about any Windows program -- even if you don't have that program.

   It also preserves the formatting of the files, so you see them just as they were meant to be seen. Version 7 automatically reads and converts over 200 Windows file formats, including the strange unreadable emails we all get. It handles the common Microsoft Office programs, from any Windows version, and even odd file types like Adobe's FrameMaker and Microsoft's Visio.

 

   Even if you are still working with Windows 95, you can download and read files created in Windows XP. You can read and add to ZIP files -- files that have been compressed with the ZIP utility -- even if you don't have the ZIP utility. You can even create new ZIP files without having ZIP. And it's all zip-quick. (Sorry about that.)

 

   One user says Quick View Plus is so useful that when he's working on somebody else's computer he downloads the free trial version right away. Once the primary user sees what that trial version does, they generally buy a copy for themselves. The program is $39 from Jasc Software www.jasc.com.

 

    Jasc is an interesting story. It started as a provider of shareware. You know, one of those tiny outfits or individuals who provide programs that are either free or a small payment is requested, often on the honor system. They started with Jasc Paint Shop, which became so popular that the company is now a major software maker. It shows you can still do it that way.

 

In the groove

 

   "Groove" is a kind of operating system that fits into Windows. It creates what the maker calls "shared work spaces." It's as if a huge electronic meeting room has been created, and up to 99 people can be in it and share ideas and expertise. People in the room can read and edit text, discuss courses of action. You can share databases, calendars and project schedules.

  Groove

   You, the Groove user, can create a shared space any time you want. You invite others to join you in that space by sending out emails. You can restrict the files you share or make the room wide open.

   Pricing starts at $49 for a standard version, which concentrates on shared space for meetings and projects, and $99 per user for the professional version, with many more features. There are a lot of special "tools," as the software maker calls them, but the cost rises quickly as you add these. A trial version is available free from the web site: www.groove.net.

  

   The best guide to working with Groove is a $20 book from Que www.quepublishing.com. It's called "Groove 2.0," by Joe Levine. Curiously, Joe Levine is the same guy who wrote the user manual. Que and Sams Books, by the way, both concentrate on how-to books, and they're quite good at it.

Dirty Secrets

   A survey of computer repair technicians conducted by Falcon, a maker of cleaning supplies, found that 20 percent of problems are caused simply by dirty systems. Technicians reported finding heavy dust, screwdrivers, insects, and even litters of mice and other rodents inside the cases for computers and printers. Yuk.

 

Flash drives

Bellkin drive

   Belkin www.belkin.com  has a new 32MB (megabyte) flash drive for $80 list. It will probably sell for around $20 less than that from discounters.

   Flash drives are sometimes called "thumb drives" because they are about the size of a person's thumb. They plug directly into a USB port on either PCs or Macs and can accept and play back any digital information, including pictures and sound. There are several makers and some of the drives have a little loop at one end for attaching to a key ring. This one has both a loop and a shirt pocket clip. The drive does not require batteries or any special software; once plugged into a USB port, the computer sees it as a disk drive and treats it as such.

 

Downloads

 

   We came across a couple of interesting downloads that are worth passing on.

 

    The first is the "Birthday Chronicle." Find out what was going on in the world the day you were born, or any other day. The program produces a personalized newspaper front page, complete with graphics and news articles of the day. Free to try, $50 to buy www.kksoft.com.

 

   AprCalc compares loan options. Enter the amount of the loan, the term and the interest rate and the program will tell you which of several possibilities is your best deal. This is particularly useful for comparing mortgages. Free to try, $25 to buy, from www.definitivesolutions.com.

 

Books: In command

  Universal Command Guide

   "The Universal Command Guide for Operating Systems," by Guy Lotgering et al; $70 from John Wiley and Sons www.wiley.com or www.ucgbook.com. This is one of the most remarkable books we're ever seen. It contains all the operating system commands for DOS, Windows, Macintosh, Unix, Linux and Netware. The 1,500 page volume was written in the north of Sweden, where people tend to have a lot of time on their hands, especially in winter.

NOTE: Readers can search nearly four years of columns at the "On Computers" web site: www.oncomp.com. You can e-mail Bob Schwabach at bobschwab@oncomp.com or bobschwab@aol.com.