Bob and Joy
                                      
 
     By Bob and Joy Schwabach
                                                                        

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June 2006, Week 2 -- Sign on the Digital Line

 Docusign

 

 


   DocuSign is a Web service that lets you display any document that needs to be signed, and the reader can sign it right there online.

 

   Such signatures are legal under a federal law commonly called the ESIGN Act, passed in June 2000. The main point of the law is that an electronic signature is legal and valid if you, the signer, say it is. This gets around the problem of scanning a written signature and then storing that as an image in the computer. Such an image would not necessarily count as a legal signature.

 

   When you are first asked to sign a document presented on a Web site, you spend a minute or two setting up an account and selecting a type font for your signature. It could look like John Hancock's on the Declaration of Independence, if you want. The main point is you agree that this is now your legal signature online. From then on, any time you want to sign something, you check it and a blue box appears around the signature, indicating it has been validated by DocuSign.

 

 

 

   The cost of providing "in session" signing to customers on your Web site is about $15 a month, with the price depending on frequency of use. The service also provides records showing who has signed any document so far, and which documents in an agreement are still pending. If you don't want to set up in-session signing on a Web site, you can send e-mails displaying the contracts needing signatures, and recipients can still sign online. There's a free 30-day trial of the service at www.docusign.com.

 

 

 

Smart Drawing

 

 

 SmartDraw 7

 

   SmartDraw 7 Suite Edition is the latest incarnation of a program that started as shareware way back in the mists of software time. It competes with Microsoft's Visio for drawing floor plans, flow charts, engineering diagrams, etc., but sells for less: $197 for Smart Draw 7 and $499 for Visio Professional.

 

   For those of us who would like a little help in drawing our flow charts, circuit diagrams, landscape designs, floor plans, etc., SmartDraw 7 has 1,300 templates, and 63,000 symbols that can be plugged into those templates. And as long as we're doing the numbers, the learning curve is zero.

 

 

 

   There are 17 business categories in the forms section, and each category has a dozen templates. They include medical, marketing, shipping and receiving, school forms, invoices and sales receipts, etc. There are nine engineering categories. Science has just one category, but that has 40 templates, including star charts, genetics, mathematics, units of measurement, etc. All of the templates can be pasted into PowerPoint, Word and Excel.

 

 

 

   Any names, comments and symbols can be linked to any others in a design you're putting together. Doing a family tree or organizational chart is practically automatic. Boxes with commentary can be expanded to show any amount of text and images. Shape and link choices appear in a panel on the left of each screen. Lots more info and a free trial can be had at www.smartdraw.com.

 

 

 

   A special note on pricing: Though SmartDraw 7 is cheaper than Visio at full retail, Microsoft products are nearly all available at what's called "academic pricing." For instance, Visio Professional is just $165 through discounters at bizrate.com if you can show you're a student or teacher.

 

 

 

Sales Tax

Sales Tax

 

   Sales taxes in the U.S. vary from state to state, county to county and even town to town. Figuring out the sales tax on goods sold nationwide is such a hassle that many companies won't do it.

 

We found a Web site that figures it all out for merchants. It's www.avalara.com. If you go there and click on "Avatax Connect," you can sign up for a service that integrates with QuickBooks and other major accounting programs to automatically calculate sales tax by ZIP code. Fees start at $10 a month plus a $50 setup fee.

 

 

 Photo Explosion

 

 

 

 

Another Day, Another Greeting Card

 

   Joy averages a greeting card a day. If we act on the assumption that she is not the only person in the world who likes to make her own greeting cards, we can pass along two new programs that are great for the craft: Greeting Card Factory Deluxe and Photo Explosion Deluxe. (Photo Explosion is called Print Explosion in the Mac version.)

 

   Both programs are from Nova Development (www.novadevelopment.com), and the art choices are really good. Photo Explosion has 5,000 photos on disk (you can add your own, of course) and 3,000 projects you can do with photos. Greeting Card Factory has 85,000 graphics and more than 20,000 greeting card and other projects. Each program is $50.

 

 

 

Books

 

 

It's Never Done that Before!

   "It's Never Done That Before" by John Ross; $30 from No Starch Press (www.nostarch.com). This is a great book for people who have some confidence in their ability to manage the computer. At this point in the computer age, that's lots of people.

 

   The author points out that most problems seem to occur right after installing a new program or piece of hardware. Isn't that the truth. In fact, nearly every problem we've ever encountered occurred after installing a new program.

 

   We've mentioned the solutions several times before, one of which is to use System Restore, part of the Systems Tools list under Accessories in Windows XP. The author also suggests pressing the F8 key when the computer is turned on but before it boots up. One of the options that comes up is Last Known Good Configuration. Check that one. As with System Restore, your data files and e-mail will not be affected.

 


 

 

NOTE: Readers can search several years of columns at the "On Computers" Web site: www.oncomp.com. You can e-mail Bob Schwabach at bobschwab@aol.com and Joy Schwabach at joydee@oncomp.com.