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March 2000, Week 2 -- Microsoft, Then and Now

 

 Microsoft Works 2000

   There was a time (not long ago) when Microsoft bashing was so fashionable you could have made good money betting on the subject matter of any editorial in any computer magazine.

   Now there is a lot of breast beating going on, as many of the digerati bemoan the court decision branding the company a monopoly. Myself, I've always been neutral on the matter. Whether they were a monopoly or not hardly mattered; monopolies have a terrible survival record. I always thought -- and this goes back 20 years, that they were good on some things and not so good on others.

 

   Two of the things they're really good on right now are "Works Suite 2000" and "Home Publishing Suite 2000." If you get the first one, you get them both.

 

   If you need the basics for running a small business there's still nothing better than "Works." In its many versions this program goes back more than 15 years, always providing word processing, a good spreadsheet, record keeping and a database in a single integrated package. It was the precursor for Microsoft Office.

 

 Home Publishing Suite 2000

   The basic version is selling for just $40 from discounters, and the "Suite" for around $100. The cheaper one is best. It works the way "Works" is supposed to work. The Suite version contains so many other programs it takes over a gigabyte of disk space to install. If you want all the parts -- street maps, Encarta, MS Money, MS Word 2000, and Home Publishing, it's worth it. But it really makes things more complicated than they should be.

   Home Publishing Suite 2000 on its own is $35, after a $20 rebate. It's well worth it. This has lots of features for the home and quite a few for small business users. The program has over 100,000 preset designs and templates for everything from party masks to product brochures, and the tools to create your own web site.

 

   This program has received rave reviews from users on "epinions." This is a web site that publishes user opinions on wide variety of products; go to www.epinions.com. Those raves go ditto for us, by the way; we loved the program.

 

   Microsoft main phone number: 425-882-8080; web: www.microsoft.com/works and www.home-publishing.com/suite.

 

Utilities

  

 

   "Window Washer 3.0" washes that man right out of your hair. I mean, the cookies and stuff.

  This is a privacy utility. It automatically removes all traces of Internet activity. At first that seems like just a way to cover up your tracks. But it's also useful for libraries and schools, where Internet search activity quickly builds up a massive amount of junk on the computer. It eats up disk space like crazy. Get it out of there.

   Window Washer is $30 for Windows, naturally enough, from Webroot Software. A trial version can be downloaded for free from the web site. Phone info: 303-554-6528; e-mail: info@webroot.com: web: www.webroot.com.

 

Hard copy continued

   The perfect complement for the large format Hewlett Packard printer we featured last week would be a new large format scanner from Epson.

   The Epson GT-10000 color scanner can scan pages up to 11 by 17 inches. The price is much more than the HP 1220C printer, however. That one is $500, but the new Epson scanner is $1,500. Phone info: 800-463-7766; web: www.epson.com.

 

Internuts

 

-- www.worklessmakemore.com  This is a site based on a book of the same name, full of advice on how to make better use of your time. There are a hundred such books and they are forever popular. Still, it's an interesting site to browse. You can ask a "coach" for advice, or become a coach yourself.

 

-- http://free.lycos.com  Lycos is one of the major web portals and they just started offering free Internet service. You'll never find it by simply going to their site, however; use the address above.

-- www.wildbrain.com  A new site for animation. These short animation strips are very charming and lots of fun. Take a look.

-- www.politicalcartoons.com  Truth in advertising: it's just what the site name says. Political cartoons from around the world (mostly U.S. and Canada) with new ones posted every day.

-- www.zoomerang.com  Create e-mail surveys and get results back fast.

-- www.esotronic.com.br  Trade shows and services in Latin America. Site can be read in Portuguese, Spanish or English.

 

-- ww0.tscentral.com Trade shows worldwide, but mostly U.S.

 

-- www.taxes4less.com  One of the new services offering to do your tax returns online. What's interesting about this one is they offer a "shoebox" option. Just send them all your records in a box and they'll sort it all out for $50.

 

Books

 

   The "Internet Cool Guide;" $15, from te(sic) Neues Publishing, New York.

 

   A well put together compendium of interesting web sites (most of which have also appeared in this column). It's organized by subject, so you can easily find good sites in health, finance, sports, religion, etc. Pictures of home pages are provided for many sites, giving some idea of what you'll get. Phone: 212-627-9090; e-mail: tnp@teneues-usa.com.

 

   NOTE: Readers can search more than three 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.