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March 2001, Week 1 -- A Macro Program for a Micro World

QuicKeys for Macintosh

   QuicKeys, in versions 2.0 for Windows and 5.0 for the Macintosh, automates keystrokes. This is what's called a "macro" generator, a type of program that has been around for decades and is loved by just about everyone who has ever used one.

   A macro combines a number of small actions -- keystrokes, mouse movements, modem dial-ups, etc., into a single group that can be activated by a pair of keystrokes or a mouse click. While the actions are small, the result can be large. If you look at a set of stocks at the end of the day, for example, you can automate the process of dialing up the stock database, downloading the data, saving it, and then logging off and shutting down.

   Many programs are available for generating macros, and in fact Microsoft Office and Microsoft Word both come with macro abilities built in. But neither of those has nearly the power of QuicKeys and their macros are often restricted to operating only in other Microsoft Office programs.

   QuicKeys comes with a menu screen of dozens of commonly useful macros already generated and ready to fire at the click of a mouse: check spelling, choose printer, select screen resolution, collect e-mail, compress file, etc. It also has a "camera" feature, which when turned on, captures whatever keystrokes and mouse clicks that follow until the camera is turned off again. This is similar to a macro camera feature that used to be part of the Lotus office suite.

   If you don't like having to remember what keys trigger a particular sequence of actions, QuicKeys lets you create a menu bar where the required action can simply be clicked with the mouse. The new feature we like best, though, affects the Windows clipboard and allows you to save 185 items for quick pasting into e-mail and new documents.

   QuicKeys is from CE Software in Des Moines, Iowa. The Windows version is $50, the Mac version $100 (the Macintosh macros can be triggered by voice as well as keyboard and mouse). A free trial version can be downloaded from the web site. Phone info: 800-523-7638 or 515-221-1801; web: www.quickeys.com.

Hard Copy

   Epson's new "Expression 1680" color scanner kicks the resolution up to 1600 by 3200 dpi (dots per inch). Similar scanners will be out soon from Hewlett Packard as well. Street price for the Expression 1680 is around $800.

   This is actual scanning resolution, not interpolated, which is what is often claimed in scanner ads and printed on the boxes and, from the evidence of our mail, confuses people no end. Interpolated resolution is not the resolution of the scanner but the result of software that measures the darkness of adjoining dots and then calculates what a dot between those two should look like; it then adds that to the printout. The result is good but not as good.

   The increasingly high resolution of personal scanners was a major factor in the decision to alter U.S. currency a couple of years ago and of course still creates a problem in the counterfeiting of other documents and trademarked labels. I have no solution to this problem, and, I notice, neither do a lot of other people whose livelihood is much more influenced by such counterfeiting than mine.

   Phone info: 800-463-7766; web: www.epson.com.

Internuts

-- www.tutorialfind.com One of our best finds of this new year. How-to's on practically everything. How to fix a doorknob: ("Take control of your doorknob and the door will follow," the tutorial advises.). Learn cartooning, quilting, digital photography, piano playing, and how to create realistic images of glass in Autodesk's 3D Studio Max. A happy place to spend your time. Learn a thing or two.

-- www.consumerlab.com An independent testing lab for health and nutrition products. They looked at 27 vitamin supplements, for example, and found that one-third of the brands did not deliver what the package promised. Nearly one-half the ginseng products tested were contaminated with pesticides; two had more than 20 times the amount considered safe. Sample reports are free as an introduction, otherwise there is a fee of $3.95 a month for reports on one topic, $11.95 for a year of unlimited use. We signed up for a year.

-- www.shockwave.com  Has animated comics created by movie director Tim Burton ("James and the Giant Peach," etc.).

--www.zdnet.com  Download a free miniature golf game for Windows. Type title "WildTangent Front 9" in their search box.

Books: corporate trouble-shooting

   Osborne/McGraw-Hill has a series of trouble-shooting books for Windows called the "Admin 911" series. The "admin" part stands for system administrator; "911" of course is the standard police emergency phone number throughout the United States. The series covers tips and solutions in several areas that corporate system administrators have to deal with. Rather than our going into each book and its contents, you can sample them at a special web site: www.admin911.com, which lets you look at all seven books.

Chess

Chessmaster 8000

   "Chessmaster 8000," from The Learning Company, $40 for Windows 95 and up. This is the leading chess playing and instruction program; earlier versions, going back a decade, have sold over four million copies in all. This is the most powerful chess program you can buy. Web: www.chessmaster.com.

NOTE: Readers can search more than 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.

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