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     By Bob and Joy Schwabach
                                                                        

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May 2000, Week 1 -- Utilities

   Some good ones today:

   First and definitely foremost, let's go to "ClipCachePlus," a shareware program from Rose City Software. This creates the clipboard you always wanted in Windows 95/98, instead of the one that came with it.

 

   You can have an unlimited number of saved clips, be they text or images, and can save them in folders by category. The most obvious use is for boiler-plate messages and standard reply letters. For years we have used a nearly identical program called "SmartBoard" from InSight Software in Utah. ClipCache does everything that one does plus some extras: it removes the extra spaces often inserted into e-mail replies and strips the '>>>' delta delimiters from the e-mail being replied to.

 

   Getting the download for this program is something of an odyssey. You start with www.infinisource.com, which appears to be a clearing house for several shareware outfits. Infinisource takes you to www.rosecitysoftware.com, which in turn takes you to www.xrayz.co.uk, where you get a selection that can take you to www.zdnet.com, or www.tucows.com, where you can actually download the program. Why is this? Ah ... mysterious are the paths the techies tread.

 

   "InfoRapid Search and Replace" was a more straightforward deal. It's free from www.inforapid.com and lightning fast. Unlike the "find files or folders" search function in Windows, this utility can search for a single word or phrase anywhere on any disk.

 

   We asked for a search on all files containing the word "back" (no special reason) and it came 'back' with 372 references in 82 files, in eight-tenths of a second. It not only gave us each file reference where the word was found, but the context! It showed the sentence or title that included the word. If you then click on a found word the program takes you to the full text and file. We could also have elected to replace all references with some other word. Pretty darn nice.

 

   Finally, for those who like to fool with the Windows operating system (proceed at your peril), there's "X-Setup," free from www.xteq.com.

 

   This one lets you change hidden system settings. You can get rid of icons and screen messages that no longer have any meaning, for instance. Zoom Telephonics, for example, still asks me to register their modem long after I removed their software from my system and switched to something else.

 

   The first pleasant surprise with X-Setup was it allowed us to put our Windows program list, which used to scroll annoyingly and endlessly out of sight as we moved the cursor, into three columns where all program names were visible on the screen at once. We also had it put a little reference note in the corner of the screen, telling us what version number we were running. Undoubtedly there are more discoveries and foolishness to come.

 

Internuts

 

-- www.journalistexpress.com This is one of the most impressive web sites we've ever visited. It's certainly not just for journalists, so don't be put off by the title. The site offers headline news, specialized news, links to dozens of newspapers, and excerpts from news magazines, like The Economist. There are still more links to research resources, legal, medical and government directories, hotels, airlines, around the world etc. This thing is enormous. Check out the "archive of great sites" in the upper right hand corner. Today's was all about tools and woodworking.

-- www.helptalk.com Free technical support for common problems with commonly used software and hardware. Better than beating your head against the wall.

-- www.aboutgolf.com About golf games on the computer, and golf games in the real world (whatever that is).

-- www.lowermybills.com  Name the type of bill you want to lower and the site provides advice on how to go about this plus vendors of lower-cost service if those apply.

 

-- www.bestbookbuys.com Site searches 29 online bookstores to find your best price.

 

Crossword Puzzles

  

   Two new crossword puzzle programs chanced to arrive at the same time. Both of them are addictive. A note for those with failing eyesight: both programs allow you to greatly enlarge the puzzles on-screen.

   Our favorite is "The New York Times Crossword Puzzles," more than 1,000 of them for Win 95/98, $20 from Wizard Works. The crossword in the Sunday Times has become the touchstone for puzzle fans, many settling down with it for the afternoon, or competing against time to see how quickly they can solve it.

 

   You can call up a puzzle from any week of the last 20 years. It's interesting to see that some puzzle clues are closely tied to a time. The program won't let you enter a word if it's the wrong word, saving the frustration of having to backtrack when you've made a mistake. You can also ask for a clue if you're stumped. Web: www.wizworks.com.

  Hoyle Crosswords

   "Crosswords, according to Hoyle" is also $20, for Win 95/98 and Macintosh, from Sierra.

   This one has 500 puzzles and a two-player mode that lets puzzlers compete. Unlike the Times puzzles, which are fixed, there are five skill levels that can be selected here. Mistakes are highlighted, once again to avoid having to backtrack. Web: www.sierra.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.