Bob and Joy
                                      
 
     By Bob and Joy Schwabach
                                                                                     A syndicated newspaper column now in its 26th year.
    
                                                                        

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November 2001, Week 5 -- Woodsman, Save that Tree

    

Clickbook

   Save some trees, lots of time, and store information the old-fashioned way: on paper. Two programs let you print multiple pages on a single sheet of paper, and do much more.

   ClickBook, from Blue Squirrel www.bluesquirrel.com has been around for years but keeps increasing in power. It list for $50 at the web site, though older versions can often be found for free at www.wugnet.com. This was one of the first programs to let you print up to eight pages on a single sheet of paper. You can create booklets, instruction manuals, company phone books, product brochures, etc., and there are more than 80 page layouts to choose from.

 

   Some printers come with software that lets you print several pages to a sheet, but that's about it. The key features of FinePrint, though, are the 80-plus page layouts and ability to combine files from many different applications into a single printout. With this last feature you can pull in pictures, spreadsheets and web pages into one document. ClickBook comes in versions for Windows and Macintosh.

FinePrint

   FinePrint www.fineprint.com sells for $40 and can also print eight pages on a single sheet of paper. And it does a couple tricks you have to love. To wit:

   Web sites often provide little new information from one page to the next, using most of the screen for their logo, menus, perhaps some ads, and other "boiler plate." FinePrint lets you ignore all that and only pull in the new content.

   The other annoying feature it corrects is what printers call "widows." These are small sections of text that didn't fit on a page and are carried over to a new page. FinePrint allows you to look at the extra material and either exclude it from printing or squeeze the previous page slightly so it all prints as one.

 

   You can combine maps, travel instructions, background information, phone listings, photos and the like, all into a small booklet you print and carry with you. You can add your letterhead to the program so content that normally contains no graphics can be printed on your custom stationery. Finally, you can add watermarks, which will assure that this is what you intended to print and not something that has been changed by someone else.

pdf factory

   An additional program: "pdfFactory" is $50 ($20 for educators) and simplifies the creation of pdf files. These are "portable document format" files that can be viewed by any computer and hold onto all the color, type and formatting of the original. All files pulled into FinePrint can be combined and converted to pdf so they will look like the original when printed. pdfFactory supports all character coding, including Asian fonts and symbolic characters.

 

Hard Copy

 

 Lexmark Printers

 

   Lexmark printers  has a new one of those combination office machines, this one for around $200. This is the best price we've seen for a multi-purpose office unit.

   The Lexmark X63 combine a color inkjet printer, scanner, copier and fax machine all in one desktop unit only slightly larger than a standard color printer. Printing output is 2400 dots per inch and 14 pages per minute, which is both high resolution and fast.

   As with all other combination office machines of this type, the fax function requires the computer to be on and is really carried on by software. Still, it allows you to scan a page and send it, just like a stand-alone fax machine. The scanner is not a flat-bed, so you can't scan books.

 

   We looked at discount sites on the web and found prices ranging from $188 to $219. Remember: the lowest price you can find is not always the lowest price, because of shipping costs.

 

StarOffice revisited

 

   There was a lot of interest in our recent column on StarOffice from Sun Microsytems, a free suite of programs similar to Microsoft Office. It's free for downloading, and we also mentioned that you can get it on a CD for $10. Unfortunately, they discontinued the English version, though they still hand it out at trade shows, and have it only in Danish, Dutch and Portuguese for $10.

 

   It's still a free download in dozens of languages, however, including English, or can be purchased from Sun already on a CD in a deluxe kit with printed documentation for $39.95. It is compatible with Microsoft Office and contains some extra features not found in that suite. There are several support groups for StarOffice on the web.

 

   The fact that it's free as a download raises the interesting question of why couldn't someone simply download it, then burn it onto a CD and sell that? A spokesman for Sun said they don't permit that, since they give it away for free. But ..., he added, if someone provides a related service, then they would be able to sell it. There are possible business opportunities here.

 

   StarOffice can be found at Sun's web site: www.sun.com.

   Another free office suite is Office 602, available from www.software602.com. This has a much more limited scope than StarOffice but still has the basics and is compatible with Microsoft Office. The program is from the Czech Republic and free as a download for individuals, $199 for business users. Those who have tried it say it works well.

 

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.

 

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