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     By Bob and Joy Schwabach
                                                                        

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October 2001, Week 1 -- One of the Great Ones

  

 

 Neobook

   "NeoBook," one of the most interesting programs we've ever reviewed, is back in a new and greatly enhanced version.

   Neobook is from Neosoft www.neosoftware.com  and comes in versions for Windows and DOS. In the simplest sense, it makes interactive presentations. But it's not like Microsoft's Power Point, used largely to make sales pitches. These presentations are completely interactive, to the point of bringing in other programs, videos, word processors, nested sets of commands, etc., with the click of a mouse. Neobook's major application is not making sales pitches, though it can do that, it is the creation of training and educational programs for business and schools.

 

   NeoBook can also create simple games, screen savers, catalogs for e-businesses, specialized calculators and more. The finished programs are executable and can be saved to stand on their own and sent out on disk.

 

   We last reviewed this program four years ago, and since then there have been other commercial programs that perform similar tasks, most notably, "Trainer," from MicroMedium, and "Trellix," from Trellix Corp. Good as those are they have never captured us as much as NeoBook. In the new version, you can add animation, put in clickable buttons with multiple choice actions, have sliding control bars, and show, hide or move any object on the screen.

 

   There are clusters of devoted users for NeoBook and you can get lots of useful tricks and tips from www.teleport.com/~neosft/nbw4.html  and http://groups.yahoo.com/group/neobook/links. The list price for NeoBook is $199 and there is a 30-day free trial available from their web site.

 

Hard Copy

Scanner

   Acer has a beautiful new flatbed scanner for Windows for less than $100. Acer is the largest computer manufacturer in Taiwan and their pressure will like force nearly all new scanner makers to match or try and beat this price. Look for it to become standard.  Meanwhile, on to the features ...

   The new Acer S2W scans at 1200x2400 dpi (dots per inch) optical resolution and 48-bit color, all of which is very good. A set of five push buttons on the front allow you to perform a normal scan, scan to the web, scan to a Palm (the Palm handheld computer), scan to OCR -- which stands for "optical character resolution" and is used to actually "read" a document rather than simply copy it. And the fifth button? That's for making copies. It sends the scanned page information to the printer, which then copies it. Sound effects unique to each button give you an audible clue to what you're doing, just in case you haven't been paying close attention.

 

   Push buttons on scanner have been pretty common for the past three years, but adding sound effects is a nice touch, so to speak. I'm surprised it wasn't done before. The scanner comes with software for OCR, photo editing, copying, and posting to the web. All in all, it's a killer for under $100, and I guess it's the result of tough market conditions. Good news for buyers. Acer web site: www.acercm.com.

 

Under its spell

   Spell checkers are free, except "As-U-Type," which costs $30.

   Why pay, you might well ask, for something you get with any word processor? The answer is it spell-checks as you type. So, for instance, if you are writing along and misspelling "configuration," for example, this small utility program acts like a watcher over your shoulder and corrects the spelling before you finish typing. While I don't have a  problem catching misspellings in this column or longer pieces, I make lots of spelling errors answering e-mails and other quick notes.

 

   As-U-Type is a useful little program for Windows, from Fanix Software, at their web site: www.asutype.com.

 

The numbers report

 

   Research by E-Marketer www.emarketer.com  found that 75 percent of children will give out private family information when filling out surveys and forms online. Related research found that user concerns about privacy correlate with experience in using the Internet: the more experience a user has, the less the fear.

Internuts

-- www.opinionjournal.com  Lots of opinion articles, mostly political, gathered by the Wall Street Journal. They are gathered from many locations and most do not appear in the Journal. Some interesting stuff.

-- www.wolfram.com\webmathematica  A subset of the Mathematica site that allows you to enter any equation and see its solution both symbolically and graphically. Being able to visualize an equation is sometimes the key to using it.

-- www.programfiles.com  Another shareware site for your searches. It has over 15,000 programs, some free, some not. An unusual feature here is they also provide cheat codes for 5,890 computer games. Other sites you should use when looking for utility programs and games are www.zdnet.com and www.tucows.com; they are larger but don't have cheat codes.

Games: double and redouble

 

   We took a look at "Backgammon" from Goto Software www.goto-software.com, which is $30 for Windows. My first reaction was why bother? Because there are dozens of free board games and card games that can be played on web sites and even more from shareware sites. But this is much better, has more detail and contains lots of tips and playing instructions.

   The same company makes a Bridge playing and instruction game for $50, which is very high for a card game, but has received rave notices from players. It shows that ordinary subjects, done very well, can still command a market.

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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