Bob and Joy
     By Bob and Joy Schwabach

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October 2001, Week 3 -- Form Fitting




   We've got a good one. It's "Omniform Premium 5" from ScanSoft, which lets you scan any business or organization form and send it anywhere to be filled out.

   This in itself is a not a new thing but we have never seen a program of this type that works so smoothly or has as many display capabilities.  It's $700, but worth it.

   Forms can be scanned and saved as PDF documents, for example. PDF stands for Adobe's "Portable Document Format" and it allows a document to be saved and transmitted with all of its formatting, typefaces, color and illustrations intact. The reader for PDF files is a free download from Adobe, so anyone receiving such a document can get the program required to read it and keep that program on their computer. Opening any PDF document in the future will automatically trigger the reader to display it on screen.


   While the program will also save forms in other formats, including HTML, for posting to web pages, it is PDF that is key. In PDF the form will look exactly as the originator created it and, just as importantly, will look familiar and official to the recipient. You can e-mail it or post it to the web.


   OmniForm recognizes long blanks, underlined blank spaces and blank boxes and circles as objects awaiting data entry, as they say. The data can then be automatically entered in most database formats, and -- and this is the kicker -- pulled from such databases. So, for example, information that is duplicated for many forms can be automatically filled out from information on the computer at either end. Law firms love this for legal forms. Names and address can be pulled and filled out from databases. Fields can be keyed to perform calculations, check spelling and accept legal digital signatures. Up to five PDF forms can be posted to the Scansoft web site at no charge, where employees, students and staff, affinity groups, can go to the site and fill out the forms without each person having to receive one by e-mail.


    Scansoft phone info: 800-654-1187 or 978-977-2000.


Looking for work


 Resume Maker


    A lot of people are in the position of looking for a new job these days. The best-selling program for resumes is "Resume Maker Deluxe," from Individual Software

   This $40 Windows program has been around for many years and we've covered earlier versions before. It just seems more appropriate right now. It has dozens of templates, hundreds of sample resumes and 25 preset designs you can call up with a click. Your finished resume can be automatically posted to the major job sites and e-mailed to employers. A free web page is also provided for viewing your resume.

  The program can search eight million job listings on 100,000 web sites to see what's out there that fits your requirements and experience. There's a 90-day money-back guarantee.




--  A master site for information on North American rail travel. Find route maps here, schedules, pricing, and even personal accounts from those who have traveled many of the routes. The personal accounts have lots of useful tips, like destinations where there are no stations and you can't rent a car or call a cab.


--  A commercial site that provides free security checks for PCs and Macs to see how vulnerable your machine is to viruses, hacker invasions, etc. Of course they want to sell you a product, but buying is not required.


--  Instructions on how to check your home for hazards like mold, radon gas, lead paint, poor water quality, etc., and what you can do about the problems if you find them.


-- They'll send you a pre-activated phone and charger tuned to the service of the country you're going to visit. They have coverage for 104 countries. The phone is sent to you at home before you leave. Typical rental rates are $50 a week, $99 a month. Calls are much cheaper than using a hotel's service and you can give people your personal phone number before your leave.


--  CDC is the Center for Disease Control, in Atlanta, and they'll tell you where it's safe to drink the water and what kind of shots and pills you might need for foreign travel. They have short-term warnings as well.

  PDF with Acrobat



   "PDF with Acrobat," by Jennifer Alspach; $20 from Peachpit Press

Just as we talked about receiving PDF documents in the lead item of the column, so you can also create such documents, though unlike the Acrobat reader, this software is not free. The uses are many: using Acrobat enables you to send out documents of any length (including books) that can be then read and edited, while viewing them in their final form.


Flight simulator


 F/A 18


   The "F/A-18 Precision Strike Fighter" for Windows lets you fly either land or carrier based missions, selecting from those on disk or creating your own. The missions can be either reconnaissance or combat.

   As has been the case with every new flight simulator to come along, the graphics are quite realistic, and the cockpit controls and flight characteristics true to the real aircraft. This simulator is a much enhanced version of the popular "Korea" simulator and was game tested by combat pilots before release. From Xicat:

   NOTE: Readers can search nearly four years of columns at the "On Computers" web site: You can e-mail Bob Schwabach at or