Bob and Joy
     By Bob and Joy Schwabach

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September 2002, Week 3 -- Looking Good




   What's a nice looking page like you doing in an email? Looking good, that's what, as more and more businesses want that printed-page look.

   The way to get that look is "PDF." It stands for "Portable Document Format" and  it is the way to send a copy that looks like the original -- words and pictures. It was developed by Adobe and you need the "Adobe Acrobat Reader" to read PDF files. But the reader is a free download from their web site The full version of Adobe Acrobat, needed to create PDF files, costs $249, and that price has prompted competition. FinePrint's  "pdfFactory" for Windows costs $50 for the regular version and $100 for the professional.


   We tried out the new version of pdfFactory (v 1.53) on pages with text and photos, web pages and business cards. Operation was swift and invisible: when you select a print command, one of the choices will be "fineprint pdf factory." If you click on that, the document is almost instantly converted to a PDF file. You can then print it, save it, email it, etc. As with Adobe Acrobat itself, you can encrypt the files for security and mark separate documents, or even parts of documents, with bookmarks for easy indexing and recovery later. The program automatically saves all documents it has converted to PDF. (On the downside, PDF files are much larger than text files and may not be suitable for all purposes.)


   The new pdfFactory is about as easy to use as anything gets. You can download a free trial version of pdfFactory from their web site: Near as we can tell, the only difference between the free trial version and the paid one is a single credit line at the bottom of the document that identifies as having been created with pdfFactory. If you pay the $50 list price the company sends you a code that kills that out.



 OneTouch Scanner

   Visioneer's new "OneTouch 9020 USB" flatbed scanner is lightning fast, low priced and does slides and negatives as well as paper.

   The scanner works with either USB-1 or USB-2 ports on Windows PCs and is faster than competing scanners using either type connection. It can scan 35mm slides and negatives and full-color documents. Resolution is a hard-hitting 1200x4800 dpi, with 48-bit true color. If the numbers don't make sense, don't worry about it, they are the kind you want to have.


   Visioneer pioneered the use of control buttons on the scanner itself, and recently made a sensible design change. This one and the earlier 9000 model have control buttons on the side instead of the front; the cover also opens from the side. Since many people (ourselves included) put their scanners next to a wall, buttons on the front are awkward to reach.


   This is a great scanner. Push the "scan" button and not only does it scan but a menu of choices pops up on your computer screen offering options on what to do next. It's about 10 times faster than the scanner we've been using for the last couple of years and comes with Adobe PhotoShop Elements, Textbridge OCR from Scansoft and the same great PaperPort software they've always had. List price is $130; discount pricing runs around $20 less, and we found the earlier model 9000 for just $83 at a web site called


Hard Copy


   Hewlett Packard's new "PhotoSmart 7550" color inkjet prints either from computers (PC and Mac) or from memory cards and sticks used by digital cameras. Output is a stellar 4800x1200 dpi (dots per inch) and the ink cartridges provide seven-color printing. Operation is simple.

   The bottom line here is the output is gorgeous but the cost will discourage some buyers. It's $400 list price, which is in line with other high quality photo printers of this type, but as with most inkjets, the ink supply will kill you. The PhotoSmart 7550 uses three cartridges, with a combined replacement cost of $80. Add another $20 for a package of photo quality printing paper and it's $100 to restock. Printing an 8x10-inch glossy will cost close to $2 a page.



  Total War

   "Medieval: Total War," $ 40 for Windows 98 and up, is the best war game of the year so far. It's from the makers of "Shogun: Total War" and a superb exercise in strategy and tactics.

   I've noticed over many years of talking to gamers that scenarios set in Europe of the Middle Ages seem to have the most loyal following and best game play. This one lets you control any of 12 European powers (including the Byzantine Empire), an army of 10,000 men and 100 specialized units, to see what you can do with them on more than 400 battlefields. You can also replay real campaigns like the Hundred Years War or the Mongol invasions. A winner. Web:



 How to Expand & Upgrade PCs 

   "How to Expand and Upgrade PCs," third edition, by Preston Gralla; $30, Que Books This is aimed at beginners to moderately experienced users. Lots of illustrations, easy to follow text; a good book to have if you know next to nothing about computers but want to be able to expand them on your own.

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