SOFTWARE MAKES A COMPUTER TICK - ONE BYTE AT A TIME
With so much software in the marketplace sometimes the hardest
job is to select from overabundance and arrive at genuinely
useful programs. Software is available in three basic flavors:
COMMERCIAL, PUBLIC DOMAIN and SHAREWARE.
Commercial software is sold by mail or through retail outlets
and is generally protected by both legitimate and stringent
copyright laws. Commercial software may in addition be copy-
protected (difficult or impossible to make spare disk copies) or
non-copy protected (can be copied to another disk for safe-
keeping or archival purposes.) Commercial software is usually of
good quality and can range in price from 10 dollars to several
hundred dollars or more.
For the first time computer user, an outstanding commercial
package which includes a robust word processor, excellent
spreadsheet, database, modem package, macros, tutorials, spell
checker, macros, thesaurus and other features is Microsoft
Works. Retailing for about $100, it represents value for a
beginner and may be the only package needed for a home office,
small business or hobbyist.
Public domain software represents computer programs which have
been released into the public domain, do not require payment or
registration fees to the author, and are frequently available
from computer clubs, some libraries, and modem BBS telephone
systems. PC Magazine utilities are examples of public domain
Shareware, a third area of software interest represents programs
whose author(s) request a donation or registration but are
otherwise available in much the same manner as public domain
software. Frequently "enticements" such as a documentation
manual of program instructions, an upgrade disk or other bonus
offer is made within the program to secure a registration fee.
An example of shareware is this software program, PC-LEARN.
Which type of software is best? Probably a little of each, to be
honest. Many people find that starting with several affordable
commercial programs (to ensure fast, productive results) and
then sampling shareware over time (to continue trying new
software) to be of value. Other computer owners find that
starting with shareware and public domain software (to get a
broad sampling of software variety at little cost) and then
buying additional commercial programs as sophisticated needs
grow also to be useful.
UTILITIES ADD POWER TO COMPUTING
We have discussed larger application software packages such as
spreadsheets, word processing packages and databases elsewhere
within PC-LEARN, but UTILITY software packages are an area of
software productivity which every beginner should investigate.
What are utilities? Software programs which augment computing
capabilities, manage files, backup data, provide calculators,
recover files from disaster, transfer files between computers
and thousands of other "small essential jobs." A few of the top
utility packages include the following.
PC TOOLS DELUXE. The quintessential toolkit of goodies DOS
forgot to include. PC Tools contains a superb DOS shell for file
management, a miniature database, file transfer utility,
calculator, backup system, unerase data restorer, disk repair
capability, security file wiper and literally dozens of other
useful one-of-a-kind goodies. If you can only afford one
utility, PC Tools Deluxe is it.
THE PC MAGAZINE UTILITIES are continuing classics and favorites
of many users. Available through most computer clubs and by
modem from local BBS sources and PC Magazine as disk bonus
offers when you subscribe to that periodical. An index to PC
Magazine utilities is maintained through their on line PcMagnet
modem service which can be reached by following printed
instructions contained in every issue of PC Magazine. The
utilities are in the public domain and generally available at no
charge beyond a small disk copying or distribution fee.
Most shareware distributors carry disk sets of the PC Magazine
LABELPRO prepares labels and address stickers better than any
competing program. Prepare nametags, casette tape labels,
address stickers with ease.
HOTLINE allows you to manage, search, sort and DIAL phone
directory databases. A grownup electronic rolodex system which
works better than any other program of this type.
BROOKLYN BRIDGE & DESKLINK allow transfer of files between
computers via a cable connector and facilitate the transfer
between desktop and laptop computers with ease.
KEYWORKS & NEWKEY are universal keyboard macro programs which
issue a burst of keystrokes when you press only one or two keys.
ESSENTIAL for all beginners to learn and use! NEWKEY is
CHECK-IT & SYSTEM SLEUTH perform diagnostic tests to tell your
what connections, cables, ports disk drives and components are
working and why. You can locate bad memory chips and in general
save time and frustration tracking down problems.
QEMM-386 & 386MAX manage vast areas of RAM memory in 80386
equipped computers. These can convert extended memory to
expanded memory, move device drivers and terminate and stay
resident programs efficiently, and remap BIOS and graphics video
into faster RAM area memory. Subtle programs which help manage
memory on more powerful DOS machines.
MARK/RELEASE is a small program whose sole function is to
install and remove TSR programs such as popup calculators,
address books and others for minimum memory crowding and
FASTBACK PLUS allows reliable and quick backup of essential hard
disk files to floppy disks and tape backup systems. A variety of
options allows selective backup by date, data and file type.
SUPER PC-KWIK provides a fast disk cache buffer system that
speed processing and convenience for hard disk users. Speed is
always a convenience when using a hard drive and SUPER PC-KWIK
is the champion disk cache software utility.
PKZIP is a unique shareware program which compresses files up to
80% smaller in size! This frees up disk space on your hard drive
and also allows faster file transfers when using a modem. PKZIP
is as standard as DOS and almost as essential.
FASTTRAX is a disk optimizer and file defragmenter whose sole
job is to periodically assemble files into efficient contiguous
sectors on a disk for speedy performance. A routine housekeeping
function no disk drive owner can neglect.
SCAN & CLEANUP are virus/trojan horse detection and erradication
programs which are probably the best of the bunch.
CED & PCED & LIST are utilities which browse files (list) and
provide command line editing functions (CED and PCED) which are
far superior to the functions DOS provides. All are shareware.
HOT SHOT GRAPHICS & PIZAZZ PLUS function to capture screen
graphics to transfer them to another software program for
presentation or publication use.
GRAPHICS LINK PLUS facilitates the conversion of graphics
picture files between varying software packages.
TYPEFAST resets the keyboard rate of your system so you can
(good guess) type fast! Public domain utility from PC Magazine.
PRINTCACHE is a print spooler. You can thus dump your document
file out to the printer and within a split second come back to
your program and keep working rather than sit there for 30
minutes as your printer hogs the PC.
ULTRAVISION adjusts cursor size and provides many differing
typefaces on your screen if you don't care for the ones which
came with your software or PC.
MAGELLAN The ultimate text search utility. Search an entire hard
disk quickly for the file that contains the phrase "swimming
pool budget for Mr. Davis" or other search idea. Great for
locating that document when piles of files seem lost on your
VGA DIMMER screen dimmer program to prevent phosphor burnout
from leaving screen on and unattended for long periods of time.
GRANDVIEW The best of the outliner programs. When you need to
assemble, sort and prioritze tasks or documents Grandview is it.
SOFTWARE BRIDGE & WORD FOR WORD PROFESSIONAL allow different
word processing programs to swap documents in different file
formats. Great for the office where each person uses a different
word processing package.
BACK TO SHAREWARE FOR A MOMENT
Let's look for a moment at the wellspring of shareware resources
that run well beneath the surface of the conventional computer
landscape. You do not have to be a hobbyist, hacker or computer
guru to utilize shareware and public domain software. A short
list of shareware distributors follows this section.
Membership in a local computer club or user group is one way
to obtain shareware. Many retail software and computer
equipment stores maintain lists of local clubs.
Frequently a local and friendly Radio Shack salesman can give
you a clue as to computer clubs. The clubs frequently augment
club treasuries by sale of shareware disks. Membership with many
clubs is optional - purchasing a shareware disk is convenient
whether you are a member or not. Disk distribution or copying
may fees hover around $3 to $5.
A second, perhaps more convenient source for some people, is
mail order sources of shareware, otherwise known as shareware
distributors. A list of several shareware sources is provided
at the end of this tutorial.
A third avenue for locating shareware is either a BBS computer
system (a computer in someone's home or office hooked by modem
to telephone lines) or the larger commercial on-line services
such as Compuserve, The Source and BIX. These larger commercial
services can be the fastest way to locate and obtain shareware.
The on-line modem route has the additional advantage that
shareware can be located by electronic search/sort which
certainly speeds up the process. Cost is obviously a factor.
With a local BBS service the cost is simply that of a local
phone call. Commercial services generally charge by the minute
or hour and sometimes also involve long distance charges if a
local line is not available.
Next a list of popular mail order shareware distributors not to
be confused with mail order software distributors of commercial
software. Contact them and request a free catalog - you will
be surprised at the depth and variety of shareware offerings.
As an example, this disk, PC-LEARN, is a shareware program
carried by PC-SIG and many other shareware distributors. By
the way, a shareware distributor usually charges a nominal fee
($2 to $5) to copy and DISTRIBUTE a disk to you. If you find the
shareware useful, you are encouraged to send the author of the
package a final REGISTRATION FEE ($10 to $50 approximately) to
use the package and receive updated copies, instruction manuals
or bonus items to thank you for the courtesy of registering.
Shareware is an honor system. The distributors make money charging
a fee for a sample disk, but the author also deserves a registration
fee if you find the shareware useful.
SHAREWARE DISTRIBUTORS - A SHORT LIST
SSP Software and Consulting
PO Box 1506 Mercer Island, WA 98040 (206) 236-0470
Featuring low prices of $1.99 per program item, SSP is an
excellent choice for affordable shareware and features over
2,000 titles, many of the same entries as larger shareware
distributors at significant savings. Disks are available on
standard 360K format disks or the new smaller 720K diskettes
popular in laptop computers. SSP catalogue available on disk.
New entries added weekly. No membership fee. Refund on damaged
diskettes and honest service!
1030D East Duane Ave., Sunnyvale, CA 94086; (800) 245-6717;
In Calif. (800) 222-2996.
PC-SIG is perhaps the largest and best known of the shareware
distributors. With a bi-monthly magazine, slickly packaged
software, over 2000 disks and a printed catalogue PC-SIG is
perhaps also the best organized. PC-SIG boasts authorized
dealers throughout the United States (most major cities) and
many foreign countries! Marketing and customer service are a PC-
SIG trademark. Memberships list at $20 per year which allows
members to purchase disks for $5.50 per disk in lot orders of
10 or more. Non-members pay $6.00 per disk.
Public Brand Software, Inc.
POB 51478, Indianapolis, IN 46251; (317) 856-1001 or
$5 per disk plus $5 shipping and handling per order. 77 page
catalogue of software available. Catalogue is large and quite
comprehensive. On par with PC-SIG.