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Three Productivity Enhancement Tools That Deliver
By John Makulowich
Products for the desktop PC carrying the promise of productivity enhancement continue to proliferate. Yet, in many cases, the installation procedures, the continuing maintenance and the monitoring for upgrades constitute roadblocks to more efficient and effective work as well as work habits.
Surveying my own desktop, I find three new tools that I use daily to improve the use of my time or other resources, such as money, and which offer a reasonable return on investment. They also help to coordinate the use of my standalone PC as a "pseudo-networked" computer with my continuing and increasing reliance on the Internet for research and communication. They are Fine Print Driver 1.30, WebFerret 1.10 and WinZip 6.3 beta 3.
Fine Print 1.30
While visions of the paperless office still remain just that, this product offers an excellent middle ground. Fine Print, made by Single Track Software and found at http://www.singletrack.com/, is an easily installed driver that sits alongside the other choices in your Windows 95 Printers folder. Made for both Windows 3.1x as well as Windows 95, it allows you to reduce the amount of paper you use by decreasing the size of the font and letting you manage formatting to put as many as eight pages on a single sheet of paper.
It's perfect for archiving as well as printing long text files, pdf documents and reports for your accountant. The newest release for the PC, just out, offers some bug fixes that are painless to install. The cost is $19.95.
Frustrated trying to choose which search engine will best serve your needs? WebFerret 1.10 at http://www.ferretsoft.com/ is one of the better solutions to this problem - it's fast and it's free. Running on Windows 95 and NT4, it sits on your desktop, and once launched with your Internet connection, searches most of the major engines at once - including AltaVista, Excite, OpenText, HotBot, Infoseek, Lycos, Magellan and WebCrawler. It also searches the directory, Yahoo, and even covers gopher search tool Veronica.
Features I especially like are the ability to, first, manage the number of hits, either in total count or by specific search engine, second, save the search results to a file and, third, sort the results by name, URL address or search engine source. Users can address questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. WebFerret is free; the NetFerret suite of six utilities costs $29.95.
WinZip 6.3 beta 3 (32-bit) for Windows 95
The last tool, which I consider critical, is a compression utility called WinZip, made by Nico Mak Computing Inc., now in version 6.3 beta 3 and found at http://www.
winzip.com/. It allows me not only to reduce the size of files on my hard drive and archive collections of files, but also to transmit reasonably sized files via e-mail over the Internet and to place them on my Web server for access through my Web site. An especially helpful feature is the simple drag and drop for compressing and archiving materials. The cost for a single copy is $29.
John Makulowich writes, talks and trains on the Internet. You can reach him at email@example.com; his home page is http://www.cais.com/makulow/.
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