Business-like, isn't he?


 

 



Norton's ready for Windows 95

by Alan Zisman (c) 1995. First published in Our Computer Player, September 1995

previews of Symantec Norton Navigator and Norton AntiVirus 95

One sign of how awkward and limited many people have found the standard Windows 3 interface has been the number of replacements or additions to it that have made it to market over the past five years.

These have ranged from shareware, such as Planet Crafters' $25 Plug-In which added nested groups to Program Manager and let users add sounds and change cursors, to one of my old standbys, the British free BackMenu, which popped up a menu whenever the user right-clicked anywhere on the desktop. Then there have been probably dozens of commercial programs, such as Hewlett-Packard's Dashboard. But probably the most widely known has been Symantec's Norton Desktop for Windows.

This program completely replaced the standard Windows Program Manager with a much more sophisticated version, and even though it took up a fair hunk of disk space and resources (at least for its era-- several years ago), it found its way onto the desktops and hearts of many users, who couldn't imagine running Windows without it.

But Windows 95 spells the end to all those products, for at least two reasons. First of all, the Win95 interface is much slicker and capable than the old Program Manager. The Start button is always available-- no more busy-work minimizing and maximizing icons to get to Program Manager. And (like my old fave BackMenu), programs are quickly available in hierarchical menus, that can be easily customized and rearranged to suit each user. Shortcuts to frequently used programs or documents can be left on the desktop for quicker access.

Even more basic for all those Windows 3 shell replacements-- they simply won't work under Windows 95. Don't bother trying.

Never one to let a good market die, Symantec spent the Windows 95 beta period critically looking at the Win95 default Explorer interface (users can also install the old Program Manager interface if they prefer), choosing rather than totally replacing it, as they did with Windows 3, instead to enhance it. The result is three programs-- Norton Utilities 95 (which we reviewed in the July issue), Norton Anti-Virus 95, and the all new Norton Navigator 95.

We took a look at pre-release beta copies of Norton Navigator and Norton Anti-Virus 95.
 

NORTON NAVIGATOR 95

When you install Norton Navigator, at first, nothing much has changed. There are a few new icons on the TaskBar, but that's about it. A few clicks will show what they are-- there's a small QuickLaunch area near the right-hand end of the TaskBar, for example, where you can drag icons for instant access. To the left of that, you'll find miniature pictures of desktops-- Norton Navigator supports multiple desktops, accessed through the MultiDesk images.

Personally, I've never seen much need for multiple desktops, but some users seem to find them quite useful-- here, a quick click on the icon on the Taskbar, or a keyboard shortcut zips you to an alternative desktop. By default, a second desktop is set up with the Norton Navigator utilities installed as shortcut icons on the desktop... users could conceivably set up desktops for particular projects, or a games desktop and a work desktop, or... well, whatever they desire.

All Navigator's options are set up from the Control Center, allowing quick configuration of Navigator's Taskbar add-ons and other options. As well, you can choose to set up Quick Menus. These add on to the standard Start Menu Documents and Control Panel and Run menus.

Left to its own devices, Win95's Start Menu provides quick access to the Control Panel, through the Settings item, a Run dialogue for typing a command (similar to the Run item in the Win 3 Program Manager File menu), and a Documents menu, that lists the last dozen or so documents accessed by any (Win 95) application. Navigator adds to these... the Control Panel item now includes individual items for the various Control Panel options. The Run item now includes a history listing the last dozen or so Run commands. And the Documents menu now sorts the recently-accessed files by type-- Text files or Word (*.Doc) files, and so forth.

Fast Find similarly enhances the Start Menus Find command. The default Find is pretty good, allowing searches by name, but also by date, by size, or containing specified text strings. Navigator adds searches by attributes or by last modification date, and can even search deleted files. As well, like Lotus Magellan, a well-regarded DOS program abandoned by its creator, Navigator can create an index of the contents of your files, enabling much faster searches by content.

File Assist adds File Management features to standard Win 95 Open, Browse, and Save As dialogues. Now, these dialogue boxes also will let the user move, copy, delete, rename, compress (with ZIP, etc.), expand, view, and UUEncode (an Internet mail standard). Win95 had already added Create Directory (well, Folder in Win95-speak) to these dialogues, so together with the Navigator functions, powerful file management will be available any time these standard dialogue boxes are used.

There's also a Long File Name Enabler. At first glance this seems to perform an act of magic-- enabling old Windows programs to use long file names. Unfortunately, it only works with programs that used the Windows 3 common dialogue boxes for Open and Save As. While it does work-- these programs can now save and open files using long file names, most of the common major applications-- even from Microsoft, used custom dialogue boxes that don't respond to this neat trick.

Win95's Explorer file manager gains an Undo command, permitting multiple levels of undo for file and folder commands, as well as quicker ways to navigate through deeply nested folders. An Archive Wizard checks how often you're using applications and documents, and makes recommendations for files that you might consider archiving or even deleting.

In addition to all these enhancements, there's a File Manager. This comes with a bit of a history. Way, way back in PC history, there was a DOS utility called XTree... initially a visual directory tree, with keyboard shortcuts for common DOS file and directory management commands. Over the years, it grew into the very powerful XTree Gold, and spawned a Windows version that included a large number of file viewers and very slick, build-in Zip archiving.

Xtree was purchased by Central Point, makers of PC Tools, and last Fall, Xtree Gold for Windows 4.0 and PC Tools File Manager for Window, version 3.0 were released simultaneously-- in fact, they were virtually identical programs, bringing XTree's viewers and archiving to PC Tools.

As part of the merger-mania that seems to be sweeping the software industry, Symantec then purchased Central Point. So Norton Navigator's File Manager is effectively, the descendent of PC Tools' and XTree's products-- in fact, its icon is identical to the PC Tools' File Manager's.

Like the last version of XTree Gold (or PC Tools), it adds multiple, tabbed views... one page, for example, could show deleted files, just a click away from the normal view. Files can be compressed or uncompressed right from the file manager, using ZIP, ARC, or LHA formats. Encryption and Wipe Delete security options are available, as is the viewing and recovery of deleted files. Like Win95 Explorer, Quick Views of files are just a right click away, but like its predecessors, the program can also be set to AutoView document contents, in the lower pane.

New in this version is Internet support... directory trees on an FTP server can be added to the user's main Tree. Clicking on one of those file folders automatically connects to the FTP site, right at the folder. As well, files can be UUENCODED or UUDECODED right from the menus or Toolbar.

The program is very configurable-- users can select what items to put on the menus, and there are icons to add any menu item to the Toolbar. Finally, all the file management commands (Copy, Move, Delete, Compress, etc.) can be run as standalone programs, so they can be easily accessed at any time.
 

NORTON ANTI-VIRUS 95
 

Along with the Norton Utilities and Norton Navigator products for Windows 95, Symantec is also releasing Norton Anti-Virus (NAV) 95. And while the other two programs enhance capabilities that (for the most part) are already available to Win95 users, Norton Anti-Virus fills a vital need that otherwise hasn't been addressed by Microsoft.

But hold it, I hear you cry-- Microsoft provided basic protection from viruses in the last few version of DOS... both DOS and Windows versions of a so-called Microsoft Anti-Virus, in fact licensed from Central Point Software.

True, true. Nevertheless, those utilities have been dropped from Windows 95; no virus protection is packaged with the operating system. And while DOS virus-scanning programs, such as F-Prot or McAffee Scan continue to work under Win95, their virus-removal components may not function correctly. And because Win95 starts out booting to DOS and runs DOS executables, it's still vulnerable to DOS boot sector and other viruses.

Because of this, Win95 users are particularly vulnerable to virus attack, especially if they engage in 'high-risk computing', such as sharing programs or swapping floppies.

NAV 95 safely installs itself, checking for viruses before proceeding. It installs three components-- a DOS portion, installed at the top of AUTOEXEC.BAT which checks the system near the beginning of bootup and at system shutdown. A Windows component makes further checks when the Win95 interface is loading. Finally, a scheduler appears on the end of the TaskBar, letting the user schedule full system scans regularly, when the system is unused.

As a Win95 application, virus scans can be premptorily multitasked... running happily in the background while the user works with other applications. It can scan inside compressed ZIP and LHA/LZH files. Installation can create a rescue disk, to be used to boot with, in the event of infection. As well, NAV keeps track of the state of your hard drive's boot sector and files... any major changes (such as the multiple updates of Win95 made by beta testers over the past months) make it suspicious-- as well it should be! But otherwise, it works well in the background, keeping watch for suspicious behaviour.
 

THE END OF PC TOOLS ?

For years, the rivalry between Symantec (Norton) and Central Point (PC Tools) kept both companies on their toes, ultimately benefiting consumers. While the Norton product line featured separate packages of utilities, backup and virus checkers, and Windows desktops, Central Point combined all these features into PC Tools, making it the Swiss Army Knife of software. Again, consumers had a choice.

The new, Windows 95 generation of Symantec Norton products-- the two described in this article, along with Norton Utilities 95, described in July's issue, have gained from Symantec's acquisition of Central Point's product line, including both PC Tools and XTree.

It remains to be seen whether the other product lines will continue to be offered-- and if they are, whether they will be anything other than repackaging of the Norton products.

Still, with this trio of Win95 utilities, Symantec has again met Microsoft's challenge: even though the new Windows 95 interface is much improved over the previous version, there is still room for 3rd party enhancements such as those offered by the Norton Utilities 95 and Norton Navigator 95.

And with no protection from viruses at all in Windows 95, many users will find the Norton Anti-Virus 95 a must have product.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 



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Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan