In software as in life, small is beautiful
by Alan Zisman
(c) 1998. First
published in Computer Player, June 1998
One of our themes in this column has been how, for too
newer equals better equals must have. And in an industry where hardware
generations are about six months, Internet software is updated every
months or so, games are updated annually, and productivity suites every
two years, trying to stay on top is expensive, too say nothing of
impossible, at least for more than a few weeks or so at a time? after
the bug fixes start appearing, along with the new driver versions, and
a new, faster CPU.
Clearly, Lewis Carroll was thinking of the
computer industry when his Red Queen told Alice that she would have to
run as fast as she could, just to stay in one spot?to actually get
she?d have to run twice as fast.
(And of course, publications like this one remain free
to the readers
due to the retailers hoping to keep us on the upgrade treadmill. And
be it from me to bite the hand that pays the printer?s bills).
This month, let?s take a look at software. Is newer
and bigger always
If you?re getting a little tired of the Microsoft vs
with the resulting versions of Internet Explorer and
getting more and more bloated with each release, point your browser
to Norway, to www.operasoftware.com.
Opera is a web browser with a difference. While it?s
packed with lots
of modern features, it?s a humble 1 meg (more or less) download. And it
includes features you won?t find in the Big Two (getting bigger all the
time). Like multiple browser windows, allowing you to read one site
another is downloading. Lots of user configuration options.
Because it?s about 1/10th the size of the better-known
brands, it loads
faster, and runs faster. And that makes browsing more fun. Currently,
are versions for 32-bit and 16-bit Windows, with the company?s Project
Magic aiming to create versions for OS/2, Linux, Mac, Amiga, and more.
Lacking the resources of Microsoft or Netscape, Opera
isn?t free? the
downloadable version works for 30-days, then shuts down. If you like
pay $35 (US?or $18 for students, educational institutions, or anyone
can?t afford the full price) and register it.
This is not the only example of ?Small is Beautiful?
If you use presentation software, for creating and
?slideshows? to illustrate a talk, you probably rely on market-leader
PowerPoint, part of Microsoft Office (Windows or Mac). A good product.
Like the rest of the Office Suite, lots of powerful features.
I prefer, however, ASAP Word Power, a modest little
product, from Software
Publishing Corporation, (www.spco.com). Three humble floppy disks in
box, which between them include both Windows 95 and Win 3.1 versions of
the product. It?s a quick and dirty little presentation package, with
features than PowerPoint, but easy to learn, and easy to use. The
presentations are not bad, either, and you can print out really
handouts. Unfortunately, the company doesn?t seem to be promoting or
this fine product; instead, they?ve evolved it into something called
Office ($49 US), a Microsoft Office 95/97 add-on.
While we?re on the topic of Microsoft Office (at least
sort of), I must
confess that I do use Microsoft Office. I resisted for a long time,
I did. In my pre-Windows days, I used a shareware word processor,
And the original Borland Quattro for spreadsheets. When I moved to
for a long time, I used Lotus (originally Samna) Ami and Ami-Pro as my
work processor, along with Microsoft Excel.
But when I moved to Windows 95, I got tired of waiting
for Lotus to
come out with a 32-bit version, and moved to Office 95. I?ve grown to
on Word?s real-time spell-checking (yes, it?s available in Lotus Word
and Corel Word Perfect as well). But Office 95 is good enough for me?so
far, I haven?t found anything compelling me to upgrade to Office 97.
animated paper-clip help system is cute for a while, but not enough to
make me need to upgrade.
Passing on upgrades is, perhaps, the simplest way to
keep things small
While I was a 16-bit Lotus user, I started using Lotus
keep my phone numbers, calendar, to-do lists, and more. Version 1.1
on a single floppy, and still does all I need. Later versions added
I don?t need, like the ability to set up mutually-convenient meetings
a network or hook into Lotus Notes. Later versions also resulted in a
ten or more times as large as the svelte version I still use.
The moral: let?s change the slogan from ?Bigger is
Better? to ?Small