ISSUE 522: The high tech office- Oct
There are useful solutions to Microsoft's limitations
Last time around, we looked at a couple of
software products that allow Mac users to survive in a Windows world.
This week, we examine a bevy of utilities to beef up what Microsoft,
in its infinite wisdom and mercy, chooses to give to the millions of
Windows comes with a collection of basic utilities.
Some, such as the disk checker ScanDisk, are installed by default.
Others, such as the basic backup program or the QuickView document
viewer are not, although users can add them later using
the Control Panel's Add Programs option.
But these basic utilities are, well, basic. Take the
little-known QuickView. Once installed, right-clicking on a document
gives the option to view it quickly without first loading it into some
heavy-duty application such as Word or Excel. If you're trying to find
one of a couple dozen reports or check a mys-
terious e-mail attachment without risking catching a virus, it can be
The problem is that QuickView only supports a handful
of file formats.
If you really want to be able to view documents, check
out Quick View Plus, now with a new version 5. Developed by Inso,
veloped the basic product for Microsoft, it's now sold by Jasc (www.jasc.com).
QVP allows you to view and print more than 200 PC and Mac file formats
without needing to own the application that created them. You can even
copy from a viewed file or activate Web hyperlinks. It costs about $89
and comes in versions for Windows 3.1 or for 95/98/NT.
Backing up is tedious but important. However, the
anemic application bundled with Win95/98 doesn't help.
One alternative is Backup Exec Desktop Edition, a
product now sold by Veritas (www.veritas.com), with a
new version 4 for Windows 95/98 and NT Workstation users. The $150
product supports a huge list of backup devices, ranging from archaic
floppy drives to Zip and other removable disk drives.
Users can create a boot floppy that will allow them to
restore their system in one operation without having to first install
Windows, then install the backup software and, finally, restore their
backup. I know it works because I had to resort to an earlier version
when my hard drive crashed about a year ago. It offers a variety of
interfaces including one-click wizards and automated scheduling. Your
data is vital to your business and this will make it easier to ensure
that you can access it in an emergency.
Calgary's Chuan Yung Int'l (www.cyic.com)
has a different take on disaster protection for PCs. While most such
products are software-based, its Watchdog Recovery System is a card
that plugs into your computer.
The company claims that the $80 card will minimize the
danger of virus infection, software tampering or even formatting the
hard drive. After rebooting, the system will be restored to normal. The
company offers versions for Windows 95/98 users and for the NT
(The company has sent me one of the cards, but I've
been afraid to put it to the test. I'm not ready to format the hard
drive on my work machine to see if the Watchdog works as advertised!)
I have used a number of products from PowerQuest
com), such as its Partition Magic utility, which is designed to
change the size and type of hard disk partitions without destroying the
data. Unlike the destructive Fdisk holdover from DOS that Microsoft
bundles with Windows, PowerQuest's Drive Image products aren't aimed at
the average user (pricing starts at about $135 for the basic version
and goes up to $900 for a licence for 50 stations of the Pro version),
although you can use the standard version as a kind of backup program.
What it does, as the name suggests, is make an image
of an entire hard drive. The compressed file can be stored on another
drive, across a network, on a CD (or a series of CDs) or wherever. So
an individual user could restore the image in the event of theft or
The new version 3 offers what PowerQuest calls
PowerCast -- the ability to use your network to shoot drive images to
ers at once, thereby vastly speeding up the chore of setting up a bunch
of machines. The product works with the usual assortment of Windows
versions, but also supports Unix, Linux and Netware drive
While users could easily work Quick View Plus into
their daily computing routines, the other products aren't something
most of us will need to use every day. But when you need them --
whether in the case of computer disaster or if your company is trying
to install its software packages onto 300 new computers all at once --
utility software can seem like a lifesaver. *