Three Programs and a Freebie for Windows 95

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

4 Embarcadero Center, Suite 3470
San Francisco, CA 94111 USA
803-295-5875/803-269-4719 (fax)
$29 (US)

Quick View Plus
Inso Corporation
401 North wabash, Suite 600
Chicago, IL 60611 USA
312-329-0700/312-670-0820 (fax)
approx. $50 (US)

Arcada Backup-95
Arcada Software Inc.
708 Fiero Commerce Park, Suite 5
San Luis Obispo, CA 93401 USA
805-782-4400/ 805-544-9209 (fax)
$99 (US)

Windows 95 is a big step forward in features and usability over the various versions of Windows 3.1 that have pretty much defined personal computing for the first half of the ?90s.  It has a friendlier interface, long file names, more-or-less plug and play hardware support, and is more powerful and less crashable than its predecessor. (Or as cynics are saying ?Windows 95 sucks less?).

It?s interface is good enough that it?s taken most of the steam out of the formerly thriving industry creating software to enhance Win 3?s anemic Program Manager. Symantec Software, for example, is targeting its Win95-compatible Norton Navigator as something to ?enhance? Windows 95?s features, rather than to replace Windows features, as it did with the Windows 3 Norton and PC Tool?s Desktop programs.

Better as Windows 95 is, there remains room for enhancements, and a number of companies are producing products to fill in some of Windows 95?s missing pieces.

Vertisoft?s Name-IT

Take long file names, for instance.

Windows 95 finally breaks with the 1981 DOS standard of 8-letter file names (with no spaces, please). It allows for file names as long as 256 characters (even the Mac only allows 32 characters)-- I?ve seen student ?essays? that were shorter than that.

Unfortunately, this is only supported with new, 32-bit, Win95 compatible software. Your existing Windows programs are still only aware of the old, 8 letter version... and so a word processor file named ?Letter to the Editor about Taxes? will appear as LETTER~1.DOC if you?re using last year?s Word 6.0.

Symantec Norton Navigator includes a feature allowing old Windows programs to use long file names-- but it only works with programs using Windows long file names, and a few others. It doesn?t support the popular Microsoft Office programs, for example.

Vertisoft?s Name-IT is a simple program that does this single thing-- but does it well. When running, it adds long file name support to virtually all old Windows programs. If the programs use the Windows 3 common dialogue boxes for Open and Save As, it replaces them with their Windows 95 equivalents, complete with long file support. If your program uses custom dialogue boxes for these functions, it adds a ?Long File Name? button onto the dialogue box-- pressing that opens the Windows 95 dialogue, again allowing long names.

It worked with all the old software on my system-- allowing me to use this useful (and long overdue) Win95 feature, without having to update all my software to new versions. (Note however, that this will NOT allow you to safely use older utilities such as defragmenters/optimizers or backup programs, without risking damage to the long file name structures). My only wish is that the program could be run needing its icon taking up valuable TaskBar real estate.

Quick View Plus

One of the new skills for Win95 user?s is to right-click on everything... New computer users may find this easier than upgraders from Windows 3, for whom the right mouse button often seemed as little used as an appendix.

Right-clicking most things brings up a pop-up menu, with items customized to the selected object. Right-click on some data files in Explorer (or My Computer), and one of the menu items says ?Quick View?. Choosing this brings up a handy view of the contents of the file, without needing to waste time bringing up the application that made the file. This is especially handy if you don?t actually own the application that created the file, or if you want to check a bunch of documents to see if they?re deletable. (If you installed Win 95 from floppies, Quick View wasn?t installed-- it?s on the CD version only).

Symantec thought highly enough of this feature, that even though it?s previous Win 3 products, like PC Tools File Manager, included a comprehensive set of document viewers, it relies on Win95?s Quick View to provide the same feature in the new Norton Navigator.

The only problem is that Quick View only provides viewers for a handful of file formats.
Inso Corporation, who actually provided Quick View to Microsoft, in the past has been known for the excellent Outside-In utility, which provides a huge range of file converters. They are marketing a replacement for Quick View, called (surprise!) Quick View Plus.

Instead of the 30 viewers included with Win95, QV-Plus lets you view over 200 document formats-- virtually all of the common DOS and Windows word processing, spreadsheet, database, and graphics formats, and even several of the more common Mac formats.

Replacing Quick View in the right-click menu, QV Plus does a good job of showing fonts, line spacing, even, in many cases, embedded graphics. It will even let you view the contents of compressed ZIP files.

It can be used with e-mail in Microsoft Exchange-- e-mail that now can contain graphics or other binary attachments. Or it can be used together with the Start Menu's FIND command... either to find a file, or even to find a file containing a particular text string. Once you've viewed the file, if you want, you can print, directly from the Quick View Plus window-- even if you don't have the original application that created the file. If your viewed file contains an OLE object's icon, that too can be viewed.

Graphics files can be cropped or resized, and the clipboard can be used to copy and paste all or part of a document into a Windows application. Individual files within a ZIP archive can be viewed, copied, or moved-- all without opening the archive .

Get used to right-clicking-- it?s one of Windows 95?s handiest features. And if you find the range of viewers that ship with Windows 95 limiting, take a look at Quick View Plus.

Arcada Backup

One of the big areas of complaint from Win95 upgraders has been backup. Hopefully, we all know about the importance of maintaining current backups for protection against viruses, power failures, theft, and other computer disasters.

Older backup programs, like other disk utilities, however, are incompatible with Windows 95?s long file name structure. Win95 includes usable alternatives for other disk utilities-- ScanDisk and DeFrag both work well, and should be used in place of older DOS or Windows equivalents.

There is a backup program included with Windows 95, as well, but it seems like the weakest of the bunch-- written by tape drive manufacturer, Colorado, it provides support for some Colorado drive models, but does not support most of the wide range of tape backup units available. No SCSI support for example. (Of course there?s no support for floppy backups... in the era of common 500 meg- 1 gig hard drives I shudder to think of the number of floppy disks needed for a backup).

Arcada are backup specialists. Their earlier products have been licensed to other utilities companies, appearing under well-regarded names such as Norton Backup. Under their own name, they have marketed higher-end products aimed at network managers, and alternative operating systems such as NT.

Arcada Backup for Windows 95 claims to support all tape drives commercially available today... the wide range of DC2000 (QIC 80) tapes, the new high-capacity Travan tapes, SCSI tapes, parallel port units, and more. It uses Win95?s multi-tasking and multi-threading abilities to speed up backup, even while the computer is being used for other tasks.

An included Backup Wizard walks the user through the setup, allowing customization. Backups can be automated, allowing them to take place late at night, for example. As a true Win95 program, it safely supports the long file name structures. As well, special thought has gone into dealing with the Windows 95 System Registry.

The Registry is the central repository for data about the hardware, software, and users on a particular machine. It can pose problems with backup and restore processes... if new hardware or software has been added since backing up, restoring the backup could result in a loss of the new settings.

Arcada-95 handles this by treating the Registry files differently than other data files-- these aren?t simply restored, instead, they are compared, line by line, with the existing file-- minimizing potential danger. Specific choices can be saved, allowing users to save a set of parameters for a minimal daily backup, and a more comprehensive weekly backup, for example.

This program is a must for anyone who values their data or their computer?s setup under Windows 95.

Power Toys-- the Freebie from Microsoft

Not to be left out, even Microsoft is enhancing the basic Win95 product. We?ve previously review Microsoft Plus!-- the $49 add-in. But a number of the Windows 95 interface programmers have been working, on their own time, and created a collection of little utilities that Microsoft left out. These are being distributed for free, by Microsoft, and other on-line sources, as PowerToys. (Try if you have Internet access).

PowerToys have been updated every few weeks, but as of right now, includes a number of useful enhancements. Several features are added to that handy right-click pop-up menu... for example, you can now view inside those big, compressed *.CAB files that came on your Win95 CD or diskettes, and easily find a particular file. Even nicer is the addition to the SEND TO sub-menu-- by default, right-clicking on a file gets you a SEND TO choice, allowing you to send a file (or files) to the A: drive, or to a few programs. (Win 95 HINT-- copy shortcuts of anything to the \WINDOWS\SEND TO folder, and they will appear on the SEND TO list... add printers, fax, applications... whatever you want). PowerToys adds a SEND TO... ANY FOLDER item, making it the easiest way to copy or move files in Explorer.

There are some nice enhancements to the audio-CD player. New to PowerToys, is perhaps the most powerful feature of all-- TweakUI. This installs as a Control Panel icon, and allows the user a huge range of customization features... removal of cluttering desktop icons such as Network Neighborhood or the InBox, for example, or an easy way to get rid of the Cloud screen at boot up.

Lots of features, and the price is right. Anyone who wants more power over the Win95 environment should take the time to track down and install a copy of this one.

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