Microsoft's Plus Pack.. the first add on for
by Alan Zisman
(c) 1995. First
published in Our Computer Player, September 1995
While the focus of activity at Microsoft, these past
months, has been
to get Windows 95 ready for the general public, that hasn't been all
been occupying those busy little gnomes of Redmond. In other corners of
Bill Gates' workshop, teams have been working on the next version of
Office, on bringing Win95's new features to Windows NT, and in yet
corner of the Microsoft campus, on the Windows 95 Plus Pack-- a
of enhancements for the Windows 95 environment.
The $49 Plus Pack includes features that range from
the practical to
the whimsical. Here's what you get (at least as of early July...
of pre-release software aren't fixed in stone, and may be somewhat
by the time you read this... especially if US Government edicts force
to remove the Microsoft Network or other features from the main Win95
THE SERIOUS STUFF
-- System Agent appears as a tiny icon in the 'tray'
on the right-hand
end of the Win95 Taskbar, along with the time of day, and speaker
It's a scheduler for all those tasks that really ought to be done
but you never really get around to it. Set it to optimize your hard
with ScanDisk or Defrag late at night. Backup to tape every Friday. Run
a virus checker regularly. Of course, the implication is that you never
turn off your computer!
-- DriveSpace enhancements. Even with hard drive
prices tumbling, many
people still welcome disk compression as a free (or at least cheap) way
of squeezing more data onto their existing hardware. Recent versions of
DOS have come with DblSpace or DrvSpace compression-- both are
by Win95. The Plus Pack includes DriveSpace 3, which permits better
ratios and compressed volumes as big as 2 gigabytes, up from the 512
limit of the existing DriveSpace compression.
As well, the Plus Pack includes a Compression Agent--
this runs in the
background to monitor disk use, and when the computer is unoccupied,
compress rarely-used files even more.
-- Internet features. Microsoft is adding Internet
access to the Microsoft
Network (isn't everyone?-- but Plus Pack purchasers can get one month
Internet access this way). The Plus Pack includes a Web browser. On the
other hand, Web browsers are getting almost embarrassingly common these
days. Perhaps more useful is the Internet Setup Wizard. While the basic
Win95 package includes everything you need to connect to an Internet
Provider (ISP), with built-in TCP-IP and Dial-Up-Networking,
often found these difficult to set up. The Wizard does a good job of
users through the process, whether they're wanting to connect using the
Microsoft Network, or with an independent ISP.
Internet Mail features for Microsoft Exchange were
removed from the
standard Windows 95 product but added to the Plus Pack.
In addition, the Plus Pack includes Dial-Up-Server,
which allows user
to access their home or office computer from a remote location.
CAN WE BE SILLY, TOO?
A full install of the Plus Pack also gives you about
20 meg worth of
less serious stuff. For instance:
-- Desktop Themes. Many users have spent a lot of time
wallpaper, sounds, colour schemes, and other ways of customizing their
Windows 3 environment. Desktop Themes bring it all together. The Plus
comes with a collection of themes, ranging from Sports to Dangerous
to Leonardo da Vinci to Travel to The 60s. Each features wallpaper and
colour scheme, along with a customized collection of sounds, animated
and even icons-- a medieval straw basket for Leonardo's Recycle Bin,
flowers and peace signs for The 60s.
-- One of the claims to fame of Steve Jobs' NeXT
operating system has
been Full Window Drag... instead of getting an empty outline when you
a window, you move the actual contents as well. (In case you've never
a window, you can do it my putting your cursor on the title bar, hold
the left mouse-button, and well... drag).
This was a big hit when it was included as an
undocumented feature in
the pre-release Preview version of Win95... word quickly spread through
the grapevine that by adding a line like ILoveBunny32=1 to startup
users could add Full Window Drag. (I'm not making this up-- it shows
little it takes to amuse computer users). That feature was removed from
later betas, and moved to the Plus Pack... where you don't need to type
references to animals to make it work-- just right-click on the
and look in the Properties tabbed dialogue box. The same dialogue box
font smoothing, for those large screen fonts that can sometimes look
something produced by an old version of PrintShop, and wallpaper
to make your wallpaper picture grow to fit your screen.
-- Windows 95 includes 3D graphics capabilities, and
an enhanced gaming
environment compared to Windows 3... to show it off, the Plus Pack
3D Pinball... a cute version of the arcade game, complete with flashing
lights and sound effects.
You can choose to install only those features that you
want-- or even
choose individual desktop themes. One of the features of Windows 95 is
that programs designed for that operating system need to add an
Uninstall feature to Control Panel-- with this, you can easily add or
individual Plus Pack items.
The Plus Pack isn't vital-- Windows 95 will run just
fine without it.
Some may argue that some of the features (my favorite is the Internet
should have been included in the basic Win95 package. At $49 list,
it is a collection that many users will find useful or fun.