Adding to Windows 98 Enjoyment-- MS Plus 98

by Alan Zisman (c) 1998. First published in Vancouver Computes, October 1998

Microsoft Plus! 98
Microsoft Corporation
about $60

So you?ve upgraded to Windows 98, but you still have the nagging feeling that something?s missing? If that?s the case, Microsoft doesn?t want you to start looking at alternatives?certainly not Linux, or a Mac. Instead, the company would like to sell you something more?in this case, Microsoft Plus! 98.

It?s a strategy that worked before. Along with Windows 95, Microsoft gave us Plus! 95. That included utilities like a task scheduler, eye candy like desktop themes, a fancy pinball game, and the very first version of Internet Explorer web browser.

Most of Plus! 95 was included in Windows 98, so Microsoft needed to come up with a whole new set of add-ons for Plus! 98.

Cuteness 98!

A desktop theme includes wallpaper, sounds, icons, and a screen saver all around a single theme. Windows 98 includes the set of desktop themes and the theme manager that originally came with Plus! 95. In case you missed it, you can add them after the fact from the Control Panel?s Add-Remove Programs icon. Go to the Windows Setup page, and put an [x] next to Desktop Themes. Double-clicking on that line lets you select individual themes.

Plus! 98 includes 18 additional themes, including licensed cartoon themes like Peanuts and Doonesbury, a jazz theme, a sci-fi theme, and more. I?m not a big fan of pre-packaged themes at best, and none of this new set seemed especially interesting to me.

Also cute is the Deluxe CD Player. While Win 95 and 98 include a basic audio CD player, this version looks a lot neater. As well, like a number of shareware programs, the first time  you insert a music CD, it logs onto an Internet site, and automatically downloads a list of the tracks.

Fun and Games 98!

Three games come in the package: Lose Your Marbles is designed by SegaSoft?a very addictive little game. You?ve been warned. As well, there?s Microsoft Golf 98 Lite and a nice little card game, Spider Solitaire.

Serious Stuff 98!

There?s a registered copy of McAfee VirusScan 3.1.6, along with a six month supply of free updates. Some added features for utilities already included in Windows 98?the Maintenance Wizard and Disk Cleanup, to do a better job of removing junk from your drive, and automatically cleaning up the Start Menu. (File Cleaner is licensed from Cybermedia?s First Aid 98).

Another program-Lite?Microsoft Picture It Express, an entry-level image editing program. Finally, a nicely implemented zip-file utility: Compressed Folders. It makes zipped, compressed files appear as folders (with a zipper on the icon). Open the folder, and drag and drop files in or out of it.

Like some of the other features, there?s nothing new about this. X-Tree for Windows did this, back in 1993. The same idea showed up in PC Tools? File Manager and Norton Navigator, as well as a host of shareware programs. And in this case, if you already have another zip program installed, you won?t get the Compressed Folders option in Plus!

The full package eats up 193 MB of drive space?but most of this is in the various desktop themes. It?s easy to tailor an installation that uses much less space.

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