To cut down the pile of items that I've been meaning to mention, I'll continue from last week. Here are two more brief summaries.
Fontmax for languages: Some years ago, a friend of mine who was a translator -- he is conversant in 11 languages -- wanted to buy a computer. But he had a problem: While it was easy to write in English on nearly any computer with nearly any word processor, how could the computer make the funny extra characters in European languages? How about Russian with all its different shapes? And Greek?
I'm trying to persuade him to sell that old but reliable setup and get a new computer that offers far more convenience and options. Whatever machine he gets, I would highly recommend WordPerfect with an add-on program called Fontmax.
Fontmax turns WordPerfect into an international word processor with the fonts appearing correctly on screen as well as when printed out. It displays 18 languages or technical character sets, including Russian, Hebrew, Greek, Portuguese, German, Polish, Japanese (Katakana and Hiragana), Arabic/Farsi, Thai, Turkish, Hungarian and Armenian. There are also symbols for business and chemistry. If this isn't amazing enough, Hebrew types left to right.
Most people who would want this are different from my friend; they'd be using only one or two languages. Fontmax loads up to two languages at a time. You can, at any time, unload one language for another.
What about the keyboard, you might ask. Well, the same English letters appear. Nothing magical erased them. By pressing Alt-K, however, Fontmax brings up a picture of a keyboard with the new key configurations in a corner of your screen. It's as effective as covering up your keys with labels and not as messy.
The program loads easily, and the brief manual seems to include all the necessary technical information. You need a hard drive, an EGA, VGA or Hercules Ram font card, and a laser or dot-matrix printer.
Though Fontmax has a European character set, you don't really need the program for it. WordPerfect (and almost all word HTC processors now) have "extended character sets" that have the European characters. For languages that use symbols much different from those of English, Fontmax makes their use utterly simple. It's well priced at $159.95 ($249.95 if you want it bundled with Laser Twin, which allows dot-matrix printers to emulate a laser).
(Intercontinental Software Systems, 3463 State St., No. 283, Santa Barbara, Calif. 93105;  373-0212.)
The world of software: "How does this guy find so many different programs?" you might ask yourself. The lure of a column being what it is, some companies just send me their wares. Others inundate me with press releases (which rarely work). And, like many of you, I get caught by an advertisement -- or another column -- and follow up on it.
ICP Books (8900 Keystone Crossing, No. 1100, Indianapolis, Ind. 46240-2183;  844-7461), however, just came out with a line of 15 books that divides more than 15,000 software programs into categories.
One book, for example, contains detailed listings of Apple Macintosh software. Another covers accounting software for IBMs and compatibles. Yet another contains network software for microcomputers. Each book costs $20 to $26. Considering that most software directories cost several hundred dollars, that makes the information affordable.
And, of course, some libraries and good software stores have those big, expensive software reference books. Seek and ye shall find.
1990 Universal Press Syndicate