Navigating with IBM-compatible computers has never been...

Personal Computers

July 01, 1991|By Michael J. Himowitz | Michael J. Himowitz,Evening Sun Staff

Navigating with IBM-compatible computers has never been easy. To make the computer do anything in its native state, you have to be on speaking terms with the Microsoft Disk Operating System (DOS). Unfortunately for many users, DOS speaks a strange variety of pidgin English that is logical but hardly intuitive.

Finding, copying and deleting files, launching programs, and figuring out where anything is on your hard disk can be a royal pain in the neck, even for experienced users.

Hence the explosion in recent years of DOS "Shells," programs that help you switch between directories, manage your files, launch applications and perform other useful tasks without remembering DOS's strange command syntax.

With Version 5 of DOS, released last month, Microsoft finally included a reasonably useful shell that shows lists of files and programs.

VTC But in an age of graphics, even than may not be enough. Advanced computer environments such as the Apple Macintosh operating system and Microsoft's Windows for IBM-compatibles, have replaced commands and lists with screens full of pictures, called icons.

Instead of trying to figure out which directory your word processor is in and remembering the command to launch it, you can look for an icon showing a pencil, point at it with your mouse and click a button.

Unfortunately, this ease of use comes at a price. You need a pretty hefty system to manage a full graphics environment.

So I was intrigued by a new program called QuikMenu II, from OSCS System Development, which puts a graphics, icon-based face on standard DOS systems.

Instead of showing lists of programs, QuikMenu II lets you set up beautiful screens full of color icons representing programs, macros (sequences of keystrokes) or even phone numbers.

To launch a program, you just click on the picture. QuikMenu II exits gracefully, runs the program you selected, and then pops up again when you're through. When it's running other programs, QuikMenu uses only 6K of memory.

It isn't a multitasking system, so you can't run more than one program simultaneously. But it gives your computer a very friendly look and feel for only $69.95. That's list price. Figure about $40 on the street. And it will run on virtually any IBM-compatible machine with 384K of memory.

When you install the software, QuikMenu II automatically scans your hard disk for programs it recognizes and sets up icons to run them. Unfortunately, the list of programs it recognizes is not very large, and you'll probably have to set up some of your own icons.

But even this isn't very hard if you know enough about DOS to recognize what your program looks like and what directory it's in.

To add a program icon, you fill out a form telling QuikMenu II what directory the program is in and what the name of the program file is. If you don't know the name, QuikMenu II will give you a list of files in the directory to choose from.

You can choose from a couple of dozen different icons (pictures of pencils, paper, printers, computers, people, telephones, etc.) or create your own by calling up a simple icon editor. QuikMenu II also imports icons created by Windows icon editors.

For example, if have a modem and want to include a phone dialing icon for your spouse at work, you can draw a little picture of your spouse and assign the phone number to it. Then, when you want to call, all you have to do is click on your spouse's picture. Very cute. Just make sure it's a favorable likeness before you show it to your spouse.

While QuikMenu II works best with a mouse, you don't absolutely need one to make it work. You can assign an alphabetical character to each icon, which appears with the icon's label. Typing the letter associated with the icon is the same as pointing at it with a mouse and clicking the button.

You can create up to 50 different pages of icons and even set up icons to access other icon pages. You can copy or move icons between pages to organize your menu system the way you want.

Besides launching programs and dialing the phone, QuikMenu II includes a reasonably competent file manager that allows you to find, copy, delete, rename, view and edit files. The simple text editor is fine for creating batch files of DOS commands to perform repetitive tasks.

For the security-minded, QuikMenu II allows you to assign passwords to icons and menu pages. If you want to know who has been doing what with your computer (or what you've been doing with it) QuikMenu II will keep a log of program usage by date and time.

The program is compatible with most networks and supports all standard video adapters that can display graphics. I had no problems with the program. QuikMenu II did its job with remarkable speed considering its graphics nature, which exercises the computer far more than text-based programs. In fact, QuikMenu II was faster than most of the text-based DOS shells I've come across.

Excellent, context-sensitive help is available with a single keystroke. The manual is brief but well-written. Once you get the hang of what QuikMenu II does, you'll probably never need to refer to it.

If you're looking for a menu program that's different and fun, or one that inexperienced users will appreciate, QuikMenu II is a good buy.

QuikMenu II

QuikMenu II, $69.95, is a colorful, graphics-based menu program and file manager that uses pictures, or icons, to represent programs on DOS-based computers.

Requirements: An IBM-compatible computer with 384K of memory, a hard disk and a video adapter that can display graphics.

Publisher: Contact OSCS Software Development, 354 NE Greenwood Ave, Suite 205, Bend, Ore. 97701.

QuikMenu II puts familiar faces on DOS files, programs

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