Here are summaries of some recent Computing product reviews. Each product is rated on a scale of one to four, with one computer indicating poor and four indicating excellent:
Microsoft Visual Basic, for PC or compatible running Windows 3.0 in Standard Mode or Enhanced Mode (which means a 286 or higher processor and at least 1MB of memory, a graphics card, a hard disk and a mouse or other pointing device). $199. From Microsoft Corp., 1 Microsoft Way, Redmond, Wash. 98052. (206) 882-8080.
Visual Basic is the first programming language of the PC's second decade. It makes Windows programming relatively easy for everyone from beginners to overworked corporate professionals, even automating the process of creating Windows icons, menus and dialog boxes. The PC's real power is its flexibility. That flexibility comes from software. Visual Basic is a marvelous tool for creating that software.
Performance: 4 computers
Ease of use: 4 computers
Value: 4 computers
(These are reviews of shareware programs for IBM and #i compatible computers. Shareware programs are available from computer bulletin boards and computer clubs. Users try them, then pay a fee to register them if they decide to use them regularly.)
zTC WinNav. Richard Patterson, who wrote this group of utilities for Windows 3.0, lets you know right away that WinNav doesn't have all the features of such commercial powerhouses as Magellan or XTree. WinNav lets you explore and execute files on your hard disk with a slickness that is becoming more and more common on shareware programs for IBM and compatible computers. Click your mouse button on a text file, and that file pops up in a window. You can even read text files that have been compressed. If you order directly from Mr. Patterson, he'll supply all the usual file compression utilities with his program and reminds you that they must be registered separately. The manual, which you can print out from your shareware disk, is thorough. After you try WinNav for 30 days, registration costs $49.95 (plus $10 for a high-density disk with utilities) from FlashPoint Development, P.O. Box 270492, Houston, Texas 77277.
JBT Tools. A good utility program is a lot like a Swiss army knife. Here is the Swiss army knife equivalent for IBM and compatible computers. John Bean, the JB of JBT Technology's JBT Tools, has written public domain and shareware utility programs that show up regularly on computer bulletin boards. Now he's compiled them in a package with a look and feel as slick as professional programs costing a good deal more. Online help is clear and comprehensive and the graphics are professional. The set includes EZDoss, Find Duplicates, Back Off and CopyCon.
Bean charges $15 to register each program, or he'll send you all four programs for $35 (add $25 for printed manuals for all the programs). Write to JB Technology, 28701 N. Main St., Ridgefield, Wash. 98642.