Here are summaries of some recent Computing magazine product reviews. Each product is rated on a scale of one to four, with one computer indicating poor and four indicating excellent:
You inject life into presentation displays by adding some motion and interactivity. Action! does this on the PC under Windows and makes animating simple text displays very easy. It is limited in creating more complex graphic animations, however, and is relatively expensive because you must pay for technical support after 90 days. Magic animates on the Macintosh. It has the same kind of templates for easy text animation as Action! and has more commands for animating graphics as well as a great utility for freely distributing your animated "movies" to other computer users. Cinemation, another Macintosh program, is my favorite, though. It has yet more commands for graphics animation, along with templates and QuickTime support (for showing video on screen). Too bad it needs substantial memory (at least 4MB) and has a vague royalty policy for commercial distribution of animated presentations.
Action! for PC running Windows 3.0 or later. $495. From Macromind Paracomp Inc., 410 Townsend St., Suite 408, San Francisco, Calif. 94107. (415) 442-0200.
Magic for Macintosh Classic or greater with a hard disk, System 6.0 or 7.0 and 2 megabytes or more RAM. $395. From Macromind Paracomp Inc., 410 Townsend St., Suite 408, San Francisco, Calif. 94107. (415) 442-0200.
Cinemation for Macintosh Classic or greater with a hard disk, System 6.0 or 7.0 and 1 megabyte or more RAM. (2 megabytes or more recommended). $495, ($395 to Dec. 31). From Vividus Inc., 651 Kendall Ave., Palo Alto, Calif. 94306. (415) 494-2111.
These are reviews of "shareware" programs for IBM and 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.
It's time to take stock of how you spent your money last year, how you expect to spend it this year and how much of a bite the tax man is going to take. First I'll deal with budgets, then to add insult to injury, I'll deal with taxes.
PC Budget -- With this home accounting program you can record every cent you make, measure your net worth, assign your expenditures to budget categories, then get a basic idea, via graphs and reports, where it all goes. With its menu system and mouse support, PC Budget is easy to learn and use. You get the usual accounts setup, along with a choice of budget categories and a running balance of your accounts. The loan calculator and amortization feature demand that you put in a decimal point, but the rest of the program should satisfy anyone who needs to balance a checkbook and track income and expenses. PC Budget can run on PCs with two floppy drives, but a hard drive is recommended. Look for version 2.4 on bulletin boards. (I'll send you a copy for $7.) Registration costs $37 from ProLogic Software and Services, P.O. Box 71, Loveland, Ohio 45140.
AM-Tax -- If you're curious about where you stand taxwise for 1990, AM-Tax is an inexpensive way to find out. You enter basic information about yourself, your income and deductions, and AM-Tax figures your taxes quickly. You can get summaries and even print your forms on dot-matrix printers. What AM-Tax doesn't give you is advice or other guidance. Essentially, you have to know what can and can't be legally deducted and enter the figures. State programs are available, as well as a professional version. Registered users can print an IRS-acceptable form. Registration ranges from $20 to $125, depending on the forms you need. The shareware version you download from a bulletin board (or get from me for $4) comes with the basic forms and will give you a good idea of how this tax program works.
(For copies of both PC Budget and AM-Tax, send $10, plus tax for Californians, to Shareware, P.O. Box 7037, Long Beach, Calif. 90807. A catalog on a disk costs $2. Or call (310) 595-6870. Fax (310) 426-0110. Please indicate 5.25- or 3.5-inch disks.)