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:
Express Presenter, for PC compatible with at least 640K RAM and a hard disk. $249.95. From Power Up! Software Corp., 2929 Campus Drive, San Mateo, CA 94403. (415) 345-5900.
Avagio 2.0, for PC compatible with at least 640 kilobytes RAM, 286 or faster processor, CGA graphics or better, and a hard disk. $149.95. From Unison World Software, 1321 Harbor Bay Parkway, Alameda, CA 94501. (510) 748-6670.
Summary: When you're buying inexpensive software alternatives, you should keep in mind that you may be giving up support, training and features that will cost you more in the long run. However, there are definitely situations where you can save hundreds of dollars on the original price and then have an easier program to learn and use. Express Presenter could easily replace Persuasion or Freelance for those who don't need the most sophisticated colors and charts. Avagio could replace PageMaker or Ventura Publisher for those who are only attacking small page layout projects with snazzy color graphics but relatively simple text.
Rating: 4 computers
Rating: 3 computers
A reader wanted a program to assemble family recipes and print them as a cookbook.
We suggested Meal-Master. It's probably the most popular of the IBM shareware programs for keeping track of recipes, finding ones that will use ingredients you have on hand, adjusting quantities for a different number of servings, printing shopping lists and generally managing cooking chores.
If you have a modem and there's a fair-sized computer bulletin board near you, you may be able to find some of the recipe collections. that avid amateur chefs -- and one equally avid professional chef -- have put together for Meal-Master.
Many of the recipes come from hard-to-find regional cookbooks recipes for turkey and duck in Santa Fe style, for example, for blackberry jam cake, for a shrimp and garlic dish that combines 30 shrimp with 30 cloves of garlic, for cheesecakes ranging from one with coffee and chocolate chips to a low-calorie delight made with low-fat cottage cheese and Neufchatel.
We've put together a five-diskette set (which we'll send to you for $15) that includes Meal-Master along with recipes we gathered from computer bulletin boards around the country. Among the cuisines represented are those of India, China, the Southwest, Louisiana, Maryland and Cleveland (which has a special Ohio way with asparagus).
The recipes are yours to keep and cook whether you continue to use Meal-Master or not; you can read them with any word processor and print them on any kind of printer. If the convenience of Meal-Master makes it a regular on your computer, as is likely, send the $35 registration fee to Episoft Systems, Suite 143, 10121 Evergreen Way, Everett, Wash. 98204.
If filing space for your recipes or your other paperwork is a problem, you might consider:
Docsmash -- This printer utility is designed to be used with the DOS print command and will literally smash the size of your ASCII documents so you can print four pages on a regular-size piece of typing paper. Most shareware manuals (and the recipes mentioned above) are ASCII, or text, documents, and most word-processing programs will allow you to convert your work to text files. The type is a bit small, but certainly readable.
It works with Epson-compatible dot-matrix printers (chances are, yours is Epson compatible) and HP DeskJet and LaserJet printers. A handy utility when you need to print long documents but space and trees are important. Look for version 3.26 or higher on bulletin boards. After trying it, registration costs $12.50 from David Rettger, 5304 Johnson Ave., Western Springs, Ill. 60558.
(For copies of Meal-Master and recipes, send $15 and $4 for Docsmash. (A shareware catalog on a disk costs $2. Please specify 5.25- or 3.5-inch disks. Phone (310) 595-6870. FAX (310) 426-0110.)