LotusWorks really works but it skimps on support

PRODUCT REVIEWS

August 31, 1992|By Knight-Ridder Tribune

LotusWorks 3.0, for PC-compatible with at least 640 kilobytes random-access memory and DOS 3.0 or higher. 286 or faster processor and EGA or VGA display recommended. $149 (or $49 as upgrade from 2.0 or $59 as "sidegrade" from other "works" programs). From Lotus Development Corp., 55 Cambridge Parkway, Cambridge, Mass. 02142. (800) 343-5414 or (617) 577-8500.

Summary: LotusWorks 3.0 is an excellent example of a "works" package, in which you can get most of the basic software any computer owner needs at a low price.

There are word-processor and modem-communications modules equal to those of competing programs, and a 1-2-3-style spreadsheet module and dBASE-style data-base module superior to much of the competition. This is all tied together by a Windows-style set of menus and lots of tutorial help. But the technical support lasts only 90 days unless you pay $129 a year more.

That's too short a period for a package with so many different modules and commands, especially one that will be popular with beginners.

On a scale of one to four, with one indicating poor and four indicating excellent, here's how the product rates:

Performance 3

Ease of use 4

Value 3

* *

(The following are reviews of shareware programs for IBM and compatible computers. The programs are available from bulletin boards and computer clubs. Users try them, then pay a fee to register if they decide to use them regularly.)

Programs to help children master school subjects are growing in number and quality (more about that later). There are far fewer programs to help teachers keep track of how well their pupils are doing.

Some of the best of these programs are shareware -- programs a teacher can try out for a few weeks, then register if they seem useful.

Unfortunately, the programs are not always easy to find on computer bulletin board systems. Even the systems run by school districts tend to be sluggish about acquiring new programs and updating the classics.

Wherever you look for programs for teachers, keep an eye out for the following ones.

VARGRADE: Author Dennis Revie has achieved a thoroughly professional design for his program and made it easy to install for any MS-DOS computer that has a hard drive or can use diskettes that hold 720 kilobytes or more. Revie's program is powerful and almost infinitely flexible. Even with current classroom overcrowding, it will be hard to exceed VARGrade's limits. A teacher can use it to keep and analyze attendance and grade records for 16,000 students, each of whom does 2,000 assignments. Payment of the $60 registration fee brings a printed manual as well as the next update of the program -- also complete with printed manual. With the shareware version, you can print out your own copy of the manual, of course -- and the program is easy to use even if a harried teacher wings it without reading the manual.

GRADE CALCULATOR: This may be handy even for a teacher who uses VARGrade. It swiftly converts raw test scores to percentages. Just tell it how many questions there are on the test and how many points the exam is worth. Author Stephen W. Hartman, a teacher himself, asks $15 from anyone who uses the program regularly.

LESSONPLANZ: The spelling is an idiosyncrasy of the author, Unicorn Software's talented programmer and driving force, Charles P. Schell IV. The program itself takes a standard approach. The teacher outlines methodology, goals, objectives, materials to be used and evaluation methods to be applied. A built-in text editor allows all this to be as simple or elaborate as the teacher desires. Payment of the $25 registration fee entitles you to upgrades for life for the price of postage.

EDUCATIONAL PROGRAMS: A teacher-friend asked me to recommend some learning programs for her elementary school. Her computer lab has a few IBM-compatible computers, and she couldn't find the range of educational programs for IBMs that are available for Apples. Not to worry, I said, and compiled for her a set of my favorites on 50 disks. Many of these programs have been tested by my kids and their friends, who give them high marks. They range from simple word and number recognition programs for very young children to more advanced spelling and math programs. All require EGA or better color monitors and most need a hard disk. If other teachers or parents are interested, I'll send the complete set of 50 disks for $99. (Add $10 for 3.5-inch disks and tax for Californians.)

(For copies of the teacher programs, VARGrade, LessonPlanZ and Grade Calculator, send $12, plus tax for Californians, to Shareware, P.O. Box 7037, Long Beach, Calif. 90807. Phone (310) 595-6870. Fax (310) 426-0110. A catalog of shareware programs on a disk costs $2. Please specify 5.25- or 3.5-inch disks.)

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