Program offers everything from last year's hits to 1900 prices

September 07, 1992|By Knight-Ridder News Service

SHAREWARE (These 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.)

In the year the software junkie was born, U.S. forces reclaimed Guam, the Cardinals beat the Browns in the sixth game to win the World Series, a gallon of milk cost 62 cents, a loaf of bread cost 9 cents, a new car (if you could get one) cost $1,225, Jimmy Dorsey's band led the Hit Parade with "Besame Mucho," and "Going My Way," with Bing Crosby, was the top movie.

How did I get so smart so quickly? News of the Past, a shareware program for IBM and compatible computers, gave me all this information a moment after I typed my name and birth date. Minutes later, a neatly composed page came out of my printer.

After a quick installation from two floppies, I only needed to tell News of the Past what kind of printer I have (laser or dot matrix). You don't need a hard disk, and all the files can fit on one 3.5-inch floppy, which means you can run it on a notebook computer.

Once you've installed it, you simply type "News" at the prompt, and you get a friendly menu that allows you to display the news of a particular day in history on your monitor before you print it.

No. 1 son, born in 1980, learned that Ronald Reagan was nominated for president in the month he was born and Michael Jackson's "Rock With You" was popular. "Ordinary People" won best movie Oscar that year, and you could buy a new set of wheels for $5,413.

News of the Past will give you birthday information all the way back to 1900. For folks who want to get fancy with this kind of information, special greetings forms, complete with graphics, are available. Registered users could feature News of the Past for such fund-raisers as school carnivals.

GAMES: Here are three games for the whole family. The folks at Carr Software have developed a clever, intricate Capture the Flag game that can be played with friends -- or against the computer. The idea is to capture your opponent's flag before he captures yours. The battle is waged through rural settings in brilliant VGA color. You'll need a 286-class PC or better. My two sons figured out how to play it long before I did. Islands of Danger, an arcade-type game, looks a bit dated, compared with Capture the Flag, but it will run on slower PCs with monochrome monitors. The game revolves around a rescue mission while evading missile launchers. But the Carr Software game that intrigued the whole family is Mix and Match, which requires players to match the color in a paint bucket by mixing shades of red, green and blue. Sounds easier than it is. If you don't mind kibitzers yelling at you to "mix more green, less red, more blue" as you try to match hues, you'll want to play this with relatives and friends. A great game for learning colors.

SHAREWARE FOR WINDOWS: Trash Manager actually gives you a Macintosh-like trash can for disposing of files from your Windows file manager. Unlike the Mac trash can, though, you can't trash whole subdirectories -- just individual files. And if you make a mistake, you can restore your files quickly. Look for version 1.1 or higher. You'll need Windows 3.1 to run it.

(For copies of News of the Past, send $7; for the three family games, send $10; for TrashMan, send $4 (plus tax for Californians) to: Shareware, P.O. Box 7037, Long Beach, Calif. 90807. Phone (310) 595-6870. Fax (310) 426-0110. A catalog on a disk costs $2. Please specify 5.25- or 3.5-inch disks.)

WINDOWS XTree is the grandfather of hard disk management programs. Often imitated but never quite duplicated, even when the imitations were fancier, XTree helped a whole generation of PC users organize their hard disks, copy, move and delete files, rename them and view the contents of some.

XTree was followed by XTreePro and XTreeGold, all fancier DOS-based file management programs.

Coming a bit late into the Windows environment, XTree for Windows looks right at home. It makes use of multiple windows to view the contents of your hard disk.

Taking advantage of Windows 3.1's drag and drop features, this new XTree allows you to drag files into other subdirectories, trash them, lasso them, rename files, copy them, and view files in the programs in which they were created, without running those programs. You simply choose the file, and a window pops up displaying the file. You can read the file, but you can't edit it, a choice users of the DOS versions have. And you can compress and uncompress (ZIP and unZIP) files to your heart's content.

Many of the functions are handled by choosing icons at the top of the screen. To select a whole subdirectory, you click on the lasso icon. You also can use the standard Windows keystrokes.

By double-clicking on a text file, you can call that file up in the Windows text-editing program, or you can call other files up in other Windows-based word-processors on your hard disk.

To read the files that usually come with software, you simply double-click on that file. In DOS-based XTree versions, you could view -- and edit -- files much easier and faster. But nearly everything is faster outside Windows.

Many of the features that are included in the Windows file manager, such as launching programs by double-clicking on program files, are found, with a few more bells and whistles, in XTree for Windows.

XTree for Windows comes with XTreeLink, which allows you to transfer files, via cable, between PCs. This would be handy for transferring files between a diskless lap-top and a desktop PC.

For XTree for Windows you'll need a PC capable of running Windows 3.0 or 3.1, two megabytes of RAM and DOS 3.3 or higher. While a mouse isn't mandatory, I'd hate to run any Windows program without one.

The retail price is $99, but XTree is selling it for $50 for new users and $40 for users of the DOS version. For more information, call (800) 395-8733.

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