Two new programs help you get it off your chest

January 04, 1993|By Phillip Robinson | Phillip Robinson,Knight-Ridder News Service

It's transition time. The new man is headed for Washington and is picking his new team. What say we all give him some advice?

A couple of new programs help you get into the transition spirit, aiding you in crafting and addressing letters to public servants (and those who ought to be): Write Your Congressman! and Federal Soapbox.

WRITE YOUR CONGRESSMAN! (Contact Software $39.95, (800) 365-0606) is a specialized version of the 1st Act! contact management program. 1st Act! lets you store and quickly sift through a list of people's names, addresses and phone num

bers. Because you can attach notes to each person's record, you can track whom you talked to, when and what you said.

Write Your Congressman! comes with a complete list of the 535 U.S. senators and representatives, as well as the president, vice president and Supreme Court justices. For each it provides a full address along with professional data.

You can search through the 663 politicos here by name, ZIP code, congressional district or -- perhaps most important -- committee assignments.

When you find the one you want, you can use the built-in word processor to write a letter. The address will be automatically slapped onto the letter, and the program can even generate an envelope or fax cover.

I applaud the goal, but the execution stumbles. There is no easy tutorial, in manual or on disk. There are so many commands and options that I was immediately lost. If you already own 1st Act!, you can buy this list for only $19.95, and you'll know how to navigate the program. But a newcomer facing a contact report page won't know how to find the right representative , much less how to craft a good letter and get it out the door. You might do better to join the National Write Your Congressman Inc. group (9696 Skillman, Dallas, Texas 75243) for $99.50 to receive monthly research on important issues, along with addresses. FEDERAL SOAPBOX (Soapbox Software, $89, (800) 989-7627) doesn't cover just Congress, the president and the Supreme Court. It also includes addresses -- and an organization chart -- for many other federal officials in the judicial, executive and legislative branches.

The details you find here won't be in any phone book, nor are they in Write Your Congressman! For instance, look up Dan Quayle and you'll learn the names of his assistants and a short biography.

A major strength of this package is the mailing list -- you can build a list by selecting from the names you find. Then you can send one letter to everyone on the list, with the appropriate name and address injected into each. Soapbox is easier to use than Write Your Congressman! and has more detail on the federal government. It still isn't nearly easy enough to use, however.

VITAL STATISTICS

WRITE YOUR CONGRESSMAN! for 286-based or better PC-compatible with at least 640 kilobytes of random-access memory, a hard disk and DOS 3.1 or later. $39.95 (or $19.95 for 1st Act! owners). From Contact Software International, 1840 Hutton Drive, No. 200, Carrollton, Texas 75006. (800) 365-0606.

FEDERAL SOAPBOX, for PC-compatible with 640 kilobytes RAM, hard disk and DOS 4 or higher. $89 (introductory price, will rise to $129). From Soapbox Software, 10 Golden Gate Drive, San Rafael, Calif. 94901. (800) 989-7627

*

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

WRITE YOUR CONGRESSMAN!

Performance 3

Ease of use 2

Value 2

'

FEDERAL SOAPBOX Performance 3

Ease of use 3

Value 3

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