PCs come loaded, but not with all essentials

June 01, 1998|By Dwight Silverman | Dwight Silverman,HOUSTON CHRONICLE

So you just brought home a brand-new personal computer, unpacked it and successfully set it up. It's fast, it's beautiful, it's got everything you need to jump-start your entry into the digital age, right?

Er, no.

Although most consumer PCs come loaded - sometimes, bogged down - with software, they usually don't have what you really need. SimCity 2000 may be nice, but where's the uninstaller, the virus scanner or the utility to handle downloaded Zip files?

Time to head back to the store - or hop on the Internet - for this must-have software:

* Netscape Communicator 4.05: Even though your Windows 95 system comes with Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser, at least try Netscape Communicator, a full-featured Internet software suite. Both are excellent, and both are free.

Which you will prefer will likely be a matter of taste. Fans of Navigator like the fact that its e-mail and Usenet news readers are more tightly integrated with the browser - Outlook Express, which comes with Internet Explorer 4, is really a stand-alone program.

Also, Navigator doesn't entangle itself as deeply into the operating system as Internet Explorer - though if you've got the latter on your system, it's already got its tentacles set.

And contrary to what you might have heard, the two get along just fine. You can download Communicator at home.netscape.com.

* Instant Messenger: This software, also free, is like having a paging system on your computer. It alerts you when people on a list sign on to America Online or fire up their own copy of this software and connect to the Net. You can then conduct a text-based chat session with them instantly.

AOL members will recognize this as a pair of features called Buddy Lists and Instant Messages. Download it at www.aol. com/aim, and then get the screen names from your friends on America Online.

Finally, urge your friends who have Internet access from other sources to download it.

* ZipMagic 98: One of the most useful features of the Internet is the availability of low-cost and no-cost software. But newcomers to downloading often are stymied by Zip files, compressed software with a .zip extension.

In the past, you've had to use programs such as WinZip for Windows to unpack what's inside Zip files. But a neat product from Mijenix makes working with Zip files as easy as opening a Windows folder.

ZipMagic lets you see Zip files as folders. Extracting a Zip file is as easy as copying it from one folder to another.

It works with Windows 95/NT/ 3.1 and costs about $40. A free trial version is available at www.mijenix. com/zipmagic98.htm.

n Network Associates VirusScan or Norton AntiVirus: Although virus attacks are fairly rare, it's important to have software that finds and removes them on your system. VirusScan, which costs $50, and Norton AntiVirus from Symantec, $70, are the two best sellers. You won't go wrong with either.

Norton AntiVirus, available for Windows 95/NT and Macintosh, has more bells and whistles and scans programs as you download them with a Web browser. VirusScan, for Windows 95/NT/3.1, has a few tricks of its own, including the ability to scan your system for viruses when your screen-saver kicks in.

One thing to note: Avoid using the in-the-background module that constantly checks for viral behavior. These cause more problems than they solve, often conflicting with other programs. Instead, use antivirus software to manually check new programs or disks you bring into your system, and you'll be fine.

An evaluation version of VirusScan is available at www.networkassociates.com. A trial version of Norton AntiVirus is at www. symantec.com.

* Quarterdeck CleanSweep: Windows 95 comes with an uninstall routine, but it's not very good. Every Windows owner needs an uninstaller, period.

There are numerous titles out there, and all of them perform fairly well.

My favorite is CleanSweep, because it's both easy to use and very powerful. This Windows 95 program costs about $40 and there's an evaluation version at www. qdeck.com.

Pub Date: 6/01/98

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