Microsoft Works falls short for consultant HELP LINE

September 07, 1998|By David Einstein | David Einstein,SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE

The IBM Aptiva PC I bought last summer came with Microsoft Works (oxymoron!). I've been using it in my job as a consultant, but it isn't easy to make labels, create databases and perform mail merges. I am thinking about replacing Works with Word or Office. Which would you suggest?

To be fair, Works isn't a heavy-duty program designed for business use. It's just an integrated suite that includes a basic word processor, database and spreadsheet. It will do the things you require but not as well or as efficiently as a full-fledged office suite.

Microsoft Word by itself won't solve your problem. You need to get the Professional Edition of Microsoft Office, which includes Word as well as the Excel spreadsheet and Access, a really good database program.

You might consider two other options, the professional versions of the Corel WordPerfect Suite or the Lotus SmartSuite. They also have all the weapons any consultant could ask for.

I'd probably opt for the Microsoft suite because it's so widely used. You can send a Word document by e-mail and be fairly confident that the recipient also will have Word.

I have a Windows PC with Netscape. When Macintosh users send me graphics files as e-mail attachments, I can't use them. I can't save the files, and Netscape won't open them in its mail program. And sometimes, the attachments just come as garble inside the message itself. Any suggestions?

Macs use a different method than PCs to encode e-mail for transmission across the Internet. However, newer versions of Netscape are equipped to decode the Mac system, which is called BinHex. So under normal circumstances, you should be able to open and read attachments.

The folks at Netscape tell me that your symptoms suggest that the attachment either was improperly coded by the sending computer or was corrupted during its trek through an Internet gateway.

One possible solution is to ask senders to use MIME - rather than BinHex - if their e-mail programs support it. MIME is the standard Internet protocol and the method used most often in sending messages between PCs.

If that doesn't work, you might try asking the sender to manually encode the graphic using UUencode before attaching it to the message. They'll need a utility for that, and you will, too, because you'll have to decode the graphic when it arrives. Fortunately, UUencoding utilities are widely available as shareware.

My daughter has a 486-DX running at 33 megahertz with 8 megabytes of RAM and a 700-megabyte hard drive. It's running Windows 3.1. Would this system support Windows 95 or Windows 98? And if not, would you recommend upgrading or a newer system?

Sorry, your trusty old machine is too underpowered for Windows 95 or Windows 98, both of which need a Pentium-class chip and at least 16 megs of memory to perform adequately. To bring your system up to par, you'd have to add memory, upgrade the chip, get a bigger hard drive and add a CD-ROM drive.

A total face-lift like that would run at least $600. You'd probably be better off just buying a new system. For $800, you should be able to find one with a 266-MHz chip, 32 megs of memory, a 4-gigabyte hard drive and a 24x CD-ROM drive.

A friend of mine produces a newsletter and brochures for a community group and wants to make some backup files. However, documents like the newsletter are too big to fit on a floppy disk. My friend doesn't have a Zip drive, so what are the options, besides splitting the newsletter into five documents?

Your best bet is to compress the document using a zipping utility. I was able to take a 2-megabyte Microsoft Publisher document and get it down to less than 500,000 bytes by using Zip-IT, a $39.95 program from Quarterdeck.

Tip of the week

Create a Startup Disk for Windows 95 or Windows 98. If your hard drive fails, you can use the disk to start your computer and diagnose and fix common hard disk problems. Go to the Windows Control Panel, open the Add/Remove Programs icon, tab over to Startup Disk and follow the instructions.

Jim Coates, who normally writes Help Line, is recovering from surgery. David Einstein is his guest replacement.

Pub Date: 9/07/98

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