You talk, it types, it costs a lot HELP LINE

September 21, 1998|By Jim Coates | Jim Coates,CHICAGO TRIBUNE

I am a chef who just bought the Mastercook Suite in hopes of being able to catalogue a huge number of recipes. The problem is, I cook better than I type. I was wondering how compatible these software programs that type what you speak would be. Are they programs unto themselves, or would they work with some or all of my applications?

Your best shot at binary bon appetit is IBM's pricey new Via Voice 98 Professional, which includes a slick "Dictate Directly" command that makes the software analyze speech that you dictate into a microphone and then pump text into whatever window is open at the time, no matter what application is running.

As you suspect, most speech recognition software either dictates into a special word processor or only works with established programs such as Microsoft Word, Excel, etc. The dictate-direct feature is only in the more costly (about $150) version, but when combined with Via Voice's ability to learn specialized vocabularies such as chef talk, you ought to be up and cyber-cooking faster than you can say coriander compote.

You've extolled the virtues of Microsoft Outlook Express many times, but it has a major deficiency: There's no built-in spelling checker. It "borrows" this function from Microsoft Word (or Works or Office). I know you also recommend Word, but my computer came with Lotus SmartSuite 97, and I can't see buying Word just to spell-check my e-mail. Is there any way to add spell-checking to Outlook Express?

Although I must plead guilty for touting the superb built-in Outlook Express e-mail/contact manager for new users of Windows 95/98, I would sing a different song in your case. Good as it is, Outlook Express is one blade shy of a sharp edge when compared with the super tool you already own, Lotus Organizer, included in your SmartSuite 97 package.

This slick piece of personal management and contact software puts a virtual day planner on your desktop complete with tabbed pages that track appointments, addresses, notes, to-do lists and all the other minutiae of daily life.

If you absolutely must add a Microsoft spell-check to your machine, check out Microsoft Home Essentials, which often can be had in the $100 ballpark and includes Microsoft Word, Microsoft Works, the Encarta encyclopedia and many other programs.

How do I get the Microsoft Plus stuff off my computer so that I can get to programs quicker?

The Plus CD-ROM - sold to supplement both Windows 95 and Windows 98 - is, as you have found, the equivalent of cholesterol for your hard drive. It gums things up with huge files to bring things like massive desktop themes and killer games to your machine. All you need to do to uninstall the stuff you decide isn't worth keeping is go to the Windows Start menu and select Settings and then Add/Remove Programs. You'll find a listing for Plus! and can add or remove programs case by case by clicking in boxes.

Pub Date: 9/21/98

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