Must-Have Software I

By: Walter Metcalf
Date: 06/01/98

In this week's feature, I want to look at some software I consider absolutely indispensable. These are products that fill specific gaps in the system and should be among a new OS/2 user's first purchases. Although I will try to be as objective as possible, some of my choices will inevitably reflect my personal experience.

BackAgain/2 by Computer Data Strategies, Inc.
I'm including BackAgain/2 here because it is well-supported, very reliable, and does an outstanding job for me. However, another backup program may be better for you, depending on your situation. The main point is that a backup system including hardware, software, and a plan is essential. Please see my series on backup for more complete information, including a brief comparison of the main contenders for best software package.

Partition Magic by PowerQuest Corporation
Partitioning a hard disk means to divide a hard drive into separate, smaller drives each of which can be accessed as a separate logical disk drive with its own letter. For example, if you partition your new hard drive into two partitions, OS/2 would automatically assign the partitions the letters C and D. (If you have two or more physical hard drives, the situation is somewhat more complex, but the principle is the same.) Both C and D are considered (logical) hard disk, and in OS/2 you can use either disk for any function you choose. For example, you can make D your OS/2 boot drive instead of C. (In fact I usually do configure my systems this way.)

All operating systems provide a program (usually called FDISK) for the purpose of partitioning your hard drive. However, FDISK has one major restriction: any data on the disk when the partitioning begins is lost! (There may be exceptions involving "pimary" partitions, the relative location of the data to partitions being worked on, and the parition types. I won't go into that here.) Partition Magic was designed to get around this problem and allows you to partition or re-partition a hard drive without losing any data. As your system develops and your hard drive begins to fill up, you may recognize certain patterns in the way you use your computer and will probably want to re-partition the drive from time to time to make it more efficient. Another reason you may wish to re-partition your hard drive is to install more than one operating system. To do this without Partition Magic you need to backup the entire physical hard drive, re-partition your drive using FDISK, reformat each new partition, and then restore your backup to each individual partition. This process can take a couple of days or more. With Partition Magic the project is reduced to a matter of minutes! A few notable features are:

  • Converts FAT partition to HPFS;
  • Supports all OS/2 and Windows partition types;
  • IBM's Boot Manager built-in;
  • Performs all functions (except formatting) leaving existing data intact.

PMMail by SouthSoft, Inc.
A reliable EMail program is the most important Internet tool to have. While Netscape has an email capability, I'm not fond of having to keep or load Netscape just to check for mail! PM Mail was one of the first standalone email applications for OS/2 Warp, and in my personal view is still the best. Here are some of the notable features.
  • Nearly every function can be customized.
  • Unlimited nesting of message folders.
  • One price covers all features and versions.
  • Rexx interface support.
  • Complex filter support.

UniMaint by SofTouch Systems, Inc.
When IBM designed OS/2, it created the two infamous INI files that, among other things, set up "handles" and other objects for every file you ever load onto your system to provide rapid access. Unfortunately, IBM didn't include any provision to remove information once it becomes obsolete. The result is that these .INI files grow unchecked and often contain incorrect information that can destabilize your system. UniMaint started life as a program to fill this void. The manufacturer has since added many other powerful, almost essential functions to this program so that it has become an essential tool for the OS/2 user. Some of more notable features of UniMaint are:
  • Automatic, complete Desktop backup (unlike the partial archive feature provided by IBM);
  • All functions are totally customizable;
  • Provides the ability to "transplant" your Desktop from one machine to another;
  • Provides the ability to correct system .INI files left in a "locked" condition by a previous incomplete shutdown;
  • Provides the ability to restart the Desktop.

Zip Control by RPF Software
ZipControl is a de-archiving program based on the freeware utilities, Zip and Unzip, by far the most common archiving tools in the OS/2 world.
Some notable features of Zip Control are:
  • Package includes copies of Zip and Unzip;
  • Preview feature, including ability to examine a file, such as a README file, without having to unzip the archive;
  • SmartView feature that loads the appropriate viewer for a file, depending up its extension. For example, if the archive contains a file ending in .HTML, double-clicking the file loads your default browser to view the file.
  • Self-extracting archives (*.EXE) can be extracted and created.
  • Archives can optionally be tested and scanned for viruses before processing.

I've had to leave out a great many programs, because the equivalent program supplied with Warp is satisfactory, or because it would be a must-have only to people doing a certain kind of work. For example, since I maintain this web site, I need a good HTML editor and FTP program. You may not not need those types of programs.

Next week I'll continue this series on by looking at some outstanding software that may not be "must-haves" for everyone, but are nonetheless very valuable to a large number of OS/2 users.

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