Must-Have Software II

By: Walter Metcalf
Date: 06/10/98

Last week we looked at some software indispensable to the OS/2 Warp user. This week, I want to conclude this series with some looks at software the new user can live without, but that he or she should consider purchasing as soon as possible because of its high quality and usefulness.

WordPro by Lotus Development Corp.
If your word processing needs are very simple and limited, then you may well be satisfied with the IBM Works word processor found in the Bonus Pak. If your needs go beyond that, unfortunately there is no perfect answer. Your choices are quite limited, partly because DeScribe which is the workhorse of so many OS/2 users has not been manufactured for some time because its parent company went out of business, so unless you can purchase one second-hand (which is quite unlikely), it no longer available. If your needs are not too complex, or speed and "lightness" are important (for example, if you have an older computer such as a 486 or low-end Pentium), you may want to take a serious look at Clearlook from Sundial Systems.

For most OS/2 users the best way to go, IMHO, is WordPro from Lotus. Though WordPro has a huge number of features, the SmartMasters, plentiful help, and intuitive interface make it easy for the relative novice to become productive quickly. There are two ways to get WordPro: either as a component in SmartSuite for Warp 4, or separately as WordPro 96 for Warp. To the best of my knowledge the two versions of WordPro are substantially the same: in particular WordPro 96 for Warp, like the SmartSuite for Warp component, is a native OS/2 application. (Actually WordPro 96 comes with a copy of FreeLance Graphics on the same CD. At this writing Indelible Blue was selling the package for $104, which makes this a very good deal. Note: if you do get WordPro 96, Lotus has an update for it, which may be freely downloaded. You should check to see if you need this update.

Because of the high cost of SmartSuite for Warp 4, I recommend you purchase it only if you have a definite need for another of the applications besides FreeLance Graphics (such as Approach or 1-2-3), or if you are eligible for the academic version.

WebOrganizer by ONG Software
If you're using the World Wide Web at all, you are already, or soon will be, collecting bookmarks for sites you use a lot or want to be able to find again easily. Netscape Navigator is an improvement over Webexplorer in that at least it permits more than 22 bookmarks. However maintaining the bookmarks, and even viewing them when the number exceeds the 25 or so permitted on the drop-down list, is very awkward.

WebOrganizer solves this problem very neatly. The bookmark list is created on a standard HTML document that you typically assign as your home page (so you have single-access to it); since it is an HTML document it has scroll bars and supports unlimited nesting of folders. Addresses or documents are added to the bookmark list (and therefore to WebOrganizer) by dragging the link from the document you are viewing onto the WebOrg window. Within the window you can delete, sort, add descriptions to links, and re-arrange them using drag and drop. When you are satisfied with it, you press a key to re-create the home page with the new bookmarks. WebOrganizer is a compact, easy-to-use program with a lot of features for such a inexpensive program. It works equally well with Netscape or Webexplorer. (The registration fee is only $19.95.) It's a must for anyone who does any amount of "surfing the web." (Download free from the OS/2 Supersite.)

FileManager/2 by Barebones Software
Most OS/2 users feel the need a file manager. I've tried various ones out, and FM/2 is the most complete, and fairly reasonably priced at $40. Personally, I've never used a file manager on any regular basis, but if I did decide to purchase one, FM/2 is without question the one I would get. To some extent it mimics the File Manager program in Windows, with which most people feel comfortable, and all the windows are totally configurable, as is almost everything else in the program. There are far too many features to list here, so I'll mention just a few: FM/2 supports reading and editting EA's, bookshelves, and features a history of frequently-used OS/2 commands. See the link at the beginning of this paragraph for more details. The registration fee for FM/2 is $40. (Download free from the OS/2 Supersite.)

PPPDial by Don Russell
If you use Advantis as your provider, then you can skip this section. To everyone else it comes as no surprise when I say that the "Other Internet Providers" (DOIP, as it's not so affectionately known) dialler provided with Warp is very limited. The most glaring feature missing is the ability to automatically redial in case of a busy signal! Moreover it cannot start up other tasks after the connection is made, something that is often very desirable. Consequently, the Hobbes archive is replete with other diallers that correct these deficiencies. One of the most popular these is InJoy, that, according to the documentation, completely replaces the PPP.EXE routine with one that supports such esoteric functions as IP masquerading and Dial-on-Demand. The latter might be important if you were running a server and didn't have a 7-days a week, 24-hours per day connection to your ISP. The registration fee for InJoy is $35.

However, if your needs aren't so exotic, then the least expensive way to correct for DOIP's deficiencies is to enhance the dialler using PPPDial by Don Russell. Don has spent countless hours developing this program to its present state and then graciously released it to the OS/2 community as freeware. To use it, place PPPDial in your tcpip\bin directory and then specify it in the bottom window of the first page of the DOIP window. You also specify a text file (called a response file) as a parameter of PPPDial. PPPDial contains a number of commands that you specify in the response file. By specifying these commands judiciously you get almost complete control over the connect and log on procedures. Setting up the response file can be a little tricky and requires some experimentation to get right, in part because commands are heavily dependent on the messages returned by your provider that you don't normally see and that vary depending up the ISP. The good news is that once the response file is set up, you normally never need to touch it again (unless you change providers). Complete instructions, PPPDial command descriptions, and several examples can be found in the accompanying documentation.

It's also possible to go one step further and eliminate the DOIP dialler¹ altogether! This has several advantages. First, doing so allows your computer to gain immediate control and take appropriate action if the ISP disconnects you for some reason. This is especially important if you are operating a server. Second, doing so makes it possible to display and act on information returned by the ISP during the connect/logon sequence. Finally, and this is what I like the most, it becomes possible for your computer to automatically start up any number of programs once the connection is made (for example, your mail program, browser, internet clock program, etc.), and shut them down smoothly if the connection is broken for any reason. (Download free from the OS/2 Supersite.)
¹In reality, even in this case, dialling is still performed by the PPP.EXE program, located in the Internet Access Kit or in Warp itself, and normally called by the Dialler Window. The difference in this example is that the dialling is performed automatically, without using this window.

PMView by Peter Nielsen and Raja Thiagarajan
Let me close this discussion by briefly mentioning PMView. Not everyone does a great deal of graphic or image related work. That includes me. However, nearly all of us are at least faced with the task of viewing images from a variety of sources occasionally. Since the image viewer provided with Warp is hopelessly inadequate, we have to look elsewhere. When I have such a need--beyond what Impos/2, which contains my scanner support, provides--I have looked a number of products, and PMView is the the most versatile, stable one I have found. It supports an incredible number of formats, boasts a slide-show option, and contains a very handy thumbnail feature, allowing you easily select which file you want. For more detailed information, please see the review by Carsten Whimster in the May, 1997 issue of EDM/2. (Download free from the OS/2 Supersite.)

That's all for this week. I hope over the last two weeks I've been able to give you some tips on how to spend your hard-earned software dollars more wisely.

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