Two power apps that won't break the bank. (software applications) (Column)
by Clifton Karnes
When most people think of Windows, they think of applications with superhigh price tags. It's certainly true that Windows has its share of $500-and-up programs, but there are many escellent software packages available for under $100. Here are two essential utilities, each priced below $100.
First, there's Intermission (ICOM Simulations, 648 South Wheeling Road, Wheeling, Illinois, 60090; 708-520-4440; $49.95), a superb screen blanker you can set for a predetermined period of activate on demand by moving the mouse pointer to one of the screen's four corners (you choose which corner).
That's usually it for a screen blanker, but with Intermission, the fun is just beginning. While your screen is blanked, Intermission offers 34 animated displays, which the program can select at random.
These animated displays include Marine Screen (with multicolored fish that occasionally turn to look at you and also eat each other), Clock (an analog clock that slowly bounces around your screen), Dissolve (a pixel-by-pixel fade to black), Fireworks (with beautiful multicolored rockets), Flashlight (which illuminates a slowly moving circle), Kaleidoscope (just like the kid's toy), Puzzle (which turns your screen into an animated shuffle puzzle), Spaceflight (which moves you through space at warp factor 5), Mosaic (a quilt of elegant symmetrical designs), and Intermission (which is a lively display of pop bottles, popcorn, and candy).
Installing Intermission is simple. Just run the setup program and follow directions. You'll find the files INTERMISSION.EXE, SAVERDLL.DLL, and ANTSW.INI in your WINDOWS subdirectory, and the IMX animation files in a directory called SAVER. One additional file, ANTHOOK.386 may go in your SYSTEM subdirectory.
To configure Intermission, click on its icon, and get ready for the show.
The other essential Windows utility is StraightLine (First Genesis Software, 1000 Shelard Parkway. Suite 270, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55427; 612-544-4445; $99), a menu program and task manager. At $99, StraightLine may seem a little pricey, but it's worth every penny. It's unquestionably the fastest way to get from point A to point B in Windows.
StraightLine allows you to install Windows and DOS applications on a pop-up menu. From the menu, you can launch programs, switch to active programs, run programs not on the menu, or add new programs to the menu.
To set up StraightLine, simply run the program and choose Launch from the menu bar and Setup from the pull-down menu.
>From Setup, you can browse through your files and install any EXE, COM, or BAT file. If there are documents associated with an executable file, you can attach these to it.
After installing your programs, click on Done to put StraightLine to work. To call StraightLine, press a special hot key or mouse click. The program provides several to choose from, or you can supply your own.
I've found that the right mouse button makes an excellent hockey, or more appropriately, hot button. Then you're only two clicks and a short mouse movement away from running any program on your system.
If you find a conflict with the right mouse button--Paintbrush, Word for Windows, ToolBook, Turbo Pascal for Windows, and several other programs use the right button--you can change it.
After you've installed StraightLine, simply press your hot key or button to call up the menu. You'll see a tiny window with a title bar and a menu bar that has just two selection on it: Launch and Active. If you chose a hot button, the window will appear right under your mouse pointer with the pointer directly over the Launch menu selection.
If you want to run a program, simply click your left button, drag to the Windows or DOS application you want to run, and then release the mouse button.
If you've associated documents with a program, you'll see a cascading menu with each installed document's name when you select the program from StraightLine's menu. Click on a document, and the associated program runs and loads the doc file.
>From StraightLine's Active menu, you can switch to any active application much as you can from Windows' Task Manager, but StraightLine has some important enhancements.
For starters, there's a menu selection that allows you to minimize all your active programs. This is great if you have a large number of windows open and you need to get organized.
You can also press Control and click on any Windows application (including Program Manager) to close it.
Pressing Shift while clicking on a program will minimize it to an icon.
In short, StraightLine provides amazing control over your Windows environment. It's undoubtedly the most useful utility on my desktop.