Classic Computer Magazine Archive COMPUTE! ISSUE 134 / OCTOBER 1991 / PAGE 136

PC-IQ. (computer interface) (evaluation)
by Carol Holzberg

I am enamored of icons, pull-down menus, and point-and-click control. However, I work in a DOS world, with its command line interface and cryptic error messages. As every PC computing enthusiast knows, typing appropriate commands at the infamous DOS prompt requires utmost precision. Typographical errors return puzzling responses such as Invalid number of parameters or File creation error. Enter PC-IQ, a natural-language DOS interface that uses artificial intelligence to translate DOS computerese into everyday language. Not only does PC-IQ understand plain English, but it asks for clarification when it can't interpret a command or when it requires more information to execute an instruction. Online help is always available. All documentation is clearly written. Even computer novices will not be intimidated.

In order to run PC-IQ and its associated utilities, you must install it on a hard disk. Installation is a breeze even though the PC-IQ directory takes up almost two megabytes of disk space. Be aware that PC-IQ's Install option modifies the path statement in your AUTOEXEC.BAT file and also makes changes to the default settings of your CONFIG.SYS file. You'll be able to retrieve the original files, however, because PC-IQ renames them with the extension OLD rather than overwrite them.

PC-IQ acts as an interface between DOS and the computer user, translating a variety of natural-language instructions into conventional DOS commands. When it operates in natural-language mode, it shows users how it translates "English" instructions into DOS, thus providing an opportunity for interested parties to learn DOS as they work. For example, in natural-language mode, individuals who want to view all directories on a particular disk simply type TREE C (where C is the name of the desired disk). PC-IQ also accepts SHOW, GET, and LIST as TREE synonyms.

Once you're in a directory, you can obtain a listing of all files simply by typing SHOW ALL FILES. To open a new directory, type SWITCH x(where x is the actual directory name). PC-IQ also accepts GOTO, GO, CHANGE, ACCESS, and even CD, the actual DOS command. Novices who prefer a menu-driven interface over natural-language typing can switch to the program's point-and-click mode. This directs PC-IQ to display program options from pop-up menus. Menu choices include directory- and file-level operations and several utilities. Each option, in turn, calls up a submenu of additional choices.

PC-IQ offers a convenient alternative to typing and provides a great way to avoid the DOS command line. Regrettably, PC-IQ doesn't support all DOS commands, and it doesn't always recognize backslashes. You can't issue batch commands or use strict DOS syntax. The program does let you create or remove a directory, recover a deleted file, and view or change the contents of an ASCII file, however. Supported file operations include copy, find, move, rename, create, and print, while disk-level commands consist of check disk, format disk, and diskcopy. The Autoload function makes it possible to run a designated application from a pop-up menu. The Set command enables you to configure your system with the correct time and date. A simple text editor lets you create and save ASCII files up to 64K in length.

PC-IQ has some nifty features. It comes with a built-in screen saver. Its database manager allows you to add new programs to the Autoload list or customize PC-IQ's vocabulary so it recognizes alternate command synonyms. Entertainment files offer you a chance to play a game like Trivial Pursuit or read a series of famous quotations and interesting facts.

Primarily for computer novices, PC-IQ will benefit individuals who want to learn something about DOS without having to grapple with unwieldy commands. However, if the DOS prompt does not seem intimidating, you may find the program limiting. It supports relatively few DOS commands, it may run out of memory when other memory-resident programs run simultaneously, and its interface might slow you down. In the final analysis, it might be better to improve your PC IQ with a primer on DOS instead of using PC-IQ.