Supercharge your desktop. (The Norton Desktop for Windows) (Column) (Evaluation)
by Clifton Karnes
The Norton Desktop for Windows (Symantec, 10201 Torre Avenue, Cupertino, California 95014; 408-253-9600; $149) is nothing if not ambitious. It's a complete replacement for both Program Manager and File Manager. In addition, the package comes chock-full of excellent Windows utilities.
You can run The Norton Desktop either as your default Windows shell or as an application. Either way, you'll immediately notice that your desktop is very different from the one you're used to. Along the left side you'll see an icon for each drive on your system. Along the right side are icons for Printer, Backup, Viewer, and SmartErase. Across the top of your screen, you'll find The Norton Desktop menu bar. If you choose to run Norton's Quick Access, you 'll also have Norton's improved version of Program Manager.
Clicking on a drive icon calls an instance of Drive Window (Norton's file manager) for the selected drive. The icons along the right side of the screen are the targets for Drive Window files. The Printer icon prints a file, and the Viewer icon allows you to view any of 30 different file formats.
The interesting thing about these target icons is that you can drag a file from a Drive Window to one of them and drop the file on the icon to activate the feature. For example, to view a file named BALANCE.XLS, you click on the filename in the Drive Window and drag its icon to the Viewer icon and release it. The Norton Viewer will pop up with BALANCE.XLS displayed.
In addition to being able to drag and drop files from a Drive Window to these icons, you can drag and drop files on-to the desktop.
For those attached to Program Manager and its icons, there's Quick Access, which works like Program Manager but has many added features. Perhaps the most useful of these is its ability to store groups as icons on other groups. This can make organizing programs and documents much easier.
In addition to the package's two major applications (Drive Windows and Quick Access), The Norton Desktop is packed with a huge number of utilities including Backup, Scheduler, SmartErase, Shredder, Sleeper, Launch Manager, SuperFind, System Information, BatchBuild, KeyFinder, Icon Editor, and Disk Doctor.
There are so many useful programs here that it's hard to know where to begin. For me, the most impressive application in this group is SuperFind. It searches for files either by name or by text content, and it's fast. The real power of the program, however, lies in what you can do with the files you find that match your criteria. You can view, copy, move, sort, or delete them, and you can use them as elements in a batch file that SuperFind automatically creates for you. SuperFind by itself is almost worth the price of the package.
Of the other utilities, most are good, and some are exceptional. One that's very useful is KeyFinder. With it, you can quickly find the keystrokes you need to produce all those weird characters in the extended ANSI set. You can also copy and paste these characters into your program.
The Norton Desktop is an impressive achievement, but it has a few rough edges. The first is its extremely slow loading speed. If you find yourself moving from DOS to Windows several times a day, the program's sluggish boot time will become a negative. The Norton Desktop is also glacially slow when saving its current configuration.
When I installed Desktop, Quick Access completely ignored the icon spacing I'd set up in Control Panel and clumped my icons very closely together. With Control Panel it's easy to change icon spacing, but with The Desktop, you have to edit the program's INI file manually and reboot.
Another problem with icon management is that unlike Windows, which always lines up icons neatly beside each other, The Norton Desktop doesn't seem to know where any minimized program icons are, and it's continually plopping its icons on top of other ones. More than once I've tried to rerun a program because The Desktop had obscured its icon.
These criticisms aside, The Norton Desktop is an excellent product, especially considering its lowball price of $149. Even if you don't opt to use it as your default shell, the utilities alone are well worth the package's price.