10 can't-do-without laptop programs. (Compute's Getting Started with Portable Computing) (Buyers Guide)
by David English
Now that laptop computers are as powerful as most desktop computers, there aren't that many software titles that are designed especially for laptops. Most of the software that runs on a desktop computer runs fine on a laptop as well.
There are, however, programs that address specific limitations of laptops (slow-to-update black-and-white LCD screens, limited size of hard drives, and the difficulty of using a mouse) or offer additional conveniences for laptop owners (use of a built-in fax/modem from Windows, management of rechargeable batteries, and easy transfer of files from your desktop to your laptop).
First on my list of can't-do-without programs would have to be Stacker 2.0 (Stac Electronics, 5993 Avenida Encinas, Carlsbad, California 92008; 800-225-1128; $149). This program should be bundled with every laptop computer (in fact, it is bundled with several models). Stacker essentially doubles the size of your hard drive in exchange for an acceptable decrease in hard-drive access speed (about 35 to 55 percent on most 386SX notebook computers). The program has worked perfectly with every laptop I've tried, with the exception of the Leading Technology 9800 NB.
Now that you've doubled the size of your hard drive, how would you like to double the number of words you can see on your screen? You could also select a more readable screen font, adjust your LCD's gray scale, and see more lines on many of the LCD screens that don't use the top and bottom of the display area. You can do all this and more with a valuable package of utilities called Laptop UltraVision (Personics, 63 Great Road, Maynard, Massachusetts 01754; 800-445-3311; $69.95). It works with most laptops that have EGA or VGA displays.
If you use Windows on your laptop, you know how hard it can be to follow the cursor as it moves across your screen.
With Magic Cursor! (Fanfare Software, 9420 Reseda Boulevard, Suite 828, Northridge, California 91324; 818-886-8787; $49.95), you can exchange your tiny Windows mouse cursor for any of 46 larger-than-life cursors, including arrows, pens, pointing hands, and magnifying glasses. You can also use Magic Cursor! to enlarge all your other Windows cursors.
Are you tired of lugging your mouse around, but you don't want to give up Windows? With NoMouse for Windows (Abacus, 5370 52nd Street SE, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49512; 616-698-0330; $39.95), you can use your laptop's cursor keys instead of a mouse. NoMouse works with most Windows programs--you can easily turn it on and off--and it can also enlarge your Windows mouse cursor. While it's not as easy to use as a mouse, it can be real handy for frequent airplane travelers or the occasional Windows user.
With Magic Cursor! and NoMouse for Windows, you can make your Windows mouse cursor larger, but what about the cursor in your DOS programs? With some laptops, it's nearly impossible to see. Not with NoSquint 2 (SkiSoft Publishing, 1644 Massachusetts Avenue, Suite 79, Lexington, Massachusetts 02173; 800-662-3622; $49.95). It lets you increase the size and density of your cursor, as well as the rate at which it blinks. If you do a lot of DOS-based word processing on your laptop, NoSquint 2 can be a real lifesaver.
Need to send faxes on the road (or from anywhere else you take your laptop)? WinFax Pro (Delrina Technology, 1945 Leslie Street, Toronto, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada M3B2M3;416-441-3676; $119) lets you send faxes directly from your Windows programs. It works with any fax or fax/modem that supports Class 1, Class 2, CAS, or Sendfax. When you combine Windows' fonts and graphics with WinFax's 200 x 200 dpi resolution, you get faxes that look as good as if they came right out of the printer.
Now that you've bought yourself a laptop computer, how do you move all those files from your desktop to your new laptop and the other way around? The easiest way to make the transfer is to use LapLink Pro (Traveling Software, 18702 North Creek Parkway, Bothell, Washington, 98011; 206-483-8088; $169.95). This latest version includes mouse support, pull-down menus, and built-in compression routines. You can use the included serial or parallel cables or use LapLink's new transfer-by-modem feature.
If you use both a laptop and a desktop, you can have your Windows-running desktop treat your laptop as just another hard drive with WinConnect (Traveling Software; $99.95). With WinConnect, you can easily access your laptop's files without having to copy them over to your desktop's hard drive. It can pop up within any Windows program and includes a built-in- file-management utility. You also get a 25-foot serial cable for connecting your laptop and desktop.
Ever wonder how much charge is left in your laptop's rechargeable battery? Now you can know instantly with Battery Watch Pro (Travelling Software; $49.95). It even includes a Deep Discharge feature that helps you extend the overall life of your battery. A new version of Battery Watch Pro, which should be available by the time you read this, includes both DOS and Windows versions of the program.
Finally, do you have trouble reading the text in your word processor--especially on an older laptop that has a CGA or EGA screen and isn't backlit? Don't buy new glasses; look instead at Eye Relief for Laptops (SkiSoft Publishing, 1644 Massachusetts Avenue, Suite 79, Lexington, Massachusetts 02173;800-662-3622; $129.95). Eye Relief is a small (80K) and basic word processor that lets you magnify your screen text 2, 3, or 4 times its normal size. It can provide fast relief for tired eyes.