Classic Computer Magazine Archive COMPUTE! ISSUE 144 / SEPTEMBER 1992 / PAGE 86

The Laffer Utilities 4.01. (office automation software) (Software Review) (Evaluation)
by Ralph Roberts

Finally, a package that thinks your funny bone is more important than your productivity rating.

Do you grow cross-eyed from word processing or number crunching all week long? By Friday, are you tired of being productive? Sierra On-Line has come to your rescue with America's newest (and only) leading nonproductivity tool, The Laffer Utilities 4.01. These utilities liberate your computer from work and optimize its entertainment potential. Billed as being "for everything you do at the office that has nothing to do with work," Laffer Utilities provides you with nonproductive pastimes that make you look busy when you're doing absolutely nothing worthwhile.

Al Lowe, creator of the award-winning Leisure Suit Larry games (starring that lovable loser, Larry Laffer), pumped his trademark humor into these zany utilities. Little wonder, then, that the first version of Laffer Utilities is 4.01 rather than 1.0. Or that the innocuous title was designed to slip easily through Purchasing and onto your desk. Lowe has done everything to trick your boss into thinking that this package will make you more productive.

Not that Laffer Utilities isn't just as useful, and even more interesting, than the popular productivity-enhancing Norton Utilities. Let's face it--how can you compare such a boring task as defragmenting your hard disk to the Laffer Jokes utility? Jokes is a database containing hundreds of jokes delivered in random order by Larry at your request. By setting the Filthometer (ranging from Pure to Filthy) and the Laffometer (ranging from Dumb to Bust a Gut), you can control the jokes' color and humor content. Here's one of the clean jokes: "For years we thought my uncle was a hunchback. Turns out he just didn't know that suspenders were adjustable."

The Whattodo utility is for those who would rather let someone else, even Larry Laffer, make decisions for them. It's very easy to use, and it has some useful information. Here's a real example--and my first-time try, honest! The question: "Should I vote for Bush, Clinton, or Perot?" The Whattodo answer: "You really should not."

Excuses and Headline are also fun. The first offers a list of excuses you can use to explain why your review of Laffer Utilities or any other real work is late. Headline creates a humorous tabloid headline to entertain you--something like "Elvis Clones Write Book--Fortune-teller Reveals All." To make things even more interesting, and sometimes embarrassing, it will take names from Phone, another Laffer utility.

The Sayings utility presents you with the wit and wisdom of Larry Laffer (yes, he does have a little). You get saying like "If you laid all the economists in the world end to end, they still wouldn't reach a conclusion."

Check the Horoscope utility to discover why things are the way they are. Here you'll read humorous "horror-scopes" such as this one for Leo: "Your evil twin from a parallel universe is wrecking your life. Oh well."

WDUWTGFL is perhaps the greatest, most utilitarian utility in the history of computers, helping you to answer one of the oldest and hardest questions of all, "Where Do U Want To Go For Lunch?" Set the Qualometer and Buckometer, and you can sort restaurants by quality of food and overall prices. You can, of course, add real local restaurants to the database and categorize them by type of food as well as by quality and price as already mentioned.

Pool will make you popular among the gamblers in your office and keep them reaching for their wallets. This utility helps you create and maintain office betting pools on football seasons, basketball tournaments, or sports events. A related utility is Bracket, which lets you set up brackets for "office tournaments, hierarchies, and organized crime syndicates." And if your state has a lottery, you'll appreciate Windfall, which devises winning lottery numbers (if you run it enough times).

Falling into the semiuseful category is Announce, which puts a humorous yet appropriate picture of you onscreen while you've gone to see the boss, to use the bathroom, to get a cup of coffee, or even when you've just plain gone fishing. You also have the option of password protection and putting a horizontally scrolling message on the screen with the picture.

Though some might claim that the above programs are just for fun and offer little in the way of usefulness, Laffer Utilities actually offers six utilities that are truly useful to have. Of course, they too are flavored with the unique humor of Al Lowe.

Signs is an ever-useful utility for an office or any small business. It helps you to create and print signs quickly and easily. Hundreds of cartoons and borders are available to spice up your signs. You can select from a list of several canned messages, such as Sexual Harassment Allowed, but It Will Be Graded, or you can create more appropriate customized messages, such as Sales Meeting at 3:00 p.m., Frank's Office.

The Signup utility generates lined sheets with optional graphics. Use these forms for petitions, sign-out sheets for supplies, or anything else that requires a group of people to supply their signature

Forms provides you with library of both useful and silly forms. Forms for petty cash withdrawals, phone messages, routing slips, memos, and so forth are some examples. Impress your boss by customizing these for your company. Forms for hot dates, things you won't get done today, and rumors might not be quite as necessary but are quite entertaining. Then again, if you think Laffer Utilities is funny, chances are you'll find the unnecessary useful.

Faxcover is a program that does just that--generate fax covers in varying degrees of seriousness. You can accomplish everything from annoying your associates to appearing to be thoughtful. Sending someone a funny fax birthday card created with Faxcover sure does cover up the fact that you forgot to buy a card in time to mail it.

Speaking of birthdays, Birthday notifies you of upcoming birthdays. Now you can remember them in plenty of time to send cards.

Finally, there's Phone, a database for names, phone numbers, and more. This program maintains a list of people and companies you call and allows you to search it using almost any criterion, enabling you to find the number you need easily.

The Laffer Utilities package offers a lot for its $34.95 retail price, but it requires a lot of disk space as well. The hundreds of cartoons and other graphics help run up Laffer Utilities' hardware requirement to a hefty 6.1 megabytes of disk storage. There are those of us who think Laffer Utilities is worth the space. If your company is networked, you can always put it on the file server anyway. I used the utilities without any problems across a Novell NetWare Lite network. A Windows version was released in the spring, so if your office requires that you spend time in that environment, you can benefit from Laffer Utilities, too.

In all, The Laffer Utilities 4.01 is the first of a new breed of nonproductivity software. Al Lowe and Sierra are to be congratulated for pioneering this field and bringing chuckles and stress relief into the offices of so many of us.