Classic Computer Magazine Archive COMPUTE! ISSUE 145 / OCTOBER 1992 / PAGE 104

LapLink Pro. (file management utility) (Evaluation)
by Bruce M. Bowden

LapLink Pro is a utility for managing files between computers. Files, directories, and whole directory tree structures may be copied, deleted, moved, and renamed. If you like, you may clone an entire drive.

Data compression is used to increase throughput speeds. Additionally, text files may be viewed and even edited. (LapLink includes a full-screen text editor which may be applied to Iocal text files. There's even a largetype mode for laptop displays.) One thing LapLink won't let you do is global management of selected files. Hence, you're restricted to transferring files only from the directory you're in, unless whole subdirectories below the current directory are being passed. Wildcards may be used when doing copies, both for selecting which files to copy and for selecting which files not to use.

The program is remarkably easy to use. Getting it up and running requires almost no thought, and usage will be intuitive to anyone with moderate computer experience and only a little presence of mind. The program works with two computers at a time--called local and remote. The local computer is the one you're typing on; either computer can be used at any time for controlling communications between the two. Communication is established through a serial port, parallel port, or modem connection. A set of connecting cables is supplied with the software.

The program checks each communication port from the moment it's run; if it finds a LapLink connection there, it reports that the remote computer is available. The screen is split into two windows: one for the current directory contents on the local computer, the other for the same on the selected remote computer. An alternative to stepping through each directory by ascending or descending the directory hierarchy from your current level is an interactive tree mode. In tree mode, you may travel along a tree diagram while simultaneously looking at a list of files for each directory.

For most file-handling activities, LapLink effectively merges the two communicating computers into one computer with two keyboards. Unfortunately, DOS isn't accessible on the remote computer, but (as is commonplace these days) you may drop from the local LapLink into the DOS shell and return again. You can even launch another program and return to LapLink at its conclusion, but this, too, is only available on the local computer.

I tested LapLink Pro on my three primary computers--an 8088-based XT, an 80286-based machine, and an 80386-based AT--with both parallel and serial connections. During this same period l installed on all three a utility for compressing disk drive files to extend storage capacity. Unfortunately, the compression utility created a variety of problems, including mangled system data on the boot partition of the XT hard drive. Fortunately, I'd backed up all of the important XT directory structures to the high-capacity hard drive of my 386 as a practical test of LapLink.

But LapLink was not yet through helping me. Because of that crash, I decided that the best solution to my diskcompressor problems was to restore the drives to normal formatting, a process which involved the recording and safekeeping of dozens of directory structures and a few hundred megabytes worth of files--something which would have been incredibly tedious and time-consuming before LapLink. Going through a process somewhat similar to a high-tech version of Tower of Hanoi, shuttling directories back and forth between the three computers, I had all three hard drives formatted and restored in a reasonable amount of time--and almost without tedium. LapLink turned a potential crisis into an interesting afternoon's work.

My three computers are hooked together at their parallel and serial ports. Occasionally, I'm also linked by modem to another computer running LapLink. In theory, then, one might consider having a collection of computers communicating freely with one another. If computer A is linked to computer B and computer B is linked to computer C, then not only can B communicate with both A and C, but A should be able to gateway through B to get to C and vice versa. This principle can be daisychained to link as many computers as you like, each having access to any other. In practice, however, only the first case--that of B communicating with both A and C (though not at the same time)--is possible with the current version of LapLink. (Traveling Software recently announced a new "corporate 10-pack" for linking multiple computers.)

Business travelers trying to keep up-to-date records are well served by LapLink Pro. In the first place, connecting with another computer over the phone can be as easy as running LapLink on the other computer and calling it through LapLink on your own. No hassles--direct and straightforward. One very useful feature of LapLink is that it will synchronize directories for you. This means that it will update the files in the selected directories of both the local and remote machines so the selected directories :match.

File selections for copying depend on what filenames aren't duplicated and, if some are, what the most recent file is. Hence, you can easily ensure that your laptop drive is in agreement your desktop. Changes made on both computers are filed with a minimum of trouble. Another neat feature is the one for copying existing files only.

That means that if there are only specific files you need to copy, files which already exist in the selected directory of the receiving computer, then only those files will be copied and no others--even if every file in the source directory is highlighted. For example, if your receiving computer is a spacelimited laptop which only needs an update of certain specific records and not a whole database of files, this selection will filter out the unneeded files and transfer only those required.

One additional feature is quite handy. LapLink Pro provides built-in support for the Xircom parallel port multiplexer, so LapLink and your printer can share the same parallel port.

It doesn't take long to discover that if you work with more than one computer, LapLink Pro is an indispensable utility. It's fast, reliable, and extremely easy to use. I highly recommend it.