Classic Computer Magazine Archive COMPUTE! ISSUE 145 / OCTOBER 1992 / PAGE 42

Two shareware must-haves. (for Windows 3.0) (Evaluation)
by Clifton Karnes

When Windows 3.0 was released a little over two years ago, there were very few shareware programs available. Although this number grew steadily each month, it wasn't until about six months ago that things really heated up. Looking at the popular online services now, I see about 200 new or improved Windows shareware programs each month. As you can imagine, not all of these offerings are winners, but among their ranks are many superb programs. This month. I'm going to talk about two must-have shareware treasures: BackMenu and WinZip.

BackMenu is the work of Englishman lan Heath of SP Services (P.O. Box 456, Southampton, United Kingdom S09 7XG; +44 703 550037). It's a user-configurable pop-up menu that I've found indispensable. BackMenu lurks invisibly in the background, waiting for you to call it into action. You do this by clicking the right mouse button on any open space on your desktop (you can also configure the program to use the left or middle button on a threebutton mouse). BackMenu will show you a list of all your installed programs plus as many of its own special options as you want to run.

To install programs on BackMenu, you edit its INI file (by default BackMenu installs a menu option to load the INI file into Windows' Notepad). Each program entry consists of the menu text and the program's name and startup directory. BackMenu supports hierarchical (also called cascading) menus, where one entry displays a secondary menu. In addition, you can specify whether you want a program to run minimized or maximized, whether you'd like BackMenu to prompt you for command line parameters, and whether you'd like to run the program automatically when BackMenu is loaded for the first time.

As I mentioned earlier, BackMenu offers several special functions of its own. These include About (which lists the author's name and the program's registration status), Execute (which lets you run programs from a command line or open a dialog box to browse for the program you want to run), Exit Windows, Groups (which automatically creates BackMenu entries for all the programs in your Program Manager groups), ReloadMenu (which reloads BackMenu's INI file), Remove Menu (which unloads BackMenu), Set Options (which al lows you to specify the default INI file, BackMenu's hot key, and the mouse button), Info (which displays your machine's free memory and free system resources), and Task (which brings up a list of the active tasks).

I use BackMenu as a supplemental launcher to Program Manager, but you can make it your default shell. If you choose this option, BackMenu will automatically load the programs in your Startup group.

BackMenu has a registration fee of 20 (about $35). You can order using your VISA or MasterCard, and the bank will take care of the currency exchange.

WinZip is the work of programmer Nico Mak (RO. Box 919, Bristol, Connecticut 06011-0919; 800-242-4775 713-524-6394; $29). It's a shell for ZIP, LZH, SPX, and ARC files that lets you both create archives and examine existing archives. WinZip is aWindows shell, and it requires the DOS archive programs to run. For example, to use WinZip with ZIP files, you'll also need PKZIP and PKUNZIP. The fact that WinZip uses these programs for the archiving and unarchiving doesn't adversely affect either its speed or its ease of use.

To use WinZip to examine a ZIP file, simply double-click on the ZIP filename, and WinZip will load with the files displayed (the installation program takes care of the associations). If you have Windows 3.1, WinZip supports drag and drop, so you can leave it minimized on your desktop and drag files from File Manager to the icon.

>From the WinZip display you can view DOC files (WinZip supports all your file associations, so if you doubleclick on a WRI file, WinZip will run Write with the file loaded). You can also use WinZip's built-in viewer if you prefer, which allows you to select a group of files to view. In addition, you can run programs, test the archived files for viruses, and delete files.

As you'd expect, you can also extract any file or group of files to any subdirectory you specify.

Creating archives is a little tedious and arcane using the DOS command line, but with WinZip, it's a piece of cake. There are two methods. With Windows 3.1, you can simply add files to an archive by dragging them from File Manager to the WinZip icon on your desktop. The other method is to open a WinZip dialog box and tag the files you want to add. Both methods are fast and simple to use.

There are a half-dozen Windows archive programs around, but WinZip is the best I've found.

You can find both these programs on your favorite online service, or you can contact the authors at the addresses in the text.