Editorial license. (new applications featured at 1993 PC Expo in New York, New York) (Column)
by Clifton Karnes
This is really the season for computer shows. Last month it was COMDEX in Atlanta, and this month it's PC Expo in New York. I thought that PC Expo, coming so soon after COMDEX, would be just a repeat of that show, but it wasn't. Of course, there were a lot of products I'd already seen at COMDEX, but there were lots of new ones, and some of them were outstanding.
One of the neatest products I saw at PC Expo was Tapestry, from Pixar. This Windows app creates stunning visual effects with fonts. You can, for example, make a word look as if it's constructed from chrome, wood, or almost any other material. Pixar also produces photographicquality textured backgrounds and special add-in font effects. This program is a deal at $199.
Teleconferencing is a topic that's been batted around for years, but only a few companies have done anything with it, usually using ultraexpensive dedicated hardware. Future Labs has a new twist on teleconferencing with Talk-Show, a Windows program that lets any number of people, connected by modem or LAN, annotate a document in realtime so everyone sees everyone else's marks and comments. The ideal situation is for this visual conference to be accompanied by a telephone conference call. If this isn't possible, however, the program offers a floating talk box, so the people connected can type in a conversation. A two-player TalkShow pack is $395.
Microsoft has been busy lately, and the company showed a raft of new products at PC Expo. One of the most interesting was Microsoft at Work, which is a group of add-ins that make office equipment easier to use by improving its interface. The demonstration concentrated on the Microsoft at Work telephone interface, which transforms the phone into a really intelligent device. A small high-resolution screen is embedded in the phone, and it shows all kinds of information, like who's calling now and who called while you were out. It also provides an easy way to manage your phone messages. Microsoft at Work is a little hard to describe, but I was impressed.
On the main show floor, Stac Electronics was countering Microsoft's new DoubleSpace with the introduction of Stacker 3.1. This new version of Stacker has a score of neat features. The most useful of these integrates Stacker into the operating system - just like DOS 6's DoubleSpace - so there are no longer two sets of system files to deal with. It also has some very well thought-out safety features. For example, it automatically flushes the SMARTDrive cache when you close Windows and go to DOS. For a general overview of Stacker versus DoubleSpace, see my "Windows Workshop" column in this issue, which was written, by the way, before I saw Stacker 3.1. Stacker's upgrade price is $49.95.
Behind closed doors, Hewlett-Packard was showing Dashboard 2.0, its second-generation Windows shell. Dashboard 1.0 was pretty cool, and this new version adds many new features, including snap-off quick-launch toolboxes. The interface is also much more configurable. Dashboard has a suggested retail price of $99.
COMPUTE was impressed with Approach 1.0 when it was released in 1992. In fact, we gave the program a COMPUTE Choice Award as the best database product of the year. Approach 2.0, released late in 1992, was even better. This past June, Approach was acquired by Lotus, famous for 1-2-3, Ami Pro, and Freelance Graphics. Besides giving Approach the marketing muscle it needs, Lotus has introduced several small, but significant, changes to the product. The version being shown to the press at PC Expo has a more flexible interface (one that matches Lotus's other products) and was even easier to use than previous versions.
Do Visual Basic programmers have more fun? If they use Sheridan's VB Assist 3.0, they do. This Visual Basic add-in can double the productivity of almost any VB programmer. VB Assist adds two toolbars to the VB screen with features that make designing, coding, and managing projects amazingly easy. This superb tool improves on VB's already excellent interface; it's available for $179.
All in all, PC Expo was a good show. Although I didn't get to see each of the 800 exhibits, I do think I bumped into most of the 85,000 attendees.