ComputerWorks. (educational software) (Software Review) (Evaluation)
by Phillip Morgan
If you're mystified by your computer's inner workings, curious about the many boards and peripherals you can add to it, or interested in the development of computers, Software Marketing's ComputerWorks can be your graphic guide.
ComputerWorks packs diagrams of everything from connector cables to motherboards, a time line that starts with the abacus and ends with the latest microprocessors, and loads of information on related topics. You can browse through screens of text and illustrations, use an index to locate specific topics, or follow lesson plans. Many text entries include hypertext--highlighted words or phrases on which you can click to see a definition or a cross-referenced illustration.
With so much information, getting through ComputerWorks in one sitting would be a daunting task. It's best suited for browsing in your spare time, and its tools include bookmarks to keep your place or mark a screen to which you want to return. A button bar at the bottom of the screen makes navigation a breeze. After you've spent some time with the program, you can test what you've learned by taking one of its eight topical quizzes. (Watch out for the history quiz!)
You can print any of the text or graphics from within the program or export them for use in your word processor or desktop publishing software. The graphics are colorful and detailed and would be useful as computer hardware clip art.
Unfortunately, ComputerWorks' many graphics make it a fairly large program to keep on your hard drive, taking up about 5MB. Installation is easy and relatively quick, so you can take the program off your hard drive after you've gone through it a few times and reinstall it if you need it later.
ComputerWorks is filled with useful information, but it won't take the place of a manual or reference book. One mail-order outlet was selling it for $55. That seems a bit pricey compared to a good book, particularly if you're the only one who will use it. But ComputerWorks is a good introduction to computers, and for a teacher or family, it might prove more flexible and accessible than most introductory books. Although it contains an abundance of information, ComputerWorks is general enough in scope that it won't be dated by the time you get it installed.