Classic Computer Magazine Archive COMPUTE! ISSUE 164 / MAY 1994 / PAGE 94

The Norton Desktop for Windows 3.0. (file and program management shell) (Software Review) (Evaluation)
by Phillip Morgan

Since its first release, The Norton Desktop for Windows has sought to make Windows what it should be: an integrated file and program management shell you can throughly customize to fit your needs. The latest version of NDW does just that, and it includes a host of new and improved tools and accessories that make it much more than simply a replacement for the Windows Program Manager.

New and enhanced features in version 3.0 include Day Planner, a PIM with an appointment calendar, a to-do list, and a phone book. There's also a much improved File Viewer, offering WYSIWYG viewing of more than 100 text, spreadsheet, database, graphic, and compressed formats. Built-in support for ZIP 2 compression allows you to quickly compress and decompress a file, a group of files, or an entire directory. You can choose to view compressed files as directories, so you can see and selectively decompress individual files within. This provides an efficient way to keep seldom-used files and directories online for easy access without wasting a lot of valuable space.

NDW comes with new Windows versions of Backup, AntiVirus, Disk Doctor, Speed Disk, and Unerase--all supportive of DOS 6, DoubleSpace, Stacker, and SuperStor. AntiVirus protects your system from 2300 known viruses, offers improved protection against unknown viruses, and scans noticeably faster than before. Speed Disk no longer requires you to exit Windows or disable your disk cache to optimize your disks.

To further protect your system, a new Rescue Disk utility creates and updates a single disk that could save you from catastrophe. The disk backs up important information such as CMOS data, hard disk partition tables, and boot records.

The point of NDW's features and flexibility isn't just to make Windows look good but also to make it work better and faster. You can easily configure the program to free more desktop space and automate mouse movements and keystrokes. Right-button mouse support enables pop-up menus and click-and-drag selection of multiple files. Extensive drag-and-drop support, configurable menus and toolbars, desktop icons, and a control menu launch list speed your access to utilities, programs, and commands.

If you like to launch and load specific, often-used files from your desktop, you can use NDW's new Smart Groups. They link to specific directories and automatically create and delete file items based on extensions you specify. You could create a Smart Group, for example, that includes an item for each word processor document in a given directory. Unfortunately, Smart Groups aren't truly object oriented; dragging an item to the trash can simply removes its icon from the group, leaving the file itself intact.

NDW provides file management capabilities from within some applications through a new feature called FileAssist. It expands Open, Save, and Save As dialog boxes that conform to Windows standards, enabling you to create directories and find, view, rename, and delete existing files. FileAssist does cause at least one minor problem in Word 6. Once it's enabled, you won't be able to use Word's list of recently opened files under its File menu. However, this feature is included in FileAssist dialog boxes.

Hardware and software incompatibilities can be a problem with third-party Windows shells. Happily, NDW's version 3.0 seems to cause fewer system conflicts and related General Protection Faults than previous versions. However, if you do have problems, the Uninstall utility can remove all or part of the program and its files from your system. (When I performed an Uninstall, however, some references to NDW were left in my Windows system files.)

At more than 15MB fully installed, NDW is almost as large as Windows itself. That may seem large for a shell, but considering its flexibility and powerful utilities and tools, NDW is well worth your disk space and certainly worth a try.