Power User: Less could be more

Less could be more

John McCormick

Remember the BeOS operating system? It's fast, stable and a multimedia user's dream. Unfortunately, it never became much more than a dream because its low sales limited the development of hardware drivers.

For a small company such as Be Inc., guerrilla marketing tactics just weren't enough to compete against Microsoft Corp. Be's assets late last year went to Palm Inc. of Santa Clara, Calif., which has fallen on hard times because of the recession as well as its rivalry with Handspring Inc. of Mountain View, Calif.

So BeOS won't be the operating system of the future. But its office suite, GoBeProductive from GoBe Software Inc. of Portland, Ore., has survived as a low-cost, $125 alternative to the $475 Microsoft Office XP.

Created by former ClarisWorks designers, Productive isn't technically an office suite. It's a single program: a word processor with vector and bitmap graphics, a spreadsheet and page-layout capability.

There's more to GoBeProductive than just a chance to thumb your nose at Microsoft. Compared with Office XP, Productive is minuscule. A full installation takes up only about 20M of storage and needs 48M of RAM on a 200-MHz Pentium PC'a dream come true for an administrator with an office full of old Win98 systems.

BeProductive's proprietary file format can store documents, drawings, spreadsheets and finished publications. It reads and saves Microsoft Word and Excel formats as well as common graphics files, HTML and Adobe Portable Document Format.

You do lose some Office features, however. Don't expect to import charts or macros when you load .xls files.

But think before you dismiss this as a failing. Excel and Word macros are vectors for the majority of harmful viruses today. And don't you lose the helpful macros anyhow if you exchange files in a safer form such as Rich Text Format?

GoBeProductive runs under Win98 through XP, as well as BeOS, and a Linux version is due soon. The December 2001 release is just out of beta, so I'm not recommending you order 10,000 copies tomorrow. But I do think it's worth evaluating, and the license is a lot less draconian than Microsoft XP's legal brief.

You can download the BeOS 5 personal edition for free from www.gobe.com. The full professional version is $50.

John McCormick is a free-lance writer and computer consultant. E-mail him at poweruser@yahoo.com.

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