Test Drive: No user should be without the utility that peeks

Quick View Plus for Microsoft Windows 95 is one of those
utilities you wonder how you ever got along without.


Previously known as OutsideIn for Windows 3.x [GCN, July 3, 1995, Page 33],
it's now offered by Inso Corp., which bought developer Systems Compatibility Corp. earlier
this year.


The $49 utility opens files so you can peek inside without needing the application that
originally created them. Support for Windows' Object Linking and Embedding 2.0 lets you
get into all the pieces of a compound document. And when a Quick View Plus window is open,
you can drag and drop other files onto it for viewing.


Microsoft Corp. already has built a basic Quick View version into Win95 that can open
about 30 file types. But the Quick View Plus version handles more than 200--text
documents, spreadsheets, database files, graphics and presentations. It can even look
inside compressed .TAR and .ZIP files.


Microsoft should just license the full package from Inso. It's that good, and it
certainly would help Win95 users make sense of the jumble of oddball files on their hard
drives and floppy disks. I tested it on dozens of types and opened most of them, including
several graphics files I dragged over from an Apple Macintosh system.


Quick View Plus reminds me of a powerful Mac utility called Can Opener from Abbott
Systems Inc. But Quick View Plus beats both Can Opener and the older OutsideIn because
it's so ingrained in the Win95 interface to be almost transparent.


If you have a Win95 PC, you probably know about the pop-up context menus that appear
when you point to a file icon and click the right mouse button. These context menus work
on the desktop or inside the Windows Explorer or the Find window.


Quick View Plus improves on this. It stays out of sight while adding itself as an extra
choice to the context menus. Point to a mystery file, click the right mouse button, select
the Quick View Plus option and view what's inside the file.


Quick View's right-button trick works less intuitively in Win95's standard Open and
Save dialog boxes--you have to ask for all file types to be displayed before you can see
the files you want to work with.


If Quick View Plus doesn't understand a format, it will display whatever it can, even
if the file is damaged, or it will apologize for failing.


After a document's open, grab some or all of what you see and save it to your
clipboard. From there, you can paste the text or graphics into other documents, making old
or incompatible files useful again.


In a text document, you can search for words with a pull-down menu that tracks your
search criteria.


Quick View Plus is indispensable for unfamiliar files given to you by colleagues,
unknown files on your hard drive that you're hesitant to delete and mixed document types
you've downloaded from the Internet.


But it's not perfect. Just when you start to rely on it, it suddenly won't open a
seemingly obvious file type. For example, I couldn't get it to work with couple of formats
used by Adobe Systems Inc. applications.


Many Internet sites store and transfer documents in Adobe's .PDF portable document
format for viewing with the popular Adobe Acrobat reader utility. Likewise, many users of
Adobe Photoshop save and transmit their graphics in the Encapsulated PostScript .EPS
format. Quick View Plus wouldn't open either .PDF or .EPS files.


Yes, Adobe offers free Acrobat readers, and yes, there are other graphics viewers out
there that can open .EPS files. But why doesn't Inso make a deal to incorporate these
important formats?


Nor can Quick View Plus handle computer graphics metafile (CGM), Lotus .PIC, Macintosh
PICT1 or PICT2, or sound formats.


To its credit, it does translate notorious problem files like MacWrite text documents,
complete with bold text and other formatting, as well as older WordStar and Wang PC files.
You can print them from the viewing window.


Quick View Plus reads Hypertext Markup Language documents and even loads associated
.GIF files if they're located in the same directory. But it won't enable HTML hot-links or
enhancements such as the blinking text popularized by Netscape Communications Corp.'s
browser.


It moonlights as a helper for Internet browsing, though. During installation, you have
the option of automatically making Quick View Plus a viewer within your Web browser. It
also works with interface enhancers like Norton Navigator. The installation program will
scan your disk and suggest programs that might need it as a helper.


The scanner erroneously displays default choices it says it found on your disk. I knew
I had no America Online Navigator, but I told Quick View Plus to go ahead and try to
install itself as an America Online helper anyway. Back came an error message--big
surprise.


I found Quick View Plus most useful as a supplement to standalone Internet tools. For
example, if your newsreader can accept a helper application, Quick View Plus will let you
view images or formatted documents that others have uploaded as UseNet News messages. To
enable this, you must enter the full file path to QVP32.EXE, which should be in the Quick
View Plus folder in your Program file.


One last cute trick: While viewing graphics, you can have lots of fun with the Make
Wallpaper command. It lets you turn anything you view into an image for your desktop
background, loading it automatically.


$49


Inso Corp., Chicago; tel. 312-329-0700.


Overall grade: B+


[+] Menus correspond to file type being viewed--you can zoom and rotate
graphics or hide gridlines on a spreadsheet.


[-] Drag-and-drop functions are inconsistent; a file from the clipboard is
treated differently from a file pulled from the Explorer.


Real-life requirements:


Windows 95 PC with 5M free on hard drive



About the Author

Shawn McCarthy, a former writer for GCN, is senior analyst and program manager for government IT opportunities at IDC.

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