LapLink has bulked up with Win95

Playing with the multifunctional LapLink 7.0 for Microsoft
Windows 95 turned out to be a mixed blessing for this fan of streamlined software.

LapLink made its reputation as a fast, cheap way to move files between PCs without a
network. The only requirements: proprietary communications software installed on the PCs,
plus distinctive yellow-and-blue cables to connect them.

LapLink still can do that, but it's been repackaged with a crisp new Windows 95
interface that makes clearer which files you're moving and where they're going. In the
process, it has turned into fatter software, replete with Internet connectivity and TCP/IP

These changes make LapLink into something of a new product with a new purpose. It no
longer just connects your laptop to your office computer--it's become a mobile window into
your office via the Internet.

You can dial into a computer on your office LAN and become a remote node if the other
computer also has a copy of LapLink, which also runs on Windows 3.x and Novell NetWare. Or
you can connect via TCP/IP, from any network on the Internet where you have a
Point-to-Point Protocol account.

That's when I started to miss the streamlined old LapLink. Even after the setup wizard
assured me everything was all set I struggled. I had to mess around with my Winsock
configuration to make everything work right. It wasn't a major hassle, but it did demand
some time with the documentation. On-line help couldn't tell me what I needed to know.

Yes, it was worth the trouble. I now can plug my notebook computer directly into my
desktop computer whether I'm 5 feet away, at home or across the country.

To be fair about the on-line help, there are "quick steps" instructions for
selected tasks. They launch automatically until you disable the function. A "what's
this" function lets you select a screen item and read a quick explanation.

The closest rival to the new LapLink probably is Stac Electronics' ReachOut package. I
use ReachOut, too, but 32-bit LapLink has the edge with its 32-bit graphics caching, Win95
fonts, and support for long filenames and infrared ports, plus multithreading and
multitasking over a modem.

For users who depend on machine-to-machine cabling, the package still comes with those
yellow parallel and blue serial cables. It also supports the new, high-speed Enhanced
Capabilities Port found on many Pentium PCs, although you must buy your own $69
DirectParallel Universal cable.

The LapLink 7.0 interface is a big improvement over Win95's Explorer. A detailed,
split-screen view and an array of buttons guide you as you browse directories on your
computer or network disks.

I played with the file synchronization function enough to see how useful it could be
when different users modify the same files on different computers. If you select
synchronization, files will update uniformly across machines. Traveling Software touts
this as superior to Windows 95's Briefcase, because the SpeedSynch feature will combine
all detected changes in documents.

Compared with LapLink 6.0 for Windows, the Win95 version has a more intuitive
interface, clearer icons and improved dialog boxes with tabs for multiple choices. On most
screens, a right mouse click displays a shortcut menu.

One of the best improvements is that LapLink's address book now works with Win95's
"dialing properties" to pick up such details as calling card numbers,
international dialing codes and whether to dial 9 for an outside line.

Traveling Software Inc., Bothell, Wash.; tel. 206-483-8088.

Price: $139; $45 and $69 upgrades from previous LapLink versions

Overall grade: B

+ Easy setup with a wizard to check out your hardware

+ Close to "universal mobile access" as claimed

[--] Security not tight enough out of the box

[--] No Windows NT version yet

[--] Only Microsoft's TCP/IP stack supported

Real-life requirements:

486/Pentiu PC running Windows 95, with 8M RAM and 7M free on hard drive

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