What's your take on CASE tools and the Win95 help screens

Is CASE closed? Federal data center managers haven't gotten much help from
computer-aided software engineering tools on the year 2000 problem, caused by early Cobol
programmers who never expected their software--or their computers--to be around in 2001.

The ledger now seems to be nearly closed on CASE. Has anyone had a thoroughly good
experience with a CASE tool? If so, please drop me a line at the address below.

I'm sorry that Apple Computer Inc. is now officially food for worms, but I'll be glad
not to hear any more sauce from the MacFanatics who have always been eager to tell me how
superior their computers are to Intel systems.

Do you really, really need power, as in "I have a good laptop but can't buy a
battery for it anymore"? Power Express of San Jose, Calif., sells about 5,000
computer, telephone and video equipment batteries and will rebuild and return your
obsolete, discontinued battery in 10 days, usually for less than $100. Not a bad price to
rescue a trusty laptop from death as a paperweight. Check out Power Express at http://www.powerexpress.com

Does Win95 Help help you? I was impressed the first time I saw Microsoft Windows 95's
help screens until I tried to find some actual help on them. Does anybody else wish
Microsoft had spent half as much time on improving the content of the help system as it
seems to have spent making the interface impressive?

At first glance, a lot of help information seems available in Win95 and in its
applications. But the Help windows appear and disappear in bewildering ways. Even after
you tame them, power users and even novices quickly discover far more form than substance
in those fancy windows.

Corel Corp. hasn't revealed just how large Corel Office Professional for Windows 95
will be, but alarming numbers are out for new suites from Lotus Development and
Microsoft--alarming for users with crowded hard drives and for those of us who support
software and train users.

Lotus SmartSuite 96 for Win95/Windows NT offers 32-bit and Object Linking and Embedding
2.0 support with Internet publishing and nearly 300 spreadsheet functions. But you'll need
a minimum of 60M free on your drive, maybe 140M for a full installation. And that's before
you add data.

Microsoft Office 95 Professional Edition for Win95/NT will have more than 75 word
processor styles, more than 300 spreadsheet functions and about 100 charting styles. The
maximum installation room required is nearly 130M.

That makes me feel old. I remember when you could install a usable copy of WordPerfect
or Lotus 1-2-3 from one low-density floppy. But maybe it isn't just me. Something's wrong
when a set of installation diskettes weighs nearly as much as a laptop computer.

It's probably nostalgia on my part (some will say senility), but I have to ask, Isn't
there still a market for simple word processors and spreadsheets capable of doing 99.9
percent of what most workers really do? Such programs could fit in 1M, cost less than $50
with support and run efficiently on a 386.

It would mean, of course, that multimedia presentations could be prepared only by a few
workers who had the bloated packages, but just what percentage of workers are tasked with
creating multimedia now? Aren't there far more who just type letters?

I still use old software on occasion. I can start an old word processor and write a
note or e-mail message in less time than it takes my Win95 Pentium computer with its
massive office suite to boot Windows.

How many office workers do Internet publishing or need 300 spreadsheet functions? Can
agencies justify the expensive hardware and extensive training for average users who will
continue to use only basic software and limited functions?

The argument is that you should buy the fastest computers you can budget for because
they won't turn obsolete as fast. But does that make sense for office applications? I've
actually worn out computers before their software became too outdated to perform real work
efficiently. I still write hypertext books and do accounting on a couple of old 386SX PCs.

My 133-MHz Pentium can't do either task a second faster.

John McCormick, a free-lance writer and computer consultant, has been working with
computers since the early 1960s. He welcomes mail from readers. Write to him care of
Government Computer News, 8601 Georgia Ave., Suite 300, Silver Spring, Md. 20910.

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