Procomm Plus 32 is boffo but it limits users to a single browser

The dial-up capabilities include terminal emulation, file transfer, fax, remote control
and scripting to automate communications sessions.


If you intend to use the Internet tools, then pull together the names of your e-mail
and news servers, log-on names and other data before installing the package.


Unless you're familiar with your LAN, go through a dry run first. Keep a pencil and
paper handy to note what information you're missing on various screens.


Then push the Back button to return to the beginning. After you've gotten the missing
information from your system administrator, proceed with the installation.


Quarterdeck could have simplified the process with a handy checklist of all the
information required.


The heart of the suite is the Connection Directory, a graphical interface that
organizes contact information and gives one-click access to all Procomm Plus 32
communication modes.


The Connection Directory displays everything by connection type. For example, the Web
tab shows all the uniform resource locators, and the terminal tab displays telephone
numbers.


I was disappointed that the Connection Directory couldn't read my favorite URL files
from my previously installed versions of Microsoft Internet Explorer. Nor was there an
easy way to import them.


The Connection Directory doesn't support drag-and-drop management. You must use Procomm
Plus 32's contact-editing tools to move contacts from one folder to another. The tools do
the job adequately if not elegantly.


If you're a heavy bulletin board system or online user, organizing everything by
connection type might make sense. But office workers generally organize their information
by people, places and tasks.


Users can design the contact database to extract data for mailing lists or fax
broadcasting fairly easily. A more useful approach would have been an address book with
customizable folders for each contact, with fields for name, organization, postal address,
telephone and fax numbers, e-mail, Telnet, URLs, and FTP and other Internet addresses.


To make a connection in the directory, you click the contact entry or connect button.
Procomm Plus 32 opens the associated communications module within a window. Terminal, FTP,
Web browser, Internet news and Internet mail are different views that share a single
window. Two programs can't run in the window at the same time.


But you can run multiple instances of Procomm Plus 32 if you need to open concurrent
sessions in different modes. You use the drop-down menu to establish a connection and
access information stored in the Connection Directory from a session window.


Although Procomm Plus 32 includes and optionally installs Microsoft Internet Explorer
3.02, it's the Microsoft way or no way. You can't use any other brand of browser with
Procomm Plus 32, and you can't use any version of Explorer except 3.02.


You can't even upgrade the browser. It's possible to run another browser on your
desktop, but that defeats the purpose.


Client program suites generally offer economy and convenience, but individual
components suffer in comparison with standalone versions. Many of the Procomm Plus 32
dial-up communication modules hold their own, however.


Even the Internet tools will meet the needs of most users. Many users will be perfectly
content with Microsoft Internet Explorer, and Rapid Remote is a fast and friendly
remote-access package.


Procomm's terminal emulation client is robust. It supports keyboard mapping and
emulates 36 serial terminals. It also includes 11 file transfer protocols including
Zmodem, Ymodem, Kermit and RIPScript 1.54, a graphical terminal emulator, with mouse
support, used for many BBSes.


If you have a fax-modem, you can send and receive faxes over analog lines. There's a
choice of cover pages and memos. You can set times and dates to broadcast to multiple
recipients or to fax unattended when rates are low. Multiple fax-modem support lets you
send and receive faxes simultaneously.


You can save a received fax as a file and forward it via the e-mail module or transfer
it via FTP. Optical character recognition software optionally converts an incoming fax to
editable text. If you have a TWAIN-compatible scanner, you can scan hard copy and fax it
as you would any paper document.


Telnet clients are essentially terminal emulators that use TCP/IP to connect client to
host. Procomm Plus 32's Telnet client works no better than those bundled with Microsoft
Windows operating systems, but it does have two advantages. It can emulate 36 types of
terminals, and users can save contact information in the Connection Directory.


One thing it doesn't support is X terminal emulation. George Simon, senior scientist at
Phillips Laboratory at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M., told me that many technical or
scientific users often need to connect to Unix servers from Windows with 28.8-kilobit/sec
modems.


The FTP client, used to transfer files over the Internet, is like the Explorer browser.
You transfer by dragging and dropping. A crash recovery feature can resume an interrupted
file transfer from the point at which the connection was broken, but only if the FTP
server supports crash recovery.


The FTP client can't transfer nested folders, the hallmark of best-in-class FTP
packages and convenient if you often transfer applications or document trees over the Net.


The e-mail and news reader applications are the weakest apps in the suite. The e-mail
client does basic spell-checking but lacks filters. It supports only one signature
attachment.


You might just as well use the e-mail capabilities built into Explorer--if you could.
Unfortunately, Explorer's e-mail and news reader functions are disabled when you use
Procomm. The news reader is a bit stronger, supporting kill filters.


When traveling, you can connect to your office computer with Rapid Remote. This
remote-access module transfers files or runs applications over dial-up connections. You'll
like its simplicity and fast screen refresh.


Rapid Remote can connect a machine running Windows 95 to one running Windows NT and
vice versa. But to connect to one running Windows 3.x, you must buy the standalone Rapid
Remote.


Aspect, the 600-command communications script language, can automate many tasks. But
Quarterdeck doesn't supply a printed manual for it, only online documentation.


Overall, Procomm Plus 32 is a powerful package. But I won't abandon my favorite
individual clients. The e-mail client is weak, and sticking the user with only one version
of any Web browser is unfathomable.


Although the interface is easy, expect to spend some time learning how to maximize its
usefulness. Don't count on Procomm Plus 32 as an enterprise communications application
unless you budget for training your nontechie employees.


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