Shareware welcomes users to a new world of PC opportunities





Although Microsoft Windows’ decade-old graphical interface has made life easier
for most users, anyone who could write a .bat file in MS-DOS still feels betrayed.


One of Windows’ shortcomings is that it won’t let users cut and paste in
advanced ways as they could in MS-DOS environments such as DesqView from Quarterdeck Corp.
of Marina Del Rey, Calif.


DesqView users could run macros and edit right inside the copy function. If you
don’t think this was important to them, you never had to copy information from
WordPerfect to a Lotus spreadsheet, inserting formatting codes on the fly.


There is no good substitute in Windows. If you’re tired of the limitations of
having to cut and paste one item at a time through Windows’ Notepad, I recommend a
great utility called ClipMate.


With Notepad, you highlight some text and right-click to cut or copy. Any data left in
Notepad will be lost. You can’t easily copy lots of different items because you must
switch applications and paste each item immediately or lose it.


That shortcoming also makes it difficult to store boilerplate—addresses, phone
numbers, Web links—to add to e-mail messages.


As for inserting boilerplate in modern word processors, the macros you design usually
won’t work after an upgrade version arrives, so they have to be programmed again and
again.


You can build a set of such messages in one or more Notepads saved to the desktop PC,
but you still must search for the text, highlight it, then cut and paste.


Here’s my solution. ClipMate 4.5, a $25 shareware utility from Thornsoft
Development of Rochester, N.Y., runs under Windows 9x and Windows NT 4.0. It saves every
cut or copy result to the top or bottom of a queue, indexed by the first line of the copy.
No more losing every previous text block when a new one is copied.


To paste from this archive, press Shift-Ctrl-Q and see a pop-up list of recently saved
text blocks. Double-click on the one to be pasted to the application in which you’re
working.


The savings in time and effort is enormous, but ClipMate’s usefulness doesn’t
stop there. Active users can quickly find hundreds of items in the ClipMate file, select
how many items to keep, and have them automatically deleted or managed in several ways.


For example, my permanent boilerplate file, although easy to edit, doesn’t receive
copies of new material. The text stored in the boilerplate file isn’t automatically
aged and deleted, either.


You can edit the title and content of each stored item, search for text, glue a number
of separate items together and paste them all at once, print items, and generally manage
and move stored items between collections as well as change the active collection.


Many federal sites steer clear of shareware, supposedly because shrink-wrapped software
is easier to support.


But why is it better to pay hundreds of dollars per seat for a bloated 500M application
that may have oodles of bugs—oops, undocumented features—than to download a
30-day working demo and license it only if it works well?


The agency would have to designate a person to evaluate shareware and freeware, but
someone’s already doing that for commercial programs, so what’s the difference?


Shareware supposedly has more limited support. But does it really? The Linux operating
system, for example, isn’t just shareware, it’s freeware. And Linux help is a
heck of a lot easier to find online than answers from major software publishers’
technical support lines.


Power users who want to get the most out of their computers will like ClipMate.
It’s downloadable from the Web at http://tucows.accu-find.com
  and http://www.thornsoft.com.  The
first site indexes hundreds of quality shareware and freeware products.


The Linux boom has proved that freeware isn’t junk. Nor is a lot of shareware.
Such programs are less upgrade-driven than big commercial programs. They don’t need
as much support, don’t suffer from as many new bugs and are generally simpler to
learn.


Could shareware and freeware such as Linux put an end to user complaints about bloated
suites and the constant upgrade treadmill that holds down productivity for users and
support staff?


Agencies that investigate stable, inexpensive freeware operating systems and popular
shareware utilities might find they can raise worker productivity at far lower cost. PCs
are still a very young office tool, and there’s no reason to think Microsoft Corp.
operating systems and office suites will always represent the only business model.


How cost-effective is it for support staff to spend weeks learning software so they can
explain things to users for six months before upgrading and starting all over again?


John McCormick, a free-lance writer and computer consultant, has been working with
computers since the early 1960s. E-mail him at powerusr@penn.com.

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