Hurricane 98 is pretty much a no-brainer buy for anyone who logs serious time on a PC every day. It lives up to its primary function--speeding up launch times for your programs. Equally impressive: It accomplishes this feat automatically. Simply point-and-click your way through an easy installation wizard, and you're done. There's no further tweaking, no learning curve. Of course, for those who insist on getting under the hood, Hurricane 98 can be customized and tweaked manually. Other benefits include speeded performance from a cold boot, PC-to-printer, RAM and removable drives, such as a CD-ROM or ZIP.
List price: $39
Requires: a 486 computer, Windows 95 or 98, 16MB RAM, 20MB hard-drive space, CD-ROM
Maker: McAfee (Santa Clara, California)
Phone/web site: (408) 988-3832, http://www.mcafee.com
Joe Dysart (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a software analyst and Internet business consultant in Thousand Oaks, California. His work has appeared in more than 40 publications, including The New York Times.
Act! 4.0 is a truly powerful program for managing any database of business contacts. One of its greatest strengths: You can customize it without an inordinate amount of irritating gyrations. Another: its ability to actually interface with other programs without resorting to (and begging for) tech support to make it happen. Coolest new features: easy data synchronization with other ACT! users on your staff and quick access to popular Web sites for business information.
List price: $199
Requires: a 486 computer, Windows 95 or NT, 8MB RAM, 40MB hard-drive space, CD-ROM, VGA video or higher
Maker: Symantec (Cupertino, California)
Phone/web site: (800) 441-7234, http://www.symantec.com
Too often, Web-related software seems designed by digerati determined to make you "pay your dues" before you can uncover the secrets of its use. Thankfully, this isn't the case with WebSpice Animations. Simply pop in the CD-ROM, point and click four or five times, and presto--you've lifted the animation you want from this program to your Web page. Choose from 3D animated objects, letters, words, buttons and arrows . . . and leave people wondering how you became so gifted in Web design so quickly.
List price: $149
Requires: a 486 computer; Mac II, Quadra or PowerMac; 8MB RAM, CD-ROM
Maker: DeMorgan Industries (Stamford, Connecticut)
Phone/web site: (203) 938-8805, http://www.webspice.com
Credit Builder Professional is an exhaustive database program designed for start-ups looking to make their credit squeaky clean--or simply to ensure they're already platinum-worthy. For those already in trouble, there are hordes of helpful letter templates and a library of data devoted to your credit rights. For those who've hit easy street, there's CardSmart--a module that recommends the right credit card to fit your needs based on a few, pointed questions. You can also help bulletproof your eligibility for a wide range of loans.
Credit Builder Professional
List price: $49
Requires: a 386 computer, Windows 3.1 or 95, 4MB RAM, 6MB hard-drive space, CD-ROM
Maker: Intelliquis (Draper, Utah)
Phone/web site: (801) 553-1127, http://www.intelliquis.com
Probably the greatest strength of Hijaak Pro 4.5 is its ease of use. Essentially, if you know how to use Windows, you'll intuitively grasp how to use this program. Graphic artists are sure to like the fact that they can play in Hijaak Pro for hours, tweaking and fine-tuning the look of a pix. Time-pressed businesspeople will be grateful they can get in and out of a graphics conversion in a minute or two. The Kahuna of converters, Hijaak Pro converts between 85 file formats, does custom screen shots, and creates print images and thumbnail catalogs--and that's just for starters.
Hijaak Pro 4.5
List price: $99
Requires: a 486-66 computer, Windows 95 or NT 4.0 (Pentium recommended), 16MB RAM (32MB recommended), 25MB hard-drive space, CD-ROM
Maker: IMSI (San Rafael, California)
Phone/web site: (415) 257-3000, http://www.imsisoft.com
Timing Is Everything
Day-Timer Organizer 2000 is an entry-level program for those looking to track their business contacts and engage in detailed time management. Hard copy Day-Timer users will feel right at home with the program's paper organizer format; others should find its use intuitive. Coolest features include daily, weekly and monthly views; scheduling conflict alerts and resolution; and data synchronization with PalmPilot and SharpWizard handheld computers.
Day-Timer Organizer 2000
List price: $59
Requires: a 486 computer, Windows 4.0 or higher, 10MB hard-drive space, CD-ROM
Maker: Day-Timer Concepts (Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania)
Phone/web site: 800) 225-5005, http://www.daytimer.com
Dollars And Cents
A great program to cut your teeth on before moving up to QuickBooks, Quicken Deluxe 99 is Intuit's bigger-brother program for managing small-business finances. I started using Quicken four years ago after it reduced the monthly agony of bill paying from an hour and 15 minutes to 20 minutes. I haven't looked back since. Fortunately, they haven't spoiled the program in the upgrade process--they've just made it more powerful and versatile.
Quicken Deluxe 99
List price: $59
Requires: a 486 computer, Windows 3.1, 95 or NT 4.0, 12MB RAM, 37MB hard-drive space, CD-ROM, 14.4 Kbps modem for online features
Maker: Intuit (Mountain View, California)
Phone/web site: (800) 446-8848, http://www.Quicken.com
Lawyer In A Box
Attorney Pro is a must-have database program for any start-up looking to cut costs by doing preliminary legal legwork before calling an attorney. Balloon prompts guide you through the completion of 2,500 legal documents. A search engine helps you choose the right form for the task. Included are forms for accounting, franchise and leasing, among others. Plus, you can choose from 500 letter templates for common legal problems. Only criticism: no attorney jokes.
Smart Attorney Pro
List price: $149
Requires: a 486 computer, Windows 95 or NT 4.0, 8MB RAM, minimum 70MB hard-drive space, CD-ROM
Maker: American Institute For Financial Research (Morrisville, North Carolina)
Phone/web site: (800) 791-1000, http://www.sbsn.com