From the April 1999 issue of Startups

Who couldn't use more time? Shortcuts shaves seconds off your computing time by enabling you to record a series of keystrokes and mouse-clicks, then trigger that series of commands with a single keystroke. Getting online and calling up your favorite page of your favorite Web site, for example, can be as easy as punching F12. Getting deep into the innards of your word processing program is now as easy as pressing F10. Other bonuses: Shortcuts installs in a snap and has a learning curve of 20 to 30 minutes--tops.

Shortcuts
Street Price:
$22
Requires: an IBM-compatible pc, Windows 95 or higher, 8 MB RAM, 2MB hard-drive space, CD-ROM
Kiss Software
Newport Beach, California
(714) 979-5477
www.kissco.com


Joe Dysart (joedysart@aol.com), a software analyst and Internet business consultant, has written for more than 40 publications, including The New York Times.

Show And Tell

The best programs are those that let your creativity roam free. Catch The Web qualifies sensationally. With a tiny footprint and a minuscule price, this package enables you to quickly create a self-running slide show of anything you find on the Web. Finished presentations feature images of the Web pages you've selected, links to those pages--and, of course, text write-ups of your own keen insights. The presentations run in Microsoft Internet Explorer and other popular browsers, and can be sent over the Net for easy viewing by clients.

Catch The Web
Street Price: $39
Requires: an IBM-compatible pc, Windows 95 or higher, 16MB RAM, 4MB hard-drive space, Microsoft Internet Explorer 3.0 or higher
Math Strategies
Greensboro, North Carolina
(336) 855-7065
www.mathstrategies.com

Have It Your Way

For those who would argue that every version of Windows is annoying, shame on you. Nevertheless, those who feel put upon by Windows' latest version can take solace with this program. Windows 98 Annoyances offers a graphical interface that enables you to easily personalize Windows 98 by choosing your own default Web browser, e-mail program and news-reader. You can also easily get rid of features like Active Desktop and the Channel Bar, as well as quickly add custom keyboard shortcuts to better put Windows 98 at your beck and call.

Windows 98 Annoyances
Street Price:
$40
Requires: an IBM-compatible pentium pc or higher, windows 95, 16MB RAM, 6MB hard-drive space, CD-ROM
O'Reilly
Sebastopol, California
(707) 829-0515
www.oreilly.com

Time Is Money

This solid contender to Intuit's Quickbooks Pro offers the advantage of easily interfacing with other applications you're also probably using--such as Word, WordPerfect and Excel. M.Y.O.B. Accounting Plus 8.0 also enables users to track billable time in units smaller than one hour. Yet another bonus: It's designed to help you track billable and nonbillable time, so you can assess the true cost of each project. No slouch of a program.

M.Y.O.B. Accounting Plus 8.0
Street Price:
$179 (Windows); $199 (Mac)
Requires: an IBM-compatible pentium pc or higher, Windows 95 or higher, 16MB RAM, 40MB hard-drive space, CD-ROM (diskettes on request; additional charge may apply); Mac version available
BestWare
Rockaway, New Jersey
(800) 851-1315
www.bestware.com

Leashless In Cyberspace

Without a doubt, Zoot is a must for Web info hounds--it enables you to elegantly grab and organize Internet data on the fly. Its key component is a Windows 95-style "auto-clip" task bar that captures Web data while you're working in any Windows application--from Web browsers and word processors to Windows-based CD-ROM software.

Result: Store any Web page to your hard drive with a single mouse-click. Later, make sense of everything with Zoot's "Agent X" search engine, which can search for specific words or a string of text amid all the data you've downloaded. Look for an upgrade soon--essentially, an interface makeover that promises to make Zoot even easier to use. Handy, to say the least.

Zoot
Street Price: $79
Requires: a 486 pc or higher, os/2 or Windows 3.1 or higher, 4MB RAM, 2.8MB hard-drive space
Zoot Software
Lincoln, Vermont
(802) 453-6474
www.zootsoftware.com

Fixer-upper

You might as well call it a PC mechanic-in-a-box, since First Aid does what all the best PC programs do: It runs itself. Simply install the program, click to begin, and the diagnosis/analysis is off and running. First Aid checks every facet of your system's hardware and software, then brings back a full report of the results. The good news: First Aid discovered seven software problems with my system and was able to fix five right on the spot. It was also able to offer solution pointers for the other two--from its 20MB database of hardware and software problems and solutions. The better news: My PC now runs noticeably faster. 'Nuff said.

First Aid
Street Price:
$89
Requires: an IBM-compatible 486 pc or higher, Windows 95 or higher, 16MB RAM, 20MB hard-drive space
McAfee
Santa Clara, California
(408) 988-3832
www.mcafee.com