The holidays are upon us once again, and if you're like most people, you've probably waited until the last minute to purchase gifts. Why not make it easy for yourself and head down to the local software store to pick up a few sure-to-please items? While you're at it, be sure to buy something for yourself--because it's always better to give and receive.
Here are a few suggestions to get you started:
Side By Side
If one of your employees just can't seem to get organized, give him or her a copy of Sidekick 95 Deluxe from Starfish Software. Sidekick is a personal information manager that stores addresses, schedules, to-do lists and more. A module called EarthTime monitors the time zones of six cities of your choosing, and a note-taking module helps store project ideas. This program is affordable and extremely easy to use.
Sidekick 95 Deluxe, $59.95 (Windows), Starfish Software, (888) STARFISH, http://www.starfishsoftware.com
Another hot product from Starfish is its new Starfish Internet Utilities program. This group of utilities works under Windows 95/NT to make using the Internet a little less cumbersome.
Starfish combines several utilities into a tool bar, which contains numerous tabs for organizing your desktop and your Web usage. For example, a tab labeled "Search" provides access to 11 different search engines, including Lycos, Infoseek and Yahoo. The "News" tab includes links to a dozen different news-oriented sites, such as USA Today and Reuters. Click on an icon, and the Web site of your choice is launched within either Netscape Navigator or Microsoft Explorer. Internet Utilities also imports all your current bookmarks from Navigator or Explorer.
One extremely helpful feature is this program's ability to locate Web sites that have changed since your last visit. A "What's New" icon will animate to indicate some sites have changed. Click on it, and you'll find a list of modified Web sites.
Internet Utilities also organizes the programs on your desktop into tabs, making it easy to launch them from whatever program you're in. There's a handy meter for monitoring online connection time and keeping a usage log. And the QuickZip feature, compatible with other Zip programs, lets users compress and decompress files via drag-and-drop technology. Any avid Web cruiser--no matter their level--will appreciate this product.
Starfish Internet Utilities, $69.95 (Windows 95/NT), Starfish Software, (888) STARFISH, http://www.starfishsoftware.com
Everyone takes pictures during the holidays. But Adobe PhotoDeluxe lets you take those photos and do whatever you want with them, including getting rid of the dreaded "red eye" look, creating customized calendars and greeting cards . . . even switching the body parts of your favorite relatives.
Adobe calls PhotoDeluxe a "consumer image editing" product, unlike the extremely popular and feature-rich Adobe Photoshop, a professional photo editing application. But PhotoDeluxe can also be a great addition to the office. It lets users manipulate photos to fit into a brochure, for example, and prepare images for posting on the Web.
You don't need a scanner to use PhotoDeluxe, though you can use one. Instead, you can have your film processed digitally on a Kodak PhotoCD or Floppy Shots (floppy disks). Photos can then be downloaded into your computer and printed using a laser or inkjet printer, or sent across the Internet to friends and family. PhotoDeluxe supports common image formats, and it's fun for even novice computer users.
Adobe PhotoDeluxe, $89 (Windows, Macintosh), Adobe Systems, (800) 888-6293, http://www.adobe.com
Advice From The Pro
Eudora Pro will delight anyone who sends and receives lots of e-mail. I, for one, gleefully upgraded from my free copy of Eudora Light (downloadable from the Eudora Web site at www.eudora.com). Here are a few reasons why:
Eudora Pro supports message filtering, so incoming and outgoing messages can be sorted and placed in user-defined mailboxes based on the sender's name, a key word that appears within a message and so on. It also supports multiple Internet e-mail accounts so users can handle all their correspondence from within Eudora.
There's a built-in spelling checker so misspelled words won't elude you in important messages. And, because Eudora is the number-one selling e-mail program, users are less likely to have compatibility problems when sending and receiving files. And there's lots, lots more. Suffice it to say, anyone who uses e-mail will love this product.
Eudora Pro, $89 ($39 upgrade), (Windows 3.1, Windows 95/NT, Macintosh), Qualcomm, (619) 658-1291, http://www.eudora.com
If you want to give a truly useful gift with universal appeal, check out Rand McNally's TripMaker 1997. This bestselling mapping product features a comprehensive and easy-to-use travel guide with maps of the United States, Canada and Mexico on CD-ROM. The laBODY version of TripMaker is enhanced with an Internet connection and multimedia elements, including full-screen aerial photographs of major cities and 20 minutes of video and audio help.
This program helps travelers select the best route for their needs. For example, the travel planning option lets users choose between scenic, fasBODY or shorBODY routes for various legs of their trip. It even helps plan the best time of day for travel.
TripMaker 1997 includes 640,900 miles of roads, as well as 2,800 restaurants and more than 15,000 hotels, with information on price ranges, amenities and more. Hard-core business travelers will appreciate the 250 detailed city maps that make it easy to map out directions to a client's site.
TripMaker 1997, $39.95 (Windows), Rand McNally New Media, (800) 671-5006, ext. 402.
Reading a book on a computer isn't necessarily all that rewarding--you can't curl up on the couch with your computer, and you can't use it in the bathtub. But some innovative publishers have developed interesting ways of bringing the text of a book to your computer screen.
Steps to Success' InstaView electronic books come in four categories: personal growth, motivation, sales techniques and business practices. Titles include How to Master the Art of Selling by Tom Hopkins, Advanced Selling Strategies by Brian Tracy, and The Secret of Letting Go by Guy Finley.
What makes the InstaView interesting? One fun feature is the Key Concept Screen Saver, which displays an excerpt from the book you're reading every 30 seconds. There's also a Navigator tool that can search for key words, topics or exercises you can electronically bookmark for future reference.
Steps to Success, $34.95 to $39.95 (Windows), (800) 963-2255.
Read And Learn
Not all gifts must be business-related, of course. The Books That Work series is designed to help users improve the quality of their home lives. Titles such as Country Living Gardener, Great Gardens and Country Living Style all include multimedia how-to instructions, complete with sound, color photographs and animated videos.
There's also no-nonsense advice on topics such as calculating how much paint you'll need for any room in your house. Some titles, including 3D Landscape, 3D Kitchen and Visual Home, even come complete with a 3-D tool that helps you design the home or garden of your dreams. Both experienced and beginning do-it-yourselfers will love these titles.
Books That Work, $30 to $60 (Windows), (800) 242-4546, http://www.btw.com
New and notable software
Microsoft Office 97 Small Business Edition:
Small-business owners are hot, hot, hot, and Microsoft is wooing them with a version of Microsoft Office 97 designed especially for small-business needs. Microsoft Office 97 Small Business Edition will include three key Microsoft Office 97 modules: Word 97, Excel 97, and Outlook 97, Microsoft's new desktop information manager.
The suite will also include Publisher 97 for desktop publishing; the Small Business Financial Manager for evaluating different financial scenarios; AutoMap Streets Plus, a road mapping program; and resources and tools for getting started on the Internet.
Due out in February or March, Microsoft Office 97 Small Business Edition will retail for $249. Visit Microsoft's small-business Web site at http://www.microsoft.com/smallbiz/ for more information on this product and other Microsoft programs for small-business owners.