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Jeff Sedlik, a 36-year-old homebased photographer, shoots advertising photos for Ikea, Nike, Microsoft and United Airlines, among others. But Sedlik has also published unique posters of jazz and blues masters Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, B.B. King and John Coltrane, and that's what brought him to a free storefront at iCat.
"I put [the posters] online and sold probably $1,500 worth the first week," Sedlik says. "The site is still rather new, and [I've only] registered with a couple of search engines."
But Sedlik has been proactive in other areas. He's put his Web address on all his advertising materials and made a deal with http://www.musicboulevard.com "They came out with a site called http://www.milesdavis.com and asked to use some of my photographs of Miles Davis. I told them not to give me any money--just to put up a photograph and link it to my site.
"When I first started, I didn't know what HTML meant," Sedlik adds. "[With iCat,] it only took me 30 minutes to get [my site] online. And I immediately started to get sales." It helped that he already had his graphics files and a credit card merchant account.
"I haven't upgraded [to a pay site at iCat] yet because I only have four posters," Sedlik says. (iCat allows stores to showcase up to 10 items for free before they have to pay for the site.) Now Sedlik also has his own Web site at http://www.jazzandbluesmasters.com, and when people want to buy, they are linked to his shopping cart at iCat. "(iCat) ends the procrastination because it's so easy," says Sedlik. "There's no excuse not to buy."
You've probably heard about ways to put up a Web site for free, but online mall iCat offers even more. You can set up a virtual store that sells up to 10 distinct items . . . and it won't cost you a penny. You don't even have to know how to create Web pages--just get pictures of your items scanned and formatted, and you can use the iCat wizard to create your page in minutes.
The catch? Of course, iCat hopes you'll want to sell more than 10 items or use some of their higher-level design services. But you don't have to. And if you want to take credit cards online, you'll need to make those arrangements, although iCat can refer you to a company if you don't know where to look. You also need to provide your credit card number to get your storefront--that way the company knows who's selling what in its mall and can keep from supporting 50 bazillion sites put up by sixth graders trying to sell their sisters' stereos. If you're worried about legitimacy, browse the iCat mall. It's been around awhile, and it's legit.
Requires: a Web browser
iCat World Headquarters
WinFax Pro 9.0 is really something to fax home about. This version supports your LAN and cell phone, and has an incredibly intuitive interface that offers everything you need in one place. You simply click on well-labeled buttons on the left side of the screen for everything from cover sheets to the phone book.
Many helpful features are still in place from earlier versions, such as optical character recognition, which lets you turn faxes you receive from mere images of words into text you can edit. And the program tells your pager when you get a fax.
The more extensive Talkworks Pro 2.0 ($169) includes full WinFax capabilities as well as such features as fax-on-demand, which lets clients help themselves to information 24 hours a day. You can also use your PC as an answering machine by utilizing the included audio editor to create answering machine messages.
If you have a scanner for inputting and the right fax modem, WinFax Pro 9.0 is the faxware system that could finally free your desk of fax and answering machines.
- WinFax Pro 9.0
List price: $119
Requires: a 586 computer, Windows 95/98/NT 4.0, 16MB RAM, 36MB hard-drive space, a fax modem
Easy Does It
Tired of contact management software that takes hours to learn? Contrive helps you get there more easily and intuitively than many of the other programs on the market. You don't have to know database lingo--the program is as friendly as an electronic address book, plus it generates reports and allows you to track activities. You add contacts on multipage forms in a step-by-step process, or click only on the pages you want.
One complaint: Contrive was designed for 800 x 600 or higher resolution, so seeing the screen at 640 x 480 can be difficult. But if you're viewing at 600 x 800 or above, check out Contrive.
List price: $99
Requires: a 486 DX computer, Windows 95/98/NT, 16MB RAM, 10MB hard-drive space, a 256-color display
Seen moving banner ads on the Web? Want to put something flashy on your site without learning how to animate? MicroSites helps nonprogrammers create attention-getting banner ads by choosing templates and modifying them with clip art. The package comes with 1,050 images, 350 animations, 140 sounds and 40 ad templates.
Does MicroSites load quickly enough? Download a free trial version of the program, and check out the easy process at the Web site.
List price: $99
Requires: a 586 computer, Windows 95/NT 4.0, 16MB RAM, 16-bit color
Zapa Digital Arts
Rebecca Frances Rohan has been a computer and Internet journalist since 1988. She is the author of Building Better Web Pages (AP Professional).