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You already know how incredibly wonderful--and incredibly slow--the Web can be. PeakJet2000 gooses the cranky turtle by downloading associated links within any site in the background--while you're still getting acquainted with its home page. Result: You can consequently jump around the site much more quickly. Even better, PeakJet2000 also automatically downloads the content of dozens upon dozens of your choice of Web pages to your PC's hard drive, for quick viewing at a later time. A real time-saver.
Street Price: $29.95
Requires: a 486/66 computer or Pentium CPU; windows 95, 98 or higher; 32MB RAM; 10MB hard-drive space; CD-ROM; Internet access
PeakSoft Corp., Bellingham, Washington
Joe Dysart (email@example.com), a software analyst and Internet business consultant, has written for more than 40 publications, including The New York Times.
Wall Street Watch
Are all the lightweights out of the room? Good. Don't even come near this program unless you're very serious about monitoring the Wall Street angle--your competition, your industry and/or the macroeconomy. Think of everything you want a stock- monitoring, analysis and trading program to do, then prepare to be dazzled by TradeStation 4, winner of Stocks & Commodities magazine's Reader's Choice Awards five years in a row. Among its most impressive features: It can scan dozens of markets--tick by tick--and alert you to buy and sell opportunities on the fly.
Street Price: $2,400
Requires: a 486 computer or higher, windows 3.1 or higher, 16MB RAM, 35MB hard-drive space, CD-ROM or 3.5-inch floppy drive
Omega Research, Miami
One of my greatest cyber-fantasies is to assemble all the people who send me needlessly encoded e-mail attachments and pelt them mercilessly with their own gibberish. Until then, I have Attachment Opener, which enables me to automatically open and view virtually anything that's sent over the Net. Instead of searching for a MIME, ZIP or other decoder, I simply handle all attachments with this winner now, and quickly move on to more important things--like generating revenue. Easy to install, easy to use.
Street Price: $19 (with manufacturer's rebate)
Requires: IBM-compatible pc, Windows 95 or higher, 10MB hard-drive space, CD-ROM (Mac version available)
DataViz Trumbull, Connecticut
(203) 268-0030, ext. 3012
If You Build It. . .
If you're serious about building a Web site, this is the industrial-strength package you'll want to use. DreamWeaver 1.2 is designed to let you build Web pages using images--rather than HTML text. A plus: It integrates well with related tools, such as Adobe PhotoShop. Other bonuses: DreamWeaver enables you to ensure your site can be downloaded by Net cruisers using older browsers, can be optimized to ensure it doesn't "overwrite" pages you've created with other programs, and allows you to select and resize images directly on the Web page you're creating. In short: It's a powerful, pro-level tool that's also accessible to the motivated beginner.
Street Price: $299
Requires: IBM-compatible Pentium 75 MhZ or higher, Windows 95 or higher, 16MB RAM, 20MB hard-drive space, CD-ROM (Mac version available)
Macromedia, San Francisco
Well, I have to admit I was a little awestruck when I was able to send my first fax within 60 seconds of installing HotFax Message Center. SmithMicro has been in the PC fax business awhile now, and they've obviously honed their craft. Essentially, they've elevated "user-friendly" to a new level and thrown in versatility for good measure. Capable of answering your phone with an automated voice greeting, sending and receiving voice mails and e-mails, and setting up paging and fax-on-demand services, this software will transform your phone line into a corporate communications center overnight.
HotFax Message Center
Street Price: $99
Requires: IBM-compatible 486 or higher, Windows 3.1 or higher plus MS-DOS or PC-DOS 3.3 or higher, 25MB hard-drive space, modem, voice modem for voice features
SmithMicro, Aliso Viejo, California
Unless you still find slide rules bewitching, chances are you've heard of the Millennium Bug. Come January 1, 2000, computer equipment all over the world is expected to go kaput because of shortcuts many programmers took in delineating calendar years. 2000 Toolbox is designed to sniff out any Y2K problems your software may have. It fixes many of those problems automatically and points you to fixes for the others. This utility turned out to be an eye-opener for my own system: I had more Y2K problems than I'd suspected. Now I have peace of mind.
Street Price: $22 (also available as part of McAfee Office, a suite of PC optimization, enhancement and protection tools, $89)
Requires: IBM-compatible 486 or higher, Windows 95 or higher, 16MB RAM, 20MB hard-drive space
McAfee, Santa Clara, California