I've been using Microsoft Windows 3.0 daily since it was released about two months ago. The software, which adds a graphical user interface to IBM and compatible PCs, has greatly increased my productivity.
However, I've found some areas where I think Windows is weak. Fortunately, some of the problems can be solved by using add-on software utility programs that help manage files and programs.
Although I like Windows, I found myself frustrated by its Program Manager and File Manager. The Program Manager is the first screen you see when you start Windows. It is used to launch, or run, application programs. To its credit, Program Manager is easy to learn and very attractive. Programs are represented by icons instead of words, as they are in MS-DOS. To launch a program you simply click on its icon. When you get Windows, the Program Manager automatically creates groups for the programs already on your hard disk.
Program Manager doesn't allow you to display the names of your files. For that you have to go to a separate program called the File Manager. The File Manager lists programs and data files by name and allows you to sort them alphabetically, by date last modified, by size or by type of file.
Taken together, the Program Manager and File Manager get the job done. But switching between them is inconvenient and sometimes time-consuming.
Fortunately, there is an alternative, but it doesn't come with Windows. Command Post, from Seattle-based Wilson WindowWare, is only one of the handy Windows utility programs that runs simultaneously with Windows. Command Post is a separate program that provides most of the functions of both the Program Manager and File Manager. It displays the names of all your files and allows you to copy, move, delete, re-name or otherwise manipulate any files on your disk.
Command Post doesn't display icons to represent your programs. But it does let you design your own pull-down menus that can be used to run software, load data files or switch between programs that are already running. I'm now using Command Post instead of the Program Manager and File Manager. I miss the Program Manager's pretty icons, but I appreciate the flexibility of Command Post's custom menus. Icons are great if you have just a few programs, but as my software library grows, so does my frustration of having to hunt around to find the right icon.
The only serious drawback to Command Post is that it is much harder to set up and modify than Program Manager. Program Manager lets you add icons by pointing and clicking your mouse. Modifying Command Post menus requires that you use a text editor to enter programming codes into a script. The codes, which are more or less in English, are not unlike the types of commands that users enter in MS-DOS batch files or high-level programming languages such as BASIC.
Fortunately, the program comes configured with some starter menus, including one menu that lets you run the basic programs that come with the Windows package. The initial menus get you started and provide examples that you can copy when you're ready to create or modify your own menus.
What's more, the program allows you to write codes that give it even greater intelligence. I have a lot of memory in my 386-based PC, so it's possible for me to run several programs at the same time.
It costs very little to see if Command Post is for you. It is distributed as "shareware," which means that you can legally obtain a free copy of the program from a friend, user group or an on-line computer bulletin board.
If you like the program, you send the publisher a $49.95 registration fee. For that you get a manual and a code that turns off a rather pesky reminder that periodically nudges you to send in your money.
You can also order an evaluation copy of the program (complete with printed documentation) directly from the company for $10. You can later register the program by paying an additional $39.95.
Wilson WindowWare can reached at (800) 762-8383 or (206) 937-9335, and the fax number is (206) 935-7129.
Command Post will not run unless you own Microsoft Windows. Readers' comments are welcomed, but the author cannot respond individually to letters. Write to Lawrence J. Magid, P.O. Box 620477, Woodside, Calif. 94062, or contact the L. Magid account on the MCI electronic mail system.