When the calendar flips over to 2000, you don't want your office computers to flip out. Many offices have already completed remediation for their PCs.

What, you haven't started yet? You might want to go out and get Norton 2000 Version 2.0 from Symantec Corp.

OnMark 2000 Assess Release 4.0 from Viasoft Inc. is almost identical, but I like Norton 2000 a little better than OnMark, and a lot better than any other product.

Symantec in fact licenses OnMark Assess from Viasoft and slaps on a Norton 2000 label. But Symantec does a better job than Viasoft of keeping its product current, with an easy LiveUpdate feature for downloading the most recent readiness data.

Both products work essentially the same. Each first checks the system, then the applications and finally the data files. Both report the severity of any date-related issues found.

Interestingly, each product noticed the other when they were installed on a PC. Both said Norton 2000 was turnover-ready but could not determine the readiness of OnMark Assess.

Norton's up-to-date database proved accurate in appraising two systems, one running Windows NT 4.0 and another running Windows 98. It showed different results than a scan by Viasoft's OnMark Assess.

On the NT system, Norton 2000 detected 396 applications. It said two had year 2000 problems, the status of 27 was unknown and 367 tested A-okay. OnMark Assess noticed 373 applications--23 fewer than Norton. OnMark said two applications had problems and the status of 28 was unknown--one being an application that Norton called 2000-ready. I checked and found that the application, released earlier this year, is indeed 2000-ready.

Also under NT, both test programs found 100 data files, among them 68 spreadsheets. Although Norton said all 68 were fine, OnMark said 16 of the 68 were not ready. I opened each of the 16 and found correct four-digit years throughout.

On a PC running Windows 98, Norton 2000 detected 277 applications and OnMark Assess saw only 215. Norton said that five applications were known to have year 2000 issues, whereas OnMark saw four.

Norton 2000 flagged Microsoft Outlook 97. OnMark said Outlook 97 had no rollover issues. In fact, the Microsoft Web site says Outlook 97 does need a few fixes, but on closer examination, OnMark correctly assessed the status of a Dynamic Link Library file that Norton 2000 flagged.

Norton said the file, OUTLLIB.DLL, should be Version 8.04. The file was in fact Version 8.5, a later version and indeed 2000-ready.

When scanning the data files on the Windows 98 machine, OnMark missed the mark again. One spreadsheet file listed at Severity 4, the most serious rating, did not include any date information. Norton skipped the file, correctly determining that it had no date information, which could cause a Y2K problem.

Generally, Norton did a more complete and correct assessment of the contents of both systems.

Under Windows 95 or 98, both products could perform more thoroughly because the operating system did not get in the way, as NT can. Both created a bootable disk that could run on an NT system to make certain the computer's BIOS is ready for the year 2000.

Norton 2000 links to a Symantec depository of files on the Web and can check its own version number, compare it with what is current, and then download and install itself if appropriate.

Both applications generally do a good job, but Norton 2000 does it better and easier.

To respond, send e-mail to editor@gcn.com or visit the Government Computer News Web site at www.gcn.com.

NORTON 2000 VERSION 2.0

Symantec Corp.

Cupertino, Calif.

Telephone: 1-800-441-7234

Web address: www.symantec.com

Cost: $45

Grade: A -

PROS:

+ Thorough tool with easy-to-upgrade scanning database

CONS:

- Sometimes failed to notice properly upgraded files

Real-life requirements: Windows 95 or higher

ONMARK 2000 ASSESS

Viasoft Inc.

Phoenix

Telephone: 1-888-842-7638

Web address: onmark.viasoft.com

Cost: $49

Grade: B+

PROS:

+ Thorough tool

CONS:

- Needs better Web updates

Real-life requirements: Windows 95 or higher