One of the best things I can say about a software package is that it is easy to use, bargain priced and, most of all, useful. The three packages I look at this week all fit that description nicely.
Generic CADD is a $99 computer-aided design program for architectural, engineering and other kinds of precise drawing applications from Generic Software, 8763 148th Ave. N.E., Redmond, Wash. 98052. Telephone: (800) 228-3601.
Free Filer Plus, version 4.0, costs $89.95 and lets you easily search text files for specific data contained within them, collect the results in a new file and even sort the results in alphabetical order. It does for research notes what a traditional database program does for precisely formatted data lists. It is published by Telion Software, P.O. Box 1464, La Mirada, Calif. 90637-1464. Telephone: (213) 946-1015.
Get! sits invisibly inside your computer and periodically calls your electronic mail services, gets you mail automatically and then flashes a "mail waiting" message in a corner of your screen when it has found something for you to read. It sells for $89.95 from Cygnet Technologies, 1296 Lawrence Station Road, Sunnyvale, Calif., 94089. Telephone: (800) 331-9113 in California, (800) 946-8154 elsewhere.
So-called CAD programs (computer-aided design) originated on minicomputers using very powerful graphics workstations and associated equipment that may cost $50,000 and up per user.
Generic CADD isn't going to give you everything the big boys have, but it is a very serious program in its own right. Running on IBM and compatible PCs, it accepts a wide variety of video cards and monitors to give you as high a display resolution as you are willing to pay for.
Drawing is done with the digitizing device of your choice, be it a mouse (I used Microsoft's latest Mouse, $175 to $195 depending on method of connecting it to the PC, including PC Paint software), digitizing tablet or even the lowly cursor keys, which are awkward and unsatisfactory for such usage.
The drawings are output onto a variety or printers or plotters up to the largest (E size) available. With 640K of computer memory, drawings can contain up to 40,000 lines.
Using Generic CADD is simple. Down the right side of the screen appear a list of commands. Point to the one desired use it. If you don't see what you want, touch a key or mouse button and more commands come into view.
A major difference between CAD programs and more common personal computer drawing and painting programs is precision. Generic CADD offers automatic scaling and various methods of drawing geometric shapes.
For instance, you can draw a circle by pointing to its center, clicking a mouse button and then pointing to any point on its radius and clicking again. Or you can do it by pointing to three locations on the circle's perimeter.
Don't be put off by the manual that comes with this three-disk program. The manual was cheaply prepared, but it is adequate. There is nothing cheap about the operation of the program itself, however. It is not copy protected.
Free Filer's manual isn't much to look at either, and it is not well organized. But it is short and simple, so take time to skim through it before you begin to use the program and you should have no problems.
Free Filer Plus, which runs on computers using DOS and CP/M operating systems, has been around for several years. I'm only sorry that it took me this long to come across it.
Suppose you've researched a subject by pulling in text reports from electronic databases and typed out thousands of words of notes with your word-processing program. Now it's time to write your report, and you desperately need to organize that hodgepodge of information.
You could print those files, get out the scissors and paste and marking pens and end up with dozens of piles of paper. Or you could start up Free Filer Plus, type in the exact words you seek, or combinations of words, and wait just a few seconds while every file on your disk is searched. Searches can be expanded or limited by linking target words and phrases with the conjunctions "and," "or" and "but not."
Every matching section of text found can be stored under a new file--the electronic equivalent of a pile of notes on the same subject.
There is no need for you to have identified the keywords you would want to retrieve when you created the text file. Free Filer Plus also finds the entire paragraph in which the subject is mentioned if you simply separate each paragraph by a blank line when you take your notes.
Files to be searched can be as large as your disk capacity. Free Filer Plus won't cross subdirectory boundaries on a hard disk, but that's easy to work around.
GET! is a slickly packaged program that will make it easier for you to get and send electronic mail and do other telecommunications chores.