1. Carroll, Patricia

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When my father, a microcomputer specialist, bought me my first computer and taught me how to use it, one of his fundamental rules was, "Use the computer only when it offers something better than if you were to perform a task with pencil and paper or another medium." That was 10 years ago and his maxim still comes to mind when I consider texts published on CD-ROM. Although I use a computer every day, I am not sold on the idea of reading text off a computer screen instead of from the pages of a book.


The Windows Bible CD-ROM consists of two parts: the Interactive Book and Windows Goodies.


Interactive Book

The Interactive Book displays the pages from the paper-based book on the computer screen, literally. The computer display is in full color-as seen on the opening screen, which displays the cover of the book-but the page illustrations and text remain in black and white. The font is a small-point sans serif font, with black letters on a white background.


The program begins with the book's table of contents. When the user clicks on the chapter title, a box appears, containing main subject headings within that chapter. The user next clicks on the subject heading, and the book page is displayed for the user to read. At the end of some subjects, a list of related topics allows the user to click on any of those topics; the program then jumps to that part of the book.


On selected pages, users can click on icons that provide additional information. The Insider's Tip icon provides information on shortcuts and undocumented features. The New in 3.1 icon points out features and in some cases provides links between version 3.0 and 3.1. The Danger Zone tells the user things that should and should not be done, under penalty of losing settings or other nasty outcomes. The manual also states there is a Hot Product icon, which I could not find. Book pages can be printed with a click on the button bar menu found in generic Windows applications; however, icon tips do not print.


A book index is available through a button bar at the top of each screen. It is alphabetical, and analogous to a traditional book index. One aspect that does make this publication different from the printed version is the search feature. Accessible from the button bar, this feature allows searching the full text for key words or phrases that may not be covered in the index. The search hints, which describe the taxonomy of text searching, are superb. This single feature brings us back to "Dad's Fundamental Rule," that this feature makes use of the computer itself and differentiates this publication from the printed text. The user must decide if this alone is enough to use the CD-ROM version of the book rather than the text itself. The publisher is clearly hedging on this issue, because the program is available in two formats: the program alone or the program shrink-wrapped with the book.


The publisher trumpets the fact that this CD-ROM version is reasonably priced-at just $7 more than the book-and perhaps that explains why so little was done to enhance the text. In the 1990s, clearly, the illustrations that show the Windows screens should be in color. Hypertext should be used so users can click on key words within the text of a particular subject area and be linked to other related topics. This program does little with the concept of putting a book on CD-ROM. There is nothing spectacular or innovative compared with other books on CD-ROM.


Windows Goodies

This part of the disk makes the program more interesting, and perhaps, more worthwhile to users. As the manual states, "There's a ton of information on this disk..." It is comprised of public domain material and shareware culled from online services and Windows bulletin boards. This material is organized into six categories: utilities, games, images, sounds, fonts, and films. The program further categorizes the content to make browsing easier (Table 1). As with any collection of shareware, there are hits and misses. The scariest part is that the manual clearly states that the publisher will not offer any technical support; the user must contact each individual shareware author. To make that somewhat easier, though, the publisher offers a list of authors and addresses, some with telephone numbers and e-mail addresses as well. The program is designed so that images and font samples are brought up in Paintbrush, and sounds and film clips are auditioned in the Windows Media Player. If the user is not familiar with these Windows features, a little extra work is necessary, because there are no on-screen instructions. It is relatively easy to go to the Interactive book, use the search feature to find media player," for example, and learn all about it.

Table 1 - Click to enlarge in new windowTABLE 1 Windows Goodies Categories

To use goodies on a regular basis, they must be copied onto the user's hard disk, and files must be compressed with a separate utility. our technical experts, this probably is a simple task. My expertise is in duplications and instructional elesign, and I found the process very cumbersome and, at times, confusing. Two important warnings for users are identified clearly in the manual. As the user browses through the goodies, it is critical that such application is closed after a peek. I did not turn the page to see this warning until it was too late - my system quickly crashed. The seccond warning is that not all MIDI sounds will play on each computer, and I found items to be hit and miss.



Joining a text about how to use Windows with a collection of shareware is an interesting combination. Someone who needs the Windows bible is not likely to be very comfortable going through the technical steps necessary to use the shareware on the other part of the disk. In addition, there is no documentation for the shareware in the manual; the user must have enough experience to be able to play with the various programs to see how they work, and then wait to contact the author for documentation, further information, or help. Only some of the authors listed provide telephone numbers for contact. The two parts seem to be aimed at different audiences. According to "Dad's Fundamental Rule," the Interactive Book is borderline, but some of the Windows Goodies meet the standard of using the computer to do things better than I could in almost any other single medium. If you agree with me that reading book pages on a computer screen is tedious at best, you might choose the book/disk combination. The program was easy to install and ran quickly on my quad speed CD drive. The 45-page manual is well written and easy to understand-far more so than most program documentation.


I called the publisher to ask about updates for Windows 95, and was told there is no plan for a Window 95 software update, but there is one for a text-based Windows 95 Bible.


I would not buy this program. I would prefer the book content in the traditional paper-based book format, not pages to read on a computer screen. I consider my computer a productivity tool, and don't have the time or inclination to sort through dozens of shareware programs in the hopes that I might find one that would be helpful. Users with a different perspective, however, who enjoy exploring new programs and use the computer for entertainment, could find a wealth of material to keep them busy and entertained.


Minimum system requirements: IBM PC or compatible; 386 CPU or higher; CD-ROM drive; Windows 3.1; hard disk with 5 MB of disk space; 4 MB of memory; color monitor; SVGA; mouse; sound card.


Reviewed by


Patricia Carroll