Here are summaries of some recent Computing product reviews. Each product is rated on a scale of one to four, with one computer indicating poor and four indicating excellent:
StyleWriter. $399. From Apple Computer Inc., 20525 Mariani Ave., Cupertino, Calif., 95014. (408) 996-1010.
DeskWriter. $599. From Hewlett-Packard Co., 19310 Pruneridge Ave., Cupertino, Calif., 95014. (800) 752-0900.
Summary: Both the StyleWriter and DeskWriter are quiet, high-resolution, inexpensive, easy-to-use printers for the Macintosh. They'll give you near-laser quality at much lower cost and are better than dot-matrix printers for most anyone. But the DeskWriter is twice as fast, uses less smearable ink, and can be shared by Macs on a network.
Performance: 2 computers
Ease of use: 3 computers
Value: 3 computers
Performance: 3 computers
Ease of use: 3 computers
Value: 2 computers
These are reviews of shareware programs for IBM and compatible computers.
Many programs -- commercial and shareware -- have been devised to enable laser printer users to exploit the potential of these wonderful machines. Some of these programs are both inexpensive and powerful.
TSR Download. The first step to versatility is adding typefaces to those that come with the printer. An easy way to do that is with "soft fonts" -- typefaces on diskettes that you load into your printer with special software. Many are available. Among the best and easiest to work with are those produced by Gary Elfring in Wasco, Ill. Mr. Elfring's software for managing his soft fonts -- and moving them into your printer -- is called TSR Download. It runs under DOS or Windows, enables you to compress fonts to save space on your hard disk, and you can set it up so that every time you turn on your computer the typefaces you use most are loaded automatically into your printer.
Mr. Elfring asks a $45 registration fee for TSR Download and a $25 fee for a collection of fonts that include typefaces in the style of Helvetica, Times Roman, Century and script. Another set of soft fonts can handle almost any European language. That registration fee is $25, too.
ASCII-Print Pro. After eight years as chief engineer for the oil pipelines in Saudi Arabia, Val Patterson returned to his native Utah to write some elegant shareware. ASCII-Print Pro, his most recent offering, is a small marvel that works with easy-to-use menus and seven built-in soft fonts to enable you to save paper by printing documents two pages to a sheet -- or four pages to a sheet if you use both sides. It can also print graph paper and music score paper, and it can set up your printer so you can produce booklets that are 5 1/2 by 8 1/2 inches.
The registration fee is $14.95. If you have a modem, you can get this program and other Patterson programs by calling his computer bulletin board in Salt Lake City at (801) 265-0919.
Laser Printer Envelope. Another Patterson program, this one makes it easy to print envelopes with your laser printer. The registration fee is a modest $9.95. Like ASCII-Print Pro, the program is designed for easy use.
For evaluation copies of these printer programs, send $15 to Shareware, P.O. Box 7037, Long Beach, Calif., 90807. Phone (310) 595-6870. Fax (310) 426-0110. A catalog on a disk costs $2. Please specify 5.25- or 3.5-inch disks.Knight-Ridder News Service