New book gives parents computer help
I get lots of mail from parents wondering what's the best computer hardware and software for their families.
Parents know they don't want their children endlessly playing mindless Nintendo games. But when they walk into a computer store, most are overwhelmed by the products available.
A new book that identifies this growing problem might be the answer. "Parents, Kids & Computers," by R. Raskin and C. Ellison, is billed as an activity guide that makes the personal computer a center of quality family time. In essence, it puts parents back in the driver's seat.
Starting with "Equation for Success," the book describes how to select the proper hardware for home and budget. The rest of the chapters deal with how to select the proper software and connect the programs to your child's home and school activities.
It then offers a collection of activities that parents can do to help their children, as well as themselves, succeed with computers. One idea, for example, is throwing a "Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?" birthday party. Children role-play by taking on the identities of characters in the popular computer game. By adding costumes, props and presents, you can turn this geography program into a family event.
The 390-page, soft-cover book sells for $20 and is published by Random House. It can be purchased in bookstores nationwide or by calling (800) 726-0600.
Accessing without the creating application
Q. I receive computer documents from many sources. The information is usually sent to me in a word-processing or page-layout document file such as WordPerfect or PageMaker. The trouble is that there are many other brands of word-processing and page-layout programs. If you do not own the application that created the document, you are out of luck. Without the program, there is no way to access the information within the file. Is there any practical way to access documents without the creating applications?
A. Most of the more expensive and popular applications, such as those you mentioned, can import documents created by other applications. This translation process, however, is not always foolproof.
Almost every application offers some sort of text-only transfer, but you are guaranteed to lose most of the page formatting and printing styles, such as underlining and italics. To compound the problem, even if you own the creating application, you still may not see what the document looked like when the author created it if you do not have the same type font the other person used.
No Hands Software has come up with a new way to circumvent this age-old problem that has plagued just about every computer user at one time or another. Appropriately named Common Ground 1.0, the program lets you see a perfect image of any document without having to own any of the fonts it contains or the creating application. You can print it as well.
Common Ground will be available for Apple Macintosh first, with a Windows version to follow. Common Ground 1.0 will sell for $189.
(Craig Crossman is the host of a weekly radio show, Computer America, heard nationwide. Send questions in care of Business Monday, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, Fla. 33132. Please include your phone number.)