Daily News from New York, New York on July 6, 1997 · 38
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Daily News from New York, New York · 38

New York, New York
Issue Date:
Sunday, July 6, 1997
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CO o 'iliHM'IMi'J-l'Y:!" SOFTWARE SAMPLER n n : .1 Hi : in Q By GEORGE MANNES Ask anyone in the children's software business: Disney rules. From "Toy Story" to Winnie the Pooh to Mickey Mouse and "101 Dalmatians," Disney takes recognizable characters and movies and turns them into educational discs for kids quicker than you can say, "Jiminy Cricket" The strategy of building discs around big-ticket movies and well-known characters has paid off big. Disney has the Lion King's share of the children's software market Its storybook CD-ROM based on the animated version of "101 Dalmatians" has been the top-selling educational software since the beginning of the year. The problem with Disney's success, though, is that other well-made children's software from other companies doesn't get the attention it deserves. That's obvious from looking at two children's discs this week: Nicholson NY's Smarty and Disney's Animated StoryBook. Hercules. Smarty was created by a local company you've probably never heard of. Hercules, released last week along w ith the feature film, you can't avoid. For all its fame, though, the Hercules disc is a disappointing example of Disney's animated storybook series. The lesser-known Smarty is quirky and not for everyone. But it's a pleasant surprise. HERCULES The movie "Hercules" tells a story about a zero who becomes a hero. But the CD-ROM Hercules falls squarely in the middle. It isn't terrible, by any means. But it's nowhere near as spectacular as you'd expect from a mythological Greek big enough to have his own New York City electric light parade. The disc follows closely the Disney animated storybook formula, breaking the movie down into a series of scenes. As each one opens, an onscreen narration that describes the scene is read by an off-screen voice. Afterward, you can play around in each scene, clicking on characters and objects to see what funny actions the disc's programers have hidden in the scene. You can also play games woven into the story, and you can visit a virtual theater I.; -I f-r" ' - HWn-ftBrr'r1ll' J where you can listen to a song from a movie while watching an electronic slide show. The disc has a few distinctive touches that make it interesting for the older kids in the 4 to 8-year-old age group the disc targets. It features, for example, the voices of Paul Shaffer as the messenger Hermes and Danny DeVito as the satyr Phil, the characters they play in the movie. The narration is in rhyme, as is the glossary that explains some of the more difficult words in the text The electronic version of checkers on the disc was fun to play. An activity that teaches you about constellations and the mythical gods on which they were based is also interesting. But the meat of Hercules the collection of "clickables" hidden in each scene wasn't that great. This is where children's software developers can hide visual jokes such as, in the Green Eggs and Ham animated storybook, hilarious animations of eggs and ham dancing around with each other on a plate. In Hercules, things happen. But they really aren't clever. In one marketplace, when you click on people, each explains how he's a big fan of Hercules. Ho-hum. In another scene, a goat in a box turns into an octopus, and then a crab. It's nothing you'd want to do more than once. SMARTY Luckily for parents who sit next to their kids while they play on the computer, there's Smarty. It isn't as polished as Hercules. It's hard to find a beginning, middle and end to it. But at least it is full of surprises. The disc tells the story of Mimi Smartypants, the smartest girl on her block, who goes to spend the summer with her free-spirited Aunt Olive. Unlike with Hercules, where you can move cleanly from scene to scene, Smarty doesn't really have any structure. Instead, vou wander around Aunt Olive s neighborhood, a simple but distinctively drawn setting populated with idiosyncratic characters. In the cellar of one house, you find a bunch of vegetables playing poker. In the basement of another, you get to listen to a call-in radio show in which Smarty spells out words for loyal listeners. Click on the toaster in Aunt Olive's kitchen and flaming bread flies out. Click on the bread, and wheat starts to grow out of it Click on the paper towels and you can make poems with letter magnets on the refrigerator door. The disc isn't for kids who are in a hurry. But it's fun to explore slowly. PRODUCT INFO: Disney's Animated StoryBook, Hercules (out of four stars) Windows, Macintosh Disney Interactive $35 (800) 900-9234 Smarty Windows, Macintosh Nicholson NY $34.95 (888) 47&-2789 TEST DRIVE Each week in this section, the editors of Home Office Computing present the most interesting new computer equipment. This week we feature two programs for managing documents efficiently. Pagis Pro 97 Xerox (888) 99-PAGIS Price: $99 Requirements: Windows 95, 16MB of RAM. 10MB of hard disc space Rating: (out of four) The Paperless Office Computhink (800) 545-9709 Price: $169.95 Requirements: Windows 95. 16MB of RAM, 30MB of hard disc space Rating: t's a simple fact of office B life paper piles up. To deal with the rising paper tide, Pagis Pro 97 and The Paperless Office help you manage electronic images of documents from your scanner, store and organize them on your PC and quickly locate and display them. Although a truly paperless life is a lofty goal, both programs can reduce the sheer volume of paper on your desk. To scan, store, edit and call up documents, Xerox' Pagis Pro 97 offers an unconventional, free-form approach. After scanning a document, you can store it in Pagis Pro's native format (which compresses the file), open it in your word processor, send it to your faxing program or save the file to a floppy or Zip drive. We like being able to drag the scanned documents over to the Microsoft Word icon in Pagis' Send-to toolbar and to immediately edit the file in Word. For optical character recognition (OCR, the process of converting an image of a character to an actual character), Pagis uses Xerox' TextBridge OCR engine, the finest we've tested. To locate documents on your hard disc, Pagis Pro searches for files based on keywords or topics in the document and then displays likely choices, along with bar charts that intuitively show how relevant the file is to your search. Because Pagis' searches look beyond scanned and converted documents, you can use the program to scan quickly for files across your entire PC. However, Pagis Pro only looks for files; it doesn't effectively organize them. Computhink's The Paperless Office offers equally comprehensive capabilities, but at a higher price. It also scans, edits and archives documents in compressed form. Although it lets you conveniently scan a series of documents for filing, the program has a confusing command set that takes time to learn and use. One of The Paperless Office's strengths is its ability to import and store data in 32 application formats. But to import the files, you must print them from their original application, using a special printer drive a step we found tedious. On the plus side, The Paperless Office stores and organizes documents in an intuitive file system that consists of areas, cabinets and folders. In our tests, it did a commendable job of retrieving scanned files based on dates, titles and keywords that we assigned. However, we were disappointed by The Paperless Office's lackluster OCR conversions (based on the Recognita OCR engine), which are 20 less accurate than those performed in TextBridge in Pagis Pro 97. Neither product is our idea of the perfect document manager, but we give the edge to Pagis Pro 97. 01997 Home Office Computing

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