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the Beta File- by Ryan Dill

Welcome back to the Beta File, your source for the latest breaking news in OS/2 beta development. Every month we scour the OS/2 world to bring you interesting news of OS/2 software in development. If you have a product that you're sure is going to be the next killer app, or you want a little free exposure for your beta test, drop us a note!

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We'll start off this month with a few updates to beta programs e-Zine! 's already mentioned. The beta of the graphics front-end IPAD, mentioned in July's Beta File, has been updated to v0.3.01 (ZIP, 752k); Panacea Software's ProNews, also mentioned in July, has been updated to beta 3 (ZIP, 568k). Lastly, Attribute Manager, mentioned in August's Beta File, has been updated to v0.71.62 (ZIP, 60k).

Other betas that have also been recently updated:

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For anyone who hasn't heard, StarOffice is a full office suite for OS/2, which includes capability for word processing (StarWriter), data analysis (StarCalc), databasing (StarBase), and presentation management (StarImpress) all in one package. Beginning with version 4, StarOffice abandons its previous method of having separate programs for each of these functions and turns them all into modules of a common 'Desktop' program instead. This Desktop architecture is much like Microsoft's Explorer interface, where one can easily manipulate all functions of the package from a common location. (The layout also reminds me of Corel's Office for Java.) More information on StarOffice 4 can be found at Star Division's web site.

With its extensive internet integration (including its own browser, e-mail and newsreader), StarOffice is receiving rave reviews on all its supported platforms (Windows95/NT, OS/2 and Linux.) Feel free to download it and see if the OS/2 version lives up to its reputation. First, it's a good idea to register with StarDivision to let them know that you're interested in the OS/2 version, then you can either download it from StarDivision themselves or from the OS/2 Supersite (ZIP, 3.5M). StarOffice 4.0 is a commercial suite which is expected to retail for around US$275 (an update from version 3 is about US$110). However, the current beta version 2 is fully functional, and may be used free of charge until December 31st, at which time it'll stop working. (The release date of the English SO4 keeps being pushed back further and further, so no concrete info is known on general availability at this time.)

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Keeping on the subject of office suites, Lotus announced last week that they're seeking beta testers for the upcoming SmartSuite 97 for OS/2 Warp 4. SmartSuite 96 for OS/2 occasionally received flak in the past for not being fully OS/2-native (some of its included applications were WIN-OS/2 programs rather than native OS/2), but Lotus has fixed this in SmartSuite 97. The package will contain six native OS/2 applications: Word Pro 97 for word processing, 1-2-3 97 for spreadsheets, Approach 97 for databasing, Organizer 97 GS for scheduling, Freelance Graphics 97 for presentations, and ScreenCam 97 for viewing of Lotus ScreenCam movies.

If you have a machine you'd like to set aside for beta testing (Lotus recommends that you do not use your everyday OS/2 machine, just in case something should go wrong while testing), then fill out the form at Lotus' beta application page at any time up to October 19th. After this time, the beta program will close to new participants. If you're selected as a tester, you should know by October 31st, and have a beta CD in your mailbox no later than November 14th. All other terms and conditions for the beta are listed at the beta application page above.

More information on the OS/2 version of SmartSuite may be found at the SmartSuite for OS/2 web page. Lotus SmartSuite 97 for Windows 95 is currently priced at US$159 from Lotus, so I would expect that SmartSuite 97 for OS/2 will cost close to that amount when finally released, some time in 1998.

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Next up this month is WarpCron. Having just reached beta 1.98, WarpCron is a scheduling program which will allow you to set your OS/2 system to run programs at a specified time. A text-mode application with an extremely small memory footprint, WarpCron can start pretty much any program OS/2 can run and at any time or interval you desire. New in this version, is e-mail support, allowing a daily log file (and any error messages) to be sent at a specified time each day. WarpCron even includes support for those who use 4OS/2 as their primary shell instead of CMD.EXE.

WarpCron is postcardware, which means that the small nag reminder that pops up when using the program can be eliminated just by sending a postcard to the author Julian Buss, telling him of your experiences with WarpCron; you'll get a registration code, and that'll be that. If the program sounds like something you could use, you can download version 1.98 from the OS/2 Supersite (ZIP, 67k). Version 2.0 is still in development, and is intended to have pipe support and a few more features.

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In the finance software market, Mount Baker Software has just released a preview version of their Money Tree software to the public. Money Tree is a powerful personal finance tool for OS/2 which allows you to keep track of a variety of things, including checking accounts, loans, credit card activity, and customized budgets. You can even use it to help pay your bills, printing checks directly from the program.

Money Tree is fully integrated with OS/2's Workplace Shell, includes ledgers for nearly any account you could have need of, and will even perform a number of financial analyses for you, allowing you to predict your financial status from whatever information you have available. With the ability to read files created in the Quicken file format, Money Tree provides you with an easy upgrade path from the accounting software you may be using at the moment. More information on the features Money Tree offers can be found at the product's web site, where an on-line tour of the package is also available.

Mount Baker is currently offering a preview release special -- purchase Money Tree now, and when the full version is available, you'll recieve a US$10 discount from the regular MSRP of US$69.95. This offer is only available until September 30th, though, so it's in your best interest to try the preview release as soon as possible. If you like it, buy it! The final version is expected to be available at the end of September, and will be purchaseable on-line and by phone from Mount Baker, as well as from your regular OS/2 software distributors. More information can be found at Mount Baker's web site.

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Roman Stangl has recently announced that he's seeking beta testers for his freeware Desktop enhancement, Program Commander/2. Currently at beta level 1.99w, PC/2 is a program which can be used either as an add-on or as a replacement for OS/2's own Workplace Shell. It features such common Desktop enhancement features as virtual Desktops, hot-keys, Win95 key support, sliding mouse focus and menu selection. PC/2 also includes some more advanced features; it allows you to specify individual environment settings for any program you run (No more cluttering up your CONFIG.SYS PATH and LIBPATH with an entry for each program you have installed), has enhanced handling of OS/2 trap and pop-up information to assist in bug reports, and its custom Spooler gives you an interface to OS/2's print spooler even when you're not running the WPS.

And it has too many more features to mention here. You can find more information about PC/2 at the PC/2 beta page, where you can download either the beta or the latest release version (v1.90). Program Commander/2 v2.00 will be available soon, but the program will remain freeware upon release. Feel free to try it out and send Roman your feedback.

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Ryan Dill is a student in Computer Science at Acadia University in Wolfville, NS and e-Zine! 's technical editor. He is reported to be relieved that, with the advent of Warp 4, talking to your computer is no longer considered a sign of mental instability.

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