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First Looks and Nifty Gadgets brings you reviews of the new and novel. Each month we take a look at what's just hitting the streets and some tiny, but tried and true products that are still helping people be as productive as possible.

This month we look at: PKZip for OS/2 v2.50 | ZipZap v1.25 | Stats v1.02 | CandyBarZ v1.10

PKZip for OS/2 v2.50

OS/2 users have long enjoyed the compression and decompression products of Info-ZIP (zip.exe and unzip.exe). Because of those great products, we haven't really lamented the fact that the "real" thing, PKZIP for OS/2 from PKWare, was so embarrassingly out of date. Now OS/2 users have the best of both worlds with the tried and true Info-ZIP products and the newly updated PKZIP v2.50 for OS/2.

PKZIP v2.50 for OS/2 is, fundamentally, just another version of the ubiquitous compression and decompression software by PKWare, available on practically every platform known to mankind. This new OS/2 version however, is a 32-bit native application that addresses some of the failings of the older PKZIP for OS/2. For example, it features the ability to span files to multiple diskettes, create self-extracting files (or create spanned self-extracting files), handle OS/2 EA's properly and more.

The biggest difference in terms of interface with the version from PKWare is that "zip" and "unzip" functionality has been combined into one executable file, PKZIP.EXE. All operations are now controlled by "switches"; for example, to zip all files in a directory, you would enter:

PKZIP /add archivefilename.zip
And to unzip an existing archive, you would enter:
PKZIP /extract archivefilename.zip
This may be confusing to longtime users of PKZIP and PKUNZIP, but the switches are well thought out and comprehensive.

Naturally this new version of PKZIP is compatible with the PKZIP standard -- PKZIP for DOS v2.04g -- and will extract files compressed with that standard (whether they were created on OS/2 or some other platform, with a PKWare, Info-ZIP or some other product). Customization of the utility is also supported for those who prefer settings differing from the defaults.

The registered version of PKZIP for OS/2 comes with a comprehensive printed manual and technical support via the Internet, CompuServe, FAX, FaxBack, and full-time technical support staff. But at US$47 (plus shipping and handling), the question most people probably ask is, "Do I need this product?" While Info-ZIP's free zip.exe and unzip.exe perform similar functions, if you need multi-disk spanning abilities in your compression program, or prefer the "real thing", PKZIP for OS/2 may be for you.

PKZip for OS/2 v2.50

by PKWare, Inc.
download from PKWare, Inc. (ZIP, 309k)
Registration: $47

* * *

ZipZap v1.25

If you like the Workplace Shell (and who doesn't?) and you routinely deal with ZIP files, you may want to check out ZipZap by Gary L. Robinson. ZipZap v1.25 is a WPS extension that allows you to manipulate ZIP files without manually opening a command session. ZipZap adds entries to objects' pop-up menus to allow simple and efficient unzipping and zipping of files. Highly customizable, ZipZap also allows mouse initiated viewing of ZIP file contents,[ZipZap Graphic] either by pop-up menu selection or by double-click.

ZipZap lives up to its promise; simple but powerful, it allows you to quickly manipulate ZIP files without resorting to a command line. It even provides a handy ZIP file template for drag and drop creation of ZIP files. Dropping files onto an existing ZIP file automatically adds them to the archive.

Users of the older products NFNF (New File, New Folder) and Desktop Wizard will note that ZipZap shares some of their features since it is an offshoot of those products. However, it has some new features too. For example, ZipZap will let you add arguments to zip.exe and unzip.exe to customize your tasks "on the fly".

However, a neat feature that is sadly absent from this utility is a "checkbox dialog" for custom zip/unzip sessions so casual users wouldn't need to remember Zip switch syntax. Another bonus which is missing is the ability to "open" ZIP files by double-clicking on their objects, a-la-Object Desktop. This would allow reading of files within archives without unzipping the whole thing, and even unzipping individual files (by dragging just the ones required out of the archive). The developer, Gary L. Robinson, tells us that neither of these features has been ruled out at this point, but for now, they are sadly missing.

ZipZap is free to registered users of Desktop Wizard or NFNF, as long as one of them was purchased before September 10, 1997. For others, it can be registered at BMT Micro for US$25. ZipZap requires the latest versions of Info-ZIP's zip.exe and unzip.exe.

ZipZap v1.25

by Gary L. Robinson
download from BMT Micro (ZIP, 432k)
Registration: US$25

* * *

Stats v1.02

Also from Gary L. Robinson this month, comes Stats v1.02. This little utility allows users to get comprehensive info on folders or whole "trees" of folders, as well as manipulate object attribute flags, without opening a command line session. Information provided by Stats includes number of files, number of folders, number of total objects (including shadows and program objects) and number of bytes used in a folder.

Information is displayed in a dialog window via a pop-up menu selection or can be set to always appear in the title bar of folders. This isn't quite as visually appealing as adding a separate "status line" to the bottom of existing windows the way the Mac, Windows 95 or Object Desktop for OS/2 does, but it still gets the info across.

[Stats Graphic]Possibly the nicest thing about Stats though, is its ability to display and modify the attributes of objects. Forget about the command line, just right click on that file, select "File stats" from the pop-up menu and you'll see details of the object's size, creation date, etc. -- and its attributes (read only, hidden, archive and system). These last are clickable buttons which toggle each attribute on or off allowing quick manipulation. Very nice!

Like ZipZap, Stats is a subset of the older Desktop Wizard and NFNF, and is free to registered users of those programs who purchased one of them before September 10, 1997. Otherwise, it is shareware and can be registered at BMT Micro for US$15.

Stats v1.02

by Gary L. Robinson
download from BMT Micro (ZIP, 95k)
Registration: US$15

* * *

CandyBarZ v1.10

OS/2 isn't best known for its looks, so when a programmer or artist makes any sort of eye-candy for it, OS/2 users get interested. Past examples of eye-candy for OS/2 include PlusPak: Themes! and the AMPTR animated pointer add-on. These have been joined by a new gizmo called CandyBarZ, now at v1.10.

[CandyBarZ Graphic]

CandyBarZ is a shareware program that gives your application titlebars 'gradients'. In other words, it allows the bars to shade from one color into another, much like certain Microsoft applications on the Windows platform. The newest version of CandyBarZ, v1.10, allows for shading both vertically and horizontally (the first version of the program only allowed vertical gradients). It also allows users to determine whether they want titlebars to have a border or not.

[Another CandyBarZ Graphic]

CandyBarZ also allows you to customize titlebar colors based on the application that you're using. Like a nice Green to White when using Netscape, but a Black to White when using something else? Just enter the name of the program's executable, select the color, and CandyBarZ takes care of it. And you can have as many custom program colors as you want.

This is one application that should not be missed. CandyBarZ is not crippled in any way, but at only US$7.00, it's definitely worth the price for the appreciative looks your Desktop will draw from onlookers. CandyBarZ can be registered either through BMT Micro or directly from the author. (BMT registration adds $3 overhead cost, bringing the price to $10.)

CandyBarZ v1.10

by PsychoSemantic Software
download from BMT Micro (ZIP, 126k)
Registration: US$10

* * *

That's it for this month. Tune in next time for more reviews of neat gadgets and first looks at new OS/2 tools.


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