Outlook is positive for audio training disc


Zain Media Training Course, Microsoft Outlook 98, £9.99

Put this CD in your Discman, sit down at your PC and it will teach you to use Outlook 98 in one hour. That's the promise made by this Dutch product.

And it works. First of all, it told me what to do in words I could understand, and within the hour, I was able to bang around the major features - a result I failed to achieve with the written version from the Gates empire's Getting Results with Microsoft Word but then Microsoft documentation is in a class of its own.

There's a British feel to this product, and it's none the worse for that. Instruction is imparted alternately by a male and female voice in listen-with-mother style and there's even an avuncular enquiry: "Are you sitting comfortably at your PC?"

The user follows the spoken instructions, pressing pause on the CD player to catch up, if necessary. It starts with an overview, but if you want to go direct to - say email - just use the skip facility to go to the relevant audio track. There is a useful index in the disc sleeve notes.

The manufacturer says users need to be familiar with Windows 95 or 98, but I feel it is necessary to be comfortable with MS Word before tackling this.

There was a slight mismatch in that I used an Outlook 98 instruction CD to learn Outlook 97, but for the basics it did not matter.

Kieran Fagan

Pocket Manager Guides, Kate Keenan, Estuary Technologies, £3.50 each

The Irish palmtop developer Estuary Technologies has licensed a series of 14 short management books for distribution as electronic texts. They are management guides by industrial psychologist Kate Keenan covering stress management, problem solving, planning, motivation and other business topics and republished from the paper originals for use on the Psion Series 5. These texts lend themselves to overcoming the major problems of reading electronic books on a personal digital assistant (PDA) such as the Psion. First, they are short, so relatively poor screen resolution is less of a problem than it would be in trying to read something such as a novel. Secondly, although they are meant to be read through, they also have a reference role which means the ability to search them for keywords is useful. The process of downloading the PDA books, either directly to a Psion or via a PC, is straightforward. After installation, the texts are presented as Psion database files, with a database record for each brief "chapter" of the guide - 40 chapters in the case of the guide to managing stress. Using a native Psion file format also means relatively compact file sizes, so the 78K needed for stress management is not too much of a burden for an 8MB Psion. Info: - www.pdabooks.com

Fiachra O Marcaigh

Windows Networking Basics, Kenneth Gregg, IDG Books, £23.99

This book does an admirable job of demystifying the business of networking two or more computers into something more useful than the individual machines. Starting a network is still a far more daunting task than it ought to be and offers an easy way to begin.

The price at times is an annoyingly folksy style, as in the first sentence on network gateways: "No, I'm not going to talk about the famous computer manufacturer with the distinctive cow-like shipping cartons." It also tackles so many facets of networking that some important subjects, such as subnet masking, end up with minimal coverage. While it works well for beginners, once past the basics they may find it is time for another book, or a small shelf of them.