- The Washington Times - Monday, June 12, 2000

There are tons of new software programs out there, but it's also useful, I think, to look at revisions and updates made to existing software. That's because these "oldies-but-goodies" can boast improvements or refinements in successor versions meriting a second look.

Check, please:

MIPS Versa-Check 2000 Personal (retail $29.95 from Mips Dataline America, San Diego, www.mipsdla.com) is something I just plain like because it makes sense. Instead of ordering checks from a bank or newspaper ad, waiting a week or two, and paying tons of money, this program gives you some pretty slick software, enough paper to print 450 personal-sized checks, and even a $10 rebate if you're upgrading from an earlier version.
The key attraction, however, is the software, now written for a 32-bit Windows platform, and featuring more graphics (including bank logos) and additional formats for the checks you print. The software works with programs such as Microsoft Money and Quicken so you can fill out checks before printing them.
The software will generate the kinds of fonts and formats needed to produce the check text, a "microprinting" signature line for security, and the bank code line used by automated check readers. In addition, since almost all major banks use optical check readers nowadays, the checks can be printed on laser or inkjet printers without special "magnetic" inks needed in the past. When inkjet printing is used, producing color checks is not impossible, or difficult.
The software is easy to use and set up. Best of all as said here before is that I can print checks whenever I need and there's no waiting. You can find it at retail stores and Costco warehouse clubs; it's worth investigation.

Translation mode:

According to researchers International Data Corp., 142 million people were on-line worldwide in 1998; by 2003, that figure will soar to 502 million.
Most of those folks don't speak English, and much of the Web's content isn't in English. How to understand the languages you don't? One answer may be Power Translator Pro version 7, recently released by Lernaut and Hauspie of Burlington, Mass.
The $149.95 (list) program provides "draft quality" translations from English to and from Spanish, German, French, Italian, Portuguese and Japanese. The new version of the program boasts a text-to-speech engine that reads translations back to users in English, French or German with a natural, human-sounding voice. (This is the same basic voice technology, I'm told, that is used by the "virtual" news anchor Ananova at www.ananova.com, to speak in a natural-sounding voice.)
The new PowerTranslator, originally a product created in Fairfax County, by the way, at a firm called Globalink, which L&H; acquired, also includes advanced grammar-checking tools for translations. You'd still want a real, live human to look over the final version, especially if it's for a legal document, a book or an article. But to get at least a basic sense of what someone is saying if they don't speak your language this program is tops.
Details on the software, which is sold at leading computer stores, can be found on line at www.lhsl.com.

Scan that form:

And everything else, for that matter, with PaperPort Deluxe 7.0 from Scansoft, Inc., Peabody, Mass. (www.scansoft.com). This $59.95 product is billed as "the best-selling paper management software for home and business." It integrates paper management, photo editing, forms fill-in and optical character recognition (OCR) in one package, and works with a range of scanners and office applications. It's also now compatible with Windows 2000.
For me, the really nice aspect of this software is its ability to scan in a blank form and have the software automatically detect the form fields. The filled-in product is perfect and ready for printout or e-mailing.
There are other form-fill-in applications out there, to be sure, but the ease of use this software provides, its multitude of features and its compatibility with a wide range of scanners is hard to beat. Add all the scanning and OCR features, and you've got, in my view, a real winner of a program.
Write to Mark Kellner in care of The Washington Times, Business Desk, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002; send e-mail to MarkKel@aol.com, or visit the writer's Web page, www.markkellner.com.



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