Sidekick For PC And PCjr
Richard Mansfield, Senior Editor
Requirements: IBM PC or compatible with at least 64K RAM and a disk drive, or Enhanced Model PCjr.
Lately, one of the most popular categories of software for IBM computers has been the windowed "desktop" utilities package. And perhaps the most popular of these is Borland International's Sidekick.
Sidekick has several quite useful features: a notepad for jotting down ideas; a calculator for quick arithmetic (including hexadecimal); a calendar with built-in diary; a telephone dialer; and an ASCII table. Each of these tools can be called up by hitting Ctrl-Alt, even while another program like a word processor is running.
A window opens on top of the current program and reveals the Sidekick menu, from which you select one of the tools. If you want your modem to dial someone, you can search through a personal directory of names and numbers. The dialer will even call a number that is typed somewhere on the screen outside the window. Such flexibility is typical of the power of Sidekick: Nearly every tool is multilevel and multifunctional.
You control window positions and colors, and you can even transfer data from the screen into one of your note files. The time and date can be automatically stamped onto your notes. Filing notes, too, is automatic, as are most of Sidekick's features.
This is an exceptionally easy-to-use, convenient system. The idea is that many of the things you'd need on or near your desk can be contained within the computer—and computer-contained tools can be automated, more powerful than their real-world counterparts. For example, when you call the calendar, today's date is highlighted, you can flip around easily by month or year, and you can bring up a diary to enter reminders for future appointments or make notes about the day's activities. It's much more powerful than a simple wall calendar, yet, equally important, it's quite easy to use.
Excellent help screens are always available, instructions are clear and sensible, and it's compatible with most other software. Nevertheless, nothing is perfect this side of heaven. There are four minor annoyances. It would be nice to have an alarm clock feature, particularly one that could trigger a batch file automatically. The notepad is virtually a word processor in itself, but it relies on commands which are quite similar to WordStar's. That's fine for people used to WordStar, but not so easy for the rest of us. The calculator doesn't give any feedback when you enter a function like addition. That can be unsettling at times; you don't know for sure you've actually hit the right key. And, finally, you've got to pay extra for the non-copy-protected version.
Aside from these few cavils, Sidekick is exceptionally useful and entirely deserves its immense popularity.
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