Useful hardware and software for the home office.
Expense Reports Made Easy
I just filled out my expense report for this article and enjoyed — no, had fun — doing it. That’s because I got Intuit’s ExpensAble to do the tedious parts of the chore. Like all of Intuit’s products, Expensable makes data entry a breeze, with convenient, precompleted lists of typical expenses, such as hotels, airlines, and car rental firms. The program also tracks the mileage of my frequent auto trips, walks me through the various charges on my hotel bills, fills in data from past entries, and even exchanges data with Quicken for Windows and exports it to Excel. I can choose from 20 expense report templates; Expensable performs all the calculations for a client and generates the report. If I thought that I could get away with it, I’d fly to Italy just to test ExpensAble’s foreign currency conversion. ExpensAble $49.95; Intuit; 800/624-8742 FREE,415/322-0573.
Color Printing With the
Want a color printer that doubles as a fax machine and a scanner? Would it help if it were also a modem and, in a pinch, a copier? Okay, it’s also a telephone. Lexmark’s Medley 4x fits comfortably in one corner of your desk, combining all six devices into a 15-by-15-by-12-inch package that’s street priced at $799. It prints at a sharp 300 by 300 dpi with 16 million colors and at 600 by 300 dpi with 256 shades of gray. To test the Medley’s multifunctionality, I had a friend send me a two-page fax while I printed a complex color document. Without missing a beat, the fax arrived and parked itself in the Medley’s memo until my file was done printing. The unit holds 150 sheets of paper and prints monochrome at a sprightly 3 pages per minute. It’s got 12 built-in fonts, sends and receives faxes at 14.4 kilobits per second, and offers 300-by-300-dpi TWAIN-compliant scanning resolution and a 60- a memory. With the included fax software, I can also send and receive faxes directly from my PC. Lexmark provides toll-fire technical. support and promises a replacement unit the next business day if the Medley fails in the first year of use. Too bad it’s such a lousy coffeemaker, but it still gets a big thumbs-up for its small size and convenience. Medley 4x $999; Lexmark Int’l; 800/358-5835 FREE.
Short Tail, Long Mouse
Need to spend time on the road but still haven’t adjusted to your notebook’s ersatz mouse? Ignore the trackball and check out Mouse2Go, a unique mouse with a short 20-inch cord and a high 400-by-400-dpi resolution. The two-button unit is about the size of a Microsoft Mouse, but thanks to its high resolution, it needs less space to roam. It’s ideal for air travel: I just clamp the included 4-by-4-inch hard-surface mouse pad onto the side of my notebook and get down to some serious mousing. The mouse comes with a 6-foot extension cable so when I get off the plane, I can use it with my desktop PC, too. Mouse2Go $69.95; Merritt Computer Products, Inc.; 214/339-0753, 214/339-1313 (fax).
Voice Mail for the Masses
You either love it or hate it. But whatever you think about voice mail, you’ve just got to check out Bogen’s feature-laden FaxFriday FR-3110. The size of an answering machine, the digital Faxfriday sports four personal mailboxes, three boxes for announcements, and on box for faxes. When you’re out of the office, the FaxFriday can alert you at another phone number or through your pager that you’ve received voice mail or a fax. If you have only one phone line, the FaxFriday amicably coexists with your PC, easily determining whether the call is data, voice, or fax. If your business would benefit from fax on demand, the FaxFriday handles 12 fax-back mailboxes. Timed fax broadcasting is also available: You simply download the document into the unit from a fax machine or your computer. And if you’re feeling really cruel, you can give your customers tacky onhold music by connecting the unit to a radio or CD player. Interested in checking out FaxFriday’s features? Call 800/829-5932 FREE for a demo. FaxFriday FR-3110 $600; Bogen Communications; 201/934-8500,201/934-9832 (fax).
In the old days, you could get your printer to output in every color of the rainbow — as long as you chose black. Nowadays, though, color printers are so cheap you can have one on your desktop without taking out a second mortgage. For $549 on the street, Hewlett-Packard’s DeskJet 855C produces stunning 300-by-500-dpi color documents that are almost photographic in quality. Blacks also come out razor sharp at 600 dpi. The DeskJet’s printing speed was a real surprise for me — 7 pages per minute in black text, and 3 pages per minute in color. I printed a few holiday greeting cards that included photos — some with roughly 30 percent of the page covered — in less than 2 minutes per page. And my everyday black-and-white documents just flew out of the printer. I was able to stuff 150 sheets of paper into the paper tray and, when I was ready to pay bills, I could print up to 15 envelopes at a time. The DeskJet 855C is one impressive printer, and it also works with a Macintosh. HP DeskJet 855C $663; Hewlett-Packard; 800/752-0900 FREE.
Cleaning Off the Desk
My desk is covered with stuff — computer speakers, phones, staplers — and behind everything, I just know there’s an alligator waiting to leap out and grab me. But I found a couple of neat gadgets to help me eliminate desk clutter and reclaim some of my precious real estate. First on my list is Multiform’s Telescoping Arm. This 360-degree swiveling and locking arm attaches to the edge of my desk, and a telephone clamps onto its tray. When I need the phone, I grab the tray’s handle, pulling it toward me; when I’m done, I push the telescoping arm into itself and out of the way. Cool. Next, I got my sound card’s microphone off the desk by attaching MIDI Land’s Free-D gooseneck microphone to the side of my monitor. The Mike’s design lets me twist it out of the way when I’m not using it. Now all I need is an alligator clip. Telescoping Arm $143.95; Multiform Products; 800/382-8113 FREE, 904/363-8300 (fax).
Free-D Model FD-01 Microphone $29.95; MIDI Land Inc.; 909/ 592-1168, 909/592-6159 (fax).
How Do You Spell R-E-L-I-E-F?
Just when I think I’m doing okay, my wife’s bidding report uses the phrase fulvous duck, or I get stuck describing how to find the xiphoid process for a CPR manual. Word for Windows’ spelling checker usually suits me fine, but some words are just too weird — for perhaps I should say recondite — for it to handle. That’s where Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Tenth Edition and Collegiate Thesaurus on CD-ROM comes in. It’s a hefty tome with over 160,000 entries, as well as 130,000 synonyms and antonyms. If I’m in my word processor and struggling with a word, a Eap on a user-definable hot key sends the highlighted word straight to the dictionary. Not only can I check out the word’s spelling, history, and pronunciation, but I can jump to the thesaurus. And in my spare time, I use the rhyming dictionary or play Crosswire and Word Crazy, two games included with the product. If you don’t have a CD-ROM drive, the dictionary and thesaurus are available on floppies. Oh, and about fulvous duck and xiphoid process? Just look ’em up. Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Tenth Edition and Collegiate Thesaurus on CD-ROM $49.95; Merriam-Webster, Inc.; 413/ 734-3134, 413/731-5979 (fax).
A Fax Made in Heaven
Using a fax-modem is convenient. But what happens when you need to. fax, say, a newspaper article or a page from a catalog? Delrina’s WinFax Scanner is an inexpensive, versatile solution. For approximately $329 discounted (less a $30 rebate effective through December 31, 1995), the scanner works just like a miniature fax machine. Only a little bit bigger than a quart container of milk, it has a 10-page automatic document feeder, provides 100- to 300-dpi resolution, handles line art and 256 shades of gray. The scanner accepts documents ranging in size from business cards up to legal-size pages. Installing it was not a problem: I used the included cable to connect the WinFax Scanner to my computer’s printer port, and then attached my printer to the scanner. I have the scanning software start every time I load Windows so I can make use of the scanner’s “instant on” feature. The software is TWAIN compliant (so you can use it with other programs) and supports 25 popular file formats. WinFax Scanner $329 discounted; Delrina; 800/7342379, 408/363-2345, 408/ 363-2340 (fax).
Of Mice and Fingers
Doctors agree: Mousing can cause physical problems. So I slipped the Spectrum RingMouse, a ring that can tell your computer what you’re pointing at, onto my index finger and did away with the rodent. Pretty amazing. The device uses a small, flat receiver that sits on top of the computer screen and tracks the ring’s movements. Once I got the hang of it, pointing and clicking was easy. I used it as a regular mouse, though the device’s special software gives me three-dimensional control over the z-axis by moving my hand away from the screen. On the downside, the RingMouse can’t use the standard Microsoft mouse drivers — you must use Kantek’s software. Spectrum RingMouse $99.95; Kantek; 516/593-3212, 516/593-3295 (fax).
Speakerphones have always made me sound like I was at the bottom of a barrel. But AT&T’s Speakerphone 870 surprised me with its high-quality sound. To emulate a business conference call, I tested the 870 at a family party, getting five, aunts and uncles into my office to chat with a relative vacationing in Europe. Remarkably, he understood us all — even Uncle Harry, who mumbles. The phone also has a traditional handset, a 32-number memory, automatic redial, a hold button, and an LCD screen showing the duration of the call. Crawl out of the barrel and reach out and to ruch someone — hands free. AT&T Speakerphone 870 $149; AT&T; 800/222-3111 FREE.
Making Forms Follow
It’s a rare day when clients ask me for a line-item quote; it’s even more unusual for them to want a detailed time sheet. But when a customer asks I deliver. And instead of trying to create my own forms, I use one of JetForm’s handy Bizforms. For about $50, the software offers more than 100 well-designed business forms, including purchase orders, mailing labels, time sheets, invoices, statements, packing lists, and estimates. It even provides templates for business cards. The program automatically inserts all my standard information, including a log, then lets me enter data by simply tabbing to each field on the form. When I’m done, a click of the mouse lets me review the form and then print it or fax it off to my customer. BizForms $49.95; JetForm; 800/367-6375 FREE, 603/532-8641, 603/ 924-9441 (fax).