April 2001

Cyber News and Reviews is a monthly column published for parents, teachers & business owners featuring kids educational software reviews, business software reviews (small business & home business), games and entertainment articles, a free resource since 1995.


ClueFinders Search & Solve Adventures from The Learning Company and Microsoft Office 2000 Professional

ClueFinders Search & Solve Adventures from The Learning Company

Kids, ages 9 - 12, get ready for a fun learning adventure in a haunted and abandoned amusement with those famous Cluefinders kids.   Sometimes scary, but always fun and challenging, this CD from The Learning Company will keep you and your kids busy for hours.  Your goal is to venture into the amusement park, in the middle of the night, and help free Jacques Ramon, curator of the local art museum, who's stuck on a roller coaster ride.  You will direct the ClueFinder kids (Joni Savage, Santiago Rivera, Leslie Clark and Owen Lam) through the park to solve puzzles and problems so you can earn keys, and then repair the generator to power the park.   This is a graphics and sound adventure where kids can't help but learn while playing arcade-style video games as they explore.

After installation, you begin by entering your name and then attempt to enter the park through the giant clown entrance (which happens to look like a crazed Bozo the Clown) by solving your first puzzle of the game.   You'll meet the four ClueFinder kids, and their floating computer, LapTrap, who's there waiting to help you with a map, a progress report and more.   The activities and areas include the Clown Mouth Door puzzle, Vending Machine shape matching, Spaceball Splat paintball shoot, Monorail Cargo word patterns, the Bumper Car Wash, the Haunted House Maze (and underground tunnels), Bridge the Gap matching colors and lines, the Log Ride for number sequences and Power the Park.  These activities will definitely keep your kids busy for hours.  A second CD contains the ClueFinders Real World Adventure Kit with software that lets you create maps, encode and decode messages, experiment with sounds using a microphone and more.

ClueFinders Search & Solve Adventures sells for a street price of $19.99 (including a free Pokemon Mini CD-ROM sampler) and will run on any multimedia PC, Pentium 166 MHz or faster, running Windows 98/95/2000 and the Macintosh Power PC, 120 MHz or faster.  Both computers require a quad-speed (4x) CD-ROM drive and 32 MB RAM. 

Microsoft Office 2000 Professional from Microsoft Corporation

If you own a business, small or large, you can't go wrong with Microsoft Office 2000 Professional, an integrated office suite of six essential business software tools supporting most of your business needs including Web based publishing.  In one word, it's "everything."  You'll find just about every application needed to start and run your business, online or off.  Office 2000 Professional  includes a full-featured word processor with Word, a great spreadsheet application with Excel, a powerful e-mail client with Outlook (including a calendar, contact list and tasks), a complete slide presentation package with PowerPoint, a business database application with Access and a complete desktop publishing program with Publisher.  Microsoft also includes their Small Business Tools with Business Customer Manager, Business Planner, Direct Mail Manager and Business Financial Manager.

A great feature is their always lurking animated on-screen help graphic, the Office Assistant (it's a paperclip with eyes), which often beeps and chirps following your every move as you work, with helpful tips and shortcuts to make your work life easier.  You can also use the Answer Wizard to search for help with any desired task.  To use, just type in a question after double-clicking on the paperclip.

Microsoft Word

Word has everything you need to create most documents for your business, or even home applications.  It allows you to add and remove text, change fonts and character size, add graphics and even save your files in the HTML format required to display your work on the Internet in a Web browser.   Other features allow you to check and correct spelling errors (even as you're typing), get some advice on your grammar and look up the best word in the thesaurus.   If you use other languages to communicate, like German, French, Italian or Spanish, Word supports you, with language specific proofing tools for checking and correcting spelling and grammar.  It supports over 80 languages including Arabic, Hebrew, Japanese, Korean and Chinese.

Word also allows you to create tables, share your documents with others through e-mail (over the Internet) and save your work in a variety of formats including .txt, .doc, .htm and .html.  Those of you who keep a dictionary and thesaurus at your side when you write, will find very little use for those books.  I do dust them off occasionally checking a definition or two, but that's an exception and not the rule.   Another great feature its ability to create Macros, a tool for recording keystrokes, which you play back when you need to repeat those keystrokes automatically for a future document or application.  One more, of the many features, is the ability to copy and paste up to twelve clipboard pages.

Microsoft Excel

Excel 2000 is the latest and greatest spreadsheet application used to help with repetitive calculations.  A single spreadsheet, or worksheet, can hold thousands of cells of data in the form of numbers, text and mathematical formulas, each located by its column and row.  Simple and complex applications can be designed for your business needs including data lists, reports and complex accounting systems.  For example, a single Excel worksheet can be designed to project future product sales from past sales entered.  Then a bar chart, pie chart or graph may be created so you can visualize those projections.  This is a powerful tool any business can use estimate future inventory needs.   Spreadsheet applications may be purchased, or you may want to design your own.  Simple applications are easy to design, even for the non-programmer.  It's just a matter of entering data into rows or columns and then using formulas to manipulate the data in the cells.  For example, it's extremely easy to design a spreadsheet to add thousands of numbers entered into columns or rows using just one formula.

Excel files can also be saved in the HTML format for use on the Internet in a Web browser.  It can also be used with the Access database.  Another feature allows maps to be created for your worksheets with the templates provided.

Microsoft PowerPoint

If you want to create a slideshow to enhance a business presentation or speech, then PowerPoint is perfect.   You build your slides, one by one, adding text, graphics, tables, charts, animation, music and even sounds (voice and sound effects) until you've created that perfect presentation to help get your point across.   As with the other Office applications, PowerPoint presentation files can be saved in the HTML format for use on the Internet in a Web browser.

Microsoft Outlook

Outlook is Microsoft's business e-mail client offering more than just e-mail assistance.  It has everything you need to work online and off including a calendar, contact list, tasks, appointments,  to-do lists and group scheduling.

Microsoft Access

Access is Microsoft's premier database application.  To use, first create tables for storing data.   Then design forms for entering your data.  Next, create queries and filters used to find your data.   Finally, generate and print reports from the information extracted.

Microsoft Publisher

Publisher is Microsoft's very own desktop publishing program you can use to design and print that new catalog, brochure, book or newsletter and more.   It has all the tools required for your business publishing needs, in color or black and white.  If you don't want to design your own project from scratch, templates are included to help you with the design.

Microsoft Small Business Tools

As a bonus, Microsoft includes four neat business tools to assist in some important business tasks. The Small Business Customer Manager creates an office customer database using your accounting data files and contact information from Outlook.  The Business Planner provides instructions, examples and resources to help write a professional business plan.   The Direct Mail Manager creates mailings, imports addresses from your files and verifies and sorts your address list.  It's designed to interface with Word's mail merge and Microsoft Publisher.  Finally, the Small Business Financial Manager creates standard financial reports and charts in Excel, customized growth projects and reports, what-if scenarios to test the effects of various business decisions and compares financing options for loans, leases and cash.

Microsoft Office 2000 Professional sells for a street price of $516.99 and will run on any multimedia PC, Pentium 75 MHz or faster.  For Windows 98/95, it requires 16 MB RAM for the operating system and 4 MB RAM per application running simultaneously (8 MB RAM for Outlook or Access) with a CD-ROM or DVD drive.  For Windows NT Workstation 4.0 or later it, requires 32 MB RAM for the operating system and 4 MB RAM for each application running simultaneously (8 MB RAM for Outlook or Access).  

Howard Berenbon

Software Companies Mentioned

Microsoft Corporation
One Microsoft Way
Redmond, WA 98052
Phone: 1-206-882-8080
URL http:microsoft.com/office/

The Learning Company
500 Redwood Blvd.
Novato, CA 94947
Phone: 1-415-382-4400
URL http: learningco.com