CeePrompt! Computer Connection

Windows 95 turns one year old

It's the first year anniversary for Windows 95 and it seems only fitting that we should celebrate this event by saying good things about the much-hyped Microsoft operating system (OS).Frankly, it's hard for me to say too many bad things about Win95. Certainly there are still a few bumps in the road and occasional headaches, but overall this OS has lived up to most of the marketing hoopla that preceded its debut one year ago.

I include myself as one of the critics who balked at readily accepting the new kid on the block and I even maintained a dual boot configuration for my system, believing that after giving Win95 a spin I'd probably retreat to the safety and comfort of the familiar Windows 3.11 that I knew so well.

But nothing lasts forever and in this industry nothing seems to last even a few months without upgrades. Such constant changes are often nerve wracking and hard to keep pace with, but in the case of Windows 95 it was a definite change for the better and well worth the learning curve.

As of the Aug. 24 anniversary date, Microsoft boasted sales in excess of 40 million units and they're projecting that the installed base of Win95 will exceed 62 million by the end of 1996. Usability studies during the last year indicate users of Windows 95 are 91 percent more productive as compared with users of Windows 3.11 and nine out of 10 customers surveyed were satisfied and would buy the same product again. Over 4,000 applications currently run on Windows 95 and the latest versions of the most popular business and consumer software packages are written for this 32-bit operating system.

Better memory management and ease of hardware installation are just two areas of dramatic improvement that could account for such accolades and success. The familiar system crashes, freezing and General Protection Faults associated with Windows 3.x are almost non-existent. There may be an occasional "illegal" procedure but only the application involved comes to a halt, instead of the whole system.

Pre-emptive multitasking makes much better use of your system memory, or RAM, resulting in speedier performance. But don't believe the earlier claims that this operating system can run easily on a 386 system with only 4 MB of memory. At best, it runs sluggishly with great difficulty under this configuration. Windows 95 is a high-end software application which demands high-end hardware to run optimally. To get the most out of Win95 you should have a Pentium system with at least 16 MB of memory.

Plug-and-Play, introduced with Windows 95, is now an industry standard with over 3,000 hardware devices now supported. This technology enables you to purchase a new scanner, modem or printer and simply "plug it in." Windows 95 recognizes the new device and prompts you through an easy installation wizard.

Gone are such tedious tasks as solving device driver conflicts, jumper settings and IRQ settings.

Additionally, the expanded use of the right mouse button is a personal Win95 favorite of mine. This rarely used button in Windows 3.x is now indispensable in this new operating system. A single click evokes a plethora of shortcuts and choices depending on what you're pointing to when you click the right mouse button.

Point to the Start button and right click the mouse button to open your Start Menu and customize this configuration. Click and drag program or document icons with the right mouse button to create shortcuts for the desktop or Start menu. Point to the desktop and right click to create your own desktop folders or customize your desktop properties. Within applications such as Word or Excel a right click in the Open File dialog box accesses file management commands such as Copy, Move, Rename, and Delete. Within the Windows Explorer, a right click activates a shortcut menu to use Cut, Copy and Paste commands for file management.

If you'd like to participate in the Windows 95 celebration, visit the anniversary website at http://www.microsoft.com/windows/anniversary/ Here you'll find plenty of testimonials, and party favors too. You can download for free the Organic Art Microsoft Edition screen saver collection, featuring 15 scenes which continuously transform into 3D organic sculptures right before your eyes.

If you haven't joined the Windows 95 bandwagon, there's no need to rush. There will be ample upgrade merrymaking and revision revelry to sample in the future, guaranteed.

Cathi Schuler owns Cee Prompt! a computer-literacy training/consulting company. She is a co-author of computer textbooks.


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