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Clicks/Software reviews

When a pen pal is overseas

Maker: Transparent Inc.
System: Windows 95
Price: $49.95
More Information: (603) 262-6300;

Yes, there is translator software that answers the need of a child when she receives her first letter from a foreign pen pal in French, Spanish or German. Of course, that’s one of many practical uses and enticements found in Easy Translator 3, a program that lives up to its title. For all that it does, it also is relatively inexpensive.

The pen pal tradition, like other forms of communication, has changed with the Internet making global correspondence easier. Correspondents use the Internet now, making the computer a powerful tool for retrieving communication and translating languages. Easy Translator supports English to and from Spanish, French and German; English to Italian and Portuguese; and Japanese to English. Japanese type on the computer screen is a real treat.

The program works in a number of ways. When your letter via e-mail arrives, the Easy Translator provides instant translation in Eudora Pro with an included plug-in. If your e-mail provider is not Eudora Pro, paste the words into Microsoft Word or Corel Word Perfect. Easy Translator provides plug-ins for those programs, too. The translator also comes with its own Notepad, and we found it to be more convenient for our first French to English exercise.

The toolbar is intuitive with pull-downs to guide you to settings. If you want French to English, make the selection, and the program incorporates the translation into your application. The program is indispensable for interpreting idioms and sentence structures that have awkward literal meanings. It interprets the sentence in the source’s language so that you are not getting wild word-for-word translations that can be comical, if not insulting.

If you studied a foreign language years ago and need a refresher course, the program picks up on more current nuances and phrases. My daughter’s French pen pal, Pomme, thought that she was rich because she could send her a scanned drawing of Brian of the Backstreet Boys. She expressed this in a colloquialism, though, that could have been misinterpreted.

Easy Translator also will work with browser-based Web pages, translating entire Web pages. The title comes with dictionary linking that accesses six 100,000-word supplemental dictionaries for interactive translations. (If you can, visit the Transparent Web site and check out the free Instant Translator there). I also like that the program breaks down sentences by parts of speech and explains ambiguous phrases. Both of these aids are positive learning devices.

The program works in reverse as well, taking your English-written letter and turning it into French. But after testing this feature, we were uncomfortable sending written communication in this manner and decided to wait until high school French lessons.

Besides, it works both ways. Maybe Pomme will want to try Easy Translator 3 when she hears how great it works.

Signature touches

Maker: Symantec Inc.
System: Windows 95
Price: $49.95
More Information: 1-800-441-7234;

The well-oiled WinFax Version 10 title offers a few interesting features to its upgrade. The most curious addition is the ability to send and forward faxes by e-mail, and the most appealing is its addition of a signature stamp.

You now can send and forward a fax to a recipient who doesn’t have a fax machine or own WinFax software. Don’t you know more people with e-mail addresses than fax machines? Get ready to work for this feature. To fax a document as e-mail, retrieve it from its Windows program and print it on your printer’s WinFax (Photo Quality) setting. This setting is critical because it is the one way to ensure that you are sending a page closest to your original.

The WinFax program takes over, converting the document to the right format and setting up the send dialog in the WinFax program. After the conversion (thumbnail sizes of your pages are on the WinFax main screen), address the e-mail and send from WinFax.

This feature saves time if you’re forwarding a fax document. However, if your recipient has e-mail and you want to send an original document, why not send it as e-mail?

Fax documents sometimes require signatures, and here is a way to easily access a critical identifying mark from the PC. A scanner or an electronic tablet is the simplest way to set up your WinFax signature stamp. But if you don’t have either, have someone fax a signature you’ve prepared to your computer fax number. Once your signature is retrieved, the steps for setting up your permanent stamp are simple to follow.

Another feature, a desktop icon where you can drag and drop documents, is new and eliminates your opening and closing documents or WinFax files. Find the document you want to fax from Windows Explorer, drag it to the icon, and the WinFax send dialog box opens automatically.

WinFax Pro’s biggest selling point for the home office and small business is its elimination of another piece of hardware from the physical desktop. I continue to like the wizard that allows you to dress up your fax cover page with logos and other fancy treatments. Appearances count.

Jean Nash Johnson is a Dallas Morning News staff writer. Send questions or comments to her at Personal Technology, The Dallas Morning News, P.O. Box 655237, Dallas, Texas, 75265, or send e-mail to Ms. Johnson is unable to reply personally to each letter.
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