Jack Kenny evaluates Windows 95 guides: the good lookers, the intense types and the ones who don't know when to stop.
I talked to a software developer the other day. She was just sending out a new program: for Apple Macintosh it fitted on one disc; for the Archimedes it was on two; but for Windows 95 the program needed five discs.
This demonstrates that Windows 95 is just the latest version of a deeply-flawed system and you will probably need much of the advice in many of the books that are speeding across the Atlantic. They exemplify one of the great mysteries of computing: if computers can be made easier to use why can't they make the original manuals easier to read? Because if they did, an entire publishing industry would collapse.
The 10 Minute Guide to Windows 95 (ISBN 1567615155 QUE, Pounds 11.99) is probably optimistic but at least it is concise and, according to the graph on the back, is aimed at the casual user. It is terse with a good balance of text and graphics.
Who wants to walk out of a bookshop clutching The Complete Idiot's Guide to Windows 95 (ISBN 0789706385, QUE, Pounds 18.49)? Apparently quite a few people as it's a popular series. This one seems to be written for someone who has never used any version of Windows before.
Using Windows 95 (ISBN 0789700921, QUE, Pounds 18.49) is aimed at the accomplished user. But would an accomplished user need to be told in detail what a network is? All the information anyone would want is here and a great deal more.
Design is a strong point of The Big Basics Book of Windows 95 (ISBN 078970403X, QUE, Pounds 18.49). The black-and-white illustrations predominate over the text, the layout is generous and the book is not tightly bound, so pages fall open easily. If you want a good read this is not it, but if you want a clear view of what to do it is well worth considering.
Easy Windows 95 (ISBN 1565299892, QUE, Pounds 18.95) takes a similar approach and the graphics dominate even more.
This time they are in bright colours with minimal text. An absolute beginner or computerphobe would benefit from this approach.
How To Use Windows 95 (ISBN 1562762680 Ziff Davis Press, Pounds 18.95) is attractively presented it comes with a road map but rather bland.
The biggest book, at 692 pages, is Windows 95 A to Z (ISBN 0761502084, Prima, Pounds 32.49). It is as off-putting as the manuals it seeks to supplant. It is advertised as suitable for both the beginner and the software developer. Quite a claim. The approach is technical, the text is difficult to read and the pages are badly designed. It looks as if it was created by someone who has a lingering love affair with the complexities of Dos.
The only title that recognises that you might just want a book to hold your hand through installation is Windows 95 Easy Installation Guide (ISBN 0761502416, Prima, Pounds 11.95). Very concise at 100 pages, but it has poor graphics.
I would go for Easy Windows 95 for the beginner; Windows 95 A to Z for the person who wants everything; and Windows 95 Easy Installation Guide for the person who just wants to get it installed and get back to work.
All the books are available from Computer Bookshops, 205 Formans Road, Sparkhill, Birmingham, B11 3AX. Tel: 0121 778 3333.