Nigel Paine, chief executive of the Scottish Council for Educational Technology, talks to Chris Abbott. Which information technology product - software or hardware - makes all the difference?
Applicon, a shareware utility for the Apple Macintosh desktop.
It's very simple and incredibly helpful. This humble piece of shareware (low-cost software) has become essential. Applicon is a system extension (tool) for the Macintosh. It creates a little icon at the bottom of the screen and tells you what programs are running.
What do you like or dislike about it?
It is incredibly useful, as I frequently find myself talking about SCET all around Scotland and beyond, and I often use presentations on my notebook computer when I do so. On these occasions I always make sure that Applicon is running. It has saved my life on a number of occasions; I can be halfway through a PowerPoint presentation which then crashes when it runs out of memory because, unknown to me, I have other programs running. With Applicon I always know how many programs are running. It has not exactly changed my working practice, but it has made me more efficient.
Who decided to buy it, and were you involved in the choice?
Finding the program in the first place was a chance event when I was searching the files on a Mac on-line bulletin board. I downloaded it out of curiosity; that must have been about three years ago. Now we've put it on the SCET server so that anyone with a modem can get it.
How does it compare with other ways of tackling the same tasks?
You can switch between applications by clicking on the icons in the bar at the bottom of the screen. And, yes, Windows 95 has a similar idea, and I can't understand why Apple hasn't built it in to its own system software.
How could it be improved?
Well, if it showed you exactly how much memory you have available, that would be even better. At the moment I use another piece of shareware for that.
If you had more funding, what would you invest in?
I don't know of any other program which would perform the same task.
Applicon is available on many shareware discs and Internet FTP sites (including the SCET server at http:www.scet. org.uk) If you have an information technology product that has made an important difference to your life - whether you like or absolutely hate it - contact the MultimediaIT editor at The TES, Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1 9XY