7th April 2000 at 01:00
ESSENTIAL COMPUTERS SERIES: LETTERS amp; MAILING. By Joshua Mostafa. EM@IL BROWSING THE WEB. By Annalisa Milner. BUILDING A WEBSITE. By Tim Worsley CREATING WORKSHEETS. By Robert Dinwiddie. DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY. By Alex May. Dorling Kindersley, pound;4.99 each.

Those "computers for dummies" books look so bulky, yet surely computers aren't that difficult or dummies that dense? I have considered writing a series called "computers for smart people": small volumes with concise explanations of how to use a piece of software or hardware. Alas, I've missed the boat. The Essential Computers series from Dorling Kindersley - six pocket-sized, 70-page books so far, built around essential points - is exactly what I had in mind.

Each book has been clearly written by an author who is expert in the topic and skilled at explaining the key concepts. The language is simple and topics are explored in small understandable steps, which are unlikely to intimidate even the most computer-phobic novice. The books are profusely illustrted with diagrams and screen shots, making each title really easy to understand and a pleasure to read.

The series editor has thought about navigation and used a computerWindows metaphor to make finding your way around the books as easy as possible. Chapters are a colour-coded with the colour appearing in a Windows-style "side bar" on each page. All the books also use a handy "hyperpage" linking system. When new concepts are introduced, a reference appears to the page where a fuller explanation can be found. The system prompts the reader to explore the side roads of the topic, in the safe knowledge that they can get back to the main road.

This accessible, informative series is good value and provides a useful grounding in each of the topics covered. I recommend the books to anyone feeling they need to start to get to grips with these topics. What's more, if you don't like them there is a money-back guarantee.

Les Watson is director of information resources at Glasgow Caledonian university

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