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From renowned syndicated computer columnist James Coates of the the prestigious Chicago Tribune:

Info Select is an easy pick as best commercial software

Today, at the request of longtime Binary Beat reader John McCormick, your humble correspondent plans to go as far out on the limb as any computer columnist can go, short of saying that he really likes Bill Gates—not just as an innovative technologist but as an all-around nice guy.

Instead, I am going to tell you about the hands-down best piece of commercial-grade software for ordinary personal computer users in the English-speaking world.

This is in response to Mr. M.'s request that I devote a few columns to the very best hardware, software and Internet services that I have encountered over the past eight years reviewing the best and, of course, the worst products to emerge from the huge high-tech industry.

Mr. Megabyte Maestro, a digital drum roll if you please:

From the hinterlands of Hackensack, N.J., a fighter-bomber-cargo plane of a program. Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, children of all ages, I give you Info Select 5.0 for Windows.

Here is software to make your Swiss army knife look like a mere one-bladed toad sticker. Info Select is a lusty, brawling giant of a software package guaranteed to stun your senses, stagger your imagination and blaze across the sky with such awesome colors as to make the rainbow itself look like a lead pipe.

It's a word processor. It's a database. It's a search engine bursting with Boolean powers. It will write your letters, churn out your memos, save and sort your recipes, track your phone calls, handle your billing, keep your calendar, save your news clippings, remind you of appointments, outline your notes, print your mailing labels, file your e-mail and even track your Web bookmarks.

Find a poem you love and pop it into Info Select, and it will remain waiting from then on at the click of a key or the sweep of a mouse. Lift a quote out of the newspaper or off a Web site or a library book, and it drops into your lifetime databank for later recall by a powerful keyword search module. Likewise, your address book, your favorite recipes, the calendar of family birthdays, weddings, graduations and other passages become always at beck and call.

And always the software stands by to let you drop a note with all the fonts, photos and other fripperies of big-league word processing. It lets you create elegant letterheads, business cards, maps and other boilerplate and handles all the mail-merging and form-letter tricks of such big-league competitors as the far more expensive Microsoft Office.

The idea with Info Select is to create what amounts to a database of unlimited size that is fed all of the random bits of information that swirl about our daily lives at home and work. Items can be as small as a phone number and as large as a novel. Each item gets created in a note. Each note comes up as a page in a word processor, and you can use a large palette of fonts and colors, embedded photos and such.

As you create each note, a headline for it is displayed in a panel running down the left-hand side of the screen while the next note is displayed in a large window to the right.

That panel to the left allows you to collect notes under topics and subtopics, much as you would keep stuff in a filing cabinet.

For example, I love to collect folk music lyrics and have a topic called Folk. Beneath that are subtopics for each writer—John Prine, Bob Dylan, Nanci Griffith and so on.

These topics can be expanded or compressed with a click of the mouse or space bar.

I write most of my columns and other stuff in Info Select, and my database now contains virtually every word I have written since 1993.

Likewise, when I use the Internet to read news stories, magazines and other stuff, I copy it and then paste the words into my Info Select database. You can run Info Select in the background and then paint, copy and paste in text from Web pages.

This pack-rat approach to life creates a mother lode of information that is both hugely valuable and highly personal.

The topping on the digital dessert is Info Select's awesome search feature that lets you type in a keyword or two to recall whatever is needed.

Boolean searches make accurate recall a cakewalk.

Type in "Prine and Stone" in mine and the windows to the left will fill with just the headlines for all of the notes that match, which, in my case, are the lyrics to Prine's classic ballad about the ravages of Vietnam, "Sam Stone."

My unsold novel is stored under its own topic, as are the unedited versions of my books that have sold. So is this column. So is my last salary review. So is John McCormick's original e-mail asking me to serve up a few columns on the best and brightest on the Binary Beat.

It just doesn't get better than Info Select, Mr. M.

You can check it out at on-line