Windows95 shines, with help

New software, with enhancements, has more
than met the writer's expectations: 'There is
no way I would ever go back'


I kept Windows 3.1 around, like a favorite sweater, a little longer than I should have. But after four and one-half years, it was time to move on. The benefits of Windows95 -- long file names, a better interface, greater stability -- had been clear since early 1996, when that operating system came pre-installed on my Dell Latitude LX notebook computer. However, with so many clients still on 3.1, I saw a benefit in having ready access to both operating systems.

Software avalanche

Then the avalanche struck. My most important software providers came up with valuable new features that required Windows95.

Netscape demanded that I upgrade Navigator to Version 3 if I wanted to run Java scripts. Qualcomm added drag-and-drop capabilities to Eudora Pro. Symantec made ACT!'s interface fully customizable.

I had long been a devoted user of Norton Desktop for Windows 3.1 (Symantec Corporation, Cupertino -- I figured that successor products -- - Norton Antivirus, Norton Navigator and Norton Utilities -- would enhance my Windows95 upgrade. I was not disappointed.

First, I ran the wizardlike Norton Utilities TuneUp ($119 estimated retail price/$59 trade-up) to make sure my hard disk and other hardware components were in tiptop shape. Then I loaded Windows95. I added Microsoft Plus! so I could get the extra-cool Dangerous Creatures wallpaper and Leonardo da Vinci screen saver.

Flawless installation

The process was a bit tedious but not terribly time-consuming -- somewhat over an hour, in all. Installation was flawless. Everything loaded just fine. I dragged my most important applications to the Windows95 desktop so they would be just a double-click away.

Next came Norton Antivirus ($79/$29). I was expecting to load many more programs and spend a lot of time on the Internet, so automatic virus protection was essential.

Then, for additional peace of mind, I loaded Norton Utilities. The Utilities' tools for performance optimization, system repair and recovery have been legendary since the earliest days of DOS. One of the most impressive tools is the comprehensive rescue-disk utility, which helps users recover from system crashes.

I also like System Doctor, which graphically shows the current status of many system resources, such as processor utilization, main memory availability and hard disk fragmentation. At the user's option, System Doctor will run corrective routines, such as disk defragmentation, on a scheduled or as-needed basis.

Easy navigation

I was already very pleased. Just the ability to use long file names was a major step forward. (The smugness of Macintosh users has not been entirely without merit.)

Even though the Windows95 Explorer is a major advance over Windows 3.1's File Manager, Explorer still has some limitations -- for example, inability to open a second drive window. So it was time to install Norton Navigator ($99/$39).

Navigator's multiple drive windows make drag-and-drop file copying a snap. Navigator offers a host of other file-management capabilities, such as PKZIP-compatible compression, encryption and speedy file searching. One of the handiest features lets most Windows 3.1 programs use Windows95 long file names.

Windows95, with some help from Symantec, has more than met my expectations. There is no way I would ever go back.