Features make Warp 4.0 unmatched by competition

Early reviews of IBM Corp's OS/2 Warp 4.0 generally were positive with the majority of journalists recommending the product as a "must-have for current OS/2 users."

Unfortunately that type of endorsement does little to convince non-OS/2 users that OS/2 Warp 4.0 is a platform worth considering. Here then is a look at the retail version of OS/2 Warp 4.0 from a veteran OS/2 user's perspective. The product was launched - on schedule - Sept. 25.

The first surprise about OS/2 Warp 4.0 is the sleek combination headset and boom microphone that is included in the box. For a limited time IBM is providing this headset from Andrea Electronics Corp. as a means to convince users that OS/2 Warp 4.0's new VoiceType Recognition Engine is no gimmick.

VoiceType ships with a 10 000-word dictionary and allows you to use your Sound Blaster-compatible sound card to input spoken commands that can substitute for common keyboard and mouse movements as well as launch programs and operate the voice-enabled Internet Web browser.

The next surprise is the size of the operating system and included applications. OS/2 Warp 4.0 ships on not one but four CD-ROMs. The first contains the base operating system network support software Internet Application Kit Java Support VoiceType Recognition Engine and voice-enabled applications OpenDoc support the BonusPak suite of free OS/2 applets OpenGL graphics language support and some 40-plus OS/2 diskette images.

The second CD-ROM accommodates the OS/2 Device Driver Pack which holds more than 2 100 OS/2-compatible device drivers. The Device Driver Pack also sets a new standard for ease of use for its Web-browser interface that makes choosing the right driver as easy as browsing through a few Web pages where applicable IBM also includes links to third-party home pages.

The third CD-ROM the OS/2 Application Sampler includes full descriptions of more than 80 native OS/2 applications along with limited-use copies of the software that you can install to evaluate prior to purchase. A few (mostly IBM-developed) applications are included in their entirety.

The last CD-ROM contains a copy of Lotus Development Corp.'s NotesMail 4.1 for client/server messaging.

The look and feel of Warp has changed dramatically through the use of 3-D icons enhanced ergonomic use of color to identify options and a new eye-pleasing default system font. The user interface also has been updated with an improved version of Lotus' SmartCenter for OS/2 now aptly renamed WarpCenter. WarpCenter is a drag-and-drop application launcher similar in appearance to the Task Bar on Microsoft Corp.'s Windows 95 but easier to use because of its underlying object orientation.

OS/2 Warp 4.0 also features several computer-assisted techniques to make working with the operating system easier. Among these applications are the OS/2 Warp Guide which monitors your activities to suggest possible solutions and the OS/2 Assistance Center which features a plethora of on-line documentation trouble-shooting tools and the ability for IBM technical support to diagnose most system problems remotely. Also IBM continues to support automated system updates via its Web server.

OS/2 Warp 4.0 is an operating system unlike anything that has come before. Warp's use of automated system agents to aid the end user voice navigation Internet-enabled software delivery system the new device driver repository and remote-control technical support option all serve to make OS/2 Warp 4.0 an operating system unmatched by the competition. As a bonus the bevy of third-party applications and system tools provide enough software to keep even the most seasoned operating system junkie busy for some time.

Rodgers is a computer specialist with the Army at Aberdeen Proving Ground Md. You can reach him at os2guru@erols.com and read this column on Gateway at www.fcw.com.

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