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FIRST-RATE SOFTWARE FOR SMALL BIZ

Business Week Enterprise has assembled a listing of some of the best shareware for your business, ranging from full-featured productivity tools to single-function mini-apps that fill voids left by mainstream programs. The links below will take you to Web sites managed by the programs' developers, where you can find more information about the applications and download them directly to your computer. All of these programs are available on a "try-before-you-buy" basis. If you don't like any of them, you can delete them from your hard drive. If you decide to keep them, you should pay the developer for a full license.

Business Plan Master
$34http://users.aol.com/versatiles/files/vssi.html
If you're ready to start drafting a business plan but don't know where to begin, you may want to take a look at Business Plan Master. It consists of templates for popular word-processing and spreadsheet programs, including Word, WordPerfect, and Excel. Using the templates, you can plot just about every detail of your business' launch and generate cash-flow and break-even charts with ease. For $10 more, a "professional" version includes a detailed manual; a set of additional templates, including amortization schedules and nondisclosure agreements; and graphs to help you chart your business' growth.

Delegator
$39http://www.madrigalsoft.com
Has your staff grown to the point where shouting assignments across the room or sending orders via E-mail just doesn't cut it? If so, you may want to give Delegator a try. This program allows you to assign projects to individuals or groups, set deadlines, and send yourself reminders so that you'll always know when each project is due. A variety of report formats allows you to track results on a project, individual, or group level, making the program useful for performance evaluations and follow-up planning. A network version ($150, plus $30 per user) is available if you need to include other members of your team in the project management process.

GS-Calc
$19.95http://www.jps-development.com
This compact application from Poland includes nearly all of the features you'd expect from a spreadsheet program, including an extensive range of formulas, 40 different chart styles, and the ability to export spreadsheets into the most popular spreadsheet and database programs. Extra touches include the ability to undo up to 15,000 previous actions and password protection to hide sensitive data from prying eyes.

Instabase
$29.95http://www.instabase.com
This handy program allows you to create a detailed database containing virtually any kind of information, including images, E-mail addresses, and Web addresses. With one click, you can open images for editing or launch an E-mail program or Web browser to explore links contained in your data. Data can be exported to just about any other program or imported from most database and personal information managers. The program is useful if you've outgrown your contact-management program or need a simple tool to organize data on products, personnel, or just about anything else. A pending upgrade will allow you to easily publish databases to the Web, making them accessible from anywhere.

Shredder95
$29.95http://www.gale-force.com
Let's face it. There are times when the data on your hard drive just has to be destroyed. Maybe you've finished redoing next year's budget, and you've got draft versions that shouldn't be preserved for posterity. Or you're about to donate an old PC to charity, and you don't want to give away all of your company's secrets in the process. Whatever your reason for wanting to play Oliver North, Shredder95 will accommodate you, permanently deleting files, so that "undelete" programs can't recover them. The program includes a "drag-and-drop" mode that allows you to automatically shred files by dragging them over the program icon. Be warned, though: Keep the program's "Confirm Shred" option turned on if you're using the drag-and-drop option -- or you may find yourself inadvertently vaporizing valuable data.

Medlin Accounting
$38-202http://www.medlin.com
Looking for a suite of applications specifically designed to serve a small business' accounting needs? Look no further. This venerable program has been keeping ledgers straight since 1984 and has been updated regularly over the past 14 years. The latest version includes modules for payroll, accounts payable, invoicing, budgeting, and more. Although buying all of the modules will set you back over $200 -- more than you might pay for some competing commercial applications -- Medlin's modular approach means you can buy only what you need. If a solid general-ledger program is all you need, you can get just that module. If your business grows and you find that a payroll program would also come in handy, you can order that, and you'll be able to import payroll data directly into the genera-ledger module.

SmartDraw
$49http://www.smartdraw.com
If you've tried creating flow charts or organizational charts using a standard drawing program, you've probably either given up in frustration and just done it by hand, or produced a chart with strangely disconnected lines and oddly shaped boxes. That's because these applications aren't designed to create business graphics, and even the most sophisticated general drawing programs make a simple task like connecting two boxes surprisingly complex. Before you pull out that T-square and ruler, give SmartDraw a try. With it, you can create and edit organization charts, flow charts, floor plans, and even such convoluted diagrams as computer network maps and scientific formulas. The program can import graphics from other programs, and it comes with a collection of over 1,500 images and templates.

TrayNote Plus
$15http://www.amfsoftware.com/
How many times have you found yourself on the phone and unable to open your word-processing program quickly enough to take notes on your conversation or jot down a quick phone number or E-mail address? If it's happened to you often (or even just once, when you needed to take down a crucial phone number), you may well find this little program indispensable. TrayNote Plus sits unobtrusively in the Windows 95 "tray" at the bottom of your screen. When you need to take notes, you just click the program's icon, and up pops a notepad screen. After you're done taking notes, the program can open your E-mail application and pre-address a message to an address you've noted, or launch an auto-dialer to connect you if you've copied down a phone number.

By Marc Perton in New York


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