Article Date: 12/1/2000

They say, "Clothes make the man." By extension, software makes the computer. Having a good armamentarium of software can turn your office computer from a paperweight into a valuable piece of equipment.

This month, I'll discuss examples of software that can really benefit you and your practice.

Word processing possibilities

Most of you already have office management (OM) systems � in fact, that's probably why you bought an office computer in the first place. Once you have an OM system, the next most valuable application you should have is a word processor.

It will help you write elegant letters and perform such tasks as:

         Mail-merge manager.Write a template letter and merge it with your patient database for a focused and personal direct marketing venture.

         Desktop publishing. Create in-office documents, such as patient brochures, history and exam forms and patient education materials.

         HTML editor. Any good word processor can double as an HTML editor for creating and publishing Web pages. Software programs made exclusively for HTML editing are a better choice, but in a crunch, word processors are a good alternative.

         Outlining and flow-charting. Your word processor can act as a great substitution for the real thing.

I recommend either Microsoft's Word or Corel's WordPerfect for word processing. These are the most popular programs and have many features and good technical support.

Spreadsheet uses

All office computers should have a good spreadsheet program. Use preprogrammed template spreadsheets, or design your own.

Use spreadsheets, which you can make by plugging in known numbers, for tasks such as tallies for the week, comparisons and projections.

My software choices for spreadsheets are Microsoft's Excel and Corel's Quatro-Pro. They're feature-packed and easy to use.

Other applications to consider

The following applications aren't necessary, but they're certainly useful:

         WinZip. This small shareware program is useful for creating and unzipping archives. If you do any type of file downloads from the Internet, this is a "must have."

         Backing up. You should backup your data regularly. A good program will make this easy.

         Internet. This category includes e-mail, Web-browsers, file transfer protocol (ftp), chatting and messaging software.

         Banking. Banking and checkbook applications are by far the best ways to manage your office accounts. Quicken, Quickbooks, Microsoft Money and Peachtree are examples of banking software available today.

         Faxing. Sometimes it's easier to fax directly from your computer. WinFax Pro is the most popular and easiest application available.

         Graphics. If you do any type of in-house documents or Web-publishing projects, you'll want a good graphics program to help you manage your pictures.

This is just a short laundry list of software that can enable your office computer to perform useful tasks. You'll discover many other applications to help you accomplish your goals easier and faster.

A personal note

This is my last column as editor of Cybercare. I've immensely enjoyed the association I've had for the last 2 years with OM, in particular with editors Larisa Hubbs, Art Epstein and Karen Rodemich � to all of whom I owe a debt of gratitude.

Your support as readers has been keenly felt in your e-mails and at meetings, and for that I'm deeply grateful. Technology is ever-changing and I hope to continue as your resource to this exciting field.

As always, I can be reached at:

Dr. Diecidue practices in Stroudsburg, Pa. He's president of Mountain Computer Systems, a producer of software and solutions for optometrists.

Optometric Management, Issue: December 2000