July 1998

New Version Of RTG Bills

Version 1.19 of RTG Bills, our legal time and billing software for Windows, is now available. It includes many new features, which are listed on our Web site at:

www.rtgsoftware.com/new119.htm
[Note: This page is no longer online.]

It is easy to upgrade from the previous version. The upgrade is free if you download it from our Web site at:

www.rtgsoftware.com/upd119.htm
[Note: This upgrade is no longer available online.]

You will find complete instructions there. If you prefer, you can order the upgrade by mail for $15.

RTG Bills is designed for small law firms and sole practitioners. The cost is only $50, which includes RTG Timer, so you can time your work as you do it.

Bills And Timer Tutorials

Both RTG Bills and RTG Timer now have tutorials, which lead you step-by-step through the features of the programs. Our tutorials are HTML documents, the same format used for World Wide Web pages, so you view them with a Web browser like Netscape Navigator or Microsoft Internet Explorer.

Each tutorial has you enter "fake" billing information which we use to demonstrate how the programs work. You can print sample bills and reports. When the tutorial is done, you are led through the steps needed to delete the information you have entered so you are ready to enter real data.

There are two ways you can get the new tutorials. If you already have RTG Bills, you will get the tutorials when you upgrade to the new version. If you have not yet purchased RTG Bills, you can download a demo version which includes the tutorials.

The RTG Bills and RTG Timer demo is available free on our Web site at:

www.rtgsoftware.com/demo.htm

The demo is a working program with only a few limitations. All of the features needed in the tutorials are included in the demo.


Windows 98

While it isn't a major change, like going from Windows 3.1 to Windows 95, Windows 98 does have some interesting new features.

The taskbar now has an area next to the Start button, called the Quick Launch toolbar, with buttons for one-click access to programs. You can drag a shortcut onto the toolbar to add a new button. This toolbar has a convenient Show Desktop button which minimizes all windows to reveal the desktop.

If you want to minimize a single window, you can click on the taskbar button for that window. You don't need to click the Minimize button for the window itself.

A new task scheduler can run programs unattended, a feature which Windows 98 uses to optimize the hard disk. The system tray, on the right side of the taskbar, has a task scheduler icon for quick access to this feature.

The System Information tool (under Start, Programs, Accessories, System Tools) contains some useful technical information. For example, you can see which programs run automatically when Windows starts up, and whether they are started by a line in WIN.INI (a holdover from Windows 3.1) or the registry.

Questionable Features

Does it enhance the computing experience to have the color of the title bar of every window fade from dark blue on the left to light blue on the right? You can eliminate this in the Control Panel under Display.

Another difference, but not necessarily an improvement, is the way the Start menu handles long lists of programs. Click Start, then Programs. In Windows 95, if all your programs can't fit in a single column, you get additional columns. But in Windows 98 you see a single column which scrolls up and down.

If you have problems starting Windows, you can get a menu of startup options if you hold down the CTRL key while the computer boots up. Previously the F8 function key served this purpose.

You can create various kinds of toolbars. A toolbar can be created from the contents of a folder. We're not certain whether this will turn out to be a useful feature.

The Active Desktop and WebTV seem to be of limited value.

Need More Disk Space?

Are you running out of disk space? The FAT32 Converter could eliminate some of the wasted space in your old file system. For example, if you have a 1.2-gigabyte disk which uses the old FAT16 file system, Windows allocates disk space in 32K chunks called clusters. No file will ever take less than 32,768 bytes (32K) of disk space, even if it only contains one byte of actual data.

For a hard disk less than 8 GB in size, the FAT32 file system uses 4K clusters instead of 32K. Most PCs have a very large number of small files, so a lot of space can be recovered. We converted a 1.2 GB hard disk and went from 70 MB to 360 MB of free space.

The FAT32 file system has one other big advantage. With FAT16, each disk partition was limited to 2 GB. Any disk larger than that had to have more than one partition, which meant more than one drive letter, such as C and D for a 4 GB drive. With FAT32 even the largest disk drive can be one partition and one drive letter, which is a convenience.

These two features, smaller clusters and larger partitions, are related. If you had a 32 GB hard disk (not likely!), the file system would again need 32K clusters to handle the entire drive as one partition.

Converting To FAT32

The original release of Windows 95 used the FAT16 file system. A later release known as "OSR2" was supplied with new computers but not sold separately. It used the FAT32 system, so you may already have it if your computer came with Windows 95 installed.

If you don't have FAT32, the Windows 98 FAT32 Converter can convert your hard disk for you. You'll find it under Start, Programs, Accessories, System Tools.

When we tried it, the conversion was not a smooth one. You are supposed to tell Windows 98 to convert your file system, then sit back while it runs for a few hours. Instead we kept getting messages that we didn't have enough memory to do the conversion.

The memory it wanted was the old DOS memory, with its built-in limit of 640K, so it didn't matter that the PC had 32 MB of memory. An error message suggested commenting out commands in CONFIG.SYS and AUTOEXEC.BAT. Yet our CONFIG.SYS was empty and our AUTOEXEC.BAT had only a few commands to set environment variables.

We finally came across a suggestion from Microsoft that putting BUFFERS=13 in the CONFIG.SYS file would free up some DOS memory. We tried it and the FAT32 Converter crashed. So we tried BUFFERS=20 and that led to success. The FAT32 Converter ran and, when it was done, we had more disk space.


RTG Bills and RTG Timer are trademarks of RTG Data Systems. Other company and product names may be trademarks of the companies with which they are associated.

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