Telecommunication’s birth was the introduction of brainless terminal machines, which connected to large mainframes. A step forward brought us PCs, and with them, terminal emulation. From the beginning, Procomm was a terminal emulation, and telecommunications leader. Telecommunications now encompasses a lot more: the dazzling, colorful animated Web, FTP, telnet and faxing are now all parts of it. Parallel to this, Procomm has grown to be a lot more than just a terminal: now called Procomm Plus, it has become the application to turn to for all types of telecommunication.

The simple installation program, which loads as soon as you insert the CD, makes it easy to give Procomm all the information it needs from the user: everything from modem settings to Internet connection information. It even asks the user whether or not he or she wants file associations made. If you allow it to, though, it associates quite a few types to itself and its utilities: including images; this was a little annoying.

Procomm Plus 32 supports all popular types of telecommunication: Telnet, Dial-Up Terminal Emulation, Fax, World Wide Web, Internet Mail, Usenet and FTP. For its browser, it uses a licensed version of MS Internet Explorer 3, tailored into its own interface and integrated into the application, with all the pros and cons that come with it. The POP mail reader has the basic folder design, and all the functionality of a good mail reader, as does the news reader. The FTP client is simple and easy to use for simple file transfers, but it does not support advanced commands and operations such as CHMOD. Also, it gives me some problems with directory changes on some servers. Although the basic functionality of the FTP client is somewhat lacking, it does sport features like image viewing during download. The Internet components combine to form a pretty good suite. The web browser, mail reader and news reader could easily match a comparable stand alone program; the FTP, however, lacks some advanced functions, and can give some problems in a few cases.

The Fax module of Procomm Plus is somewhat detached from the rest of it. From the Fax Manager, the overall control center of Procomm’s fax suite, the user can easily read and manipulate faxes, either to be sent or that have been received. From here, the user can run the step-by-step Fax Wizard to send a fax, or alternatively just "print" the fax to Procomm. The main Fax Manager is complemented by several utilities such as the Fax Status utility, which both answers calls, and monitors the status of incoming and outgoing faxes. Other utilities include the Fax Viewer, which in addition to viewing faxes, also has a unique OCR (Optical Character Recognition) function. With OCR the user can convert an image-type fax into a text document. Other advanced features include fax scheduling and a fax polling host list, which allows people to request faxes from the system and. Procomm provides over twenty-five pre-designed cover sheets, and the ability to create custom ones.

The classics of Procomm Plus, the data terminals, are here in their original form. Procomm spices up the usually ordinary, bland data terminal into something quite unique. The Data Terminal and Telnet both sport most of the same features, including over 32 different terminal modes and 11 different file transfer protocols, in full color and stereo surround… oops, got a little carried away :). Almost the only difference between the Telnet and Dial Up terminal modules is their means of connection. Procomm’s terminal supports a host utility that allows users to dial into or telnet to your computer as a BBS. The terminal modules, as well as the others, are greatly complemented by Procomm’s ASPECT scripting language. Several useful scripts come with Procomm, such as the Logon Wizard for the terminal and the Fax Forwarding script. Procomm also provides a script editor, which allows users to create their own custom scripts in this very powerful language. In addition to hosting, Procomm’s new RapidRemote allows users to access and control their computer remotely, by connecting with a modem, serial link, Novell network or TCP/IP. It displays an exact replica of your computer on the one with which you connect, and allows you to do anything you could while physically at the computer. It also has a file synchronization utility, to keep files up to date between work and home.

Procomm Plus bundles all its different facets under one basic interface. The Action Bar, a dynamic toolbar at the top of the Procomm window, ties in all the different parts of Procomm to one place. A drop box allows easy switching between the different modules, while another gives access to the many ASPECT scripts packaged with the program. The tool buttons on the Action Bar are "context sensitive": they change based on what module is active, yet they leave commonly used features there all the time for quick, easy access. I found the buttons a bit small for my taste, and the illustrations were not all that easy to decode. However, tool tips take care of that problem quite well. The Options dialogue is also common for all the different modules, with convenient tabs separating it into the different modules and groups of options within the modules. To keep track of all the sites, email addresses, telephone numbers, etc, Procomm Plus provides an all-in-one Connections Directory, nicely integrated with the modules themselves: e.g. when sending a mail to a new address, it asks whether or not to add that address to the Directory.

Procomm Plus 32 provides excellent telecommunication, in every aspect thereof. However, it comes at a pretty high price of $149.95. Is it worth the money? For what it is, most definitely yes. For anyone who uses his or her modem for anything more than just Web browsing, Procomm Plus 32 is a bundle worth buying.

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