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News Editor

Think horses and water

Jun 16, 20034 mins
Enterprise Applications

You can lead a PC user to a nifty productivity tool, but you can’t make him invest the time and effort needed to reap the rewards.

This is true especially of trade-press columnists who don’t like to change their work habits.

User inertia is one major challenge facing ActiveWord Systems, a speck of a company in Winter Park, Fla., whose faithful customers swear by the benefits of a productivity application called ActiveWords SE. Another is that the tool really needs to be seen – if not tried – to be appreciated.

In a nutshell, it lets you create and organize a personal library of trigger words, each of which will launch a defined action when typed in any Windows application at any time. The productivity comes from saving seconds or minutes every time you use one of your words to do something like create an e-mail message, skip from Word to a Web page, or spit out a string of boilerplate text, instead of doing these things keystroke by keystroke.

The first time I saw the product was in February at Demo 2003, and it looked so useful that I promised myself to give it a try. A few months later, company founder Buzz Bruggeman – a technology evangelist whose enthusiasm alone should make this product a hit – walked me through a Web tutorial.

I started to assemble my personal library task by task, word by word.

It was easy. It was fun. It felt right.

But, alas, it wasn’t long before I had slipped into my old ways of doing things. It just didn’t stick, so ActiveWords is no longer part of my workday.

However, such is not the case with Chris Shipley, who is executive producer of Demo and a colleague in that Network World owns IDG Executive Forums, which runs that technology conference.

“ActiveWords has its idiosynchrocies, but beyond them I do find this the most useful utility since I wrote a bunch of save/get macros in 1985,” Shipley says. “Zealous computerists will find ways to make ActiveWords do everything for them.

“As for me, I use ActiveWords to create a dozen standard messages, signatures and the like to answer the repetitive questions that flood my in-box. I can add paragraphs of text to a message and documents in three keystrokes. Basically, ActiveWords lets me add an edge of professionalism and detail to documents and e-mail that I couldn’t otherwise mount at the speeds at which I usually work.”

ActiveWords costs only $10 today, although that’s jumping to $20 on June 30. Either way, it’s small change to find out whether you’ll have Shipley’s experience or mine.

More cell-phone madness

Confronting the painful truth that too many people today – especially teenagers – simply don’t get enough television, Samsung has stepped into the breach with a cell phone that delivers local VHF and UHF channels to handset users for no extra service charge.

Now in addition to chatting animatedly with whomever, that lost-in-space driver inching into your lane at 75 mph will be watching a ballgame or a soap opera on a screen the size of postage stamp.

Sadly, though, this breakthrough technology will be available immediately only in South Korea. Samsung says it has no plans to sell the handset abroad, a position that ought to change about 10 minutes after the first U.S. teen visiting Seoul gets his or her hands on one.

You say this isn’t your idea of progress?

Well, perhaps you can take heart in the handset’s price – 700,000 won – which likely will discourage all but the silver-spoon crowd.

That’s $500 to your kid.

Care to correspond with the curmudgeon? The address is