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Dear Judi and Frank, Has anyone got a program that permits the use of an IBM PC as a typewriter? I'd like to use my PC and printer to fill out forms that I used to do on a typewriter.

Yesterday I had to type some stock certificates and could have easily done it with my computer if I could have moved the print head with the space bar and typed directly on the certificate. I could also use it to fill out tax forms.Searcher in Dublin, Ohio

Dear Search, Yup. A number of "typewriter" programs are made just for your needs. We've tested Power Up!'s $40 The Typewriter for IBM compatibles. It lets you select a printer port and specify whether you want type-through to be a character at a time or a line at time. You can set margins and tabs, too, and there's a handy ruler line onscreen. (Power Up: (800) 523-6982; in CA (800) 523-6981.) Several word processors now have a command that lets you type directly through to the printer. On Microsoft Word it's called Print Direct.

You can also accomplish this trick on the cheap. With no programs running, type COPY CON LPT1: (unless your printer is attached to another port, in which case you end with that port identification). Next hit the CONTROL and PRINT SCREEN keys together. Now you can type just as if your computer were a typewriter. When you hit the ENTER key at the end of each line, your typing goes directly to the printer.

When you're finished, first hit the CONTROL and PRINT SCREEN keys again. Then hit the CONTROL and C keys. That's all!

Dear Frank and Judi, I've used an Apple IIe for 10 years. I generated more than 50 floppy disks using Bank Street Writer and Bank Street Writer Plus. I'd like to switch to a Macintosh but will need to access the old disks from time to time. I don't want to spend the money it costs to get them converted. Is there any other way?

Glenview, Ky., diehard

Dear Di, When you buy a Macintosh, among the software utilities that come with it is an Apple File Exchange program. It acts as a translator between Apple files and your Mac and is described in the Mac Utilities manual.

This same utility converts to and from MS DOS if you own the right accessory drive. Apple makes drives that any Apple dealer can sell you. We prefer a Dayna drive and its software for DOS-to-Mac exchanges.

Dear Judi and Frank, I have an IBM clone with 640K memory and EGA graphics, running at a slow 10MHz. It's fine for spreadsheets and word processing, but the main purpose of our computer is family entertainment. For that, it just doesn't run fast enough.

We like flying and sports programs and large-size simulations like Tracon. My wife likes adventure programs made by companies like Sierra Online.

We're planning to get about $2,500 worth of new computer and are a little lost as to the best choice. My questions are: (1) Does a 286-type computer rated the same speed process data as fast as a 386-type computer? (2) Is a 386-type computer practical if it's used almost entirely for entertainment? (3) What's the best processing speed for entertainment type programs? Could a high-speed processor ever be too fast? (4) What's the expected life span of a hard drive? (5) If the hard drive is filled to capacity, can programs be deleted to allow others to be entered?

Columbus, Ohio, playperson

Dear Pers, Those are all very good questions that stump many home (and business) computer owners. We'll take them in order.

1. Generally, a 386 processes data faster than a 286 for several reasons. Generally, though, the speed doesn't increase as much as the price.

2. If you can afford a 386, sure, get it. In fact, get a 386SX, which will probably come with a clock speed of 20MHz. Games will run 50-100 percent faster on that than your 10MHz 286.

Also, VGA graphics boards run faster than older graphics standards.

Tomorrow there may be something faster.

3. For older games that took their speed signals from the computer's processor, a 386 would be impractical because the games would run so fast you couldn't read their screens. But nowadays there are so many different processor speeds, most games adjust to computer clock speed instead.

4. A run of the mill hard drive usually lasts about three years in daily office use. Then its moving parts start to wear and go out of alignment. If not used much, a hard drive could last five to ten years. Drives can be replaced by any competent computer repair service.

5. You can indeed delete programs from your hard disk as well as data files. Look up the ERASE (or DELETE) command in your computer's MS DOS manual. At drive prompt C:, type delete, then a space, then the name of the program you want deleted.

Before deleting any program, check its manual. Some program makers use copy protection schemes that permit only one hard disk installation at a time. Their manuals caution you to use their uninstall program to do your deleting.

Follow their advice. That way, you'll be able to reinstall the program if you decide to use it again in the future.

Dear Judi and Frank, I switched from an Osborne 4 last summer. I'd like to pass on to other readers how I did it. I used MediaMaster software that came with the Osborne. It formats and reads or writes disks for the IBM. It's available also from FOG users groups.

Louisville fan

Dear Fanny, Thanks. FOG-International Computer Users Group is at P.O. Box 3474, Daly City, CA 94015; phone (415) 755-2000.

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