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December 1995: Volume 1, Issue 12

Internet Assistant Version 2.0: First Look

by David B. Demyan

This article reveals my first impression of Word Internet Assistant (IA) Version 2.0 from Microsoft. A future article will explore the subject in more depth.
As most of you know by now, Windows 95 and a new version of Word have been introduced by Microsoft. Ordinarily, I would not consider this earth-shaking news, since Windows 95 offers little new in the way of document processing capabilities. But one aspect of the upgraded software caught my eye: The availability of a new version of Internet Assistant to go along with the new operating system and word processor.

Version 1.0—Worth What You Paid

Internet Assistant Version 1.0 is an exasperating program. In my opinion, it is a barely functional converter and nearly useless authoring tool. The upside is that Internet Assistant is the only program that really handles Word files in any fashion. Most people involved in conversion are still looking for a decent all-purpose HTML authoring and conversion tool. Internet Assistant 1.0 is not it. It is buggy, does not map styles reliably, and does nothing with tables and graphics. Worse, opening files after they have been saved risks serious corruption.

IA Version 2.0—Some Improvements

However, along comes IA Version 2.0 (currently in beta). Microsoft had virtually abandoned further work on Version 1.0 during 1995, waiting for the introduction of Windows 95. After all, they must have reasoned, why devote resources to a tool that would soon be obsolete if you can convince people to upgrade later?

Well, here I am grudgingly admitting that Internet Assistant Version 2.0 is an improvement over Version 1.0. It is more reliable than the previous version and performs a few new functions. It still doesn't do tables or graphics, but at least it allows you to use them (Version 1.0 choked on any HTML codes it did not recognize). IA Version 2.0 at least passes unrecognized codes on to be properly interpreted by your browser-of-choice (not likely to be the one included with Internet Assistant in either version).


Where Can I Get It?

While the beta release of Internet Assistant Version 2.0 does have its shortcomings, it is enough improved from the orphaned Version 1.0 that I recommend it for anyone who needs to convert existing Word documents to HTML and has other reasons to upgrade (such as better all-around Windows performance). The price is right—it's still free for download from Microsoft. Make sure you have upgraded to Windows 95 and Word for Windows 95 (Version 7) before you install the new files, however. You can find the free program at www.microsoft.com. I'm not including the detailed URL because Microsoft seems to be moving a lot of resources around on their servers lately (and not forwarding the old links). Use their search facility to find it, using "Internet Assistant" as the search criterion. (You'll actually get a lot of information about the product, how to download it, and how to use it.)

Specific Improvements


Notable Shortcomings

Well, after all, it is a beta release. There are some improvements needed in future releases:

Conclusion

If you are like me and want to upgrade to Windows 95 anyway, Internet Assistant Version 2.0 is the way to go. Unfortunately, you'll spend over $300US for all of the tools required (not counting hardware upgrades if you need them). But Microsoft is dragging us on this costly upgrade path whether we like it or not; at least when we get there we can hope our computers will be more functional than they are today. Free tools like Internet Assistant are a big help Web publishers who do document conversion.

Conversioneering will devote more review space to Microsoft Word Internet Assistant in a future issue. In addition, we'll cover any new conversion programs that come along and discuss general conversion topics. Some of our future articles:


Call for Ideas

Do you have an idea for future articles in Conversioneering? I would like to hear it. E-mail: dbd@mendem.com
December 4, 1995