THE trouble with computer software is, you've got to invest time learning how to use the confounded stuff before it can help you save time doing your real job.
But as productivity consultant Jeffrey J. Mayer once said, ``If you haven't got the time to do it right, when will you find the time to do it over?'' In fact, that was the title of Mayer's 1990 bestselling book on how to clear away desktop clutter so executives can get down to business.
Now Mayer is back with ``Winning the Fight Between You and Your Desk: Use Your Computer to Get Organized, Become More Productive, and Make More Money.'' Despite the long title, Mayer's book is concise, focused, well-organized, and easy to read - just as it should be from someone who executives pay $1,000 to clean up their desk.
``Winning the Fight Between You and Your Desk'' was written for people who use a computer in their work, Mayer says. That includes people in offices as well as the 30 million Americans who operate businesses out of their homes. Mayer scoured computer magazines and quizzed salesmen to discover the kinds of hardware and software that boost productivity. Then he tested them and collected his reviews in ``Winning the Fight Between You and Your Desk.''
Now beginners, and users experienced with some software, have a single reference to explore when considering new possibilities. And the reviews come not from a technophile, but someone who always keeps the bottom line - making more money - in mind.
Among the author's favorites is a software package for scheduling appointments which has a built-in word processor. He doesn't type many letters in Word Perfect anymore, Mayer says. And ever the enemy of paper proliferation, Mayer loves sending faxes computer-to-computer, so no paper copy is generated at either end.
Note that ``Winning the Fight Between You and Your Desk'' speaks only to PC-users. Mac owners will have to wait for a subsequent book that Mayer says is forthcoming.
Also, if manufacturers did not send Mayer a demo copy, their product was not reviewed. That's why the section on modems and communication software discusses only Hayes products, Mayer says. In no case does Mayer receive any fee from product sales that result from his book, he adds.
Nor did Mayer delve into the universe of shareware - software that is inexpensive but usually lacks documentation and support from the manufacturer. He stuck to ``tried and true'' software.
Mayer recommends that consumers take advantage of trial periods. If a software title does not help win the fight and make more money, he says, take it back.