Dear Judi & Frank,

I sell computers to a large university. I have been struck by the lack of good foreign language word processing packages available for PC and MS DOS computers, compared to what is available on the Mac. Could you help out?Salesperson in Westerville, OH

Dear Seller,

We usually confine our responses to readers who are consumers, not sellers. (Policy also dictates that we answer reader mail only if a self-addressed stamped envelope is included).

But because we're amazed at how little you know about what you're selling, we'll give you a clue: The IBM Extended Character Set, which exists on all IBM type computers, includes all the letters needed to write in any romance language (such as Spanish, Italian, or French), as well as in German. All the good word-processing packages - WordPerfect, Word, DisplayWrite, Multimate, Office Writer, etc. - give users direct access to these characters.

The only hitch is that your printer must be able to print the characters. Almost all dot matrix and laser printers can. Many letter quality printers can too, if you buy the right type wheels.

Dear Frank and Judi,

I need a computer for transcribing depositions. Is there a word processing program that will number the lines and then I can type in the text?

Court Reporter, Logansport, IN

Dear CR,

No word processing program will number the lines before you type your text. But quite a few can type in all the line numbers automatically when they print your text. These programs include Microsoft Word 4.0 and higher numbered versions, Wordstar 2000Plus Release 3, WordPerfect 4.0 and higher, Samna Word IV, and Bank Street Writer Plus for IBM type computers; and for the Macintosh, Word 3.01 and higher.

Dear Judi and Frank,

In a recent column you mentioned spreadsheet bid analyzers for contractors. I'm currently using Lotus 1-2-3 Release 2. Do you have any specific analyzers you could recommend? We are in landscape construction and maintenance, a highly competitive industry. Any advantage, however slight, would be of great interest to us.

Agressive from Milwaukee

Dear Gogetter,

To recap, the bid analyzers we named previously are MVP from Bell Atlantic (215-768-5683), PlusPlan from Deloitte Haskins & Sells (212-524-0915), and At Liberty from SoftLogic Solutions 603-627-9900). We've also unearthed Medallion Bid Analysis and Precisiion Bid Analysis from Timberline Software (503-626-6775). They're fairly generic packages. You can probably adapt them to your needs.

Our research didn't unearth any bid analyzers specific to the landscaping industry. If there are any, they're probably advertised in your industry's trade journal or trade newspaper. Look there for likely names.

We haven't tested the above packages ourselves, but you can do your own sleuthing. Send to the makers for brochures so you can compare their claims. Then, for the programs that sound most suited to your needs, get names and telephone numbers of at least three people who have bought the programs.

Talk to them. Try to find some near enough to visit. Ask not only what they like about the programs, but how they're being used, what they'd like the programs to do that they don't do, and what they'd change in the programs if they could.

Ask if the maker has provided good telephone support for problems. Ask if there were any bugs, and if they've been fixed. Some makers also offer free or inexpensive `demo' disks. Get those if they're available. From all that information, we're sure you can make a good decision.