I'm a miserable old git.
I'm ashamed to say it's been a **** very **** long time since I reviewed my "trusts", have sought to rectify this by going through every review I've written in the past couple of years, if you feel hard-done-by, drop me a note.
Members who trust:32
The PC person's PC magazine
Unasamedly biased towards the computer pro
Can concentrate a bit too much on programming
Value for money
Quality of journalism
Quality of features
Quantity of advertising
Price5.99 CD version
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I conclude my mini-series of opinions on computer magazines with PC Plus.
There is superficially a great similarity between computer magazines in the United Kingdom.
Magazines depend on three things to make their living; a steady stream of news items, support from publishers and manufacturers to provide new materials, and a clearly defined target audience to encourage advertisers.
Of course, that isn’t to say consistent and well-written content doesn’t have a very strong part to play, although if you are no stranger to this type of publication, you’ll realise that this isn’t always the top priority!
Bath based Future Publishing, the proprietors of PC Plus, have, in my opinion, become masters in delivering titles which differ significantly from the ‘mainstream’ magazines.
Whereas ‘broad interest’ titles such as ‘Computer Shopper’, and ‘Personal Computer World’ try to create a ‘wide appeal’ and thereby get the highest possible subscription and over the counter sales, FUTURE take a different approach by creating niche channels, in the hope of identifying, and more importantly, KEEPING a target readership.
On their website, Future suggests ‘PC Plus targets IT professionals at home’
It’s little wonder, then, at the data centre I work in, that PC Plus tends to be one of the more frequently seen lurking at the corners of techies’ desks.
That’s not to say it’s inaccessible to enthusiastic amateurs – far from it, but don’t buy this expecting that it’ll spend a great deal of time explaining the difference between a ‘hard’ and ‘floppy’ disk!
The layout follows the typical news/ features/ letters/ technical layout – where it differs from a lot of similar magazines is having a specific ‘business’ section – mostly consisting of a short news section and a series of ‘expert reviews’ concentrating on ‘third party’ products (ie not Microsoft).
Many of the technical master-classes tend to be serialised into several episodes, and these are carefully designed to overlap with each other, thus ensuring that you never come to the end of all the tutorials all at once.
Looking at the November 2005 issue – which obviously isn’t the most recent, but is fairly typical (and let’s face it, in a couple of months time, it won’t matter anyway!) the Labs section features a review of £799 PCs, internal hard drives, A4 scanners, Databases and (software based) Media Players.
Master-classes are divided into four sections;
‘Practical Workshops’ part 1 of 5 of a tutorial in dHTML, part 1 of 2 the ‘Runtime Revolution’ coding environment, part 2 of 3 of an animation product called MAYA, the concluding article of a 3 part series on the AUDIACITY sound recording package, and part 2 of 6 on ASCII art
Linux is always a popular topic in PCPLUS, and in the month in question, it featured backup and recovery (1/4), as well as article 1 of 4 of Spam Assassin,
Programming is thrown in for good measure, the issue offers six sections covering topics as diverse as OOP (Object oriented programming), C#, Visual Basic, and screensavers to name but a few,
Finally an ‘extra’ feature is included on a series of database tools for hobbyists offered by Microsoft.
Two editions are published; a one with CD cover mounted disk, most often the one you’ll find in supermarkets and newsagents, and a DVD version, containing more extensive quantities of code – this often includes ISO images of new LINUX distributions.
The contents of both formats tend to reflect the content of the magazine – there is little point, after all, in publishing tutorials for products which people have to spend extra money in order to acquire!
The CD version is a penny short of six quid, subscription rates offer the title for less, but obviously require payment ‘up front’.
Readership is around 57,000 monthly sales, the quantity of advertising is ‘moderate’ rather than excessive, and a whole issue is around 230 pages, including adverts.
Of all the magazines I read, this is the one I buy most frequently, and have done so for most of the 18 year history of the magazine.
Something I used to welcome especially (although they don’t seem to do it quite as often nowadays) is an add-on booklet on a specialised topic, such as how to get the best out of the latest Windows release, Linux, or tied in with the cover disks, applications (such as graphics programmes). I tend to keep these handy long after the accompanying magazine has been recycled at the local paper bank!
The journalistic style is informal, informative, and at times, even entertaining, one ‘hack’ in particular, (Huw Colingbourne) treats his readership to glimpses of his private life, in a very conversational fashion – and whilst he never lets this get in the way of his main message, it’s quite amusing to see that he has almost exactly the same frustrations as the rest of us working in the IT industry.
He’s been allowed to expand this to the ‘back page roundup’ and whilst it’s a bit selfish of me, it’s good to see that his previously ‘boyish good looks’ are fairing no better than mine with the passage of time!
If you take your computing seriously, but try to avoid being nerdy about it, want to be informed, but take most press releases with a very large pinch of salt, don’t mind hearing about the occasional game, but keep that strictly in proportion, then this may be the magazine for you.
Rather like a persistent rash which you can’t stop scratching, if you’re anything like me, you’ll keep finding yourself going back to this title.