Now, You Can Throw Away The Manual And Not Feel Guilty

For most people, just learning the rudiments of a software package is challenge enough. Mastering advanced features can require either hours poring over poorly written how-to manuals or big bucks and even more time attending a class. But Comprehend Technology Inc. in New York has come up with what may be a better way: multimedia programs that guide beginners and sophisticates through exercises while monitoring their use of the program they're trying to learn.

The first disk in a planned series teaches how to create macros--small, personalized programs--for Microsoft Corp.'s Excel spreadsheet package. Containing eight hours of instruction, the $249 disk takes pupils through a series of graphically animated, voice-narrated, and often humorous lessons. The reward for finishing: a chance to watch a witty TV game show called Write That Macro!, which pits nerdy characters against one another in a test of rapid-fire programming skills. Among the planned future titles are ones that will teach Microsoft's Visual BASIC programming language and its Word for Windows package.