The X-Files movie, "Fight The Future," the X-Files Interactive computer game, the TV series, even the X-Files EXPO got much more exposure than X-Files: Unrestricted Access, a computer "encyclopedia" of the series.. Maybe it was because Unrestricted Access isn't a game. As far as I'm concerned, whatever the reason, this overlooked software will surely bring out the investigator in you. You can discover everything and anything about each of the TV series episodes, including character dossiers, evidence, videos, still photos, reports and more. In fact, this compendium of X-Files information is enough to make anyone dizzy. But before you delve into it, you must install it. So here goes:
The one thing I wasn't too keen on was the fact I had to have Microsoft's Internet Explorer (IE) installed on my computer before I could use Unrestricted Access. I'm a Netscape-loyal user and grumbled about conspiracy theories, but installed IE (included on the CD-ROM), then installed Unrestricted Access. I found I also had to have QuickTime to view the videos in Unrestricted Access and installed that (also included on the CD-ROM, although I later went to the QuickTime web site to get the latest version).
I have a 6.1 gigabyte hard drive, which is "divided" into three sections. To save space on my C drive, I installed Unrestricted Access on the D drive. Wrong move. Although the program started up just fine, I couldn't access any of the videos - QuickTime and IE were installed on the C drive. So I had to uninstall Unrestricted Access and reinstall it on the C drive. Learn from my mistake, folks!
When the program begins, you would never even know IE was involved. The integration of the IE browser and the program is so seamless I was properly impressed. The main screen offers a choice of going to the X-Files Browser or a Desktop Designer. Since I like changing my desktop frequently, I selected that option first.
More choices appeared: Fact File, Screen Saver and System Display
Fact Files allows short facts about the show or the "expanded universe" to pop up on your desktop screen when you start up your computer or once a day.
The Screen Saver offers several to choose from. I selected Mulder (a silhouette of David Duchovny in a dark blue/black background with UFO-type lights revolving around him and spooky music).
The System Display allows the look of the desktop to be changed. If you have Microsoft Plus!, there are Themes included to choose from. I selected the Mulder Plus! Theme to go with the screen saver and went back to the main menu to take a gander at the browser.
I have 64MB of RAM in my Pentium, but it still took a bit to load up (not minutes, but I'm used to everything loading pretty quickly). The wait was worth it.
The background was black, a digital clock ticked away (accurately) in the upper right hand corner and there were symbols on the left and bottom of the screen. I ran my mouse cursor over the symbols on the left and text appeared. I was given several choices, which opened up a separate window for each:
Search by category - case file, extraterrestrial, alphabetically or by keyword
Surveillance - photos of characters from the show appear, when one is selected, three more symbols pop up. However, these symbols don't have text when the mouse cursor is run over them, although they are explained in the instruction booklet (included). The symbols offer choices to view a file on each character (which describes who they are, their background, etc); select from a variety of photos and stills from the show (which describe a scene or play a video when selected); and a 360 degree view of offices and homes of some of the characters.
Communication - Update case files (show episodes) via the net, go to the official X- Files web site, utilize the Help and FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) files or set the preferences to automatically update the case files.
History - This shows a list of what case files, videos, stills have been viewed for a quick review with a click of the mouse button - BUT only after they have been viewed.
Help - Explains each of the functions of the program
The bottom row of symbols are used only when a character or case file is selected. When this is done, one of the symbols "lights up" in red to show what is in the main window, such as a case file, dossier of the character, video, audio, etc. I found these buttons to be redundant. If I could have clicked on the video symbol to select a certain video to view, etc., it would have been much better.
I decided to try this whole thing out, went to the Surveillance selection, selected Mulder, then clicked on a padlock symbol, which brought up a collection of photos. I selected "Amaru Remains." A filing cabinet symbol appeared and I clicked on that. Up came a description of the "case file" (name of the episode) and information related to it. There were hot links (underlined in red or yellow) throughout the text. Clicking on a character name brought up their dossier, clicking on an item brought up either an explanation of that object, a photo or video clip, but I didn't know which it was until I selected it. The yellow highlighted words brought up a glossary explanation of the word(s), which relate to real things, not fiction made up for the show. I found this to be interesting and informative and sometimes pretty scary.
One annoying thing was that once a word was underlined, it was underlined for the entire text. I felt this was overdoing it a bit. At first, I thought there was more information if I clicked on the word "Scully" the second time I saw it underlined, but it brought up the same dossier info I had just read. Underlining something once would have been enough.
It was also very annoying when I clicked on a word and a new window popped up, but didn't automatically overlap the existing Surveillance window or go to the side of it. I had to manually select and move the new window so I could view my selection. This was particularly a problem if I clicked on something that turned out to be a video - videos start automatically. The one I selected was almost over by the time I found it hidden under another window and moved it. And the new selected window never popped up in the same place every time. This was definitely poor software programming and very frustrating.
Once I did get used to the buttons, links and symbols, I was able to whiz through the case files and read up on things I didn't even know about. I caught up with episodes I'd missed and learned a bit more about the various characters.
As an X-Files fan, I found Unrestricted Access a must, especially when it fully explained some of the episodes that were confusing to me. If I were a non X-Files fan, I just might still find it interesting, especially the glossary tidbits and various cases (plots). It would probably make a fan out of someone who is not one already, but this is geared more towards a fan.
MINIMUM SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS
90 MHZ Pentium or compatible (I'd recommend at least 200 MHZ)
16MB RAM (I'd recommend at least 32MB)
4X CD ROM drive (I'd recommend at least a 10X Drive)
75 MB free hard drive space (100 MB is recommended)
Windows 95 compatible graphics card with minimum of 640-800 resolution/16-bit color
MS Internet Explorer (included)
Quicktime for Windows (included, but go to Quicktime's site at for the latest version)
Internet connection is optional but recommended
Cost: $34.98 retail, available at computer stores everywhere
J.A. Hitchcock is a regular contributor to Compute Me. Visit her web site at jahitchcock.com.