Want more information about office equipment? The many guides listed below can help.

If you want to delve deeper into research about office equipment or would like technical specifications and recommendations about specific brands, there are plenty of places to go. Some resources are expensive; for these we suggest you ask for a brochure or sample to determine whether they are useful enough to justify their cost.

Guides & newsletters
A number of companies offer a wide range of information services, primarily guides and newsletters that tell you just about everything you could possibly want to know about an office product. These publications usually include product ratings or recommendations of some sort, which are often compiled by in-house testing labs or through user surveys. Because they accept no advertising, the publications generally can be counted on to give objective evaluations. Offerings from some of the most helpful companies follow. Though many are comprehensive and costly, it is possible to save money by asking for semiannual subscriptions or for smaller, tailor-made packages.

What to Buy for Business Inc. This series of guides, titled What to Buy for Business, covers computers, printers, copiers, fax machines, and phone systems, plus personal word processors, postage meters, and typewriters. Each guide is updated at least once annually, and there are occasional special reports. The guides include articles about specific pieces of equipment and list features, prices, and opinions about what to buy. They are very readable and have clear, concise charts. The company also offers limited telephone advice to subscribers. An annual subscription to the series (10 issues) costs $95. Single issues covering a particular technology are $21. Call (800) 247-2185 (Rye, N.Y.).

Buyer's Laboratory Inc. This group tests extensively a range of equipment for reliability and makes recommendations based on its findings. An annual subscription brings you past and upcoming test reports on copiers, faxes, and printers, as well as postage meters, typewriters, and paper shredders. Also included are pocket-size specification guides for copiers, faxes, and printers. It's all quite comprehensive but may be more than a small business needs, and at $615 a year is pricey. More focused packages can be arranged; information on just copiers, for example, costs $365. Call (201) 488-0404 (Hackensack, N.J.).

The Office Products Analyst This company publishes "The Office Products Analyst," a monthly newsletter covering copiers, faxes, microcomputers, printers, and typewriters. A month's issue presents a market overview of one technology (say, faxes); the subsequent issue then gives results of a user survey on products in that category. Products are rated in such areas as reliability, price/performance, and service support. The ratings are clearly presented in table form, but no recommendations are made. An annual subscription costs $195. Single copies are available for $40. Call (716) 232-5320 (Rochester, N.Y.).

Info-Market Inc. This company publishes thick guides on copiers, faxes, telecommunications equipment, and typewriters that list all the products carried by manufacturers. The guides are a good place to obtain the specs and list prices of machines, so you can compare them. The information is given strictly in directory form, however; no ratings or recommendations are given. For $65 a year you get two guides and two updates in each product category. Call (800) 866-5206 (Rochester, N.Y.).

Datapro Information Services Inc. A division of McGraw-Hill, this business publishes heaps of information on copiers, faxes, communications systems, and microcomputers. The company evaluates machines and rates their features, but it gives no recommendations. Subscriptions depend on which combination of publications you choose, all of which are extensive and expensive. One package that covers copiers and faxes costs $595 a year; it includes newsletters on the two industries, monthly updates on product offerings, and telephone access to consultants. Without the updates it costs $525. Call (800) 328-2776 (Delran, N.J.).

Perceptual Evaluations Ltd. This company publishes "Hanson's Guidelines," a newsletter that reports in-depth on the copier industry. It presents everything from guidelines on choosing a copier to dense charts of technical information. There are also user ratings, but no recommendations. Published three times a year, the newsletter costs $120; a single issue goes for $45. Call (516) 941-9472 (Setauket, N.Y.).

T he Cobb Group This concern publishes 26 newsletters on software. Each covers a major line of business software, such as Lotus 1-2-3 or WordPerfect. The monthly newsletters cost from $39 to $59 a year and provide advice on how best to use each product line. Call (502) 491-1900 (Louisville).

Books & Magazines

The aforementioned guides and newsletters offer the most comprehensive and thorough information, but most are costly. If you want to start with a simple overview or bone up on a particular technology before you begin purchasing, a variety of useful books and magazines cost less.

Two comprehensive books cover personal computers. The Personal Computer Book by Peter McWilliams (Prelude Press) is a clear and entertaining book on all aspects of computer use. For Apple users, try The Apple-Macintosh Book by Cary Lu (Microsoft Press), which is oriented toward professional and business users. The fourth edition is due out in November.

For general information on office products there are several magazines, the oldest being The Office, published in Stamford, Conn. It discusses applications of office equipment and how best to use various products, as does Office Systems '91, in Georgetown, Conn. Two other magazines -- Modern Office Technology, in Cleveland, and Today's Office, in Garden City, N.Y. -- explore how to manage office technology and use it more efficiently. Don't expect ratings, however. For businesses with only one or two people, there is Home Office Computing, in New York City. It supplies reviews and ratings of software, faxes, and other equipment geared to sole proprietorships and partnerships.

To cover computers, Bedford Communications Inc., in New York City, publishes the Computer Buyers Guide and Handbook. The monthly publication is available at newsstands. Bedford also publishes special guides once or twice a year on faxes, printers, and other products. At $4.95 each, they contain reviews and suggest "best buys." You can order by calling (800) 435-0715.

For IBM computers and compatibles, the best publication is probably PC Magazine (San Francisco), which crams technical and applications information into each monthly issue. For Apple systems, there are MacUser (Boulder, Colo.) and MacWorld (San Francisco), the first being a little more oriented to business users. These magazines do publish reviews and sometimes ratings that are reliable.

For telephone systems, try Teleconnect, published in New York City, which provides a monthly look at the telecommunications industry. It includes product reviews and ratings, and articles about office communications systems.

Trade Associations

While trade groups are of most use to the industry people they represent, a few are helpful to end-users as well.

National Office Machine Dealer's Association This group's annual trade show, in July, is a great place to see and try out the latest in office equipment. The association is based in Kansas City, Mo. Call (816) 941-3100.

Society of Telecommunications Consultants This society is made up of experienced consultants who have embraced a specific code of ethics. That may be reassuring. Call the society, in Boca Raton, Fla., to get a list of members in your area who could advise you on telephone systems (for a fee) at (800) 782-7670.

American Association of Equipment Lessors This association, in Arlington, Va., can provide information on the virtues of leasing. For $2 you can obtain the booklet Equipment Leasing Is Good Business. Call (703) 527-8655.