How's an office to keep up? Today there are an estimated 70,000 commercially available PC, minicomputer, and mainframe software programs on the market, the majority of them far more complex than the software of even five years ago.

For overburdened management-information-systems departments and purchasing agents, the solution may be SoftSearch, a service of Synergy Computer Consulting, in Vancouver, British Columbia. Given $125 and four days to prepare a customized report, SoftSearch will compile all available references pertaining to a given software title, including articles, reviews, and a demo copy (if available).

SoftSearch will also tap its extensive software database to find commercial programs that fit particular criteria -- for example, Windows software that monitors inventory, advising what to keep and when to reorder. Such information, usually prepared within four hours, costs $2.90 for each program the service finds (with a minimum charge of $50), and is delivered by mail or fax.

Either way, a database search can be initiated through a call to 800-667-6503, a toll-free number serving all of North America. SoftSearch offers volume discounts to office staff members too busy to start digging by themselves and extends a 10% discount on software purchased through its channels.