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Software diversions for a rainy day.

You don’t need an umbrella to use a computer, and April showers are a good excuse to stay indoors. But let’s face it: If you have to play another game of Minesweeper, you’ll put your fist through the monitor. It’s time to find more meaningful, productive things to do, before Rainy Day Boredom drives you mad.

Don’t worry, Broderbund’s new version of Family Tree Maker 10 Deluxe will keep you busy. While other genealogy software may depend on online searches, Tree Maker comes with 10 CDs that have 1,100 years of data, including 19 million passenger and immigration records. You could practically trace your lineage back to the Renaissance and design a family tree or scrapbook to show it. It requires Win 98 or higher and costs $69.99, which includes one month free access to resources at

Rand McNally’s StreetFinder and TripMaker Deluxe is everything you need to plan an upcoming vacation. TripMaker features a 5 CD set with street maps for nearly the entire United States, not to mention one million business listings to help make reservations and itineraries. It will even take road construction and traffic into consideration; after finding the quickest route, you can import the maps into your handheld. This software requires Windows 95 or higher, costs $39.99, and is compatible with all GPS devices.

You can still explore the universe on a rainy night: Space software introduces Starry Night Backyard v4.x. The program lets you travel through 15,000 years of time and 20,000 light-years from Earth in any direction. It features 90 minutes of amazing video simulations and some of the coolest pictures of nebulae, far-away galaxies and 2.5 million stars, all in excellent OpenGL graphics. Starry Night also offers downloadable updates that track comets and asteroids, and updates on that fix software bugs. It runs $79.95 and requires Win 98 or higher.

Charanga Software recently released Intermediate Guitar Coach, an encore to its beginner’s program which won the UK Millennial Product Award in 1999. For those of us who learned to play simple chords but are far from rockstar-status, Intermediate Guitar Coach offers hours of instruction in styles, solos and accompanying. You can also learn to play your favorite songs from the Beatles to Radiohead, or get help searching for tablature on the Net. It requires Win 98 or higher, and a sample lesson is available for download if you’re unsure about spending the $49.95.

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