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Show Recent Items in Snow Leopard

The Recent Items submenu in the Apple menu is handy, but what if you want to work with a file in there in the Finder, rather than open it? Just press Command when that menu is showing, and all the Applications and Documents change to "Show ... in Finder." This feature is new as of Mac OS X 10.6.3 Snow Leopard.

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MacDraw Pro Speed Comparisons

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I just got my upgrade to MacDraw Pro 1.5 and since lots of people on the nets wondered how fast it was compared to previous versions, I decided to try a few rough and ready benchmarks on the two versions. All tests were run on an LC (original, not II). The tests I tried were:

  • "Cold start" - launch to a new blank document

  • Open four of the sample documents which came with it:

"GeoMosaic" - a fairly simple straight-line geometric
pattern with gradient fills.
"Rossini" - similar to GeoMosaic but with more curves
and slightly more complex gradients.
"Dance of Spheres" - I think this was originally an Escher
print. It certainly looks very familiar. Lots of spheres
hovering over nested, rotated squares and lots of gradients.
"4 Cylinder Engine" - a rather spectacular cutaway of a four
cylinder engine. Definitely the most complex.
  • Scroll "4 Cylinder Engine" one "step" of the scroll bar.

  • Open a new document (command-N).

  • Type in some text. The idea here was not so much to get a time, but to see how well it kept up with my typing.

It appears that 1.5 gains most of its speed increases from its new display options - you can opt for either "best" display of gradient fills, or "fast" display (which appears to mean dithering as far as I can tell). You can also greek imported images, and text below a certain point size. This is basically the same as the "picture placeholders" command in Word, where Word substitutes a solid box for the actual graphic in order to increase scrolling speed.

The default setting for text greeking is six point - anything smaller is drawn as a placeholder, which saves a lot on TrueType rendering. If you've ever used Print Preview in Word 4.0 with TrueType fonts, you'll know how bad it can get.

The test results are below. Times are in seconds, rounded to the nearest half second. The degree of error is plus or minus about one second depending on my reaction time :-).

                           1.0v1       1.5 (fast      1.5 (normal
     Test                              gradients)      gradients)
     Cold start             19.5         17.5              --
     Open GeoMosaic         12.5         14.0             14.5
     Open Rossini           29.5         16.0             30.0
     Open Dance of Spheres  29.5         17.5             30.0
     Open 4-Cyl. Engine     69.0         62.0             72.0
     Scroll 4-Cyl. Engine    6.5          7.5              8.5
     New document            6.5          7.5              --

The most spectacular results seem to be in the moderately complex (i.e. more or less average) documents. Simple documents and highly-complex documents don't seem to be much different than from 1.0. The overall feel does seem slightly faster though. Text entry has improved - I managed to leave 1.0 behind quite easily, whereas 1.5 kept up fairly well.

Other new features: Publish & Subscribe, QuickTime support, Apple Event support (including a HyperCard stack for driving a slide show via Apple Events), Balloon Help, and improved text alignment (which I haven't had a chance to look at yet). Personally, I think Publish & Subscribe is justification enough for upgrading - I've been drooling ever since I heard 1.5 had it.

On the downside, MacDraw Pro 1.5 is still significantly slower than MacDraw II, but I expected that. The program also checks in about 200K larger than 1.0 (which was already 1 MB), but the RAM consumption has not changed. The package comes on only four 800K floppies as opposed to six for 1.0 because half the stuff is compressed, which I consider a good idea. I have enough floppies sitting around already. The Installer was up to its usual mediocre standards - I installed MacDraw Pro on a partition without a System Folder on it, and the Installer went and created a System Folder to put all the extra bits and pieces into, which meant moving some stuff around by hand.

Oh yes, one nit which I almost forgot - MacDraw Pro doesn't seem to understand foreign script systems! I have the Russian script system installed (long story), and if you run Key Caps, all the Russian fonts appear in the Font menu in Cyrillic - very nice. However, both Word 4.0 (surprise) and MacDraw Pro don't do this - the fonts appear as gibberish (characters in the >127 ASCII range). A bit disappointing, given the quality of the interface otherwise.


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