Forget all the product introductions at Macworld Expo. Akif Eyler of Turkey has made my summer. Akif recently put the finishing touches on a program called Easy View 2.1 that can, among other things, facilitate the reading of setext files. So yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus, and he has just brought a viewer for TidBITS! I uploaded Easy View to America Online (Hardware and Utilities libraries), ZiffNet/Mac (ZMC:DOWNTECH #0), CompuServe (MACSYS #6), and the Internet at sumex-aim.stanford.edu and its numerous mirror sites.
Easy View operates on a slightly different principle than you might expect from a text viewer. It cannot modify the original files, and it doesn't import text into its own files. Instead it builds an index to the contents of files in a specific folder, allowing you to read them and search for text within them without ever opening those files manually. I find this particularly useful because I keep all the TidBITS text files in their original states since I occasionally need them that way. In addition, the index file is tiny - the index for 35 issues since the start of the year is 14K. If you wonder how this method works with compression software, Easy View is compatible with Salient's AutoDoubler, and probably with Alysis's More Disk Space and Aladdin's forthcoming SpaceSaver, although I haven't tested with the latter two.
To start using Easy View, you'll need some issues of TidBITS to index. If you don't have as many of the back issues as you would like, you can download them from your favorite site, either now or very soon. I've uploaded to CompuServe (MACCLUB #8), ZiffNet/Mac (ZMC:DOWNTECH #7), America Online (look for a new TidBITS library in the Hardware forum coming soon!), and the Internet (sumex-aim.stanford.edu in the /info-mac/digest/tb directory). As usual, we encourage you to redistribute these back issues to friends, relatives, and BBSs.
In any event, once you have all the back issues defunked, put them in the TidBITS folder that comes with Easy View. The folder can live anywhere, but the index file to those issues must be in that same folder with the original files. Easy View includes an empty index file in the TidBITS folder, so go ahead and double-click on that to start up Easy View. (Of course, as always, I recommend that you first double-click on the "Easy View - Read Me" file for more information on Easy View.) Once you have that TidBITS index file open, select Modify... from the File menu. The Modify... dialog is a bit like the Font/DA Mover, and you can move files from the left hand list to be indexed into the right hand list. If you want to remove a file from the index, select it in the right hand list and move it back to the left side, where it will become available for indexing again.
That's about it for getting started with Easy View, but Akif has built in numerous neat features that will make reading TidBITS easier. The generic Easy View screen shows four panes, three small list panes above and one large text pane below. The left list pane lists the issues in the index, the middle list pane shows the articles in the current issue, and the right pane shows the file's name, size, and modification date. You can modify the size and appearance of the panes and their contents with the Preferences... option under the File menu (that's why the included TidBITS index file may not match what I'm saying here exactly), and of course you can size the window as you wish. Easy View knows about multiple monitors, so zooming to a small second screen works fine. I wish more programs were so considerate of us double-monitor freaks.
You can use the mouse to move around in Easy View, and for those of you who prefer the keyboard, you never have to take your hands off of it. I'll let you find the keyboard equivalents for navigating in the documentation, but suffice it to say that I think everyone should be pleased.
Other than reading TidBITS I suspect that you will want to search for terms or phrases on occasion. Easy View will not let you down. You can search forward only, but you can have Easy View find the current selection or add it to the Find dialog box, and once it's there you can do a simple Find (or Find Next) or extract the found items (either as a line of context or as entire articles) to a text file (which can then be indexed as well, if you wish). Aside from the search direction limitation and the fact that Easy View's Find is case sensitive, my main request for some future version would be the addition of an easy-to-use grep feature. But that's unnecessary at this point.
Preferences abound. You can optionally have Easy View remember window positions, remember index positions (where you were last time you opened the index), show file information, keep a private search string for each file, automatically save the file when modified, and automatically modify the index whenever files are added or removed from the index's folder. I suspect you will find this last feature rather handy because you can just drop a TidBITS issue in the right folder, and next time you start up Easy View, it will add that issue to the index without any intervention on your part.
One important note: Easy View knows about more than just TidBITS. It can index files in six different formats: plain, simple, setext, digest, dictionary, and starred. Make sure that your preferences are set for setext if you plan on indexing TidBITS files, but if you anticipate indexing Info-Mac digests, for instance, you would have to change the format pop-up to Digest. If your format is set incorrectly, the file will not look right in the index, but it's easy to remove, and add again. You have this choice in the Modify... dialog as well, so you shouldn't have trouble remembering.
Akif has made it clear that Easy View is a work in progress, and like all programs it has room for improvement. Nonetheless, I think Akif has done an incredible job and deserves accolades for his past and future efforts. Easy View is free, so all I can suggest is that you send Akif email telling him what you think about Easy View. He appreciates constructive criticism, and I'm sure he doesn't mind hearing how much you like the program either. Thanks, Akif, for a job amazingly well-done!
Akif Eyler -- eyler@trbilun.BITNET