Just as many of us received our long-awaited upgrades to Norton 2.0, Central Point Software upped the ante with a version 2.0 of its MacTools utility package, adding a number of new and cool features as well as a completely new virus-checking module. In addition, Fifth Generation Systems just announced Public Utilities, and Microcom updated 911 Utilities. Details are scarce on Public Utilities, but it appears that it offers the standard functionality and some of the same automatic checking abilities promised in MacTools 2.0. Reports on CompuServe indicate that there might be some problems remaining in the Complete Undelete file tracking extension of Microcom's 911 Utilities.
As far as I can tell, and based on reports from the nets, Norton Utilities 2.0 has few completely new features. Most of what's new in Norton 2.0 came from SUM II and was cleaned up or rewritten (for example, Norton Partition and Norton Backup). Directory Assistance II looks like a solid and useful SFDialog utility, although without Super Boomerang's ability to search for text in files and to create a hierarchical Open menu, and without ShortCut's integration with StuffIt archives. If you don't use either of those, Directory Assistance will be useful. People on the nets are still leery of SpeedDisk, Norton's optimizer, although no one has reported problems with the current version as they did with version 1.1. One final note, the DiskLight extension which provides an on-screen indication when your disks are reading and writing is still flaky - on my system the hard disk would randomly access for about a minute for no known reason. This problem went away when I shut DiskLight off. On a more serious note, it appears that Norton's FileSaver extension is incompatible with MultiFinder 6.1b9, which comes with MPW under System 6. You may be able to work around the conflict by installing and configuring under Finder only, then switching back to MultiFinder. Just don't try accessing the FileSaver Control Panel under MultiFinder after that.
But enough about Norton, I wanted to say more about MacTools 2.0. From the information Central Point sent me, it looks as though they've thought a bit more about a complete solution. They added an anti-virus program that combines scanning, cleaning, and prevention, and set it up so that it can be updated with new virus signature files automatically on a network. With viruses though, prevention and quick reactions are key, and Central Point has added a checksumming feature to its Anti-Virus Control Panel. If new viruses appear, help and new files will be available in a multitude of ways. For those who just want to check, Central Point has a 24-hour virus hotline at 503/690-2660 with the latest information on viruses.
Central Point also enhanced its Backup program. Backup can now create Finder-readable backups as well as compressed backups and supports more backup devices, including DAT drives. To make sure your backups are clean, Backup has integrated virus scanning capabilities. Some high-end features reminiscent of Retrospect now appear in Backup as well, so you can schedule automatic unattended backups and even include multiple sources and destinations. You can also backup drives to a network server, and in addition to the virus signature file updating over a network, the entire package can be configured and installed over a network, easing the administrator's load.
Perhaps the most interesting new feature in MacTools 2.0 is its ability to run unattended, checking constantly or at regular intervals for any sign of damage that might require repair. The DiskFix program can then perform the maintenance automatically, presumably alerting the user later that something has been done. Central Point claims that DiskFix can fix over 100 disk problems. I wonder how it compares to Norton's Disk Doctor in this respect - I've always found Disk Doctor to be somewhat more effective in actually fixing the disk. Another utility, FileFix, can now repair damaged Microsoft Word and Excel files, something which will no doubt be extremely popular if it works as Central Point claims, recovering undamaged data rather than losing the entire file.
Single-user upgrades for MacTools will cost $49 and the suggested list price will be $149. MacTools runs on a Mac Plus or higher with System 6.0.5 or higher, including System 7. Those of you with 1 MB machines may wish to check with Central Point before buying since it appears that MacTools requires 2 MB of RAM, even under System 6.0.5.
No matter which of these utilities you choose, I recommend that you get and use one of them. Even excellent backup habits (which we all have, right?) aren't always enough to save us from a lot of rebuilding work.
Central Point Software -- 800/445-1684
Fifth Generation Systems -- 800/873-4384 -- 504/291-7221
Symantec -- 800/-441-7234 -- 408/253-9600
Central Point propaganda
Wayne Pollock -- firstname.lastname@example.org
MacWEEK -- 04-May-92, Vol. 6, #18, pg. 4