As with the paper in the children's game, Scissors, Paper, Rock, Farallon hopes to cover all the formats with its new DiskPaper product. Basically, DiskPaper is an intelligent "print to disk" utility. In the past, printing to disk meant saving an ASCII file on the disk instead of sending it to the printer. Unfortunately, the ASCII we all know and love lacks a lot in terms of bells and whistles, and graphics don't have a chance. With DiskPaper you have no limits on what is printed, from 24-bit graphics to styled text. Once the document is on disk, you can view it with the royalty-free DiskPaper Viewer or you can embed the viewing code within the file for ease of distribution to other users.
Either way, the entire document is available with no losses during the transmission. By that I mean that even if you are transferring a document that used a strange font and a color graphic, someone using a plain Mac Plus will be able to view that document completely. The image will be present and dithered to make up for the lack of color, and the font will be displayed in all its glory whether or not it is currently installed. As an added bonus (this is Farallon, remember), you can add a voice note to the document, describing it or making some other comment. Voice requires one of Farallon's recording products or one of the Apple sound digitizers now present in the Mac LC and IIsi.
Wait, there's more. The most irritating thing about some view-only documents is just that - you can't get anything out of it. DiskPaper is different in that you can copy and paste any text or graphic (it sports a full palette of tools) into another application without losing any formatting information (though I suppose you would lose specific font information if the font wasn't installed in your system). It doesn't appear from Farallon's propaganda that you can completely save the entire document out of the DiskPaper shell back into its native format. If DiskPaper could do that it would be truly neat because then you could distribute everything in DiskPaper format and the recipients could either just view the document or save a copy and edit it without going through a complicated copy/paste routine.
For longer documents, DiskPaper provides a Find function to search for text strings (we suspect, but do not know, that the Find File desk accessories like GOfer and On Location and Locate DA will be able to search within DiskPaper documents as well). If you don't want certain people prying around in your documents, you can encrypt them and restrict certain activities such as copy/paste and printing. Password protection rounds out the security features. Oh, DiskPaper can of course print out a copy of the document you are viewing just as though it had been printed from the original application. We'd like to know if it can replicate the features provided by Aldus Prep for PageMaker documents, such as being able to print with .25" of the edge of the paper.
Looking at DiskPaper from our point of view as editors of an electronic journal that strives towards the archiving of information online, the main feature we would like to see is archiving support. Most of the tools are already in place, the re-usability of text and graphics, the Find feature, the ability to print the document, etc. What Farallon needs to do is to build a small archiving application to manage the DiskPaper documents on a volume. It wouldn't have to be fancy at first, but features like a list of filenames (and any associated comments!) and the ability to search within all or a subset of files would be a good start. Of course such an application would be good for electronic-only documents like TidBITS, but also for desktop publishers who want to store old files without keeping copies of the old applications around (try opening a PageMaker 2.0 document in PageMaker 4.0 - it just doesn't work unless you convert the 2.0 document into 3.0 format first and all you really wanted was a copy of that graphic on page 3) and anyone else who wanted to keep an archive of work online where it could be re-used. If anyone from Farallon wants to talk about this, feel free to contact us.
Farallon -- 415/596-9303 -- 415/596-9312
Adam C. Engst -- TidBITS Editor
MacWEEK -- 16-Oct-90, Vol. 4, #35, pg. 6
InfoWorld -- 15-Oct-90, Vol. 12, #42, pg. 44