The browser of choice for TidBITS has long been Easy View, Akif Eyler's simple setext browser for the Macintosh. That's not about to change any time soon, what with Akif's most recent update, Easy View 2.44, and those who enjoy TidBITS but read it on Windows or Unix systems might appreciate new programs that can browse setext files on those platforms.
Before I get into the new features and fixes in Easy View, consider some of the features it has long had, including the capability to search for a word or phrase and extract all the matching articles to a text file and the capability to decode the styles used in our setext format (including bold, underline, and separate body and headlines styles, all of which are user-definable). I also use Easy View to browse through the 30 MB of saved email that I keep around for occasional (but usually extremely important) reference purposes, since Easy View understands not only setext format, but also Unix mail format, the digest format used by the Info-Mac Digest, and various other less common formats.
Easy View 2.44 is a relatively minor upgrade that Akif recently issued to clear up the nagging bug with using styles in your views, and while he was at it, he added a few additional features that many users will welcome - I certainly have. Foremost among the new features is the added capability to break large sections into 32K chunks. This means that if you save a bunch of text files from the nets into a folder, you can create a view using the Plain format, and Easy View will display all the text of those files, even when a file is larger than 32K. In the past, Easy View simply ignored anything after the first 32K, limiting its utility in working with arbitrarily sized files.
Although this feature has made Easy View far more useful for me when browsing large text files, other people will enjoy the next feature even more. I continually receive questions on how to create setext files, and every time I have to tell people to create them by hand or to use a set of Nisus macros that I've built up. There are other ways, but none that have reached the world at large. Easy View 2.44 can save a view out as a setext file, though, so anything you can get into a view, you can turn into a setext file. You can use any one of a number of formats for doing this, so you could make a setext file from a Eudora mailbox (using the Mail format to view the files and then exporting as setext) or from a folder of text files (using the Plain format before exporting). I used this to merge a folder of several hundred messages I've saved from reading Usenet into a single file - I added all the files to a view, then exported it to a setext file before adding it to another view. Although the end result looked the same as the source view, I saved a lot of room on my hard disk (by turning 184 small files into one big file) and generally made the entire mess easier to work with.
The third big new feature is that you no longer must place text files in the same folder as the view document. Akif managed this feat by using aliases, so you can either use the Include Text command to add any text file anywhere on your hard disk to the view, or, with the target view open, you can drag text files onto Easy View's icon in the Finder to add them. In either case, Easy View creates an alias to the original file in the view's folder, enabling you to retain the organization you want while still viewing everything in Easy View.
Finally, Akif added a way to browse through the last 15 places in the view that you've visited. So if you're bouncing back and forth through several issues of TidBITS, trying to figure something out, Easy View remembers where you've been and lets you get back there with the touch of a key on the keypad (check the documentation for the details).
Akif also modified how several common functions work, so for instance, if you're scrolling through a document and hit the last screen of an article, Easy View now scrolls the text so that bottom line of the previous screen is on the top line of the next one. If you have only two lines in the last screen of text, this means that you can always start reading at the top of the screen and know that you've started where the previous screen left off. Many other programs do this badly and only scroll enough to display those last two lines, which means that you must scan through the entire screen of text looking for those last two lines that you haven't seen yet. I'd like to see more programs operate like this. Easy View now displays a finger cursor over items that you can click on, and if nothing is selected when you choose Copy or Clip, Easy View assumes that you want to work on the entire section.
It's hard for me to say much of anything about the Windows version of Easy View, since I've never seen it running, but it was written by Akif's colleague, David Davenport of Bilkent University. Easy View for Windows is in beta release right now, and David is looking for testers. Needless to say, you need a Windows machine, but if you're interested, send him email at <firstname.lastname@example.org>. Similarly, the Unix setext viewer, called sv in true Unix style, could use comments and testing from those who can compile it on their Unix systems (and if you don't know how to compile something on your Unix machine, don't try to mess with sv for the moment). Contact Akif at <email@example.com> for more information on testing sv.
You can download Easy View 2.44 from the usual spots, including America Online in the Macintosh Hardware New Files library (keyword MHW), ZiffNet/Mac in the ZMC:DOWNTECH #0 library as EASYVW.SIT, CompuServe in the CIS:MACAPP #2 library as EZVIEW.SIT, and on AppleLink in Support -> News & Support Guide -> TidBITS Newsletter (that's where all the issues are too). Easy View 2.44 and the others live on the Internet at:
Or, if you prefer using NCSA Mosaic, try the following URL instead: