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In this issue, we report on a new version of RealAudio and an MPEG extension for QuickTime 2.5. We also welcome a new sponsor and go in depth with a review and comparison of Eudora Pro and Eudora Light. Adam follows up on last week's article about soft-power Macs, and Matt Neuburg rounds out the issue with a thoughtful essay about the state of automation on today's Macs, complete with a comparison of macro programs we've reviewed over the past several issues.
Copyright 1996 TidBITS Electronic Publishing. All rights reserved.
Information: <email@example.com> Comments: <firstname.lastname@example.org>
This issue of TidBITS sponsored in part by:
Aladdin Systems -- 408/761-6200 -- <http://www.aladdinsys.com/>
Makers of StuffIt Deluxe 4.0, the Mac compression standard, and
InstallerMaker 3.1.1, the leading installer for Mac developers.
A Woof of Welcome -- We'd like to welcome our newest sponsor, Small Dog Electronics. Those of you who used to read DealBITS will remember Small Dog for its frequent deals on an eclectic mix of new and refurbished hardware and software. DealBITS and Small Dog were a good match: readers could take advantage of low prices and Small Dog could publicize deals to a large audience. Given that we enjoyed working with the company and that favorable reports from Small Dog customers far outweighed complaints, we think Small Dog and TidBITS will also be a good match. Small Dog recently put its Web site online, and along with a home page that features current special deals, the site lists products for sale ranging from Performas and Power Macs to printers and monitors. The site's FAQ page explains what constitutes a "refurbished" piece of equipment and (naturally) shows off photos of their small dogs. [TJE]
Small Dog Electronics -- 802/496-7171-- 802/496-6257
RealAudio 3.0 -- Progressive Networks has released Real Audio Player and Real Audio Player Plus 3.0. The RealAudio Player is free for individual use, and provides improved audio quality and stereo streamed audio over 28.8 Kbps modems, while the $30 commercial Player Plus features improved playback via buffering (even on slow or flaky connections) and a "record" mode for offline listening. The free Real Audio Player is about 1 MB and requires a 68040 or better processor; Player Plus requires a Power Mac. [GD]
Beta MPEG for QuickTime 2.5 -- Back in TidBITS-338 we noted that software-only MPEG support wasn't included in QuickTime 2.5, but Apple has released a beta extension to QuickTime that provides software-only MPEG support on Power Macs. The extension provides a separate track for MPEG I streams, and though you can't save MPEG tracks, you can play MPEG video in a Web browser using QuickTime plug-ins. [GD]
by Adam C. Engst <email@example.com>
My story in TidBITS-356 about problems with soft-power Macs restarting after power failures resulted in tons of messages, and what seemed like a clear-cut issue clouded over fast. Here's the deal as I understand it now.
There are two control panels from Apple that offer settings for restarting a soft-power Mac after a power failure: Auto Power On/Off and Energy Saver 2.0 (not Energy Saver 1.0 or CPU Energy Saver).
Energy Saver 2.0 works with all PCI Power Macs (and possibly some late-model NuBus Power Macs). Auto Power On/Off works with most soft-power 68K Macs since the IIsi (those that have the "Cuda" ADB controller chip), and all soft-power NuBus Power Macs. It might also work with PCI Power Macs, but has been superseded by Energy Saver 2.0. Apple has a Tech Info Library posting that lists the compatibility possibilities for all Macs.
What's more, although it seems Energy Saver 2.0 is always installed on PCI Power Macs, Auto Power On/Off is not always installed on older Macs that could use it (especially various Performa models) to avoid butting heads with the MegaPhone software that lets some Performas work as an answering machine. It's not clear when Auto Power On/Off first appeared - it's in System 7.5, and we received reports it was also in System 7 Pro. Even weirder, it appears Power Computing doesn't include Energy Saver 2.0 on their System Software CDs - you must get it from an Apple CD.
Dave Warker <firstname.lastname@example.org> offers an alternate solution:
Apple recently released a short tech note covering Server Power mode. It seemed like just the thing for our FirstClass BBS, so I wrote a small extension called ServerPower that turns on this mode if it's available on that particular Mac model. It works fine on the IIvx and on my Power Mac 7500, but doesn't work on my aging IIfx.
Joe Bruni <email@example.com> provides some history:
I read your article and had to laugh. The first Mac with the programmable auto restart feature was the IIsi. In the IIsi developer notes, there was much hoopla about a future control panel that would let you set a time when the machine could turn itself on. This time was programmed into the PRAM along with a bit so a IIsi used as a server could automatically restart after a power failure. However, System 6.0.7 never had such a control panel (although after I wrote to Apple DTS about the note, they sent me code that did it). Eventually, Apple released Auto Power On/Off and Energy Saver with these features.
The developer note discussed why this was done. During the IIsi's development, Apple started to create hybrid chips folding the functionality of multiple chips into one. One of these was the Egret chip, which contained the PRAM, the battery powered clock, and the soft-power switch. Some enterprising engineer must have thought, "Hey, by putting the clock and the soft-power into the same chip, the Mac could switch itself on." It then took five years for the system software people to catch on. Most, if not all, of the soft-power Macs use this Egret chip (or a derivative of it) and are capable of both a time-controlled start up and the software-controlled restart after a power failure.
by Matt Neuburg <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Amid the frantic innovation, premature releases, and scrambling for profits spawned by today's Internet software market, it's remarkable that any software can be sufficiently solid, fundamental, and established to be a classic, let alone a necessity, and even more remarkable that it should be given away for free. Yet the original Internet spirit endures, and of the many such programs, Eudora is certainly one.
Eudora, as if the typical TidBITS reader wouldn't know, is the great freeware email client. The brainchild of Steve Dorner, originally with the University of Illinois, Eudora (named for the great American writer Eudora Welty, who is still alive at nearly 90 years of age) was originally released in 1990. It rapidly freed Internet users from the drudgeries and intricacies of doing email via Telnet off a mainframe, and similar horrors.
By 1993, the program had been taken over by Qualcomm - a San Diego-based corporation into things like cellular phones and satellite communications - and was being sold commercially as Eudora Pro. Yet, with characteristic generosity, a freeware version, Eudora Light, continues to be given away.
For some time, the Pro and Light versions have been out of synch. Eudora Pro 3.0 came out in July; the Light version is still back at 1.5.5. But Qualcomm has been developing Eudora Pro 3.0.1 and Eudora Light 3.0.1 together (a sensible procedure), with release expected any time now.
While 3.0.1 has been under development, users not content with the earlier Light version and unwilling to buy Eudora Pro for about $60 could still sneak a peak by downloading a free demo of Eudora Pro or free public betas of both the upcoming Pro and Light versions. Once Eudora 3.0.1 goes final, you can expect to see a 3.1 public beta.
I've used the freeware version almost as long as I've been using the Internet, and I started using Pro 3.0 a month or two ago. For this article, I compared it with a late beta of Eudora Light 3.0.1.
The Pro Circuit -- Users accustomed to Eudora Light 1.5.5 or earlier will notice many new features in 3.0. One is controversial (to me at least): styled text in the message body. This works like HTML, using markup expressions such as "<italic>text</italic>" to carry formatting information across the Internet. My feeling is: why? Not every email program is even MIME-savvy, and quoted-printable characters often wreak havoc with text (putting "=20" after every line and so on); now here's one more non-universal "standard" to confuse things.
Other new (and indisputably welcome) features include the following: Apple's TextEdit has been abandoned for a new text engine by Pete Resnick which breaks the 32K barrier, so Info-Mac Digests (and TidBITS issues!) are no longer split into multiple messages. There's drag & drop of everything to everywhere, including attachments which now show up as draggable, double-clickable icons in the message they arrived with. Mailboxes can optionally store meta-information in their resource forks, eliminating the need for "TOC" files. There are Filters, which quickly examine batches of messages (such as all those just received) and take actions on them (like transferring to a particular mailbox) if they meet specified criteria. The Find dialog is much improved, and so is the Nicknames dialog (now called the Address Book). The program has many other excellent new interface tweaks and conveniences; I'm sorry if, for space reasons, I've omitted someone's favorite.
Light Shaft -- What's missing from Eudora Light 3.0.1, as against Eudora Pro, are the sorts of extras that primarily corporate users would miss. Based on the current beta (and the feature set could change), Eudora Light users get no toolbar (relax, I never use it); no message labels; no "Word Services" (to drive certain applications like the Spellswell spell-checker); no FCCing (copying outgoing replies to a mailbox); no option for automatic nickname expansion prior to sending (but you can still do it on demand with a menu item); no ability to open a mailbox not located in the Eudora Folder; no "stationery" files (templates for outgoing boilerplate messages); no additional signatures beyond a Main and an Alternate; a narrower range of Filter actions; and no ability to generate styled text (though you can read it in a received message).
Also, only Pro users get Mail Transfer Options, meaning essentially the ability to send custom instructions about individual messages to the server. For instance, suppose you check your mail on the same server from both work and home: at work, you can examine new messages, and then delete from the server only those appropriate to work, so that when you get home you'll be downloading only those appropriate to home. This feature alone might tip the balance in favor of Pro for many users.
Into the Rough -- A few things do trouble me about Eudora. One, admittedly minor and a matter of personal taste, is the interface's use of hidden features. For instance, to force compaction of a mailbox (it normally happens automatically when certain conditions are met), you must know to Command-click the lower-left corner of the window - there is no equivalent menu item. To open the mailbox containing the message you're reading, you double-click its title bar (why not Command-click as in the Finder?). To create a new message from the Address Book without switching to it, hold Shift as you press the To button. Many important actions show up only if you hold a modifier key before clicking in the menubar. I recognize that there's bound to be a design problem with such a feature-packed program, and the excellent Balloon Help and online text help are informative about some such things; but the result is a host of features many users will never discover, and others (like me!) may have trouble remembering.
Other gripes: though Eudora can be scripted to perform a number of useful tasks, it is insufficiently scriptable. Only a small subset of its functions can be driven through AppleScript or Frontier, and little or no documentation is available for many of its internal settings. The available Filter actions are insufficient; for instance, there's no option to save a criteria-matching message as a text file. And there's some sort of strange conflict on my computer where if Eudora is open in the background while some other application, such as Netscape or Fetch, is connected to the Internet, Eudora will eventually crash; this bug has been consistently present in every version I've tried.
The Trophy -- Still, I like Eudora far, far more than any other email program I've used. Its basic interface metaphor of mailboxes as windows showing each message as a double-clickable line of information, and each opened message as a window of its own, has never been improved upon. Its basic message-handling capabilities, the way it deals with replying, forwarding, redirecting, and trying to re-send a bounced message, are superb.
No matter which version of Eudora you choose, if you get your email from a POP server and send it with an SMTP server (like most Internet users with a dedicated or dial-up connection), Eudora is the way to go, and if you aren't using Eudora, it's so good that POP server capabilities are worth begging your system administrator for. It's clean, simple, intuitive, powerful, thorough (far beyond my ability to describe here), fast, and fun.
And "fun" doesn't just mean delightful and satisfying; a cheeky sense of humor lurks in Eudora. The checkbox to turn on the 3D-style version of the interface is labelled, "Waste cycles drawing trendy 3D junk." Shift-Option-Command-D, which deletes a message directly instead of just putting it into the Trash mailbox, is called "Nuke." The icon to toggle display of full message headers says "Blah blah blah," and the icon to for uuencoding an attachment's data fork says "Ick." Yes indeed, the original Internet spirit lives on in Eudora.
DealBITS -- Cyberian Outpost has a deal on Eudora Pro for $56.95 ($4 off) for TidBITS readers through this URL:
by Matt Neuburg <email@example.com>
TidBITS not long ago discussed three macro programs: QuicKeys (beginning in TidBITS-347), OneClick (in TidBITS-350), and KeyQuencer (in TidBITS-351.) Consideration of these has led me to some reflections on the state of the Mac. In the best of all possible worlds, I think, we wouldn't need macro programs at all: the Mac would be easily scriptable without them. Until then, macro programs offer much-needed relief.
The Prison and the Promise -- Here's the problem: our software still rules us instead of the other way round. My Mac, full of "Grand Unified Applications" that compel me to adjust my work habits to their structures and my needs to their feature sets, sometimes feels more like a lair of corporate priests than a liberation of my individuality. The Mac has fallen short of the promise of Apple's famed "1984" commercial: despite the supposedly user-driven event loop, we remain prisoners of modalities and restricted choices.
One escape would be to write your own applications, but that would involve unnecessary reinventing of the wheel. (I do think the Mac ought to be much easier to program, but that's another story.) For most operations, programs you already own can probably perform all the needed tasks - if only they better understood your needs, or you could combine them as desired.
For example, a dozen times a day, after some Find-and-Replace operation with Nisus Writer, I press Command-S and nothing happens. Why? I'm watching the document, but the Find/Replace window is frontmost, and in Nisus Writer that disables the Save command. Now, wouldn't you think that after a while, the computer would get the idea? "Say, Matt, I notice you keep hitting Command-S with the Find/Replace window frontmost. I've been wondering - are you doing that because you'd like me to save?" Alas, the computer probably won't talk (or think) this way any time soon. So, if a program doesn't work as you want, you should be able to customize it.
[The closest attempt to this sort of agent technology is the shareware Open Sesame from Charles River Analytics, but in my testing in the past it never made any useful suggestions. If you're interested in programming by demonstration, check out Allen Cypher's Eager demos. -Adam]
Mapping the Mess -- The ability to customize programs is not built into the Mac. Rather, each program's developers must write it in such a way that its functions are exposed to public control. Loosely speaking, this makes the program "scriptable."
But no standard for customizability has taken hold. In the Mac's early days, Apple lobbied developers to accept uniformity by voluntary convention: make windows look like this, make menus work like this, make dialogs work like this. They succeeded so well that Apple's Human Interface Guidelines significantly informed the look and feel of Windows and other graphical interfaces. But Apple did not insist upon scriptability, even after System 7 made it easier.
As a result, developers often don't grasp the importance of scriptability. The MACSCRPT mailing list is a place to watch veteran scripters slapping their virtual foreheads in anguish over developers who don't "get it" - such as when a major developer challenged readers to persuade them the next version of their program should be scriptable. (If you're interested in subscribing to the MACSCRPT list, send email to <firstname.lastname@example.org> with the command "subscribe macscrpt <your full name>" as the body of the message.)
I take it as axiomatic that a computer is meant to be programmed, and so ideally every program should be scriptable. But how and how much you can customize a program's behavior varies immensely. Some programs expose all their functionality, some expose only a fraction, and some expose nothing. Then there's the "platform" from which a user is enabled to command an application: a program may include its own internal scripting language, respond to commands via the Mac's messaging system (Apple events), or a mixture of both. Then there's the degree to which one may detach the program's interface from its functionality; for example, menus or dialogs might be customizable, or a program could perform tasks behind the scenes rather than in a window or in the foreground.
You can probably think of other measures of scriptability. The point is that if we made a scriptability map, existing programs would be scattered all over it. For instance, Microsoft Word 6 exposes all of its functionality through an internal scripting language (and some of it to Apple events as well), lets you customize menus, and even build new interface elements such as custom dialogs and palettes. Nisus Writer 4.1 only exposes some of its functionality through an internal scripting language (and not at all to Apple events), and its interface is only minimally customizable (keyboard shortcuts can be changed). MoviePlayer isn't scriptable. And so on.
Scripting in Tongues -- The Word 6 model of complete scriptability is the exception rather than the rule: scriptability in general is frustratingly incomplete. Nisus Writer won't tell me the font or style of the current selection, and I can't tell Eudora to select message so-and-so without opening it. Word's degree of interface detachability (where I get to decide what each of its menu items does) is even rarer - perhaps Mac OS 8 will make writing this style of application easier, but I'm not holding my breath. There are also internal scripting languages which can't be hooked to other programs at all: it's maddening.
Still, suppose that every internally scriptable program also had an external hook, so scripts written in an internal scripting language could at least be sent from another program. You might think that external scriptability would be better, because every internal scripting language is different (and may not be very good), whereas external scriptability can be based on one language, such as AppleScript. However, many internal scripting languages are superb (like Excel's Visual Basic), and, almost paradoxically, AppleScript-savvy programs can each introduce their own AppleScript syntax, so scripting those programs is still like learning a new language - or even harder because the syntax usually isn't obvious or documented. (How often I've seen letters to the MACSCRPT list from people stumped on how to make Eudora delete the selected message: the magic AppleScript formula 'move message 0 to end of mailbox "Trash"' isn't obvious.) Plus, external scriptability doesn't solve the fundamental problem: you're still at the mercy of any particular program as to how much functionality it chooses to expose.
Macro Management -- Customization should permit you to link a program's existing functions in new ways. It should also allow you to incorporate functions of other programs, combining the strengths of each in a milieu which can sense and respond to the state of each program, draw upon the power of the system as a whole, and support some basic programming using common types of information (such as numbers and text).
Until scriptability is more uniform, a system-level macro program is the best central command post for customization. The downside to system-level macro programs is that, no matter how well-engineered, they have the potential to expose problems and bugs in other programs or system extensions. For instance, if an application has troubles with window management, displaying a palette or a dialog box with a macro program might cause problems - even if the macro program does everything by the book. Nonetheless, a system-level macro program can type, click the mouse button, choose from menus, and generally simulate user actions so as to drive most non-scriptable or partially scriptable applications. It can intervene in normal operations, respond to user actions such as keystroke commands, deal with system information (such as what windows are present, what's on the clipboard, what files are in a folder), and talk back and forth with other scripting environments. Plus, ideally, it has genuine programmability, preferably in some easy but flexible form.
Of the three macro programs we looked at in TidBITS, WestCode's OneClick is the most programmable: its intuitive, elegant language has lots of user-simulating power, system-level functionality, and programming constructs. A comparison with HyperCard is apt because OneClick is more than just a macro program: it's a mini programming environment. The buttons you place on its palettes respond to clicks, display menus, and respond to your choices. Plus, OneClick buttons can accept text files via drag & drop; show or hide themselves; and display icons, textual information, or progress bars.
I currently resort to OneClick whenever the question pops into my mind, "Why can't this program do this?" For instance, Eudora's filters don't include an option to automate saving messages as text files based on their subject or sender: it was easy to write a OneClick button that does so. In Nisus Writer, I always had to peek at several menus to find out the font, size, and styles of the current selection: now, I have a OneClick palette that always displays that information textually. These are things that QuicKeys could never have done for me, so I've been able to dispense with QuicKeys (and other utilities as well).
Still, OneClick requires some compromises. Like other system-level macro programs, it operates at a low level and can come to loggerheads with some applications and extensions, at least on my machine. It's also somewhat in its infancy; that's great if you want to participate in the excitement of its evolution or invest time in developing your own tools, but right now it may not have the pre-made functionality you want.
KeyQuencer is the best choice for those who want a simple interface and minimal RAM requirements, or who particularly need some of its functions (such as its remote control of other machines, printer selection, cursor animation, and so forth). Binary Software, like WestCode, is very responsive to suggestions, so this is another chance to involve yourself in a program's growth process.
For those who prefer something rather more tried and true - or would rather not learn a text-based language - QuicKeys remains an important option. Its use of dialogs and recording helps the user assemble functionality without feeling like any programming is going on. What's more, QuicKeys has been around and solid for a long time, and has learned to deal with many non-standard system extensions and user interfaces, though support for the product at CE seems to have weakened to a trickle.
The important thing is that you can and should have a macro program so that you, not your computer, are boss. It's great so many options are available now, and you can't go really wrong with any of these programs. They can all drive unscriptable programs, they can all use Apple events to cooperate with scriptable ones, and they're all affordable. Your preference will ultimately be a matter of personal style or need. Treat yourself to one as a holiday present! You can even get more than one and combine them. Whatever you do, take control of your computer: don't let 1997 be like 1984.
DealBITS -- Cyberian Outpost's deal on KeyQuencer for $33.95 ($4 off) is still available from the URL below. Note that this page doesn't explicitly say it's a deal, but it is.
Also, WestCode Software has set up a deal on OneClick for TidBITS readers. You can purchase it for $59.98 ($10 off regular WestCode pricing) through the URL below:
Non-profit, non-commercial publications and Web sites may reprint or link to articles if full credit is given. Others please contact us. We do not guarantee accuracy of articles. Caveat lector. Publication, product, and company names may be registered trademarks of their companies. TidBITS ISSN 1090-7017.
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