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We publish our last issue of 1996 with announcements of new versions of Home Page, Globetrotter, and Open Transport, plus some good news about Apple and a reminder about the Netter's Dinner at Macworld Expo. Rounding out the issue, we take a detailed look at two heavyweights in today's desktop software arena: Quicken 7 and WordPerfect 3.5.2. TidBITS will resume publishing on 06-Jan-97 - see you then!
Copyright 1996 TidBITS Electronic Publishing. All rights reserved.
Information: <firstname.lastname@example.org> Comments: <email@example.com>
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.
Vote for TidBITS! American Journalism Review's NewsLink is conducting a "Best of the Web" poll for online news sites. TidBITS doesn't rely primarily on the Web, considering that our 42,000-person mailing list is our main distribution method, but, sniff, we're not even listed. Luckily, they're taking write-in votes, so if you'd like to help us get a little recognition, just enter our URL - http://www.tidbits.com/ - in the write-in field at the URL below. Thanks! [ACE]
Good News in the Face of Apple's "Death?" Reading this year's reports of Apple's imminent demise seems to have devolved from serious reporting to tabloid headlining ("Gil Amelio Taps Martians for System 8 Secrets!"). Despite the entertainment value, the Macintosh is still strong, especially in education channels. According to a survey by SIMBA Information, the number of educational software developers that chose Macintosh as the platform of choice jumped from 73 percent in 1995 to 86 percent in 1996. Apple's Education Solution Provider currently has about 200 members publishing educational software, compared to Microsoft's 114-member Windows School Connection program.
Other good news includes the shipment of the 26 millionth Macintosh (up one million since last August), bringing Apple's estimate of Mac users worldwide to more than 60 million (due to machines shared by several users). Also, for the fourth time in a row, PC World readers voted Macs as number one in reliability, and Apple's phone support as having the shortest hold time of any PC vendor. [JLC]
Open Transport 1.1.2 -- Apple has released Open Transport 1.1.2, which should provide better reliability over modem connections and some performance improvements that will be especially welcome to Mac webmasters. OT 1.1.2 must be installed over OT 1.1 or 1.1.1, except for the Performa and Power Mac 52xx, 53xx, 62xx, and 63xx series, which can install OT 1.1.2 directly (see the OT 1.1.2 ReadMe and notes for further details). OT 1.1.2 is available as a set of four disk images or as a Net Install, although the "OT Extras" set (included in the Net Install) is bloated by the inclusion of Acrobat Reader, making the download between 3 and 10 MB, depending which files you decide to get. OT/PPP 1.0 (see TidBITS-354) is not included with OT 1.1.2; you must download that separately. [GD]
Netter's Dinner -- Those of you who plan to attend the upcoming Macworld Expo in San Francisco may wish to register online for the 11th Annual Netter's Dinner, a traditional geek-fest involving a stroll through the streets of San Francisco and a buffet-style Hunan Chinese feast. This year's dinner will be on Wednesday, January 7th. Registration involves making a $16 payment through Kagi. [TJE]
by Tonya Engst <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Upping the ever-rising ante in the HTML editor game, Claris has shipped Home Page 2.0, and Akimbo recently released Globetrotter 1.1. Home Page 2.0 fills several glaring holes in a PageMill 2.0 to Home Page 1.0 comparison - Home Page now offers variable width table columns, the ability to display background graphics, client-side image maps, a spelling checker, and plug-in support. Pushing ahead from PageMill, Home Page now directly supports remote site publishing, and its cursor conveniently remains in the same location when you switch into HTML mode.
If you know your Home Page 1.0 registration number (U.S. version only), you can download the update from the Claris Web site. The full update is 6.6 MB, but there are also partial updates available for those who don't want bits and pieces like templates and clip art. Home Page has an estimated street price of $99.
Globetrotter takes a unique and more site-oriented approach than the page-oriented Home Page, offering the ability to create one multi-section, printable document which can then be saved as a Web site with each section breaking out as a separate page. Globetrotter 1.1 makes more sophisticated tables and has a number of general improvements. Globetrotter costs $99 from Akimbo and upgrades are free to registered users of 1.0.
by Steve Becker <email@example.com>
Over the last several years, Intuit has provided a major update to Quicken, their personal finance package, on a yearly basis. This year's upgrade includes many refinements, along with some major new features. (For an overview of the basic Quicken feature set, please refer to the detailed review of Quicken 6 in TidBITS-299.)
As with Quicken 6 (Q6), two versions of the program are available: Quicken and Quicken Deluxe. Both versions include account tracking, reports and graphics, and features for tracking investments, budgets, and loans, as well as online banking and bill payment features. In addition, Quicken Deluxe (available only on CD-ROM) features planners for retirement and debt reduction, plus home inventory management, a free 30-day introduction to Investor Insight, and a Mutual Fund Finder database.
At First Glance -- With the first launch of Quicken 7 (Q7), you'll be presented with a radically new user interface. This is in large part a result of Intuit incorporating a runtime version of WestCode's excellent OneClick Shortcut Technology. In place of Q6's horizontal Icon Bar, you'll see a toolbar of large buttons across the top of the screen. A collapsible vertical column at the left displays large icons for five different categories of activities (Intuit calls them activity areas): Banking, Investing, Assets/Debt, Planning, and Reporting. Clicking an activity area icon changes the horizontal toolbar to a set of related buttons. Quicken is supposed to remember the windows you keep open in each activity area, but it sometimes gets confused about which activity area is active.
Though the overall concept is functional and attractive, I find the implementation not fully satisfactory. The toolbars can be turned on and off, but the default size for the buttons is too large and - in this release - not customizable. The amount of screen real estate occupied by these buttons makes it difficult to work with open windows, which can be especially exasperating for people with small monitors or PowerBooks.
In addition to the preassigned buttons on the toolbars, Q7 provides a nice library with several dozen additional buttons, including one that provides a pop-up menu of all open windows. Though buttons can be Option-dragged to new locations, it's frustrating to have their large size restrict the number of buttons that fit on a toolbar. As an aside, even though OneClick doesn't conflict with Quicken, OneClick users should avoid the temptation to use the OneClick Editor to resize toolbar buttons; when you relaunch Quicken the buttons will return to their original size.
Should you tire of your normal desktop pattern, Quicken's preferences now allow you to chose from a list of new backgrounds that appear when the program launches. Also, Quicken's menus have been reorganized, providing for a fairly simple interface that understates the power of the program.
Quicken makes good use of color when displaying its attractive graphs, but inexplicably fails to utilize color to enhance other areas, such as its security registers and Portfolio window. For instance, when a Portfolio register contains several securities, the ability to apply a different color to each security would greatly ease tracking transactions related to that security.
Overall, the new interface is attractive, but needs some refinements to realize its full potential.
Register Perfection -- Quicken began life as a program that tracked checking and bank accounts through a series of onscreen registers. Over the years, Intuit has fine tuned Quicken's registers to the point that they have become truly powerful tools, while accumulating an impressive list of easy-to-use features. Among the useful new features Q7 adds to the registers are a live display of the check number as you use the scroll bar; pop-up menus for assigning categories to transactions and sorting by date or check number; and additional options for quickly manipulating data entry in transactions involving splits.
Quicken's registers are a delight, and carrying out their functions with a minimum of time and effort on the part of the user, though I'd like to see a border separating all displayed transactions from each other (not just the fields in the active transaction) to provide an easy visual reference when scanning the registers.
Investments Grow -- Many of the significant new features in Q7 involve the Investment Module. For starters, Quicken now provides built-in support for handling lots! As has often been the case with Quicken, this new feature is impressively well thought-out. When selling a security, a pop-up menu allows you to choose criteria for the transaction, such as minimizing or maximizing capital gain. Quicken then automatically selects the lots that meet your criteria - very nice! I'd like to see a future version add a preview window that displays the results of your choices before you accept them.
The Detail View has been expanded to include a tabbed window which quickly enables you to customize the Detail View's graph, as well as view other data related to your securities such as a price history and a transaction history. When downloading either a price history or news stories - using the optional Investor Insight (Deluxe version only) - the information automatically updates your records and can be displayed in the Detail View. Immediately after the download, a window appears showing the change in value for the downloaded positions since the last price update. You can also set high and low price alerts. These are nice features, although I'd like to see them expanded to include P/E ratios and customizable relative performance graphs.
Quicken's already impressive list of reports and report filters has been further enhanced in Q7. Also, several new graphs have been added, again, with an improved list of filters to work with. I particularly like the new asset allocation graph, and the ability to "memorize" custom filter configurations for graphs and reports. The asset allocation graph helps you manage the risk your investments are exposed to by giving insight into the diversification of those investments by asset class. One tip: an Equity Mutual Fund, for example, may also contain bonds and cash. Quicken can assist in understanding the asset allocation of your investments, but you must do your homework in order to give Quicken accurate data and to understand the limitations of that data.
Unfortunately, Quicken still does not calculate the yield on a security, and it still lacks a way to time stamp a report or print a list of filters that were applied to a report. On the plus side, Q7 offers significant enhancements to its printing capabilities, including Print Preview and Print-To-Fit options.
Online Banking Enhancements -- Intuit continues to increase Quicken's online banking features. Though I have not tested these, Intuit says bill payments can be made online with any U.S. checking account, single-call access to bank statements, money transfers and bill payments, and automatic archiving of historical bank statement data.
Performance -- Testing Quicken 7 on my 6100/66 with System 7.5.1, I was pleased the new capabilities did not adversely affect performance; in fact, I found Q7 to be noticeably faster than Q6 when running reports and bringing up the Portfolio Window. Overall, the program feels snappy.
However, in the context of reliability, I found Quicken 7 disappointing. There are too many bugs for a program that can have a significant impact on a user's financial well-being. In addition to the anomalous information displayed in the Portfolio window (described in TidBITS-353), the overall effect of the problems I found undermines the confidence I need to have in a financial management program.
Especially for new users, the numerous errors and problems in Q7 can be confusing. In the past, Intuit put considerable effort into providing sophisticated built-in Help options. However, even though the Quicken Guide utilizes many of Apple Guide's best features, I found it frequently became out of synch with the application's windows. Also, the indexing is weak and the organization of Help Topics is confusing. (Intuit explained that the Topics list is based on the expected frequency of use, rather than alphabetically.) The Balloon Help, on the other hand, is quite effective.
I should point out that though the Investment Module and Help system need some work, I've found the Banking area to be rock solid, and a joy to use.
Conclusions -- There is a real need for a good, full-featured Mac program that can track and analyze personal finances. Admirably, Quicken has been moving in this direction, and it's no small accomplishment to maintain good ease-of-use in the basic feature set while expanding into this area. Still, much more needs to be done in both reliability and features for Quicken's Investment Module to be truly effective for managing the diverse activities today's complex financial marketplace presents users.
If I seem ambivalent about Quicken 7, it's for good reason. Fundamentally, it is a solid and impressive program: its feature set is enormous, and, considering its power, easy to use. On the other hand, some features are poorly implemented, it has many major and minor bugs, and it still needs some essential features to be truly capable of effectively managing and analyzing activities in mainstream financial markets.
In fairness to Intuit, the program does offer incredible bang for the buck, even if it does misfire on occasion. Above average documentation is included in the price of the program, a full, printed manual comes with the Deluxe CD-ROM version of Quicken, and so far Intuit has resisted an industry trend to charge for telephone support (although it's still a toll call). Perhaps because so many elements of Quicken are outstanding, its weaknesses stand out more sharply - it's still a best-of-class program. I would just prefer to waste less time dealing with bugs and have some important enhancements incorporated more quickly - I'd even be willing to pay a little more (if that's what it takes).
If you don't use Q7's Investment Module, many of my concerns about Quicken will not affect you. If you do use that part of the program, the next Quicken update should fix some of the most serious bugs. I think most users will find Quicken 7 to be a useful addition to their Macs, and with Intuit's money-back satisfaction guarantee, trying Q7 to be a good decision.
Quicken 7 requires a 68030 processor or better, System 7 or higher, 6 to 8 MB of RAM, 9 to 18 MB of hard disk space, and a 640 by 480 monitor capable of displaying at least 256 colors.
Intuit, Inc. -- 800/624-8742 -- 415/944-6000
[Steve Becker has been a BMUG member since purchasing his first Mac and runs a Mac consulting business, MacEase, in Berkeley, California.]
by Sean Peisert <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Few Mac users have missed the confusion and holy wars caused by the many choices of word processors. Offerings span a field from old Claris stalwarts MacWrite Pro and ClarisWorks all the way to the behemoth, Microsoft Word, and the quirky, yet powerful Nisus Writer. Somewhere in the middle lies Corel WordPerfect. WordPerfect has been through three owners in the last several years, and this article talks about the state of WordPerfect: its basic features, recent bug fixes, and different ways to acquire the software.
Earlier this year, Corel bought the WordPerfect Business Applications Group from Novell, promising new life to a Mac application that has changed little in years. Corel's first update to WordPerfect was version 3.5.1, and, subsequently, Corel released version 3.5.2. The basic feature set, as described below, hasn't changed since Novell's WordPerfect 3.5. Visually, the main change in 3.5.1 and 3.5.2 is a new splash screen.
I use WordPerfect to write short-to-medium length essays (up to fifteen pages), letters, and my resume. I use WordPerfect tables for such documents as schedules and categorized lists. I also use the HTML Export feature.
What Makes WordPerfect Special? WordPerfect has kept on top of Apple technologies. It runs native on Power Macs, uses Apple Guide, and supports AppleScript, QuickDraw GX, Macintosh Drag Manager, PowerTalk, MacInTalk, WorldScript, and QuickTime. Corel has promised to implement OpenDoc in a future version.
Any serious competitor in the heavyweight word processor market has certain functions almost by default: tables, styles, a spelling checker, macros, image and equation editors, and import/export for a variety of file formats. Beyond those functions, most word processors have special features, interfaces, and quirks that define them. In particular, WordPerfect's intuitive toolbar system and elegant table editor stand out.
WordPerfect isn't a resource hog, and it launches, quits, and performs tasks quickly. On my Power Mac 6100/60 AV running System 7.5.5, WordPerfect 3.5.2 launches in about 10.5 seconds and quits in about 2.5 seconds. WordPerfect uses 6 MB of RAM and a complete install consumes 22.5 MB of disk space. Corel's operating requirements are System 7.0 or above (System 7.5 recommended for Power Macs), 68020-based Mac or better, 2 MB application RAM (6 MB on a Power Mac), a minimum of 6 MB hard disk space, and a CD-ROM drive.
WordPerfect's toolbars are set up by categories (font, style, table, HTML, etc.) and each turns on or off with a click. There is also a separate toolbar that duplicates common menu commands such as Open, Save, Print, and Print Preview. You can customize this toolbar to contain icons for functions of your choosing, such as changing the font to one size larger or smaller, and creating a new header or footer.
Features Galore, A Brief Tour -- WordPerfect's table editor should be a model for other word processors. The elegant interface, simple controls via the table toolbar and the Table menu, plus many features (including simple spreadsheet-like capabilities) make working with tables easy. The table toolbar provides a one-click approach to adding and deleting rows and columns, which in most word processors requires a trip to the menu bar. Borders, cell patterns, and cell margins are also simple to set up. You can control each cell's border individually, or you can work with a group of them. A toolbar button converts contiguous selected cells to a single cell spanning the same amount of space, and another toolbar button that reverses the function. Tables can span more than one page.
WordPerfect creates mailing labels through a table-based template that can be set to various Avery labels or customized for other label types. Once you've set up a template, WordPerfect can walk you through the process of filling in labels with either text or print merge fields. The label toolbar also has functions for positioning text (top, center, or bottom), aligning text (left, centered, or right) and scaling text to fit on labels.
Academic writers will love WordPerfect's footnotes and endnotes, which are highly customizable and a joy to use. Footnote numbering can be restarted at any time to any number, and can be set to restart from 1 for each page. Scientists and mathematicians will appreciate the equation editor, which offers a huge range of symbols and equation formatting options.
WordPerfect has a grammar checker, plus a QuickCorrect feature that watches you type and corrects certain mistakes automatically. In my opinion, these features are dead weight. For instance, the grammar checker corrected virtually every sentence in a short essay, making annoying comments ranging from "this sentence is too long" to "this sentence is in the passive voice" to "this is a cliched phrase." The QuickCorrect feature, though potentially timesaving, can make mistakes. For instance, using the default QuickCorrect error-replacement options, you can't type "i.e." without it changing to "I.e". Toggling these options requires a time-consuming trip to the preferences, though a macro can ease the task.
Graphics are treated as single objects within the word processing environment. Text can wrap around them, on both sides of them, or under them. Images can anchor to a particular spot, such as an absolute location, a particular margin, or column. The graphics editor is nothing special, but it contains a few drawing tools, a paint bucket tool, and tools for grouping objects and changing line width, borders, and fills.
You create styles by choosing formats from the usual toolbar in a separate editing window that looks exactly like a normal word processing window. Styles can be saved globally or in a particular document, and for serious users there are "cascading" styles, wherein styles change based on changes made to a parent style. A style can be set so paragraphs always begin with specific text, and styles can be linked such that if you type a paragraph in one style and then press Enter (not Return), the next paragraph will be in the linked style.
WordPerfect's table editor, equation editor, spelling checker, thesaurus, and grammar checker are all integrated into the main application. Tables are directly editable in the word processing environment and use the same styles, fonts, and other features usually available in WordPerfect. Although you can create equations and graphics within WordPerfect, you edit them in a separate mode - within the main word processing window, they are treated as uneditable objects.
Recent Fixes -- Corel claims to fix many bugs in WordPerfect 3.5.1 and 3.5.2, and outlines a huge list of them in the Installer Read Me file. Fixes include problems involving Japanese characters, displaying the Ruler Bar on PCI Power Macs, crashing when clicking the ruler of "subdocuments" (such as headers or footnotes), and "sticking" scroll bars. There have also been changes to speed up certain actions, such as scrolling large documents. The 3.5.2 Read Me file notes another pile of fixes including troubles with selecting text, forward-delete, importing tables, printing envelopes with LaserWriter 8.4, and the French and German dictionaries.
These fixes appear to be genuine, but WordPerfect has picked up a few new bugs, and some old bugs remain. There have been many reports of erratic highlighting when changing styles or when finding text. One old bug occurs when you paste text; occasionally, the scroll thumb stays at the top of the scroll bar even though you're not actually at the top. Another age-old bug involves ordinary typing: you can see text you type if it's on the same line, but you won't see the text as it goes onto the next line until you wait for the screen to redraw.
Although it is faster than Word 6, WordPerfect could be even faster. I'd also like to see WordPerfect learn a thing or two from Nisus Writer, such as multiple undos and non-contiguous selection. I would welcome the capability, also in Nisus Writer, to save all formatting information in the resource fork, leaving just the text in the data fork. Such a file format would allow me to open WordPerfect documents in a text editor with all the text, but sans formatting.
The Corel Way -- Corel seems dedicated to converting WordPerfect users to the Corel Way. In addition to offering free (although not 800-number) support to WordPerfect customers (unlike Novell's fee-for-support customer service), Corel continues to publish WPMac News, an online, monthly newsletter containing tips, a monthly macro, and more.
Although WordPerfect lists for $219 as a stand-alone package, you can purchase it in a number of ways. Owners of Novell WordPerfect 3.5 can order the Corel WordPerfect 3.5 Replacement CD for $29.95. Owners of version 3.5 can download the WordPerfect 3.5.2 Updater from Corel's FTP site, and upgrades from even earlier versions cost $89. Finally, you can purchase WordPerfect as part of the $399 (list) CorelDRAW for the Mac Suite, a set of seven applications including the CorelDRAW 6 and WordPerfect 3.5.2. According to Novel customer service, upgrades to the CorelDRAW suite are available for $149, and you can crossgrade for $149 using a variety of products from Adobe, Deneba, Macromedia, and others. (Educational versions cost less, but don't include a printed manual or free phone support.)
Should You Use WordPerfect? If you're looking for a program with powerful graphics capabilities or advanced layout features, chances are that you need an application more specialized than WordPerfect. Still, if you need a specific feature, WordPerfect is worth investigating: it strikes me as an excellent blend of features for most people, and I hope this article has provided an idea of its overall flavor.
Corel Corporation -- 800/772-6735 -- 801/765-4020 (support)
DealBITS -- Cyberian Outpost is offering TidBITS readers discounts on Corel WordPerfect ($158.95, $35 discount) and CorelDRAW ($385.95, $12 discount) through the URLs 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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