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Mac OS 8.1 is out! Wondering where to download a free update? We offer preliminary details and a URL, with more information slated for TidBITS Updates this week. Other news items include the brief appearance of StuffIt Expander 4.5, the release of Eudora Pro 4.0, and the sale of StarNine Technologies. This issue also features Part 2 of Jeff Carlson's look at the PalmPilot and a detailed review of Intuit's Quicken 98.
Copyright 1998 TidBITS Electronic Publishing. All rights reserved.
Information: <email@example.com> Comments: <firstname.lastname@example.org>
This issue of TidBITS sponsored in part by:
Northwest Nexus -- 1 888-NWNEXUS -- <http://www.nwnexus.com/>
Internet business solutions throughout the Pacific Northwest.
Small Dog Electronics -- Special Deal for TidBITS Readers!
UMAX SuperMac C500LT/180 with 15" Apple AV monitor: $999!
Lots of other SuperMac refurbished bargains!
For Details: <http://www.smalldoggy.com/#tid> -- 802/496-7171
Cyberian Outpost -- the Cool Place to Shop for Computer Stuff!
Quicken Deluxe 98 for TidBITS readers: $57.95 ($2 discount)
Order through the URL below or call 860/927-2050 x228.
Soft Material -- Pickle's Book CD-ROM: the Entertainment Weekly
pick of the week, a tie w/ Riven and WebTV for HomeArts's gift
picks! 4 stars from Children's Software Revue... Check it out!
<email@example.com> or <http://www.softmaterial.com/tb/>
Microsoft -- Microsoft Internet Explorer and Outlook Express,
Macintosh software written for Macintosh users by
Macintosh users. New versions released this month:
Mac OS 8.1 Update Available -- Today, Apple released Mac OS 8.1, an update to Mac OS 8.0 that includes support for Macintosh Extended Format disks, DVD-ROM and Universal Disk Format (UDF) disks, plus new versions of PC Exchange, Open Transport, the Location Manager, and the LaserWriter driver. Mac OS 8.1 refines Virtual Memory and disk caching (which improves application launch and re-launch times, as well as network file copies) and adds components such as MRJ 2.0 (Mac OS Runtime for Java) and Microsoft Internet Explorer 3.01.
The U.S. version of Mac OS 8.1 will be available on CD-ROM in February (Mac OS 8 owners can purchase a CD for $19.95); localized versions should appear in April. Happily, current Mac OS 8 users can download the Mac OS 8.1 update for U.S. systems for free. Apple has posted the update in BinHex and MacBinary versions, both as a large (15 to 22 MB) single file and as thirteen smaller files.
Make sure to read Mac OS 8.1's documentation and back up your system before installing. Also, keep an eye on TidBITS Updates during the week for further details about Mac OS 8.1. [GD]
StuffIt Expander 4.5 Withdrawn -- Aladdin Systems has temporarily withdrawn StuffIt Expander 4.5 (the essential file-decompression utility) from distribution due to confusion over the version of the StuffIt Engine it requires. Version 4.5, released briefly last week, adds support for ShrinkWrap 3.0 disk images and files encrypted with Aladdin's Private File. The freeware StuffIt Expander has long used the StuffIt Engine, which comes with the commercial StuffIt Deluxe or the shareware DropStuff with Expander Enhancer, to improve performance and extend functionality with additional translators. Without the StuffIt Engine installed, StuffIt Expander can decode only StuffIt, Compact Pro, BinHex, and MacBinary formats. StuffIt Expander 4.5 works only with version 4.5 of the StuffIt Engine; however, that version is currently available only in StuffIt Deluxe 4.5.
If you already downloaded StuffIt Expander 4.5, don't worry: there's no fatal bug that will damage data. However, you will see an error dialog if you use it with a previous version of the StuffIt Engine; you can eliminate the dialog by removing the StuffIt Engine from your Extensions folder. If you need to use StuffIt Expander with the StuffIt Engine you can wait until Aladdin releases DropStuff 4.5, upgrade to StuffIt Deluxe 4.5, or revert to StuffIt Expander 4.0. [ACE]
Eudora Pro 4.0 Finalized -- Qualcomm has released Eudora Pro 4.0 for the Macintosh (we reviewed Eudora Pro 3.0 in TidBITS-357). A demo (6 MB download) is available and the full product should begin shipping today for $39 (no discounts for upgrades). New features include background sending and receiving of email, improved interface aesthetics, simplified filter creation, dockable windows, and numerous minor tweaks. Qualcomm also added support for Internet standards such as LDAP (Lightweight Directory Access Protocol, an up-and-coming directory services protocol) and ACAP (Application Configuration Access Protocol, which enables system administrators to configure Eudora automatically from a server), as well as viewing and composing of M/HTML messages that include HTML formatting and graphics. This version lacks IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol, an alternate way of retrieving email that's popular in large organizations); IMAP support is slated for version 4.1. Eudora Light remains at version 3.1.3. [ACE]
StarNine Rockets Out of Quarterdeck -- Last week, Quarterdeck sold StarNine Technologies - best known for WebSTAR, ListSTAR, and other Internet-related products - to Platinum Equity Holdings. StarNine will be preserved as an independent company, operating with hands-off support from Platinum. The StarNiners now have added incentive to ship WebSTAR 3.0 quickly (currently in public beta) so they can focus on new opportunities provided by Platinum. The sale also means that StarNine's current products have a better chance to flourish in a more supportive environment. History buffs will recall that Quarterdeck purchased StarNine in October of 1995 (see TidBITS-297). Since then, StarNine has remained profitable, but suffered as a result of Quarterdeck's losses and lack of focus. [TJE]
Robots' Rules of Order -- Russell Tait <firstname.lastname@example.org> writes:
Thanks for the continued good work. However, I wanted to note that in your "Macworld San Francisco 1998 Superlatives" article in TidBITS-412, under Best Performance, the robots were actually sponsored by both Ullanta and Compass Information Systems to feature our TIBET software as well as the robot performance. The TIBET software on the Newton controlled the AGFA digital camera. This software is available as a stand-alone product that enables MessagePad 2000 and eMate users to take a digital photo, view it (including zoom and pan), make notes associated with it, and email the text (in the body of the message) and the photo (as a JPEG attachment). Look for improved versions of the robot reporter at future shows - we're even considering an autonomous helicopter!
by Jeff Carlson <email@example.com>
If my PalmPilot had no software available for it but the factory-installed applications - Date Book, Address Book, To Do list, and Memo Pad - I still would be a devoted user. However, because the Pilot's creators opened the Palm OS architecture to outside developers, the number of applications, utilities, and diversions has pushed my Pilot devotion to outright addiction.
In the first article of this PalmPilot series (see TidBITS-411), I reviewed the device itself and its included software. This week, I'll share a few useful resources and talk about four applications I rely on every day.
Trying and Buying -- When I first considered purchasing a PalmPilot, I wanted to try one before buying. On 3Com's PalmPilot site, I found a Shockwave demo that approximates the feel of the Pilot's software and user interface.
To experiment with the software beyond what the online demo allows, consider downloading Zilot, a Pilot emulator for PowerPC-based Macs. Afterwards, if you're ready to buy, check PDApage, which tracks prices from several vendors. On average, the PalmPilot Personal runs between $200 and $250, while the Professional is roughly $100 more.
Several online and print publications cover the Pilot, including PalmPower, Pen Computing, and HandJive Magazine. Calvin's PalmPilot FAQ, regarded as one of the definitive works on the Pilot, is frequently updated and provides essential information.
Desktop Piloting -- I forgot to mention one important item in the first article: to synchronize a PalmPilot with a Macintosh, you must also purchase the MacPac for $14.95. The pack contains synchronization software and a cable adapter that connects the Pilot's HotSync cradle to the Mac's serial port. I'm not crazy about the software (see my comments in Part 1), but it's necessary for backing up Pilot data and allows limited importing and exporting.
Software Necessities -- The real power of the PalmPilot lies in the expanding world of software being written for it. The following programs are shareware or freeware and are downloadable from the Internet. If you don't want to use the Web, you may wish to check out the Everything CD for PalmPilot, from ISO Solutions. It categorizes over 750 programs in a stand-alone FileMaker Pro Runtime database, with screenshots and descriptions of each program.
Mac users should notice that most Pilot files on the Internet are available in Zip format, a compression standard in the PC world. To decompress Zip files, use Aladdin's free StuffIt Expander 4.0 along with the shareware DropStuff with Expander Enhancer 4.0, or the shareware utility ZipIt.
Topping my list of necessities is Eric Kenslow's free LaunchPad. The Palm OS groups everything into one scrollable applications window. LaunchPad creates a tabbed-window interface that lets you group applications under customizable headings. I set my Pilot to bring up LaunchPad whenever I tap the Applications button. LaunchPad also offers quick access to the Pilot's Memory utility, to performing a reset, and to turning off and locking the device.
Another utility I've found handy is Dovcom's Agenda ($12 shareware). I periodically need to look at an overall view of my appointments and to do items, but doing so is clumsy using the Date Book and To Do list. Agenda offers three views of upcoming scheduling information read directly from Date Book: Today, Tomorrow, and Week. It also has a "Todo" tab that displays a list of all upcoming To Do items.
Applications -- If something can be done better using a Pilot than a notebook computer or miscellaneous scraps of paper, there's probably a Pilot application for that task.
For example, in addition to writing and editing for TidBITS, I do quite a bit of freelance work. Andrew Zaeske's Hourz Pro has been invaluable for tracking billable hours and projects. It lets me specify jobs, categories, and hourly rates, in addition to expense notation, mileage tracking, and multiple views of my data. When I start a project, I just create a new entry: Hourz Pro keeps tabs on how much time I spent and calculates the resulting fee. At the end of the month, I use a companion program, Reportz, that offers options for exporting the data. Hourz Pro 2.2 is a $39.95 commercial product. Hourz 1.1d, the original, limited version is $20 shareware; registered owners of Hourz 1.x can upgrade for $29.95.
Another area in which the PalmPilot excels is idea catching: the niche traditionally dominated by restaurant napkins and Post-It notes. With its small size and quick start (turning the Pilot on returns you immediately to where you left off), the Pilot is a handy notebook for jotting down ideas and reminders. Rather than storing those notes in the Memo Pad, I use Aportis's BrainForest outlining and project planning application. I can write ideas and fractions of ideas, then organize them hierarchically by dragging and dropping throughout the resulting tree structure. BrainForest is currently available in a $30 trial version. BrainForest Professional, which includes an accompanying desktop application, is due in the first quarter of 1998 for $39.95.
The List Goes On -- These are just a few of the programs that make my PalmPilot more useful than I expected when I bought it. In the next article of this Pilot series I'll mention a few more utilities, games, and applications; cover some options for adding memory and upgrading a Pilot; explore the possibilities for expanded communication options; and sneak in a few tips.
by Steve Becker <firstname.lastname@example.org>
For the past several years, Intuit has released annual updates to Quicken, a popular personal finance software package. This year in Quicken 98, Intuit has further refined its impressive capabilities and added several useful features, including new Web-related options.
This article assumes a basic knowledge of Quicken, so if you want to brush up on how the program works, refer to earlier reviews in TidBITS-299 and TidBITS-359.
Appearances Are Helpful -- In its early releases, Quicken gained popularity by computerizing checkbook functions in a small, quick, easy-to-learn program. It has slowly evolved into a comprehensive personal finance package while maintaining a commendably user-friendly interface. Some credit for Quicken 98's (Q98) simplicity goes to its use of a runtime version of WestCode's excellent OneClick Shortcut Technology (reviewed in TidBITS-350).
First used with Quicken 7, WestCode's technology provides Quicken with a customizable, task-driven interface. The left side of the interface sports a retractable vertical palette (thankfully, reduced in size for Q98) with buttons representing Quicken's five major activity areas: Banking, Investing, Assets/Debt, Planning, and Reporting. Clicking one of these buttons causes the task bar beneath the menubar to display a corresponding set of related buttons that I find still too large.
New for Q98 is a Register Account Bar that appears at the bottom of the screen, offering quick access to the five most recently used Quicken registers, although a bug can prevent this palette from appearing if the commercial version of OneClick is installed.
Another much appreciated feature of Q98's task-oriented design is that it saves separate window layouts for each activity area. When returning to any area, Quicken displays the previous window layout for that area, which greatly reduces clutter.
Register Improvements -- Quicken's account registers have always been an impressive part of the program, and Intuit has added more refinements in Quicken 98. My favorite additions include a Splits window which auto-sizes to reduce manual scrolling, and a Shortcuts pop-up menu that provides direct access to reports based on the payee or category for the displayed transaction, among other things. Unfortunately, these convenient reports display only information for the current calendar year; I would find them more useful if they either covered the full date range of the register (with a subtotal by year) or enabled me to set the default date range.
Some people might appreciate the tweaks applied to the revised Reconcile window, although I found Quicken 7's version quite satisfactory. Within this window you can verify that the balance displayed in a Quicken register agrees with the balance on your bank statement: if there is a discrepancy in these numbers, you can access any register transaction from the Reconcile window and make an adjusting entry. If you cannot locate the source of the discrepancy, Quicken enables you to create an "adjustment transaction." Intuit also added a thoughtful new option to display step-by-step help directly in the Reconcile window; this may particularly appeal to first-time users.
Investments Mature -- Quicken continues to improve its handling of investments. For instance, the graph in the Security Detail view now offers a basic comparative analysis option for selected securities, and if you track other things (such as various indexes), you can compare their performance to any security you choose. Although this is a useful addition to Quicken, its implementation is quite basic. The Security Detail window also now displays the total number of shares held for each security.
Quicken still cannot track bond yields and handle other fundamental investment analyses. If you're interested in advanced technical analysis of the markets and your portfolio, I suggest you look at ProTA, from BeeSoft.
Both the Portfolio window and the Accounts list draw noticeably faster than in previous versions, and overall, the Investment Module feels more solid and refined.
Reports Improve -- Quicken's highly customizable Reports have always been one of its outstanding features, and Q98 improves upon them significantly. The window where you select a report now shows a sample report, thus enabling you to understand quickly how the report will be organized. When teaching people to use Quicken, I've found many users have difficulty visualizing how a given report will appear - I expect users will find these snapshots helpful. Even so, I would like to see Intuit expand this feature so users can select major filters for a report and see corresponding changes to the sample.
New tax laws complicate tracking and reporting capital gains income; fortunately, Q98's Capital Gains report adds the capability to subtotal capital gains according to the new guidelines.
Another nice addition is the capability to modify a report significantly from within the report. Once you've created a report, pop-up menus enable you to change filters such as the account, category, date range, and headers (including fonts and point size). There are also six buttons for printing the report, opening the Print Preview window, adding page breaks, collapsing the header, editing columns, and going to the Report Customization window. Extremely slick! However, Quicken still doesn't provide a way to timestamp a report or print a list of filters that were applied to it.
Conversion Caution -- If you used a previous version of Quicken, you must convert your data files to use them with Quicken 98. The conversion process is fast and trouble free for most users; however, for what Intuit says is a small percentage of users, converting from an earlier version of Quicken can corrupt your data file. The problem primarily appears to affect a small number of data files that contain Memorized Reports and QuickFill transactions. Intuit advises that the corruption will appear as fragmented or missing information in the QuickFill and Memorized Report lists.
Intuit has released Quicken 98 R2, which is supposed to fix this and other problems. Anyone upgrading should follow Intuit's advice on backing up data files before converting. After upgrading check to be certain that data has converted correctly; for instance, you might check the Account balances in the Accounts List as well as return on investment and investment income information. In addition, Intuit plans to release an R3 update at the end of January to improve Quicken's online banking performance.
Quicken Deluxe -- Quicken Deluxe supplements all the previously mentioned features (marketed as "Quicken Basic") with additional goodies. A Mutual Fund Finder database (updated from the version supplied with Quicken 7) enables you to locate mutual funds that meet your criteria. Although the Mutual Fund Finder uses a large database, bear in mind that the database is by its nature somewhat dated and doesn't encompass the entire universe of mutual funds.
Quicken Deluxe also includes the new QuickEntry application, which is only available for the Mac. This small application launches quickly and can stay open in the background without devouring a lot of RAM (800K). Transactions entered into QuickEntry's registers automatically transfer to Q98 when it next launches. In theory, this is a fine idea; in practice, I'm curious how many users find QuickEntry's few benefits sufficient justification for keeping it around.
Another module in the Deluxe package is an Emergency Records Organizer, which helps you track important personal data (such as legal, financial, and medical information). There's also a Tax Deduction Finder. After you respond to a series of questions, the program provides information on tax deductions for which you may qualify and assists in setting up tax deductible categories in your data file.
All these features and additional modules come at a price in terms of disk space. Intuit recommends you have 45 MB of free disk space to install Quicken Deluxe and 40 MB free to host the installed program; the standard install of Quicken Deluxe takes up over 49 MB on my hard disk. Of course, after installing, you can delete optional components that you don't want.
Finally, a button on the task bar in the Deluxe version displays a pop-up menu of Intuit's Web services; choosing a service launches your Web browser (you must set a browser preference in Quicken's Preferences window) and brings up the appropriate Web page.
The Web Grows -- Intuit is venturing into personal finance management via the Internet and has begun to assemble a wide array of financial management and assistance services. Currently, these include a loan analyzer that helps you evaluate mortgage and refinancing options; a list of mortgage rates offered by banks participating in Intuit's program; an auto and life insurance page; and an investment page that offers quotes, mutual fund information, and the capability to set up portfolios to track both actual and potential investments.
Both Quicken Basic and Deluxe offer several options for downloading stock quotes and other investment information to a Quicken database. Though Quicken Deluxe also provides convenient access to your browser for the other Web based services, currently it doesn't allow you to download data from these sites to Quicken.
[If you set up an account with a participating financial institution, Quicken can download bank account and credit card information via the Internet, incorporating the information into Quicken's database. The Windows version of Quicken 98 Deluxe can also connect to selected brokerage firms to gather investment information. Both the Mac and Windows versions of Quicken transfer information via HTTP connections using SSL (Secure Sockets Layer), the same technology Web browsers often use for secure online transactions. -Geoff]
It appears that Intuit has committed considerable resources to expanding its presence on the Internet and integrating Quicken with this emerging technology. Only time will tell how effective this transition will be, but the possibilities are exciting to contemplate. For now, we get a free ride into part of this new territory, but we need to be aware of the security and privacy issues involved when sending personal financial data via the Internet and having it reside on someone else's computer. Also, unless Intuit can sign up a large number of institutions, choices for mortgages and other services might be too limited to assure the best possible value.
By the way, many of Intuit's Web-based services can be accessed directly with a browser, without the need to have Quicken installed.
Bits and Pieces -- Additional thoughtful enhancements include a total value for all accounts displayed at the bottom of the Accounts list, and an option to select a month for the start of your fiscal year. Also, reports now display negative amounts in red.
Selecting the "Show Tip at startup" preference in the General preferences screen displays a tip when you launch Quicken directly, but not if you launch it by opening a data file. Intuit still has not fixed a QuickReport bug present since Quicken 5 that can freeze your computer when using the Memo filter.
Intuit claims to have increased the stability of the Quicken database for Q98. Combined with new automatic backup options in the Preferences window, this should provide more security, though you may find these changes a mixed blessing if you are low on disk space. To provide space for more characters in the category, account name, and description fields, Intuit modified the data file structure. As a result, Q98's data files are considerably larger than their Quicken 7 counterparts (my 622K file ballooned to 1 MB). If you keep many backup copies of these files, which I recommend, this can add up to a considerable amount of disk space. One way to conserve disk space is to use a product like Aladdin's FlashBack, which stores only the differences between your original file and subsequent versions (see TidBITS-362).
Bottom Line -- Though it's easy to identify areas of Quicken that need improvement, there's no question that Quicken is useful and elegant. In the past, I've had serious problems with the stability and reliability of Quicken's Investment Module. So far, the versions of Q98 I have tested have worked well.
Quicken combines a broad feature set with impressive ease-of-use, a good manual, and unlimited, free technical support (except for toll charges). At a street price of about $39 for Quicken Basic and $59 for Quicken Deluxe (if you upgrade, you receive a rebate for $10 on Quicken Basic and $20 on Quicken Deluxe), the program is a bargain. In the battle for best personal finance software, Quicken still takes first prize.
Quicken 98 requires a 68030 or better processor (including PowerPCs) and System 7.1 or later. Quicken Basic requires 8 MB of RAM, at least a 640 by 400 grayscale display, and 16 MB of disk space. Quicken Deluxe requires 12 MB of RAM; a 640 by 480, 256-color monitor; 45 MB of disk space; and a CD-ROM drive.
DealBITS -- TidBITS sponsor Cyberian Outpost is offering Quicken Deluxe 98 to TidBITS readers for $57.95 (a $2 discount); their sponsorship text at the top of the issue provides details.
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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