Previous Issue | Search TidBITS | TidBITS Home Page | Next Issue
This week's issue is about the ending of quests. Andrew Laurence finally finds an Internet-configured universal remote control - the Logitech Harmony - that takes over from the rest. And has Matt Neuburg, the ultimate outliner connoisseur, discovered a replacement for MORE in the new TAO? Matt does complete his quest to explain what's new in Microsoft Word 2004 with his latest two Take Control ebooks. Interesting releases this week include FileMaker Pro 7.0v3, Webstractor 1.1, and Security Update 2004-09-30.
Copyright 2004 TidBITS: Reuse governed by Creative Commons license
<http://www.tidbits.com/terms/> Contact: <email@example.com>
This issue of TidBITS sponsored in part by:
READERS LIKE YOU! Help keep TidBITS great via our voluntary
contribution program. Special thanks this week to John Wolff,
Stephen Carson, and Fraser Muirhead for their kind support!
SMALL DOG ELECTRONICS: LaCie On Sale!
Selected LaCie Drives, Displays, & More
250 GB Drive - $195; DVD+/-RW - $215; 1T - $975
Visit: <http://www.smalldog.com/tb/> 800-511-MACS
FETCH SOFTWORKS: Is maintaining your Web site tedious? Use
Fetch, the original Macintosh FTP client, and you can record
AppleScripts that automate repetitive uploads and downloads.
Get Fetch now at <http://fetchsoftworks.com/>!
Dr. Bott, LLC: Our VGA and DVI Extractors are like skeleton
keys for the world of changing video standards. Having our
Extractors on hand ensures that your ADC Mac will work with
any display around. <http://www.drbott.com/>
Web Crossing: Did you know Web Crossing does Blogs?!? Used for
workgroup reports, entertainment, advice columns, politics, or
whatever, Web Crossing's Blogs can integrate w/discussions,
access lists, etc. Try it! <http://www.webcrossing.com/tb-504>
Treat yourself to something better! Matias brings you:
Tactile Pro Keyboard: <http://tactilepro.com/index.php?refID=5>
Laptop Armor cases: <http://laptoparmor.com/index.php?refID=5>
iPod Armor case: <http://ipodarmor.com/index.php?refID=5>
MindFortress: We built MindFortress because I wanted one place
to write notes and keep my wallet info in a secure, yet easily
accessed spot. No other app brings together all these features!
Get MindFortress! Free trial at <http://www.mindfortress.com/>
StuffIt Deluxe 9 from Allume Systems improves on the Mac's
essential compression utility! Now featuring faster performance
and improved Finder integration and data management options.
Upgrade for only $29.99! <http://www.stuffit.com/mac/deluxe/>
Bare Bones Software BBEdit 8.0 -- More than 100 new features
and improvements including Text Factories, Codeless Language
Modules, a Documents Drawer, and much more! To download a
demo or to purchase a copy, visit <http://www.barebones.com/>.
TIRED OF PRETENDING you're not interested in Japanese anime?
Come out of the closet and decorate your room or desk with a
great robot toy or figure direct from Japan. Thousands of toys
and kits online at HobbyLink Japan! <http://www.hlj.com/tb>
easyDNS: Need a .CA domain? Get it from Canada's leading Domain
company. All with easyDNS's world class personal tech support.
Finally, a company that actually puts its customers first!
easyDNS: the way things should work. <http://www.easyDNS.com/>
FileMaker 7.0v3 Update Offers Numerous Fixes -- On 05-Oct-04, FileMaker, Inc., posted free updaters that bring previous versions of FileMaker 7 (both Pro and Developer; see "FileMaker Pro 7: Can You Say Paradigm Shift?" in TidBITS-721) up to 7.0v3. The list of problems addressed by this update is quite long and includes improvements in text editing, layout editing, scripting, calculations, portals, value lists, import/export, find, spell checking, security, display of related data, and Japanese language functionality. The Developer update includes all the fixes just mentioned, plus fixes to Developer-only features such as the script debugger, Database Design Report, and Developer Utilities. For Mac OS X users, the same 26 MB download is used to update FileMaker Pro and FileMaker Developer. Windows users must download separate files for each application, and the download for the Pro updater for Windows is a whopping 107 MB. The 7.0v3 update is strongly recommended for all users of FileMaker Pro and FileMaker Developer. [WP]
Security Update 2004-09-30 Released -- Apple has released Security Update 2004-09-30, which fixes vulnerabilities in the AFP Server, the CUPS printing architecture, NetInfo Manager, postfix, and QuickTime, as well as ServerAdmin for Mac OS X Server. The update is available via Software Update, or as stand-alone downloads for Mac OS X 10.3.5 (1.5 MB) and Mac OS X 10.2.8 (652K). Apple also notes that the date on the update differs from the release date (of 2004-10-04) due to power outages the previous week at its Cupertino headquarters. [JLC]
Webstractor 1.1 Fulfills Promise -- "First children," my father used to say, "are like first pancakes; you should throw them out and try again." Software, too, often needs a revision or two to achieve its proper form. In my review of Softchaos's Webstractor 1.0.1 (see "The Simple Brilliance of Webstractor" in TidBITS-737), I raved about this innovative program, which functions as a kind of combination Web browser and scrapbook - it stores copies of Web pages as you browse, and enables you to edit those pages to create your own document for reading or PDF export - but I noted that Webstractor was a bit slow, and predicted that attention would be given to performance in the next revision. Version 1.1 has borne me out - it's lightning-fast. It also boasts numerous small but significant interface improvements, such as letting you categorize and sort downloaded pages, and better navigation. Softchaos has clearly been listening to users and paying attention to detail, and overall the program now feels effortless and intuitive. If you hesitated to try the demo earlier, you should try it now. This is a free update for registered users. Webstractor costs 50 British pounds (about US$85) and requires Mac OS X 10.3 Panther. [MAN]
by Matt Neuburg <firstname.lastname@example.org>
After a long beta period (and a name change), TAO 1.0 has finally been released. In the immortal words of Calvin (from "Calvin and Hobbes"): "This is so exciting I have to go to the bathroom!"
TAO is an outliner - a writing space for working with items of styled text arranged hierarchically. Even more important, it's an outliner that understands what an outliner is supposed to be. It's the closest any Mac OS X-native program has come to replacing MORE, the dean of outliners and my favorite (even though it was creaky when I reviewed it in TidBITS-198 and is even creakier under Classic).
TAO has a complete repertory of commands for rearranging items. You can create a new item as a sibling (before or below), child, or aunt of the current item. You can select single or multiple items. Items can be joined or split. Items can be moved by dragging or by keyboard shortcut. An item can be hoisted for isolated viewing. An item's children can be promoted; its siblings can be demoted. An item can be cloned (changing one clone changes them all). An item can be collapsed or expanded, locked, and even made invisible. A multi-line item can be reduced to only its first line.
Items can have many attached features. An item can have a label (color), a checkbox, a bookmark, an automatic number, and links to other items. Text can be linked to a URL. An item can include a note (essentially an embedded TextEdit document), a picture, or a link to a file on disk.
Formatting and other features can be applied through stylesheets (collections of rules). You can edit in a split window. You can find by text, label, date created or modified, visibility, bookmark, locked state, or checked state, in one or multiple files. Documents can be exported as plain text, styled text, HTML, and XML (OPML).
TAO is brilliant; it's an amazing achievement. The only thing missing - and unfortunately, it's a big thing - is a proper set of shortcuts for navigating between items. There needs to be a way to navigate directly from an item to its siblings, even if visible children intervene, or to its parent. Once such shortcuts are in place, TAO will be a useful outliner in the true spirit of MORE.
TAO requires Mac OS X 10.2.8 or later, and is $30 shareware. It's a 4 MB download. An unregistered version quits after half an hour, but the download currently includes a trial license valid until 01-Nov-04.
by Andrew Laurence <email@example.com>
In my review of Elgato's EyeHome (see "EyeHome: So Close, Yet So Far" in TidBITS-741), I referred to the extreme disgust most of us feel when confronted by the remote controls for most consumer electronic devices. To begin, there are so bloody many of them - TV, CD player, receiver, VCR, PVR, DVD player, video camera, etc. Some claim to control more than one device - often from the same manufacturer - but nearly always lack at least one essential function, forcing you to keep the original within arm's reach. They are plagued with inorganic design, buttons that aren't grouped by logical function or are so small that you can't avoid pressing more than one. And never mind the flowcharts, diagrams, and training sessions necessary for the baby-sitter to watch "Pimp My Ride." It's enough to make you reach for the Mylanta.
Logitech's Harmony Remote product line aims to change all that. It's a universal and programmable remote control. It's also expensive, with a suggested retail price of $200 and up (but available for less from retail and online discounters). However, it's the only universal remote I've used that actually relegates the originals to a drawer.
Harmony remotes are built around the concept of Activity Buttons - physical buttons that represent watching TV, playing a CD, listening to the radio, etc. The remote remembers and maintains the state and connection status of your devices as you switch from one activity to another.
Creating Harmony -- To configure the remote control, you install the Harmony Remote helper application on your Mac or Windows PC, then create a user profile on Logitech's Web site. Within the profile, you create a record for each device (TV, receiver, CD player, etc.) that the remote will control; Logitech's database fills in the remote control functions and various inputs and outputs of the specific model numbers of your devices.
Next, you set up Activities, such as "Watch TV" or "Play Music," by specifying participating devices and how they physically connect to each other. For example, my "Watch DVD" activity includes the TV, DVD player, and receiver, so that I can watch movies in surround sound.
Last, connect the remote to your Mac with the included USB cable and click Update. The Web browser downloads a file and hands its off to the Harmony Remote application, which then programs the remote control to match your devices.
Press "Watch TV" and the TV turns on. Press "Watch DVD" and the TV switches to the S-Video input, the DVD player and receiver turn on, and the receiver switches to surround sound. Press "Play CD" and the CD player turns on, the DVD turns off, surround sound turns off, the receiver switches inputs, and the TV turns off. When your media thirst is quenched, press "Off" and all devices turn off.
Additional complexity is available through the Web site's configuration wizards. You can attach specific commands to the beginning or end of an activity. For instance, our television spends most of its time watching TiVo, so the DVD and VCR activities return the TV to TiVo's input when switching out of those activities. Similarly, we listen to two-channel stereo music more often than surround sound, so those activities turn the surround off when they're done.
The remote knows the state of your devices, and adjusts them to match the current activity. This works amazingly well, so long as you only use the Harmony remote to control the devices. If you happen to use another remote, or the toddler presses buttons on the front of the TV, the devices can move out of sync with the Harmony's state tracking. If this happens, press Help and answer the questions on the LCD display until the correct state has returned.
You can also control a device individually, outside the scope of an activity - each device's full functionality is represented on the Harmony. For functions that don't logically map to one of the Harmony's buttons, there are six buttons ringing a small LCD panel at the top of the remote. Any remaining functions are listed on the display, and map to the "soft buttons" on either side. The display is small, however, and function names are often too long to display clearly. I also found that these additional functions don't accurately represent the features on my device - the Harmony thinks my TV has picture-in-picture, for instance, and that my receiver has a great deal more features than it does. (It appears that Logitech's database sometimes supplies the functions of, say, all Panasonic TVs instead of precisely the one you have.) Last, the functions are listed alphabetically, which isn't necessarily in their order of usefulness. The functions' names and ordering can be customized on the Web site; it takes some time to re-order the functions and remove ones that aren't applicable, but the result pleases me.
Living in Harmony -- I tested two remotes, the 659 ($200) and the newer 688 ($250). To my tastes, the 659's only drawback is the placement of the transport buttons (Rewind, Play, Fast Forward, Record, Pause, Stop) - they're at the very bottom of the remote. This placement may be fine for some, but I use those buttons all the time for driving my TiVo. Otherwise, I found the buttons to be well positioned, and with good tactile feedback. Various buttons are shaped differently, making touch-only operation an easy reality. The 688 was designed for users of digital video recorders (DVRs), with the transport buttons up near the middle of the remote. However, the physical buttons are very flat and hard to distinguish from one another by touch.
Two new models, the 676 ($230) and the forthcoming 680, appear to address these problems by melding the 659's hard plastic buttons with the 688's improved button layout. Logitech says the 676 is intended for a home theater, while the 680 is designed for Media Center PCs. In either case, when purchasing you should consider the devices you use most and the placement of their applicable buttons.
At last, my coffee table is clear of remote control clutter. Driving the home theater with one remote is a seminal experience, and one that I am quite happy to have achieved.
PayBITS: Did Andrew's article help tame your clutter of
remote controls? Consider sending him a few bucks via PayPal!
Read more about PayBITS: <http://www.tidbits.com/paybits/>
by Matt Neuburg <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Finally! The two latest volumes in the ever-growing library of Take Control electronic books are out. They are called "Take Control of What's New in Word 2004" and "Take Control of What's New in Word 2004: Advanced Editing & Formatting". These prosaic titles do not, I'm afraid, suggest the high drama and protracted struggle of their history. The books started life in late June, right after I reviewed Microsoft Word 2004 in TidBITS-734, and I've been working constantly on them ever since.
I'm not the only one who's been working on them. The Take Control publication process, since it was unveiled just a year ago, has grown in refinement and sophistication under the guidance of publisher Adam Engst and editor in chief Tonya Engst. A book's development now casts a wider net, to bring you, the reader, the clearest, cleanest, and most accurate explanatory experience available anywhere at a mere $5 per volume (or $7.50 if you buy both together, which, honestly, we suspect many people will want to do, and which most readers so far have done).
Mission Impossible -- The two books were originally conceived as a single volume, whose mission was clear at the outset. Obviously this was not to be a book about Word 2004 as a whole; that would be an unspeakably immense undertaking. But Word 2004, looked at as a new version of a program that you may have been using for years, has plenty of new features, options, and behaviors; and that means a need for new answers, new tips, new bug warnings. So my job was to note and explain all that is new in Word 2004, from the installation process, to what happens when you paste, to the new change-tracking balloons. I warn you of what to expect, I explain how things work (or don't work), and I advise you of the best working methods so that you can get on with things, without the upgrade to Word 2004 causing too much of a hiccup in your life.
The first draft took about a month, and then soon found itself in the hands of editor Caroline Rose, who had also worked on Jeff Tolbert's GarageBand ebook and Adam's "Take Control of Buying a Mac." Caroline is a superb editor, for two special reasons quite apart from her perfectionism and her finely honed sense of language. First, her technical experience with documentation makes her expert at tackling problems of nomenclature. Microsoft Word has a massive interface, and we needed to refer to its parts in clear, consistent terms. Second, she was the perfect reader of the book, because she upgraded to Word 2004 the day she started editing it. Immediately we hit a snag: her menus didn't look at all like mine. When we figured out the solution, it went straight into the book. (That sort of thing happened a lot as we worked together.) In this case, it turned out that the hidden Word 5.1 menus had somehow become enabled on her machine, probably because she had at some point accidentally pressed Control-5 or Control-8. The solution is simple: just press one of those shortcuts again. And no, I have no idea why there are these keyboard shortcuts that can wreck your menus, and which you are all too likely to press by mistake (for example, you could easily type Control-8 while trying to type the Option-8 bullet character).
Soon after, the book ran into trouble because it was too big. We want to keep the Take Control ebooks at a manageable size for readers. After a brainstorming session with Adam and Tonya, I volunteered to split the book into two. This surgery went much more smoothly and quickly than I had expected. The result was two volumes of about 75 pages each, with no mutual interdependency: each can be purchased and read on its own, and if you do go for the full experience and get both, there is a minimum of repeated material between the two volumes (though necessarily, in order to make each book stand on its own, there is some).
The newly pluralized books then went for a week's scrutiny before a board including Adam and Tonya, the other Take Control authors, and some expert volunteer readers from the community at large. Armed with valuable suggestions and advice from this board, Caroline and I revised each volume once again and found we were ready to put the books before the All-Seeing Eyes of Tonya Engst. The books underwent a period of three-way editing (Tonya, Caroline, and me), with copies of both volumes flying back and forth across the country and up and down the west coast. This really gave us a chance to exercise those new change tracking balloons, in the course of which we naturally found several more last-minute Word 2004 bugs, which went straight into the books.
Finally the books started giving off that delicious smell of freshly baked bread which tells you that they are done. (I made up the part about the fresh bread; sorry about that.) Tonya migrated them out of Word into PDF form (not without a few interesting adventures that taught us even more than we ever wanted to know about Word!), and passed them on to Adam for insertion into the sales process.
All That's New Is Fit to Print -- Here's a handy list of what the books cover, the new features of Word 2004, and what they mean for your use of the program:
AutoCorrect: AutoCorrect and AutoFormat As You Type now cause a smart button to appear, allowing you to undo the effect of the change or to toggle off the correction or formatting feature.
Copy and paste: Pasting now causes a smart button to appear, allowing you to specify how the pasted material should be formatted. Also, new preferences give finer control over smart copy and paste and paragraph selection behavior.
Bullets and numbering: Creating a numbered list now causes a smart button to appear, allowing you to specify whether the numbering should continue from a previous list. Also, bulleting and numbering schemes can be codified and applied through a new kind of style, the list style.
Style details: The cascade of modal dialogs when you want to modify or create a style has been reduced. Also, there is a new way to learn that a paragraph has additional formatting beyond its style definition, and to select all paragraphs having a certain style.
Table styles: A new kind of style, the table style, extends the notion of table autoformatting so that you can now define and apply your own table formats.
Unicode: Word 2004 is Unicode-savvy. Any Unicode character can be entered, and cross-platform documents containing previously problematic characters may now be legible. On the other hand, existing Macintosh documents that use characters in older specialized fonts may have new problems.
Notebook Layout view: A new view, Notebook Layout, is intended for rapid outline-based note-taking and brainstorming, and permits audio recording.
AppleScript: Previously, Word was somewhat scriptable with AppleScript, but to script it fully you had to use Visual Basic (directly or within AppleScript). Now, the complete power of Visual Basic scripting is incorporated into AppleScript; you can use AppleScript natively to make Word do absolutely anything.
Scrapbook: Office-wide persistent storage of copied material, previously called the "Office Clipboard," has been tweaked.
Formatting Palette: The Formatting Palette now contains more sections, and which sections appear can now be customized. The Formatting Palette fades when not in use; this behavior can be customized as well.
Comments: A comment can be displayed in the document itself as a balloon in Page Layout view. The display of comments in the Reviewing Pane (formerly the Comments Pane) can no longer be filtered by author, but the display in the document itself can be. Commented text is marked by brackets rather than by highlighting.
Revisions: Revisions (changes performed with Track Changes turned on) are now displayed like comments: they can be displayed as balloons in Page Layout view and are listed in the Reviewing Pane (formerly the Comments Pane). Changes to formatting are now properly reported. The Reviewing toolbar has been heavily reworked, providing four modes for viewing revisions in different ways. You can strip author names when saving a document, for security.
Navigation Pane: The Document Map is now one of two modes of the Navigation Pane; the other mode displays thumbnail images of your document's pages.
Reference tools: The interfaces for the dictionary and thesaurus have been folded together, along with new online searches of Encarta and MSN.
Crash reporting: When Word crashes, it now puts up a dialog allowing you to send the crash report to a Microsoft server.
Compatibility Report: Word now alerts you to features of your document that might not work if the document is opened with other versions of Word.
Miscellaneous changes: The Project Gallery dialog has been heavily revised. The Print dialog now includes a live preview. Find File has been abandoned. Word can automatically check online for updates. A new toolbar uses Macintosh text-to-speech to read selected text aloud.
The Horizontal and the Vertical -- So how do the two volumes divide up this material? Think of them as the horizontal and the vertical approach to Word 2004, respectively.
The first volume is intended for the general reader who mostly wants to know what is new in Word 2004. It starts by discussing the installation process. This turns out to be fairly involved, not least because Word 2004 surprises you when you first start it up by dumping 80 MB of fonts into your user's Fonts folder. Having provided a strategy for dealing with all the fallout that can result from so many fonts being installed, the book proceeds to survey all of the new features in the areas I've just listed. But it doesn't do much more than survey them, except with regard to Notebooks, which are given a fairly full tutorial treatment. The reader of the first volume thus comes away with a clear strategy for installing Word and a knowledge of the entire range of what's new in Word 2004; but the details on the more involved features are postponed to the second volume.
The second volume goes into complete depth on those topics that, for reasons of space, had to be given curtailed treatment in the first volume. These topics, by coincidence, all have to do roughly with editing and formatting; it is this fact, along with the desire to give a sense of the second volume's greater depth and detail, that led to the label "Advanced Editing & Formatting." It consists of the following sections:
Typing and Editing: The AutoCorrect smart buttons, the Paste Options smart buttons, the Numbered List smart button, and a new way of reformatting lists
Working with Styles: The Style dialog, the new Styles section of the Formatting Palette, table styles, and list styles
Entering Special Characters: How to use the Mac OS X Character Palette, keyboard layouts, and autotext to enter Unicode characters that previous versions of Word could not cope with
Unicode Support in Detail: A down-and-dirty explanation of Word's Unicode behavior, along with a study of things that can go wrong with Unicode in Word 2004 (such as why you may see square boxes instead of the correct characters in your old document) and what you can do about it
Using Markup: The balloons, the reviewing toolbar, the reviewing pane, how to view markup, how to deal with markup, and security features. A must-read for all those who use Word to edit cooperatively
Conclusion -- Use of Microsoft Word, like it or not, is practically a necessity these days; and so is upgrading if you need any of the features in Word 2004. The purpose of these two volumes, "Take Control of What's New in Word 2004" and "Take Control of What's New in Word 2004: Advanced Editing & Formatting," is to make your upgrade process as smooth, secure, and smart as it can possibly be, thus ensuring that you make the most of your investment in Microsoft Office. We wracked our brains so that you don't have to! I hope you are helped by these books; you might actually, dare I say it, enjoy them. And remember, if you have suggestions, let us know and we'll keep them in mind for a future free update.
by TidBITS Staff <email@example.com>
The second URL below each thread description points to the discussion on our Web Crossing server, which will be much faster.
Switching profiles on AirPort Express -- The AirPort Express can store up to five pre-set profiles, but the device can become confused if you don't switch profiles before taking it to a new location. (1 message)
Other methods of color matching -- Charles Maurer's ongoing series about digital photo editing on the Mac prompt discussion of color spaces (such as sRGB versus AdobeRGB) and the importance of calibrating displays (6 messages)
Anthropomorphising computers -- Is it strange to refer to "iPod" instead of "the iPod"? Does our attachment to devices make us refer to them differently? (6 messages)
Warning: FileMaker 7 and ODBC -- Sharing of ODBC databases in FileMaker 7 has changed, starting a discussion of new features and workarounds. (3 messages)
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.
Previous Issue | Search TidBITS | TidBITS Home Page | Next Issue