Turnabout is Fair Play — There have been several products to let Mac users read DOS-formatted disks over the years, from the DaynaFile drives to the collection of software taking advantage of the SuperDrive. Rumor has it that there have been shareware solutions for DOS users who wish to read Mac disks, but finally there’s a high-profile commercial product – from the DOS experts at Insignia Solutions. MacDisk, shipping soon, is a simple, straightforward product that allows Mac disks and their contents to be accessed within DOS and Windows; DOS 6.0 is supported (but its compression won’t work on the Mac volumes), and the developers expect to be able to claim official support for OS/2 and DR-DOS after some extra tests are completed.
Insignia Solutions — 800/848-7677 — 415/694-7600
Most Worthwhile "Me Too" — Usually the second company to market with a comparable product finds itself at a disadvantage. Not so with Stac Electronics, whose Stacker driver-level disk compression software goes up against Times Two from Golden Triangle (which we mentioned in last August’s Macworld Superlatives list, in TidBITS #137). Stacker uses the same compression engine as Times Two; Stac licensed their LZS engine, also used in their DOS version of Stacker, to Golden Triangle last year. The innards may be the same, but Stac points out a number of interface and implementation differences that they feel put them in the lead. Initial examination suggests there are plenty of differences; we’ll examine them in depth at a later time.
Stac Electronics — 800/522-7822 — 619/431-7474 — 619/431-0880 (fax)
Welcome to the 1980s — Aldus has finally shipped PageMaker 5.0, the long-awaited version that includes an ability perfected in most applications the better part of a decade ago: handling multiple open documents at once. Don’t get the idea, though, that we don’t applaud Aldus’s achievement. We do! In the process of modifying this old application to handle multiple documents, Aldus software engineers played leapfrog with much of the rest of the market. PageMaker 5.0 allows any object to be moved or copied from one document to another in the most intuitive way imaginable – by dragging. Kudos to PageMaker for extending the desktop metaphor.
Aldus — 206/622-5500 — 206/233-7404 (fax)
2 + 2 = 4 — PSI Integration wins the award for most intelligent combination of existing technologies with the introduction of its FAXcilitate Broadcast product/service. PSI has combined its newly-revamped fax-sending software with US Sprint’s fax broadcasting service to produce a product that makes it easy to send faxes to as many as thousands of fax recipients with a single toll-free call. According to literature distributed at the PSI booth, it would cost about $140 and take just a few minutes to send a two-page fax to 200 recipients through the FAXcilitate Broadcast service, whereas the same fax sent directly to each recipient would take hours.
PSI Integration — 800/622-1722 — 408/559-8544 — 408/559-8548 (fax)
Best Revival — This close contender for Best PowerBook Product actually deserves its own category, since it’s the best use of old technology in a new way. Back in 1985, I bought the first scanner available for Macintosh, and ThunderScan’s creators, ThunderWare, have done it again with the first scanner (that I know of) designed specifically for PowerBook users. Their handheld, battery-powered scanner uses a similar design to the popular LightningScan, and since it sports a serial interface, it should work with literally any PowerBook (including the Duos) or, presumably, any other Mac.
ThunderWare, Inc. — 415/254-6581 — 415/254-3047 (fax)
Best Battery — There must have been a dozen vendors showing or selling replacement batteries or add-on batteries for PowerBooks, but the ThinPack from VST deserves special recognition. It’s neither almost as big nor almost as heavy as your PowerBook (as some add-on batteries are), and you can put it under the PowerBook as you use it, or leave it connected via the included cord while it sits out of the way, perhaps in your briefcase or carry-on bag. If you want to use your PowerBook for several more hours than you dreamed possible, give these folks a call. (Note that there’s no Duo battery yet, and color PowerBook owners can expect a less-dramatic extension on battery life.)
VST — 508/287-4600 — 508/287-4068 (fax)
Worst Congestion — After attending several Macworld Expos, I’ve grown accustomed to wending my way through crowds of impressed folks trying to look at the wares at one booth or another. Badly-designed booths can cause quite a bit of blockage in the aisles. The award goes to Adobe, though, since at several points when I tried to get by, their demonstrations were literally blocking the entire aisle. A novice could be excused for putting a visually-interesting display at the corner of a booth, with no place for onlookers to stand other than in the aisle, but veterans like Adobe should know better. Please, folks, when planning your next booth, if you want show attendees to be able to stand and watch, provide for some space within your booth. Don’t use all the space out to the edge of the booth so there will be no place to stand other than the aisle. If you’re hoping that the congestion will get more people to stop and see what you have, grow up and let your product stand on its own two feet. [I’d like to give Apple an honorable mention for this as well – I couldn’t even get close the AV Macs every time I tried. -Adam]
Unfair Competition — It used to be that Global Village Communications offered one of the strongest fax/modem products, but at a premium price. Competitors could smugly say, "Yes, theirs is better, but ours is cheaper." No more, thanks to Global Village’s introduction this week of the TelePort/Bronze II, a redesigned version of the company’s low-end modem without some of the bells and whistles. Global Village’s customer surveys concluded that most people never use many of the fancy features, so this new $109 modem leaves out the data compression and error correction from the 2400 bps data modem, draws power from the Mac’s ADB instead of from an expensive, clumsy power adapter, has no voice/fax switch, and doesn’t include the company’s fancy OCR (optical character recognition) software for turning received faxes into editable documents. But with a basic product that does everything most people need, and does it with Global Village’s award-winning fax software, other companies will find they can no longer compete on price alone.
Global Village Communications — 800/736-4821 — 415/329-0700
Best Newton Vaporware — While we’re at it, there were lots of almost-ready add-on products for the Newton MessagePad being shown, both on the show floor and at the Newton Showcase at Boston’s Symphonic Hall. The most impressive-looking (given our biases toward universal email access, of course) was CE Software’s QuickAccess prototype. QuickAccess (invoked on the MessagePad through the use of the action word "qac," pronounced "quack") will enable roaming Newton users to access their QuickMail, Novell MHS, or PowerTalk (AOCE) compliant mail servers. To CE’s credit, the prototype sported not a Newtonized QuickMail interface, but a new approach to mail access that seemed much better integrated with Newton’s overall design.
CE Software, Inc. — 515/224-1995
Best Old Idea — SuperMac did this years ago with their DataStream tape drive, and I’ve been wondering why no one else has. Optima Technology has just released a new version of its DeskTape software, which will now be available separately from the company’s storage devices. DeskTape uses the familiar desktop interface for high-capacity tape storage, allowing DAT cartridges to appear on the Finder desktop. You can drag files to and from your tape drive, and even open and use applications or documents that are stored on tape. The advantages for graphic designers and service bureaus are obvious, even though the access time for such devices can be as long as 26 seconds. DeskTape can’t work with tape archives created with backup software like Retrospect, but once you create a DeskTape volume on a DAT cartridge, you can use just about any backup software to back up or archive files to that volume.
Optima Technology Corp. — 714/476-0515 — 714/476-0613 (fax)
Hungriest — We mentioned Focus Enhancements as being "Most Evident" at last August’s Macworld Expo. They had a slightly lower-key presence outside the World Trade Center this year (only a few local youngsters handing out bags and buttons) but an even bigger booth at Bayside Expo Center. Focus operates by finding good technology and acquiring it, then selling and supporting it directly. This month we learned that Focus has just acquired ETC, the mail-order company seen in the pages of many a Mac magazine. According to Focus, they’re most excited about having acquired ETC’s European distribution channel, since there’s a large European market just waiting to buy high quality products at mail-order prices.
Focus Enhancements — 617/938-8088 — 617/938-1098 (fax) — [email protected]
Long-Lost Cousin Award — While Apple introduced its Newton MessagePad with lots of noise and commotion, Apple’s Newton manufacturing partner Sharp Electronics quietly released its own version, the Sharp Newton ExpertPad. The ExpertPad is identical to the MessagePad except for the name, a hinged door to cover the screen, and (as a result of the door) a slightly different pen-holder. Newton enhancements should work equally well on either unit. If past performance is any guide, Apple’s version is likely to be hard to find for a few weeks (supplies were artificially abundant at Macworld) and the ExpertPad is likely to be available at just about any Sharp consumer electronics dealer.
Sharp Electronics — 800/237-4277 — 201/529-8200