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Macworld Superlatives

At a trade show with thousands of products, it’s impossible to see everything – or even all the important things. Some of these products may receive more in-depth coverage in future TidBITS issues, but we figured you’d want to hear about them sooner rather than later.

Neat Paging Software — Isn’t it nice when a company tops itself? Ex Machina has done so, adding to its line of paging software with Reach Me!, a customizable utility pager users can give their friends and clients. Purchased in sets of ten or fifty diskettes (for Mac or Windows), Reach Me! lets the friend or client send a message to the pager owner with a minimum of fuss or muss. The software has your pager’s phone number and ID code pre-entered, and it automatically configures itself to the user’s modem.

Ex Machina — 212/843-0000 — <[email protected]>

More is Better — A year or so ago, Radius sold the Pivot product line back to Portrait Display Labs, which had developed the concept originally. Now PDL has introduced a 17-inch version of its flexible color monitor, which operates in portrait or landscape mode. This model won’t trigger the Mac to redraw the screen automatically, as would previous Pivot monitors; a representative explained that implementing that feature and supporting the new PCI video cards at the same time was an insurmountable challenge. Still, not having that feature may not phase experienced Pivot users, who often found it caused more problems than it solved.

Portrait Display Labs — 510/227-2700 — <[email protected]>

Less is Better — Technosystems USA, developers of Chagall, don’t think Photoshop users need to switch to their program, but they’re happy to provide a less-expensive, smaller, snappier alternative to new buyers. The $299 Chagall handles most popular graphics file formats, runs fine in as little as 750K of RAM, and even supports Photoshop plug-ins. Its drawing and painting tools are clever and intuitive, and a native Power Mac version is available. (And yes, converted Photoshop users are welcome.)

Technosystems USA — 800/417-0108 — 502/351-0108

A Magical Experience — By far the coolest CD-ROM I ran into in Boston last week was Broderbund’s new Learn the Art of Magic. On the CD, professional magician Jay Alexander gives an interactive video-clip tour of the art’s history, some of its most important practitioners, and dozens of fun tricks. The demonstrations help kids or adults learn some impressive prestidigitation to amaze friends and relatives, or even go into the business.

Broderbund Software — 415/382-4400 — 415/382-4582 (fax)

Tame Those Fonts! Impossible Software’s Type-Tamer goes the traditional font-menu utility one better, showing the kind of font (TrueType, PostScript, or bitmap only) as a miniature icon in the Font menu. It also offers a full display of the font’s character set right from the Font menu of just about any program, and can tell you what fonts are used in your current document.

Impossible Software — 714/470-4800 — <[email protected]>

At It Again — We’re almost, but not quite, tired of commenting that a new Connectix product offers what Apple software engineers ought to have provided all along. The new Speed Doubler replaces Apple’s 68LC040 emulator built into every Power Macintosh with a souped-up emulator that compiles on the fly, significantly improving the performance of non-native software. (We’ve all got some, despite our best efforts.) As a bonus, Speed Doubler replaces Apple’s disk cache function with a faster one, and speeds up Finder copying and deleting while letting you move it to the background. 68K Mac owners will see some speed improvements from the disk caching, but Power Mac owners will see their emulated software fly, although there have been sporadic reports of less-than-miraculous performance improvements from Speed Doubler. [It’s not miraculous, but as a Power Mac owner, count me as a satisfied Speed Doubler user. -Tonya]

Connectix — 800/950-5880 — 415/571-5100 — <[email protected]>

Tongue-in-Cheek T — Frank Imburgia is a familiar face outside Boston’s World Trade Center, where he’s sold clever T-shirts to Mac fanatics each August for years. (His dogcow shirts are priceless.) This year’s best? A new version of the "This is your brain… this is your brain on drugs" cliche, with an Apple logo under the first phrase and a Windows logo under the second. No, it’s not too late to get yours.

The Yankee Group — 617/367-1000 — <[email protected]>

Cool Gadget — Macworld always has its share of nifty peripherals, but this one is small enough you might have missed it. Alps now sells a GlidePoint pointing device, just like the flat-surface Trackpad in Apple’s 500 series PowerBooks, but the star of their show was the GlidePoint Keypad, a combination numeric keypad and pointing device scheduled to ship for both Mac and PC platforms any day now. Ever wonder why you couldn’t simply tap on a PowerBook’s Trackpad to click, instead of reaching for one of the buttons? Alps wondered, too, so the GlidePoint products let you tap right on the pointing surface. The buttons are there, too, and can be programmed for double-clicks, keystrokes, etc.

Alps Electric (USA) — 800/825-2577 — 408/432-6000

Too Obvious? Until now, every single developer of telecommunications software has had to cope with a daunting array of different ways that people need to dial the phone. Software needs to handle local and long-distance calls, phone credit cards, authorization codes, and access digits. The problem is compounded for roving users whose PowerBooks need to dial the phone differently each day. Now, Cypress Research offers MegaDial, an inexpensive utility that intercepts any program’s attempt to dial with your modem, and handles all of these concerns. MegaDial even knows the local access numbers worldwide for popular commercial online services, and switches for you. Just tell MegaDial where you are.

Cypress Research — 408/752-2700 — 408/752-2735 (fax) — <[email protected]>

Missed By That Much — CE Software was almost, but not quite, ready to ship QuickMail 3.5 at Macworld. (The release, planned for this August, should be ready in early September.) As promised, the update supports styled text, drag and drop, server-based mail processing, an America Online gateway, and a non-modal QuickConference chat feature. The company has managed to eliminate the need for any extensions in QuickMail, so the software should be cleaner to run, but the resulting three-application architecture (including an always-running QuickMailHub background application) may prove cumbersome.

CE Software — 800/523-7638 — 515/221-1801 — <[email protected]>

Utterly Non-Mac — One of the niftiest products at the show has nothing to do with Macs. VideoGuide is a television set-top unit that receives its information through MobileComm’s nationwide radio pager network. The remote-controlled unit has always-up-to-date TV program schedules for your area, complete with descriptions, movie casts, and local programming. The box is under $100 and works with any TV in the continental US, with or without cable. There’s a low monthly charge for the basic data, and a small optional monthly charge if you also want the unit to show you the latest sports and news info on-screen.

VideoGuide — 617/276-8800 — 617/276-8878 (fax)

How… Nice — On Technology is very proud of the email integration feature in the new Meeting Maker XP 3.0, but I’m less impressed by the company’s decision to support only Microsoft’s MAPI technology for email. The much-touted Internet support in the program inexplicably doesn’t include email, though I’d hate to downplay the cool ability to connect to your calendar server from anywhere on the Internet (including via PPP or SLIP). Support for SMTP should be a given, and adding support for other LAN-based email technologies such as SoftArc’s FirstClass or CE’s QuickMail would help in the workgroup environments Meeting Maker calls home.

On Technology — 800/548-8871 — 617/374-1400

Turnabout Revisited — I like Here & Now from Software Architects better than Insignia’s utility for reading Mac disks on DOS/Windows computers; you can read not only Mac-formatted floppies, but also SCSI devices such as Bernoulli and SyQuest cartridges, optical discs, and even hard drives. Here & Now supports the Mac’s 31-character filenames, and links Mac file types to appropriate Windows applications.

Software Architects — 206/487-0122 — <[email protected]>

Best PCI Device — It’s not that I don’t like the new PCI Local Bus expansion technology Apple has adopted for its new line of Power Macs, just that some devices can be hard to find on PCI at this point. Add one of Second Wave’s Xpanse PN units to your PCI-based Mac, and you can use two, four, or eight NuBus cards with your system, although it’s not exactly an inexpensive alternative.

Second Wave — 512/329-9283 — 512/329-9299 (fax)

We’d Hate to See "Complex" — Claris now offers the Claris Card, a calling card "created to simplify your life." As far as we can tell, it just simplifies Claris’s ability to charge for technical support that many companies still offer free of charge. (Either pay-as-you-go, starting at $19.95 for the first ten minutes, or annual subscriptions for $129 and up.) The company promises the card will zip you past its phone support line’s "complicated" menu system. You can use it as a phone calling card for long distance calls, too. So, um… this is simple?

Claris — 800/234-4750

Neat Giveaway — Gone are the days of tchotchkes at every other booth, but the clever folks at Digitool, Inc. were spreading the word about their new Power Mac native version of Macintosh Common Lisp (formerly an Apple product) by giving out postcards complete with a postage stamp. Tell your friends.

Digitool — 617/441-5000 — <[email protected]>

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