This week we have information about free software that makes LaserWriter Pros snooze, more on mysterious Duo shutdowns, unfortunate news about attaching an AudioVision monitor to a Quadra 840AV, additional details on the Prodigy gateway, more on PageMaker 5.0 with a clarification of last week’s mention, news about a possible bug with overtraining the MessagePad’s handwriting recognition, and the start of a multi-part, technical look at the Newton.
Adam is in electronic hiding for a few weeks as he finishes writing The Internet Starter Kit for Macintosh. Although he claims he will read his email, please don’t expect responses to anything but the most urgent messages. Thanks for your understanding. -Tonya
PageMaker’s not alone — Mark H. Anbinder writes to clarify his comments about PageMaker’s capability of dragging objects between document windows in TidBITS #188. "Thanks to everyone who’s commented that XPress has offered this feature for some time. As a long-time XPress user myself, I am aware of this but was attempting to focus on the fact that Aldus, in giving PageMaker the capability to handle multiple documents, had done it right. I never intended to suggest that no one else had done so, just that much of the rest of the market has not."
Newton’s Law — One’s affinity to Newton is directly proportional to how well it recognizes one’s handwriting. -Ross Scott Rubin. [However, it is fun to consult the Newton Oracle by drawing squiggles in the NotePad and seeing how it interprets them. And then there’s the Newton’s unfortunate predilection for recognizing "call" as "kill" – a wee problem when entering to do items. -Adam]
Too much of a good thing — We’ve heard a number of complaints that indicate you can overtrain a MessagePad to your handwriting. Too much training may confuse the poor little thing, causing recognition to decrease after significant usage. The only solution that seems to make any difference is to toss your preferences and start over. We hope Apple will have some suggestions about this problem soon.
The Quadra 840AV surprisingly does not come with a cable for Apple’s new AudioVision Monitor. This in itself would be understandable if the monitor came with a working cable, but the cable doesn’t plug into any of the 840’s ports. Evidently, Apple plans to add the proper port to future 840s, but in the meantime you have to call Apple and order a special cable. Russ Black <[email protected]> posted a note about this on comp.sys.mac.announce and said that Apple charged him for the cable and that their current computerized ordering system didn’t even know about it. Apple, you can do better!
Putting printers to sleep. We’ve recently caught wind of a useful and politically correct freeware program released by Apple’s Energy Star group. The program lets a LaserWriter Pro go to sleep after a specified amount of inactivity to save energy. We applaud Apple for creating a program that not only decreases wear and tear on the printer but also saves energy. So if you own a LaserWriter Pro that spends most of its time turned on, check it out and give your printer some much needed rest. It’s available for FTP from <sumex-aim.stanford.edu> as:
Prodigy/Internet email details are still fuzzy, but Jeff Needleman <[email protected]> said that the software for Macs to receive Internet email works fine, but the software for sending only works for DOS machines. So, Prodigy has to decide if it will allow one-way Internet access for Macintosh users, at least until a version of the software that can send Internet email appears on the Mac side of things. Why do we suspect this will slow the entire process down a good bit?
In TidBITS #183, I gave a brief account of a simple solution to a common Duo problem – poor contact between the battery and the Duo, resulting in frequent shutdowns. The solution, to rehash for a moment, was to reach into the Duo with a small, non-metallic object and carefully bend the power leads up so they would make firmer contact. And it worked.
For a while, anyway. One day, my Duo shut down again, and I cleverly thought, "Aha! The leads need a little more encouragement."
Well, I learned something. I learned that it is, in fact, possible to bend one of the leads just far enough that, when you push the battery in, the lead will bend the wrong way and flatten against the back of the battery chamber. It is then very difficult to bend it back. So be warned that this little fix can fix you but good.
Now, you might be interested in a bit more helpful info on the problem. Some Duos do indeed have a problem with the battery connections. Apple knows about it, but hasn’t deigned to tell the world. Apparently the foam pad under the leads isn’t quite thick enough in some cases, and doesn’t provide enough resistance. However, if you call Apple at 800/SOS-APPL and describe your problem, they will send you a prepaid shipping box and return your machine in several working days, (in my case anyway) complete with a new logic board and new rubber bumpers for the sides of your machine. The woman I spoke to was extremely friendly and helpful, and my machine arrived back a day earlier than expected.
Also, you may be suffering from this shutdown problem even if there isn’t anything wrong with your power leads. Apple sanctions this fix (they just forgot to put it in the manual), so try it without fear (if you’re still nervous, talk it over with Apple first):
- Take your battery out.
- Note that the battery shutter appears to be all the way in the "open" position.
- Ignore this fact, and slide it another quarter-inch in the "open" direction. You will have to pull hard the first few times, but it loosens up later. You’ll hear a loud snap, and then the shutter will stop again.
- Resting it on a table or some such object, tilt the Duo carefully back onto its back edge.
- Carefully slide the battery most of the way into the compartment, then drop it the last half-inch. Really. That’s how Apple’s repair folks do it.
When finished, the seam between the battery and the Duo’s case should be indistinguishable from the seam on the other side of the mouse button.
If you don’t follow these steps, the battery does not seat correctly, and you get – surprise! – poor contact with the leads.
I apologize for the bad advice last time and hope nobody suffered from it. Give the battery trick a try and see what happens. If you still have problems, call Apple and have your machine fixed, quickly and for free. I did, and I didn’t turn to dust without my machine, much to my surprise.
Thankfully for Aldus and the many users of its PageMaker page layout software, one of the most eagerly awaited upgrades of the year is here. PageMaker was once the premiere package for creating publications, but years of stagnation on the feature front and cut-throat competition from arch-rival Quark XPress has steadily eroded Aldus’s user base. With Quark providing users with advanced typographic control, built-in color separation, multiple open windows, floating control palettes, and an extensible program architecture through Quark Xtensions, Aldus had a lot of catching up to do. The new version keeps the old PageMaker interface (arguably the best in the business) and adds most of Quark XPress’s features plus a few new ones for good measure.
First Impressions — You won’t find any surprises when you first boot PageMaker 5.0. Other than a spiffy new picture of Aldus Manutius on startup, it looks much like the previous incarnation. You may notice that the toolbox has a new tool that looks much like the rotate tool in Quark XPress. In fact, it is a rotate tool and you can now freely rotate text or graphics to any angle with text remaining editable. Previous versions limited you to 90 degree rotational increments and text that you couldn’t edit without using the Story Editor.
More surprises await in the menus. Under the Window menu you’ll see Tile and Cascade. Yes, after all these years PageMaker can finally open more than one document, supposedly as many as memory allows [although we’ve heard rumors that PageMaker has some memory leaks as a result of this feature. -Adam]. And just like XPress, you can drag elements from window to window without using copy and paste.
Other menu options include the traditional style, color, and control palettes plus a new one called Library. If you’re familiar with XPress then you will have no problem using PageMaker’s libraries, because they function identically to XPress’s. You can store often-used graphic elements in a library for future use. You can group libraries by subject or job, or call them up and have their contents conveniently available. To use a library object, all you do is drag it onto the page. Yet, unlike XPress, you cannot drag objects into a library, you must use a select and paste method. PageMaker’s libraries improve upon XPress’s in two important regards: they have a search function and support Fetch, Aldus’s multimedia cataloging program.
Palette Changes — PageMaker’s old palettes have improved. Most changed is the Control palette, which in the past did little more than let you move elements around the page. XPress’s similar Measurements palette was capable of specifications like font selection, leading, kerning, tracking, justification, skew, and rotational angle in addition to positioning. Now Aldus has one-upped Quark with a superb Control palette that does all of what XPress’s does and somehow includes the kitchen sink as well. For textural work the Control palette adds the functions of baseline shift and horizontal scaling to XPress’s standards. One click on a button with the pilcrow symbol and the palette changes to one centered on style functions. Here you can choose a text style; first line, left, and right indent, and paragraph spacing. In graphics mode this palette matches XPress with mirroring, cropping, skewing, positioning, and rotating.
The new Color palette works somewhat like its equivalent in FreeHand, allowing you to specify whether to apply the color to line, fill, or both. However, PageMaker lacks the handy menu on FreeHand’s palette that allows you to create new colors and modify old ones, although the command-click color editing shortcut still works. Also, PageMaker now supports a multitude of color libraries including Pantone, ToyoPC, Focoltone, DIC, and Trumatch.
Additions — Aldus is also trying to best Quark XPress in Additions, modules that add functionality to the program. PageMaker’s Library function itself is an Addition. Many other Additions ship with PageMaker, including ones that make initial dropped capitals, traverse text blocks, balance columns, get information, and do something unique called "Expert Kerning," which theoretically goes through selected text and kerns character pairs better than the font’s built-in kerning tables.
The Additions don’t always work well. Expert Kerning takes about as long as flying in an expert to kern your text. A small paragraph took in excess of five minutes. Reserve this feature for an unattended overnight run when working on an entire document. The results of this process are mixed and its methods are a mystery. The automated drop cap feature is also a disappointment. PageMaker creates a drop cap by tabbing in the number of lines equivalent to the drop cap’s height and placing it on the line where the letter’s baseline rests. This method can cause some sticky situations later with editing or reformatting. Quark does a better automatic drop cap, where the drop cap is considered a character on the first line and doesn’t cause future editing problems.
Notably Good — On a more positive and useful note is PageMaker’s support for font matching schemes. PageMaker uses the Panose matching scheme which interactively asks for replacement typefaces if those used by the document don’t exist. It keeps a record of these substitutions for future use. Panose also can attempt to duplicate the font metrics of the missing typeface using a default font. This feature makes the best of bad situations, and is worthwhile because it eliminates the possibility of ever seeing courier taking the place of another face. PageMaker also supports Adobe’s SuperATM.
I should also mention that PageMaker has an excellent new help and training system.
Of all the new bells and whistles, the most important feature for professionals is built-in color separation for full color printing. In version 4.2 you used a separate application for creating color separations, a tedious and complex procedure. Quark XPress 3.0 and up included excellent separation functionality in the program itself, winning many converts for this reason alone. PageMaker now includes a flexible and comprehensible separation function accessible from its print dialogs.
In addition to the new features, PageMaker still supports the excellent features from past versions that Quark XPress lacks, such as a time-saving indexing feature and table of contents generator. These features alone can save hours of work on long or technical documents. The best feature of PageMaker continues to be the Story Editor, which provides word processor-like editing facilities within PageMaker. The Story Editor seriously eases the process of editing or writing text in a layout. Also handy is PageMaker’s ability to open an embedded graphic in its original program for easy editing. And, although XPress has a spelling checker, PageMaker’s is more intuitive, allows for dictionary modification, and just plain works better.
Room for Improvement — Still, even after this major overhaul, PageMaker is not all wine and roses. Several problems still stand out. The program has an overall slow feel to it, even on a Quadra. It doesn’t help matters that the new Control palette’s three-dimensional buttons seem to respond slower than XPress’s traditional ones. Aldus Additions continue to run as slow as molasses and are shamed by XPress’s seamless Xtension technology. PageMaker’s RAM requirements are quite large at 4 MB and it sucks up nearly 10 MB of disk space.
I’d like to see PageMaker support character styles like most modern word processors. Another pet peeve of mine is PageMaker’s lack of arrowheads for lines. But it does, finally, let you specify any line width. And, lastly, PageMaker still lacks tools for aligning text and graphics.
As a user of PageMaker from version 2.0 I’ve always appreciated its excellent interface and ease of use. As the competition excelled in providing the features users needed I, like many others, moved to another program for the bulk of my work. Now with PageMaker 5.0 users like me can come home again.
Pricing — The retail package costs $895, but you can upgrade for $75 if you upgraded to version 4.2 from a previous purchase, and all other owners of earlier PageMaker versions can upgrade for $150. The only exception is if you bought a retail copy of version 4.2 after 01-Jan-93, you get a free update. Aldus is also offering a $25 upgrade rebate for all upgrades purchased before 31-Aug-93.
Aldus — 206/628-2320
[It seems that the 800 number listed on at least one of the upgrade notices sent to registered users is the number for a small electronics firm. As of last Tuesday, they were still confused as to why they were receiving a lot of wrong numbers, so I hope Aldus has addressed the problem for them. -Adam]
— Information from:
[This is the first of a several part series that we plan to run about the Newton. We’ll have a look at the hardware, the operating system, some devil’s advocacy, and third-party add-on information. This week we bring you a detailed look at using the Newton, with more real-life details than we’ve read elsewhere. -Tonya]
A flick on a spring-loaded slider awakens the MessagePad and it comes up in the application you were last using or showing a big Newton logo and a window for writing the password.
Once you are in, you move around the different parts of the system by tapping the icons below the screen: Names, Dates, Extras, Undo, Find, and Assist. The default application is a notepad, but by tapping the Names and Dates icons, a Rolodex-type application and a scheduling/to-do list application load, respectively. The Extras icon opens a window with icons for utility programs, such as the Prefs program which lets you adjust the MessagePad’s settings. Extras also has In and Out Boxes for incoming serial or beamed data and outgoing print jobs, faxes, or beams. The icons for programs on PCMCIA ROM cards appear here as well. Between Extras and Undo sit the vertical scroll arrows that steer you up and down through multiple screens of text or graphics. Undo has two levels. Find searches for information in either the current application or the entire system. Assist summons Intelligent Assistance to perform a job for you. I checked out the Intelligent Assistance by writing "See Rob Monday at 10" in the NotePad. I then tapped the Assist button, causing the Assistance to open the scheduler, find the upcoming Monday’s date, and put the note "See Rob" into the appropriate 10 AM slot.
Certain applications will present various icons at specific times. For instance, a small folder icon lets you organize lists of information in up to 12 named folders, a keyboard icon summons the mini-keyboard, and a letter icon provides access to the mail, printer, fax, and beam functions. The letter icon also lets you duplicate or delete objects.
Small diamonds indicate pop-up menus that appear with a tap. This pop-up menu remains present until you select a menu item or tap elsewhere on the screen. Small boxes with an X in them function identically to Mac window close boxes. In all, the interface is uncluttered and easy to understand.
Text Entry — You enter information by writing or sketching on the screen. If the text recognizer misinterprets portions of a word, you can correct the error by jotting a new character over the incorrect one. You wipe out entries with a scrubbing gesture over the offending text or graphic. The MessagePad then erases it with a smoke puff animation. Other gestures add spaces between characters or convert them to upper or lower case. Tapping on a word twice summons a pop-up menu with alternate interpretations of the word, the "ink" image of the word, and a keyboard icon. If one of the alternate words is the correct word, you pick it on this menu. To save the writing as ink, you select the image. Choosing the keyboard icon summons a miniature keyboard where you can tap on the keys to make corrections in a pinch.
The text recognizer works well and interpreted most of my printed text. I wrote "handwriting recognition fairly hit-and-miss", and the text recognizer got the first three words correctly, and came up with gibberish for the last three words. The dashes caused the gibberish. According a draft copy of the MessagePad Handbook, punctuation must be placed close to the word to be recognized properly. Because the recognizer uses dictionaries and name lists (your own additions to the dictionary) for the recognition process, results of interpreting my handwriting were either frighteningly accurate or a hodgepodge of obscure words and numbers. Nevertheless, the recognizer is adept at handling certain writing idiosyncrasies. When I take notes, I go back and dot the i’s after first writing the word. This quirk didn’t bother the recognizer at all.
A Handwriting Practice section in the Prefs area provides practice words to write so that the Newton OS can analyze and adapt to your writing style. It takes about 150 words to train the text recognizer. When you use a MessagePad for the first time, it pays to spend a half-hour or more in this section. In the Handwriting Styles section, a slider lets you specify how much of your writing is cursive, printed, or a mixture of the two. A Recognition Preferences section lets you fine-tune both the text and graphics recognizers for certain situations (in text, whether to recognize numbers and punctuation; in graphics, whether to connect shapes in a drawing, among other options). Overall, I was impressed with the MessagePad’s text recognition, but I print blocky letters (an old habit from my FORTRAN days). Still, be prepared to use Undo and practice the gestures to make corrections.
Selecting, Dragging, and Parking — To select an object, you hold the stylus on the graphic or text until a large ink blotch appears. You then swab this ink, which acts like a highlighting marker, over what you want to select. Tapping twice on a selected object and holding the pen down makes a copy of the object that you can then drag elsewhere.
After you select an object, you can "park" it by dragging it to the screen’s edge, flip to another Newton application, and drag the object into that application. It’s a nice visual metaphor for a Clipboard that should be easy for the non-computer user to grasp. Also, programs can control what type of information gets placed in an object. For example, when you enter a phone number in the Personal area, the window you write in only accepts digits. This goes a long way to reducing user errors.
Linking to the Desktop — What if you have hundred names and numbers on your desktop computer, and you’d like them in a MessagePad? Or, you’ve recorded dozens of new contacts on the MessagePad, and want the information on your Mac or Windows PC? Apple provides a Newton Connection Kit for just this purpose. You connect to the desktop computer with the supplied serial cable, or in the case of a networked Mac, by plugging the MessagePad into a connector on a LocalTalk network. A Newton Connection application running on the host computer establishes communications with the MessagePad, and synchronization of the data between the computer and MessagePad happens automatically when the machines connect. You can use this method to backup MessagePad data or install new programs.
Printing and Faxing — To test printing, I plugged the MessagePad into a LocalTalk node on BYTE’s AppleTalk network. From the Outbox, a printer selection window showed me the various network zones and PostScript printers. A tap on a printer name, then one on the close box, and another tap on a Print button, and a minute later a duplicate of the note appeared on a page coming out of a LaserWriter Pro 630. Faxing didn’t work so well for me. Lacking a MessagePad fax modem, I plugged a Global Village TelePort/Gold fax modem into the serial port. According to the status window, the MessagePad attempted to connect to the modem, but never succeeded. So much for using third-party modems at the moment, but remember, this was beta hardware and software.
Thoughts — Based on just the built-in Name and Date applications, the MessagePad doesn’t seem much of a win. After all, you can use the low-tech yet practical schedule book and rolodex to arrange meetings and track contact information. However, a MessagePad equipped with a functional fax/modem and Messaging Card for email changes the situation and might make a MessagePad perfect for people who travel constantly and yet must make decision to turn a business on a dime.
Third-party Newton applications may make a case for owning a MessagePad. For example, GeoSystems’ Fodor’s 1994 Travel Manager lets you call up the maps of ten largest cities in the U.S. and locate hotels with their phone numbers. Selecting a hotel in, say, Boston, gets you a bitmapped map of the city with a circle outlining the hotel’s location. Tapping on the circle zooms you into a map of the city block, complete with street names. You can summon up a To/From window, where you can drop in the hotel’s name, and the name of a restaurant you located in another part of the application. You then get street by street directions from the hotel to the restaurant. The ability to navigate through a new city using the MessagePad shows its value as a general-purpose device, given the proper software. [If this proves popular and MessagePads sell in other parts of the world, I see no reason why GeoSystems wouldn’t put out software for cities worldwide. -Tonya]
For vertical markets, the MessagePad’s light weight, combined with the ability of the Newton OS to restrict the types of data entry makes it suitable for forms handling. As an example, an insurance company’s accident form might allow text entries in some sections, numbers only in other sections, with an area where a field agent can sketch an accident scene using only ink. [More on third-party applications coming in a future TidBITS issue. -Tonya]
The MessagePad, as the first implementation of Newton technology, is an impressive technical achievement. Based on my experience with the beta unit, the Newton OS is fast and stable, and the Intelligent Assistance does a good job performing useful tasks based on the information in the system and the context of your actions. Currently, there are few applications that can take advantage of the Newton technology. However, that will change. The MessagePad is an excellent platform from which developers can create the applications that can do new and innovative things on the handheld, mobile computer that the MessagePad represents.