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This week’s top story concerns a new program called The Internet Adapter, a $25 Unix program that turns an Internet Unix shell account into a SLIP account. We also have news about RAM Doubler 1.5’s new office, details about OneWorld fax server software and certain PowerBooks, a look a program that makes it as simple as possible for users to transfer files over a modem to a service bureau, and, to round out the issue, a preview of Microsoft Word 6.0.

Adam Engst No comments


Ah, to return home after an extended tour of Boston and the Northeast, complete with an ongoing bout of the Martian Death Flu. There’s nothing like returning to hundreds of messages that I didn’t read while on the road (mostly mailing lists, luckily) and to a foot of snail mail. In the confusion, I managed to accidentally send two personal messages (and a quick apology) to all 9,600+ people on the TidBITS mailing list, resulting in a number of messages from people who were relieved to see that even we so-called net experts can screw up royally from time to time, proving that we’re only human. Or perhaps we’re actually sophisticated artificial intelligences? [ACE]

Mark H. Anbinder No comments

All in the family?

All in the family? Global Village tech support acknowledged recently something that confused users have been discovering: the company’s OneWorld fax server software is not compatible with its software required to use a PowerPort modem in a 500-series PowerBook or PowerBook Duo. Oops. The OneWorld software comes with new, OneWorld-compatible versions of the TelePort and 100-series PowerPort control panels, but it predated the release of the PowerPort modems for the 500 and Duo series PowerBooks. Unfortunately, an update is not immediately forthcoming, though Global Village hopes to release one by the end of the year. Meanwhile, 500-series and Duo owners should not install OneWorld fax software on their PowerBooks if they plan to use an internal Global Village modem as well. [MHA]

Adam Engst No comments

A 4 Crabs price correction

A 4 Crabs price correction comes thanks to a few readers who wrote in to let us know that the $50 price for the 4 Crabs of Thai CD mentioned in last week’s issue (TidBITS-238) was a show special only. The price you pay now for the CD is $59.95.

Live Oak Multimedia — 510/654-7480 — 510/654-4637 (fax) –<[email protected]>

Mark H. Anbinder No comments

Made for each other

Made for each other — Connectix announced during the Macworld Expo in Boston that RAM Doubler 1.5 (updated to support Power Macintosh and to improve performance on all Macs) will be included in every new copy of Microsoft Office from 01-Sep-94 through 31-Mar-95. RAM Doubler 1.5 began shipping at Macworld. Running more than one of Microsoft Office’s component products at once (Word, Excel, and PowerPoint are the primary applications) takes quite a bit of memory, so all but the most memory-endowed users will appreciate the breathing room RAM Doubler affords. [MHA]

Mark H. Anbinder No comments

Minimalist File Transfer

Director of Technical Services, Baka Industries Inc.

Output service bureaus have long used high-end communications software to allow customers to upload files for printing. FirstClass, the email and conferencing package from SoftArc Inc., has become popular for service bureaus who want to offer customers a familiar, Mac-like interface for submitting print jobs. Fast Lane, Inc. offers ASAP!, a program that takes care of just the file transfers, without the configuration headaches.

A service bureau (or any company that wants to receive files from clients) can customize ASAP! before distributing it. Customization can include the end user’s contact information, and the appropriate phone number for his or her modem to dial. The user can then perform an easy installation that leaves the software ready to go.

Once the software is installed, a user need only drag a file to ASAP!’s desktop icon to transmit it to the central server. ASAP! presents an opportunity to fill out job information, including a scrolling field for notes, then compresses the file or files, and makes the connection to transmit the material. Fast Lane has wisely licensed Aladdin’s StuffIt engine for its automatic compression and decompression tasks, so the actual transmission time can be cut down considerably.

ASAP! tracks all incoming connections, providing a detailed activity log that can be referred to later. The product has a $695 list price, but Fast Lane is offering $500 introductory price through 30-Sep-94.

Fast Lane — 800/879-2727 — 813/546-2727
813/541-3278 (fax) — <[email protected]>

— Information from:
Fast Lane propaganda

Adam Engst No comments

The Internet Adapter

On various different occasions I’ve seen postings wondering why someone hasn’t written a program to enable graphical programs that normally require a MacTCP-based connection to work with a normal Unix shell account. In fact, a number of these types of programs exist, mostly from large Internet providers such as Pipeline and Netcom, but they generally use a proprietary protocol for talking to the host machine, which means that you can’t use standard Macintosh Internet programs such as Eudora, Anarchie, and MacWeb. Instead you must use the graphical client software provided by the same people who created the proprietary protocol.

I don’t approve of this method of providing Internet access for two reasons. First, and most importantly, this method limits users to a small selection of software for any particular task. With a full MacTCP-based connection, I can choose between Anarchie and Fetch, Mosaic and MacWeb, Eudora and VersaTerm-Link, NewsWatcher and InterNews and Nuntius. In fact, I may even use multiple programs for the same thing – I like and use both Anarchie and Fetch for different types of FTP tasks. You lose that flexibility when you lock into a proprietary solution. Second, the Internet is a vast and fast-moving place, and new capabilities appear all the time, generally supported first, and often best, by freeware and shareware programmers. If you use a specific proprietary program, you can’t use Cornell’s Internet videoconferencing software, CU-SeeMe, play Stuart Cheshire’s wonderful Bolo tank game, or check the weather with Christopher Kidwell’s MacWeather. All of those programs depend on the standard TCP/IP protocols that the Internet relies on, and proprietary programs, useful as they may be, generally don’t give you a standard TCP connection to the Internet.

TIA Basics — Such is not the case with The Internet Adapter, or TIA, from Cyberspace Development (due for release tomorrow). TIA is a relatively small (about 250K) Unix program that you get on the Internet and run on your normal Unix shell account, and it acts as a SLIP emulator. In other words, after you install TIA on your shell account, running TIA turns your shell account into a SLIP account for that session. Although a TIA emulated-SLIP account is not quite the same as a real SLIP account, TIA’s SLIP emulation is completely standard in terms of working with MacTCP-based software on the Mac (or WinSock if you use a Windows machine).

Just to repeat myself, with the addition of a single Unix program that Cyberspace Development sells for $25, you can turn your plain old shell account into a whizzy new SLIP account and use all of the MacTCP-based software. I realize this all sounds a bit like a Ginsu knife commercial (did I mention how TIA can cut beer cans too?), but if the reports I hear are true, TIA should seriously shake up the industry.

Think about it. If a provider charges $20 per month for a shell account and $30 per month for a SLIP account, what response will they have to an individual buying a $25 piece of software to avoid giving the provider an extra $10 per month? Or more aptly, what about providers that charge $20 per month for a shell account but $2 per hour for the use of a SLIP account? Suddenly TIA could pay for itself in thirteen hours of use for the individual, but the provider would lose big bucks. Of course, it wouldn’t be technically difficult for the provider to outlaw (and erase copies of) TIA, but doing that would be horrible public relations and would alienate many users. The most rational approach I’ve heard yet came from a provider who plans to support TIA (providers can purchase TIA for use by all users on a single machine for about $500) and charge a little more for a TIA emulated-SLIP account than a shell account, but less than a real SLIP account.

TIA will become popular instantly at sites that either aren’t commercial or that don’t have much money to buy the expensive terminal servers that make real SLIP accounts easily possible. Since Cyberspace Development sells TIA to individuals, suddenly individual users have the choice of whether or not they get a SLIP account, whereas in the past, if the machine didn’t support SLIP, that was the end of the story. I heartily applaud putting power in the hands of the individual.

TIA Details — Bear in mind that I haven’t worked with TIA personally yet, but it has been tested by many users at a large Internet provider. Nonetheless, here’s what I know about how TIA works.

You do not get your own IP number that uniquely identifies your Mac on the Internet while you’re connected via TIA, as you do with a real SLIP account. Instead, TIA uses the IP number of the machine your shell account is on, and "redirects" traffic back at you (this is the magic part). If you must enter an IP number in some software, any number like should do fine – it’s just a dummy address. The fact that you don’t get your own IP number means that you cannot set up your Mac as an FTP server, for instance, since there’s no IP number for an FTP client elsewhere to connect to.

TIA’s performance is reportedly good, faster than normal SLIP in fact, and about as fast as Compressed SLIP, or CSLIP. Future releases will support CSLIP and even PPP, and will reportedly increase speed by ten to twenty percent. TIA doesn’t create much of a load for the host machine, although slightly more than a real SLIP account, mostly because when you use SLIP, you’re not usually running programs on the host machine, but are just using the network connection.

Installing TIA on your Unix shell account is not a trivial task, since you must install the proper version for the version of Unix running on your host machine. Cyberspace Development has ported TIA to several versions of Unix and more are on the way. If you don’t know what version of Unix runs on your shell account, Cyberspace Development has a simple program that can find out the information for you, or you can look up your provider’s Unix type in a database they are building.

You can order TIA on the Internet itself if you wish, or other mechanisms are available for those who dislike ordering on the nets. For more information, send email to <[email protected]> or connect to <> over the Web or via Telnet, Gopher, or FTP.

Once your order has been filled, with your Unix account, you retrieve the proper version of TIA via FTP, Gopher, or the Web, and then launch it on your Unix account. (You can get an evaluation version and test it for a few weeks – details are in <[email protected]>.) Needless to say, in normal usage, you would script your SLIP program to log in to your shell account and then run TIA to start up the SLIP emulation, but it’s possible to do it manually as well, I imagine.

You can also get various versions of the TIA package, along with installation help and consulting (useful for those of you who aren’t familiar with Unix) from a company called SoftAware. If nothing else, I suspect working through SoftAware will be the easiest way for individuals to buy a complete package and be up and running quickly.

In many ways, TIA is a grand experiment. What will happen when there’s no need for anyone to use a Unix shell account if they don’t want to? We’ll soon see.

Cyberspace Development — <[email protected]>
SoftAware — 310/314-1466 — <[email protected]>

Tonya Engst No comments

The Word on Word 6

The Microsoft elves are busy packaging Microsoft Word 6 for the Mac, and beta testers were just given official permission to discuss the program. I spent the last four months immersed in the beta, writing a "Microsoft Word Starter Kit" for Hayden Books.

Also, in a former life, I spent about thirty months doing phone support for Microsoft, fielding calls about Word. I no longer work for Microsoft, but this experience undoubtedly gives me oddball opinions and biases, many of which should become clear in due time.

Hardware and Software Requirements — If you haven’t already heard the rumors, I suggest you sit down and take a deep breath before reading further. Word requires the following:

  • System 7 or later.
  • 2 to 3 MB of RAM (if you buy the version of Word in Microsoft Office, you get a free copy of Connectix’s RAM Doubler, and you’ll need it). 3 MB will work better for longer documents. Although you may be able to go a little lower than 2 MB, using OLE-based add-ons requires additional RAM, often 1 MB or more for things like WordArt or Microsoft Graph or Equation Editor.
  • 10 to 27 MB of disk space (you could theoretically go lower than ten, but ten is a practical bottom line). Word comes with many add-ons, and with a little effort, you can avoid parts of Word that you never plan to use. I easily cut my personal installation to 17 MB. As a caveat, these figures are based on the marketing beta; the numbers may change slightly with the real version.
  • A 68020-based Macintosh or faster. However, if you plan to run Word on anything besides a 68040-based Macintosh or a Power Mac, try it first on one of your real life documents. I found the last beta practically unusable on my 33 MHz 68030-based Duo 230, and I hope that Microsoft had an opportunity to do a few last minute optimizations on the overall speed. If you purchase the 68K version, you can get the PowerPC-native version when it ships; Microsoft claims it will ship this fall.
  • A big screen wouldn’t hurt, and I like using Word 6 much better on my 838 x 624 NEC monitor than on my 640 x 480 Apple monitor. If you have a PowerBook or an SE/30-like screen, be prepared to learn about customizing toolbars, so that you can have only one toolbar with the buttons and pop-up menus that you need the most.

The Marketing Hype – IntelliSense — I have yet to find a list of exactly which features use Microsoft’s trademarked IntelliSense technology, but the general idea seems to be that features with "Auto" in their names use IntelliSense. I don’t mind Microsoft having IntelliSense, but it drives me crazy that they market it as though it offers something truly special.

The most hyped feature of all, AutoCorrect, corrects spelling and punctuation as you type. AutoCorrect is extremely customizable, and I like it. Of course, similar features exist (and have existed for some time in some cases) in third-party utilities such as Thunder, and other word processors such as Word Perfect and FullWrite, so I can’t award Microsoft innovation points for AutoCorrect.

Another hyped feature, AutoFormat, makes little sense. The point of the feature is to help clueless users who don’t want to think about formatting. In using AutoFormat, you click through about six dialog boxes, waiting now and again for Word to catch up, Word evaluates patterns in the document, and (with your permission and guidance) applies styles and completes a few other clean-up tasks. Sophisticated users don’t need it and new users won’t understand it.

Table AutoFormat helps you quickly apply borders and shading to tables by choosing from a wide selection of formats – it’s a fine feature and I think it will make life easier for people who use it.

AutoCaption could be compelling for people who must caption tables, equations, graphs, or figures in a document because it automatically applies caption numbers to each item. You can even have Word automatically include updating numbers in the equations and make updating cross-references to the equations. Word can handle more than one series of captions in a document, perhaps a caption series for equations, another for tables, and a third for graphs. I don’t know about other word processors, but FullWrite 2.0 appears to have a similar feature.

AutoMark lets you use a concordance file to quickly mark index entries in a document, a significant improvement from the Word 5 method of marking each entry individually.

OLE (Object Linking and Embedding) — OLE’s Linking enables you to set up links that work in a similar way to Publish & Subscribe links; the Embedding part of OLE enables you to use the tools from one program, such as Excel, to create an object that resides in a file from a different program, such as Word (few non-Microsoft programs support OLE on the Mac). When you embed an Excel worksheet object in a Word document, the worksheet object is literally part of the Word document; it does not exist as a separate file.

I have yet to play much with OLE in Word 6, but OLE is key to Microsoft’s strategy for their Office product suite. I hope that Microsoft has worked out the many kinks in OLE linking that existed in previous versions of Word and Excel. If you use linking, I recommend that you frequently back up any document having links. If you plan to link between documents, make sure your backup scheme maintains the links between documents.

Notable Improvements — Word 6 has about a hundred notable improvements; here are just a few:

Table Cells — If you ever made a table in Word 4 or 5, you probably noticed that if you type a lot of text into a table cell, the text wraps within the cell and the cell grows taller to accommodate the text. If you type enough text in the cell, the cell grows taller than the height of a page. Because Word 4 and 5 cannot put a page break in the middle of a cell, only the first page of the cell would print out, causing no end of headaches. Word 6 eliminates this problem by offering a choice as to whether or not page breaks can occur in the middle of a cell.

Landscape and Portrait — Before Word 6, you could not have landscape and portrait pages in the same document. Word 6 solves this problem by making orientation a section-based format.

Master Documents — If master documents prove reliable in real life use, serious writers will find them incredibly helpful for working with multiple files as a group. For example, if you write a 500 page book having ten chapters, you probably have ten files, one for each chapter. The Master Document feature permits you to work with all ten files as though they were one big file for the purposes of outlining, moving text from one file to another, using the Find or Replace command, spell checking, and so on.

Page Numbers — Word 5 has at least four ways to add three different page numbers. Word 6 still has three different page numbers, but only offers three ways to add them. I don’t like the way Microsoft implemented formatting page numbers, but if you can figure out the method behind the madness, you can restart the numbering at any number on any page, and you can include chapter numbers in the page number format.

List Formats — Bulleting and Numbering have become paragraph formats, making it easy to number or bullet lists. The features offer a tremendous amount of flexibility, but if you want to push the flexibility, you must figure out some extremely complex dialog boxes.

What’s in Their Drinking Water? — Again and again as I learned Word 6, I ran into an overall lack of elegance in the awkward dialog boxes and controls. The interface makes Word look like a Windows program; I would be happier with an elegant interface that felt like something dreamt up by people who live and breathe Macintosh.

To make Word look less like a Windows program, you can go to the Tools menu, choose Options, select the General tab, and turn off a checkbox for "3D Dialog and Display Effects." This makes the program look more like a Macintosh program, but because Microsoft used a non-standard font in the buttons, the dialog boxes don’t have the elegant feel I expect from a well-designed Macintosh program.

Although Microsoft came up with some reasonable new interface ideas like the "tabs" in dialog boxes to reduce the tremendous number of separate dialogs through which you must tunnel, they also invented oddball interface elements such as the "pop-up button" (a control that looks like a button with a down triangle in it, but acts like a pop-up menu), and the "check button" (a control that looks like a normal button with room for a checkmark in it, but works exactly like a normal checkbox).

As a more specific example of lack of elegance, the Envelopes and Labels feature lets you set up and easily print envelopes and labels all within the same dialog box. The feature offers a great deal of built-in flexibility and power, but formatting envelope text works completely differently from formatting label text. To format text on an envelope, you must click an Options button and then click separate Font buttons to bring up separate instances of the Font dialog box, one for the mailing address, another for the return address. In contrast, to format type in a label, you must highlight the type and then press Control while clicking the highlighted type. A "shortcut" menu pops up from the pointer and you can choose Font or Paragraph from the menu in order to access those dialog boxes.

If You Plan to Use Word 6 — Word 6 makes three big assumptions about what the average user knows, and once you master those assumptions about sections, templates, and fields, Word becomes far easier to use.

Sections — In Word, certain formats go by section. Popular section formats included (and still include) page numbering, snaking columns, headers, and footers. To divide a document into sections, you insert section breaks (usually by pressing Command-Enter). Word 6 expands section formatting to include options such as margins and orientation, which previously could only be set for the entire document.

Templates — Templates completely change how you organize Word documents behind the scenes. A template works like a Macintosh stationery document, but becomes far more complex as you explore. A template can store three types of things:

1. Text and graphics that automatically appear in every document based on the template.

2. Style definitions used by every document based on the template.

3. Commands available in every document based on the template. By commands I mean the commands that show on the menus as well as available keyboard shortcuts, toolbars, macros, and AutoText entries (AutoText is the new name for the Glossary).

The default template is called Normal and most of the time, most people will use the Normal template and not think about it. If you start a new document by launching Word or by pressing Command-N, the new document automatically bases itself on the Normal template.

If you work extensively with styles, you want to think more carefully about templates. In previous versions of Word, even if you changed the default style definitions, existing documents would not take on the changed default style definitions. You could import the changed definitions, but the steps were neither obvious nor speedy. In Word 6, a checkbox enables you to set whether a given document will retain its style definitions or whether it will take on new style definitions when you change the template style definitions.

Fields — If you got a kick out of the Show Codes feature in DOS WordPerfect, then you are going to love fields. Fields are blanks that Word (hopefully) fills in for you. Fields have two states – code and result. The code represents what Word should fill in, and the result is what Word does fill in. You toggle between showing codes, showing results, and updating results using a variety of keyboard shortcuts, or you can use the "shortcut" menu (press Control and click on the field).

For example, a table of contents is represented by the field code {TOC}. If you show the result, you get the table of contents. Similarly, page numbers have the code {PAGE}. Fields can also have "switches," which customize the result. People who have figured out switches in DOS or Unix should be comfortable with them. I dislike the idea of switches, but at least a well-designed dialog box helps you set up the switch syntax.

The average user can work with field results showing much of the time, but much of the power of Word stems from its fields and it’s a shame to see fields and switches in a mid-90s Macintosh word processor. Assuming codes and results are necessary, Microsoft could have used simple icons to represent codes and allowed users to customize a field by double-clicking the icon in order to bring up a configuration dialog box.

Final Thoughts — Comparing Word to other Macintosh word processors, I give Word an enthusiastic A for features in terms of quantity and scope, but I give the implementation a C- (the speed and hardware requirements have me tempted to drop that down to a D+). A truly elegant implementation that ran well on any 68030-based Mac might have made Word 6 an amazing word processor; instead, we have a heavyweight, mediocre document processor of sorts. If Microsoft releases a 6.0a or a 6.1, I hope that they make increasing the speed a major goal.

I think Adam summed it up best by calling Word "astonishing" and leaving me to my own interpretations of that word.