Matt Neuburg weighs in with a hefty look at the latest version of one of the most popular utility packages of all time, the Now Utilities. Chuck Bartosch passes on news of Apple’s financial results (they’re good), and we announce several new Internet sites aimed at Mac Internet users and readers of Internet Starter Kit for Macintosh. Finally, we have MailBITS about Microsoft’s purchase of Intuit, important new programs, and a super fast CD-ROM drive.
Financial Software Shake-Up — In the continuing merger merry-go-round, Microsoft and Intuit announced amicable merger plans at a joint press conference on 12-Oct-94. Microsoft plans to purchase Intuit in a $1.5 billion stock trade, in which Intuit stock transmogrifies into Microsoft stock. Although current plans have Intuit employees and products remaining in their current locations and retaining their current names, both companies anticipate a general exchange of knowledge and (as Bill Gates put it repeatedly) "best practices."
In addition, Microsoft is selling Microsoft Money to Novell, contingent on the FCC’s approval of the merger. It appears that Microsoft must sell Money to make sure there is still some competition in the financial software market. When asked how much Novell will pay for Microsoft Money, Bill Gates explained that, "the overall amount of money is not financially material so we are not disclosing a figure." Right. In any event, the folks at Intuit and Microsoft look forward to making all sorts of financial products which will help us file taxes and make financial decisions. I hope they also look forward to plowing lots of resources into creating reliable, speedy, and supportable products. [TJE]
Internet arachnids will want to check out the public beta release of a new World-Wide Web browser from Mosaic Communications <[email protected]>, the company formed from a number of the original developers of Mosaic. I’ve used their program, Mosaic NetScape, for about a week now, and I’m impressed with its speed, features, and reliability. It comes in versions for Macintosh, Windows, and several flavors of Unix. [ACE]
Acrobat flips to 2.0 — In a welcome change from Acrobat 1.0, Adobe has released a free viewer for Acrobat 2.0, enabling users to view, navigate, and print any PDF (Portable Document Format) file. This should improve Acrobat’s popularity significantly, although documents in Acrobat format are still necessary, and that requires buying commercial software. The most interesting feature promised for Acrobat 2.0 is resolution of URLs so an Acrobat link can go out over the Internet to make the connection. Versions of 2.0 are available for Mac and Windows, and 1.0 is available for DOS and Unix. [ACE]
Faster CD-ROM access is promised by PLI’s upcoming 15X CD-ROM drive, based on a PLI-designed mechanism rather than the typical OEM product. The SCSI device, which works in Macintosh, DOS, and Sun environments, provides data transfer of up to 2.25 MB per second and an effective access time of 40 milliseconds (ms), much faster than the 300K per second transfer rate and 300 ms access time offered by drives such as Apple’s double-speed CD300. The drive should be available within a month or so, and the list price will be around $1,300. [Pythaeus]
I confirmed with MacWarehouse (two weeks ago) that one can get a 7.1 upgrade kit without any restrictions and then qualify for the 7.5 upgrade. The only problems, which may be fixed by now, were that the floppy version of 7.5 was not in stock and that they didn’t have or know about a CD version. A quick comparison showed that this is not a bad deal ($80.90) even compared to the user group special ($64.90), and it may involve a shorter wait.
The deal improves for people wanting to upgrade Now Utilities as well. A new copy of Now Utilities can be had for $29.95 from MacWarehouse with 7.5 (no additional shipping) versus $39.95 plus shipping from Now Software directly.
Apple’s financial results for the final quarter of the company’s last fiscal year should be released tonight. Reliable sources indicate that the results are "wildly better" than most predictions.
Apple sold more in its fourth quarter (ended 30-Sep-94) than predicted, and dropped costs further than they said they would. Moreover, their inventory is down dramatically (or so it’s rumored), which sets them up to make rapid product transitions.
And, believe it or not, early reports are that Apple’s market share is up significantly too. What does that mean? Well, if Apple were Coke, 0.5% would be significant. Apple is not Coke, of course, and there’s a great deal of variability with market share numbers in the computer world. I’d take that aspect with a grain of salt (even if you hear me crowing about the share gains later).
So, Apple’s stock price will shoot through the roof, right? Not exactly. First, Apple made a preliminary announcement to help the stock adjust for the results. Also, for the past month or so, there have been a number of rumors about IBM, AT&T, Motorola, or a conglomerate of little green men from Alpha Centuri either buying Apple outright, or taking an equity stake.
Inside rumors, however, say IBM is not talking to Apple about investing, but merely intensifying ongoing talks about a universal PowerPC platform. Sources do say, however, that Motorola is exploring buying Apple. The IBM talks are significant because they could mark a sea change in IBM’s vision of what they can and cannot impose on this market. Originally, IBM sought to impose its PREP (PowerPC Reference Platform) standard on all comers. PREP was to define a compatible PowerPC system. In this original "standard," IBM excluded Apple systems. That is, the original design prevented Apple from easily making its systems "compatible."
Now, did this make sense? From IBM’s standpoint, sure. They work with Apple, true, but within the PowerPC world, Apple is its biggest competitor. On the other hand, it’s crazy… Apple is by far the single biggest manufacturer of PowerPC-based systems. In the face of that, how can IBM impose a standard? In fact, there are roughly four times as many Apple-labeled PowerPC systems in existence as there are Pentium-based systems. (It’s hard to believe, with all the hype!). Oh, and you know how many mainstream native Pentium applications there are? Count ’em. (hint: let me know if you find one.)
In the end, because IBM does not have a mainstream operating system ready for the PowerPC chip, they must work with Apple so they can claim (on the eventual release of IBM-labeled PowerPC-based desktop systems next year) they had bunches of applications ready (if you buy the Mac OS, of course) from the start.
The upshot of all this is that Apple’s stock price has already risen because of the takeover rumors, and the good financial results probably won’t affect the price as much as they would have otherwise.
I’ve been quiet in TidBITS for the last few months, but I haven’t been sitting around twiddling my thumbs (which would be bad for my carpal tunnels, anyway). In the spring and early summer, I finished the second edition of Internet Starter Kit for Macintosh, and after that, I worked on a number of Internet projects. Some of the projects have finally taken full form, so I thought I’d take this opportunity to announce them.
First, I changed <ftp.tidbits.com>. Along with the existing directories of back issues of TidBITS and so on, the /tisk directory (the original acronym resulting from the slightly incorrect title "The Internet Starter Kit") now mirrors the /comm directory of the Info-Mac Archive, and I’ve become an Info-Mac moderator, helping out with files related to communications. Liam Breck and I reorganized the /comm directory to more closely match what I’d originally done at <ftp.tidbits.com>, which in turn matches the way I organized the book. The reorganization has been in place for some time, but after much fussing with Unix permissions (the answer seems to be, "No, you may not have any"), we have the basic mirror script working. The task remaining is to get a separate part of the mirror script working so the /tisk/util directory contains utilities of interest to Internet users from all over the Info-Mac Archive (I’m continually rebuilding links to keep that directory up to date as files appear and disappear elsewhere in the archive – oh for Macintosh aliases). So, the practical upshot is that most any file related to using the Internet from the Mac should be in:
Second, there’s another directory that you might want to check out. The /select directory, at the same level as /tisk, contains what I consider the most important MacTCP-based Internet applications. They are all the latest versions, and are stored as self-extracting archives. However, people stumbling on this directory have been confused, and for good reason. The file names are generic, such as anarchie.sea or mosaic.sea, so you can’t tell their version numbers. Also, if you don’t explicitly turn on Binary mode when retrieving the files via FTP, they’re corrupted in transit. What could have been in my drinking water that day?
There’s a simple answer. One of the features of Internet Starter Kit for Macintosh, Second Edition, is that the disk comes with Anarchie and a folder of Anarchie bookmarks pointing at these files. The file names cannot include the version numbers or else the bookmarks would break, and since I anticipate people using these files frequently, I decided that self-extracting archives would be the fastest to download and the easiest for new users who might not yet have StuffIt Expander. For those who don’t want to buy the book, you can download a folder containing the updated bookmarks at:
Needless to say, the rest of the files are available in:
One note. Some people (most notably Netcom users) seem to have trouble with Anarchie 1.2.x and the FTP server running on <ftp.tidbits.com> not agreeing on the password. Peter Lewis changed the way Anarchie sends passwords in Anarchie 1.3.1, so I strongly recommend you get that version from another site if you have trouble.
Now, I still haven’t said how you can figure out what versions of the programs are stored in that /select directory. With help from Charles Cooper of OneWorld Information Services and Ed Morin of Northwest Nexus, we set up <www.tidbits.com> to point to the /tidbits directory on <oneworld.wa.com> (a NeXT cube, actually). People who buy the second edition of the book get a copy of MacWeb that connects to this site by default – it was the best way I could think of to keep readers up to date.
On <www.tidbits.com>, I’ve created an Internet Starter Kit for Macintosh home page that lists, chronologically, the latest versions of these programs along with a little information about what changed. There are also a few links to what I consider interesting Web launch sites for Macintosh Internet users. (I’m biased, of course, which is why TidBITS is the first one.) You’ll note that I haven’t included FTP links within the text of the file descriptions – that’s because Web browsers don’t seem to handle FTP file transfers well, and even if that function did work well, it wouldn’t be as easy to use as Anarchie’s bookmarks. In any event, the URL for the Web site is:
Feel free to use and create links to these services whether or not you have the book. I should note that none of these services are running on my Macs – I don’t know if the Mac server software can handle the load (at least not on my SE/30), and my 56K Frame Relay line would undoubtedly bog down if I served a popular Web page or FTP site to the world. I plan to set up some services on the SE/30 <king.tidbits.com> once I figure out what it makes sense for me to provide given my hardware and bandwidth limitations. Suggestions are of course welcome, and you can check out the APS price list there via Gopher for the time being.
The previous upgrade, from Now Utilities 3.0 to 4.0, was torture. Many users experienced crashes; most felt anger over the upgrade charge coming so soon. Many were also disappointed by 4.0’s reduced functionality, the confusing changes to Super Boomerang, and the restriction to System 7. It took three further revisions (4.0.1, 4.0.1p, and 4.0.2) for things to settle down. I still have nightmares about it. [I reported on 4.0.1 in TidBITS-152.]
Not so the upgrade to Now Utilities 5.0. Now Software added plenty of functionality, fixed many small annoyances, and made the package run faster. You still need System 7, but it runs on any System 7, including 7.5, on any machine, including Power Macs, where it is partly native. The speed increase is obvious even on a slow machine like my office Classic II.
The new functionality consists partly of increased customisability. To accommodate new options and commands, each control panel consists of multiple displays, which are switched with an icon bar across the top. These icon bars are not confusing, like some we could mention; each icon explains itself with a quick definition as you pass the mouse over the icon. The time and attention given to design in this feature is symptomatic of the whole package, which uniformly feels cleaner, easier, more adjustable, and more powerful than before.
I can’t say how much System 7.5 users will need Now Utilities; I’m still at 7.1. Some similar functionality is built into 7.5: hierarchical Apple menu, quick access to recently used applications, better finding, Apple Menu Options, Extensions Manager, and so on. Personally, despite its warts, I couldn’t live without Now Utilities. Let’s look at the individual components
Startup Manager governs what extensions load at startup; you can control loading order, create different extension sets for different startup situations, and build in links between extensions that must (or cannot) operate together or must load in a specific order. It now works on everything that loads at startup, including fonts (like Conflict Catcher and Extensions Manager), and intelligently handles extensions that load before itself (by restarting during startup if necessary). Also, it can automatically perform multiple restarts to help you isolate an extension conflict (like Conflict Catcher).
FolderMenus is a new component, imitating Inline Software’s PopupFolder. Click on a folder, and a little menu of its contents appears; this menu is hierarchical (to five levels), and with it you can open a folder or file, or drag & drop something onto an application or into a subfolder.
FolderMenus looks like a rush job, and is primitive compared with Inline’s version: you can’t clump folders at the top of the menu, nor can you determine the font used. However, you can adjust the delay before the menu pops up, a necessity for tailoring the functionality to your working habits.
WYSIWYG Menus enables your Font menu to appear with each font name shown in that font. It adds flexibility so you can except particular fonts, limit which fonts are available in particular applications, and – most interestingly – provide substitute "family" and "style" names, so you can clump fonts or styles into hierarchical submenus within the Font menu. When the control panel opens, it can show the names of all the fonts anywhere on your hard disk; but, in a major oversight, it won’t tell where they are, so you can’t use it to catalog fonts.
NowMenus combines many functions related to menus and application launching, including automatic drop-down or stay-down of menus (no longer unreliable); menu pop-up at the cursor location; reordering of the Apple menu; modified font and size for menus; changed keyboard shortcuts to menu items; the creation of new menus containing recently used applications, documents, or folders, or particular disk items; adjustment of sound level and screen depth when applications are launched; temporary adjustment of application memory requirements at launch if RAM is short; setting which application will open files whose creator you don’t have; and the creation of "worksets" of applications and documents to be launched together.
Hierarchical Apple menu items provide direct access to sound level (repaired now), color depth, startup disk settings, and network volumes. A folder or volume in the Apple menu or any menu created by NowMenus can be hierarchical (works faster than 4.0). An application can be hierarchical too, showing recently opened documents. A key press while mousing on a menu item shows its path.
NowMenus has many small but valuable additions. When selecting a file or folder menu item, you can open its folder rather than the item itself. You can rename an application, document, or folder for menu purposes (handy if the real name is long). You can make all folders immediately within a folder appear instead of that folder (rather than hierarchical to it). More menus besides the old far-left and far-right can now be added in the menu bar, floating just to the right of the main menus (this is much better than previously), and you can determine the icon that represents each. I suggest combining this feature with Menuette, which turns standard menu names into icons, to make room in the menu bar.
A major new feature is drag & drop onto a menu, as with FolderMenus, to move or copy to a folder or launch a file with a particular application. This is like David Winterburn’s MenuDropper, but it works for all NowMenus menus, which David didn’t quite get MenuDropper to do; however, it lacks MenuDropper’s cool extras, such as dragging onto the Applications menu, or Command-dragging to create an alias. And there are bugs: drag & drop onto applications which accept any file type (such as ResEdit) doesn’t work.
Super Boomerang remembers the most recently opened items, and provides menu access to them, hierarchically via the Apple menu or an application’s Open menu item, or within any standard file dialog (plus providing the same information to NowMenus). Also, Super Boomerang causes a standard file dialog to come up at the most recently used file or folder ("rebound"), and you can set a default folder for applications individually. You can also duplicate, rename, or delete a file, or create a folder, directly from within a standard file dialog.
When combined with James Walker’s DialogView, Super Boomerang removes the clumsiness from the standard file dialogs, and has long been the key reason to own Now Utilities (as the manual rightly boasts).
An important bug seems to be fixed: if you open a file via a hierarchical NowMenus menu or from the Finder, it more reliably adds to the recently opened files list. A useful, though not new, feature is that you can click on a Finder window while a standard file dialog is up to switch to that folder in the standard file dialog (like Click There It Is, but without its movable dialogs, alas). I wish you could turn the "rebound" feature off for individual applications.
QuickFiler is a new component combining three functions: souped-up Find capabilities, a "flat" Finder substitute, and file compression.
The Find capabilities were previously "owned" by Super Boomerang; they are now more powerful, easier to use, and can replace the Finder’s Find command. You can search using AND/OR on multiple criteria. Results are gathered into a single "flat"-Finder window, called an "Inspector."
An Inspector is a file directory window, either the results of a Find or else an alternate view of a Finder window. You can select items and move, copy, or alias to a new location using a standard file dialog, so you are spared having to see both source and destination first, as in the Finder. I find Inspector windows disappointing. You can rearrange the column placement and sizes, but if you do you can lose the left end of the window, and you can’t revert to the defaults (the fix is to throw out the Prefs file). You can see file types and creators, but you can’t change them. You can’t change the Finder’s "alias" suffix. You can search for locked files, but you can’t unlock them en masse. You can build an Inspector window of items from diverse folders via the Find function, but not manually. Besides, all the same functions (move, copy, etc.) are provided by QuickFiler in a menu; so, between this and the many other ways of working with folders that Now Utilities provides, Inspector windows end up fairly useless. I vastly prefer Greg’s Browser.
QuickFiler includes archiving and compression functions from the now-defunct Now Compress. So now you have another compression utility, but with no BinHex or other translation capabilities, and one that’s faceless, preventing you from building an archive of items from different folders, for example. You might want this for transparent compression along the lines of Aladdin’s SpaceSaver or Symantec’s AutoDoubler, now part of Norton DiskDoubler Pro.
Transparent compression is automatic Finder-level file compression. If it’s on, it compresses files during idle time (or manually, if you wish). The Finder is fooled into believing the files are uncompressed, so creators and types appear unchanged, and Get Info reports items at their uncompressed sizes. You must use an Inspector window to see true sizes, as well as to see and change auto-compression status. Opening a compressed item expands it into RAM; saving it saves it in expanded form. If you restart with transparent compression off compressed items are revealed as "Compress Now" documents, and opening them replaces them with their uncompressed versions; so there’s no danger of losing anything.
Still, bugs remain. I had some system freezes while trying out transparent compression (probably extension conflicts), but no damage was done. Also, I compressed a lot of material, then expanded it; for some files, though they were expanded, their type and creator information did not change, so the Finder and Now Utilities both thought they were still compressed Compress Now documents; I had some anxious hours researching the types and fixing them with FileTyper. Again, no data was lost. But I don’t trust QuickFiler; if you’re short on space, another hard drive is a safer option.
Other utilities include NowSave, Now Profile, and Now Scrapbook. I don’t use NowSave because I like to be in charge of when I save rather than let it save for me in the background. It can save based on elapsed minutes, keystrokes, or mouse clicks, and it can inform you that it has saved the file.
I don’t use Now Profile because I prefer other utilities, such as TattleTech, FileList+, and Alias Zoo. Now Profile provides three levels of complexity of information in the following areas: System, CPU, Memory, Drivers, Extensions, Fonts, DAs, Applications, Volumes, Aliases, and Duplicate Files. You can restrict the report to cover your boot volume or all local volumes. Now updated Now Profile to report the latest versions of System Updates, Enablers, and the details of PowerTalk and the Modern Memory Manager of the Power Macs.
I almost never use Now Scrapbook, but that may be a matter of taste. It enables you to work with PICT, Paint, TIFF, EPS, GIF, JPEG, text, sound and QuickTime files (but not Startup Screens). You can edit text in the scrapbook, including font and size changes. You can also sort items in the scrapbook.
The Now Utilities manual is fair-to-good – better than before, but with inaccuracies and self-contradictions which suggest it may have been written before certain software decisions were finalised. It contains no technical information whatever (How much RAM will each component need? Why does the Installer include Macintosh Drag and Drop?), and does a poor job explaining certain crucial features, such as transparent compression.
Conclusions — Even with 4.0.2, Now Utilities occasionally to crashed my Mac or just itself (so that NowMenus and Super Boomerang would cease to work until restart). So far, I have not seen this with 5.0. I presume this is because Now Utilities 5.0 is better integrated with the Finder. The only downside is that (on my Mac) Now Utilities causes Gatekeeper to complain when performing some harmless pure Finder actions, such as copying; you have to grant "File (Other)" privileges to "System Heap," which is a bit like throwing Gatekeeper away altogether.
It annoys me that where functionality has been copied from other extensions, it has been incompletely copied; if I am forced by Now’s duplication of their functions to stop using MenuDropper and Click There It Is, why must I end up with less functionality?
Still, notwithstanding its few bugs and shortcomings, Now Utilities 5.0 appears generally stable and reliable. The upgrade is a definite improvement. If you haven’t upgraded, or if you don’t have Now Utilities at all (is this possible?), the upgrade is worth your consideration. I wouldn’t be without it – a Mac without Now Utilities feels awkward to me.
The discount price for Now Utilities 5.0 is about $70, and users of either Now Compress or earlier versions of the Now Utilities can upgrade until 15-Nov-94 for $39.95. Also check out the deal from MacWarehouse that gives you Now Utilities 5.0 for $29 if you buy System 7.5.
Now Software — 800/689-9423 — [email protected]