Tune in this week to find out more about Cyberdog, Apple’s upcoming OpenDoc-based Internet client. We also have information about a few deals: a way to get Informed Designer for free and a rebate offer for the Newton MessagePad 120. MailBITS and articles about Apple’s first quad-speed CD-ROM drive, Now Software taking over DateBook and TouchBase, a Windows version of Timbuktu Pro, and part III of Tonya’s desktop launcher series round out the issue.
Apple CD600 Quad-Speed CD-ROM
Apple CD600 Quad-Speed CD-ROM — In mid-April, Apple announced plans to make their first quad-speed CD-ROM drives available to customers in May at about the same price they currently charge for their double-speed CD-ROM drives ($350 to $450). The new 600e CD-ROM drive is caddy-less, has an improved seek time, and has a streaming data transfer rate of 684.4 Kbps, with a burst transfer rate of 5.1 Mbps (although performance in any given application can of course vary widely). These specs make the CD600 more than twice as fast as Apple’s current CD-ROM drives, and slightly faster than most quad-speed drives on the market today. Apple expects to build the 600e into Macs beginning this summer, with external and upgrade models also available. [GD]
Newton News — Thinking about buying a Newton? If so, you’ll want to note that between now and through the last day in July, Apple is offering a $50 rebate on the purchase of a MessagePad 120. Or, you can get a $100 rebate for purchasing a MessagePad 120 along with an "eligible accessory." Eligible accessories include Apple’s Newton Connection Kit version 2.0 for Macintosh or Windows, an external or PCMCIA fax modem, 2 MB or 4 MB flash storage cards, the Newton Print Pack, a battery charging station, a leather zip case, or a Newton enhancement pack.
To receive the rebate, you must send the appropriate coupon, along with your proof-of-purchase, to the rebate fulfillment center before 31-Aug-95. Coupons are (or will be soon) available at a variety of sources, including Apple’s FTP site or by calling 800/999-0260 to have the form faxed to you. [TJE]
ftp://ftp.info.apple.com//Apple.Support.Area/ Newton.and.StarCore.Info/ MessagePad120.Rebate.Form.US/
Conflict Catcher 3 Conflict
Conflict Catcher 3 Conflict — Nathan Ainspan <[email protected]> writes:
There is one problem with Conflict Catcher 3 that has been recognized and corrected. People with Open Sesame from Charles River Analytics will find that CC3 will conflict with this application and cause the computer to either hang or crash. When I called Casady and Greene’s tech support line, we spent about twenty minutes trying to figure out the problem until the telephone rep heard that I had Open Sesame on my machine. He instantly knew what the problem was – the two applications try to write to or utilize the same bit of the system. A patch is available from Charles River Analytics. [The patch is available in Casady & Greene’s online forums on the commercial services, although not their Web page yet. I’ve uploaded the patch to Macgifts, so it should appear on the Internet in a few days. -Adam]
Get Informed — If you’ve ever wanted to try Shana Corporation’s $295 Informed Designer, a application for designing forms, now’s your chance to pick up the package at a minimal cost. If your modem can handle it, you can download the free 2.5 MB archive from a variety of online sites, or you can call Shana and request the package (on a CD) for a $15 shipping fee (more than $15 if you live outside the U.S.). Informed Designer offers an array of features for creating paper and onscreen forms, as well as features that help with filling out forms onscreen. The application requires a Macintosh with at least 2 MB RAM, System 6.0.7 or later (some features require later versions), and a hard disk. Shana says they are giving Informed Designer away to encourage people to learn about form design software and to generate sales for their add-on products. Shana isn’t kidding about wanting to generate sales – when you launch the downloaded, freebie version, you get a series of splash screens telling you about Informed Designer’s add-on products. The first screen reminds you that you must register in order to "suppress this sales pitch," and if you click the Register Now button, you are given an 800 number (or a toll number), to call in order to register. When you register, you won’t be charged any money, but Shana will ask for your contact information and give you a serial number. [TJE]
Shana Corporation — 800/386-7244 — 403/463-3690 — <[email protected]>
More PIMs, Now
More PIMs, Now — Late last month, Adobe and Now Software announced that Now Software would take over the development, marketing, and support of Adobe’s DateBook (for both Mac and Windows) and TouchBase personal information managers. The applications, which don’t fit with Adobe’s product focus, came originally from Aldus, and before that from After Hours Software. The move gives Now Software an immediate foothold in the Windows market, and users can expect an easy migration to Now Software’s future product offerings, such as data and file compatibility with its more-powerful Now Up-to-Date and Now Contact. Now Software — 503/274-2800 — 503/274-0670 (fax) — <[email protected]> [ACE]
Macs Control Windows
Macs Control Windows — Last week Farallon announced Timbuktu Pro for Windows, a program that enables collaboration between Windows and Macintosh users over local networks or over the Internet. Timbuktu Pro for Macintosh has been out for over a year now, and has proven especially popular among folks who run Macintosh-based Internet servers since it enables them to control the servers over the Internet. Mixed platform sites might do well to take a look at Timbuktu Pro for Windows and see how well it integrates with Macs and various different types of connections. [ACE]
Apple Reveals Cyberdog
Two of the more important products revealed at last week’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), OpenDoc and Cyberdog, may find themselves among the most important products in Apple’s near future.
OpenDoc (see TidBITS-256) is a next-generation model of software that uses small, reusable components that can be combined in different ways to create the equivalent of today’s programs (although that’s not to say that OpenDoc parts can’t be combined in unique ways). An OpenDoc word processor might combine a spell-checker part, a search & replace part, and a part that might generate a continuously updated index. That’s relatively cool in its own right, but let’s face it, we’ve got those capabilities now. It will be nice to be able to mix and match, but we’re not talking revolutionary yet.
Apple’s Cyberdog project, though, could pull OpenDoc into the big time. Cyberdog is a collection of OpenDoc parts that provide Internet functionality. So, instead of Netscape or Anarchie, you could use the equivalent Cyberdog Web or FTP parts. Other Cyberdog parts planned include Gopher and email (and possibly Usenet news), along with viewers for common Internet file types like GIF, JPEG, and various sound formats.
So why did some of the Internet folks we spoke with after WWDC in San Jose last weekend call Cyberdog "compelling?" I can’t remember who it was precisely who said this, but the term "killer app" was applied to Cyberdog in relation to OpenDoc as well. Cyberdog stands out in a number of ways:
- Cyberdog includes a Notebook part that can store URLs for any Internet service, promising the universal hotlist/bookmark list that I’ve wanted for so long.
- Cyberdog can log everything you do, and although that may seem pointless, I’ve found logs tremendously useful in the past. Just last week, someone asked me where they could retrieve the latest version of ARNS, a utility that can (in theory, I’ve had trouble with it) enable someone to connect to an AppleTalk network over the Internet. I retrieved the file many months ago, but a quick search in Anarchie’s log turned up the FTP site in question (and before you ask me for that URL, here it is).
- Cyberdog is a completely open system, so developers can either write OpenDoc parts that supplement Cyberdog’s parts (I doubt it will ship with an IRC part, for instance) or replace them.
- You can combine Cyberdog parts within an OpenDoc container (think of it as a blank generic document) to perform what I call "ad-hoc publishing." Apple’s example is of a teacher creating a document that combines the full text of a Shakespeare play (retrieved live from the Internet) along with Gopher links to other Shakespeare plays and a Usenet news part pointing at a newsgroup for discussing the play. It’s a relatively simple example, but strikes me as potentially useful integration of the Internet into education. Sure beats those purple-on-white mimeographed sheets that fill my grade-school notebooks.
- Once other OpenDoc parts start appearing, it should be trivial to combine them with the Cyberdog parts to create new, customized interfaces to both local and Internet information.
These and other Cyberdog features serve to make Cyberdog the best hope OpenDoc has against Microsoft’s heavily pushed OLE (Object Linking and Embedding) technology. In addition, although Apple now bundles MacTCP with System 7.5, making Cyberdog readily available, hopefully as part of the MacOS, could provide Apple with a much-needed boost in public perception regarding Internet support for the Mac. Helping this will be Microsoft’s recent announcement that the Internet tools slated for Windows 95 won’t ship with Windows 95 itself, but will come on the so-called Internet Jumpstart Kit that’s part of a separate commercial product called the Microsoft Plus Pack.
Do keep in mind that Cyberdog isn’t slated for release until the beginning of 1996, and its feature set isn’t yet complete. Although Apple’s goal is to release fully functional, feature-competitive parts for Cyberdog, there’s no way to know how well Cyberdog’s parts will compete with the versions of popular Internet programs like Anarchie and NewsWatcher available in 1996, and there’s also no telling how quickly the major Internet developers will move to OpenDoc, if at all. Also, like current MacTCP applications, Cyberdog knows nothing about the Internet connection, and Apple’s replacement for MacTCP, Open Transport, will play a large part in Cyberdog’s overall success. Finally, it remains to be seen what Apple will do about email. Cyberdog is slated to have an email part that could combine with the rest, but there are undoubtedly some internal pressures relating to the misbegotten PowerTalk Mail functionality and to email via eWorld.
A few recommendations to Apple. Get Cyberdog out and make it good. That’s the first step. Consider keeping the name – Cyberdog has personality and verve, something recent Apple names lack in spades (look at the recent "Apple Internet Server Solution for the World Wide Web" – you must be kidding!) Then, let people know about it. Jean-Louis Gassee (an ex-Apple executive with plenty of personality and verve) recently suggested to me a few brash Internet marketing slogans that Apple will never use (but should still consider):
- At last, the executive-proof Internet…
- You don’t have to be Warped to be well-connected…
- Faster than waiting for OS/2 on the PowerPC…
- The gateway, not the Gates way, to Plug & Play Internet…
Finally, and most important, make sure as many people as possible can get and use Cyberdog. I’m talking about modem bundles, deals with phone companies offering ISDN services, drop-dead simple configuration (Cyberdog will support the public domain Internet Config, which is rapidly gaining acceptance among Internet developers), and inexpensive Internet connections. Apple must not hide Cyberdog in custom installation options or require users to squirrel around in advanced settings dialog boxes to establish an Internet connection.
I won’t make any silly statements about how Cyberdog must succeed for Apple to survive since $9 billion companies like Apple don’t just disappear. However, the Internet is still wide open, and Cyberdog could enable the Mac, especially with Apple’s strength in the Internet-savvy education market, to continue to cement its position as the Internet client platform of choice.
Making Choices: Desktop Launchers, Part III of IV
Welcome yet another installment of our series about desktop launchers. Parts I and II covered DragStrip and Square One, two commercial desktop launchers. In parts I and II, I said the series would have three parts, but given the large number of launchers and the wide range of features that they offer, this series will continue next week, when I do hope to wrap things up. This and the next article look at a wide range of launcher utilities with the goal of pointing out what you can do with a launcher these days, what applications are available, and how you might choose among them.
Many of these applications have features that require System 7.5 (or later) or System 7.1.1 with the Drag Manager installed. If you don’t meet that requirement, be prepared to forgo certain features, particularly those that involve dragging. All the launchers and patches mentioned (except for Launcher, which comes from Apple) are available in the /gui directory in any Info-Mac archive site.
Launching and Switching — Typically, a desktop launcher looks like a column, row, or grid of tiles, usually enclosed in a palette, which can be resized and moved about. Tiles are usually square and about the size of a thumbnail, and the palettes that enclose the tiles are often called bars or strips. Each tile represents a application, and sometimes tiles can represent documents, folders, and more. Desktop launchers typically launch applications and may help you efficiently switch among launched applications.
If you have Drag Manager capabilities, you can usually "drag-open" documents by dragging them onto tiles that represent applications, thus causing the application to try to open the document as though you had used the application’s Open command.
A desktop launcher is usually an application, and you would typically place it in the Startup Items folder in the System Folder, so that the application launches on startup and is always available unless you quit it. Some desktop launchers are control panels or extensions. This makes them available at all times, but can increase the complexity of troubleshooting extension conflicts.
Malph — Consider Malph 2.3 as an example of a typical desktop launcher application that helps with launching and switching, without adding many additional features. Written by Nitin Ganatra, Malph begins on your Mac as two bars: the first bar shows tiles for launched applications, and the second bar sports four tiles for tools that help you use Malph. Using the tools on the tool bar, you can create new tiles for applications, and those tiles are added to the first bar (enabling you to quickly launch the applications related to the tiles). You can also use the tools on the tool bar to remove tiles that you added to the first bar, hide a tile on the first bar belonging to a launched application, and open the parent window of an alias or of an application showing on the second bar.
Malph shows the active application’s tile with a dark outline, and you can click any tile to switch to or launch its application. Malph uses a hot spot (a configurable corner of the screen that you drag your pointer to) for bringing its bars quickly to the front. Malph bars can be oriented horizontally or vertically, display large or small tiles, and optionally display the names of items on the tiles. If you have Drag Manager capabilities, you can drag-launch documents. Malph has been around for some time now and is a standard on many desktops. Malph is free, though Nitin would like Malph users to send him a postcard.
QuickList — Not all desktop launchers take the bar and tile approach, though most do. QuickList 1.0.1, a $5 shareware program by Daniel McGloin, takes a window approach. When you launch QuickList, you get a list window which you can freely resize. If you wish, you can create additional windows, and any window can list documents, and folders, and applications, which you add by dragging or through an Add Item to List dialog box. As you would expect from a launcher utility, a QuickList window does not hold actual items, it just shows representations of them. You can open or launch any item in the list by double-clicking it. Although you can turn them off, the default settings make it so that when you double-click an item, the item’s QuickList window minimizes to the size of a large tile and QuickList beeps once. You can also minimize the a QuickList window by clicking its Zoom box. Maximize the window by clicking anywhere on the minimized tile. You can also have QuickList quit when you double-click an item.
QuickList windows do not list all launched applications, but if you do Option-click a launched application in its list, the previously active application will be hidden. QuickList does not support drag-launching documents and has only a few capabilities, but it’s easy to learn, easy to set up, and easy to use.
Documents and Folders — Some desktop launchers let you add documents and folders to tiles, such that you can more quickly open them, or – in the case of folders – so you can more quickly look inside the folders or move and copy items into the folders.
DragThing — To better understand how all the common features mentioned so far might work in a utility, consider DragThing 1.0, written by James Thomson. DragThing is a solid, easy, elegant application with two bars: one that shows launched applications and another where you can set up tiles for documents, folders, and applications by dragging icons onto empty tiles on the bar. The bar can be large or small, and have just one row or have many rows, depending on how you size it. Once you have a document on a tile, you can click it to open it in its expected application. Once you have a folder on a tile, you can open the folder, or copy or move items into the folder. Once you have a application on a tile, you can click it to launch the application, or drag-launch documents on the tile. You can also open any tile item’s Get Info window, and open its parent window.
DragThing must be specifically activated if it is beneath a different window. You can minimize DragThing strips to a one-tile large strip that sports the name of the strip. DragThing’s tiles can be displayed by small icon, size, or name. Unless you view by name, files and folders do not show with their names, though most applications are easily distinguished by their icons. If you use and like DragThing, James requests that you send him a "cool thing," of which there is a list in DragThing’s ReadMe file. Postcards don’t count.
Launcher — Launcher 2.7, a control panel from Apple that comes with System 7.5 and various (but not all) earlier systems, also serves as an example of a desktop launcher, though it has limited capabilities. Launcher displays items on tiles (called buttons), surrounded by a colored background, inside a proper window. You can Command-click the Launcher window to bring up a menu for changing the size of the buttons. To create a button for an item, you either drag the item into the window, or add it (or an alias) to the Launcher Items folder in the System Folder.
Once you make a Launcher button for a application, you can open documents in that application by drag-launching them on the button. You can move items into a folder represented on a Launcher button by dragging them over the button. You can also copy items by Option-dragging them to a button. To have Launcher open up while you start your Mac, you turn on a checkbox in the General Controls control panel.
Launcher does not automatically create tiles for launched applications, so it doesn’t work well as a application switching tool, though if you do have a tile that represents a launched application, you can Option-click that tile to switch to its application and hide the previously active application. Launcher has very few additional features, and you could achieve similar results just by making a new folder, called perhaps "My Launcher Folder," and placing a bunch of documents, folders, and applications (or aliases) in the folder. The point of Launcher is to help inexperienced users more easily use the Macintosh, and though it succeeds at that, after you pass the novice level, you will almost certainly want to move to something more fully featured.
Control Strips — Desktop launchers have tiles that represent icons on your desktop, including – if you wish – icons for control panels, which you might put on tiles to make it super-quick to open them. Now, take that idea a step further, and consider a tile that doesn’t open a control panel, but enables you to change the setting in a control panel, such as the sound level, perhaps with a miniature pop-up menu. Tiles such as this have been around for years in various applications, some give you quick access to control panel functions, others perform a variety of helpful or fun tasks.
Recently, Apple took this concept and embodied it in a control panel called Control Strip, which they initially released on the disks that ship with the 500-series PowerBooks. A Control Strip strip can be minimized or stretched out, taking up about a small tile’s worth of desktop space when minimized. Control Strip tiles represent Control Strip modules (which you install in the Control Strip Modules folder in the System Folder). Each module helps you do something with your Mac, such as change the sound level, turn AppleTalk on or off, and put your PowerBook to sleep.
Control Strip modules are reasonably easy to write for programmer types, and additional modules have turned up here, there, and everywhere, including in the /gui and /cfg folders in the Info-Mac archives.
Control Strips caught on quickly, and owners of other PowerBooks began clamoring for Apple to make Control Strip available to them, while owners of desktop Macs clamored for a way to run Control Strip modules as well. Control Strip is now available as part of System 7.5 or 7.5.1, but it only works on PowerBooks. You can, however, patch Control Strip to run on desktop Macs, using ControlStripPatcher, by Robert Mah. Also, DragStrip (the commercial utility reviewed in Part I of this series) and Desktop Strip (reviewed here in Part III) can run Control Strip modules. Additionally, although PowerBar (reviewed next week in Part IV) does not support Control Strips, it does come with several special modules of its own, and those modules offer similar capabilities.
Desktop Strip — Petur Petursson’s $20 shareware Desktop Strip 1.1.2 is a control panel that supports Control Strips and does a nice job at helping you switch among launched applications. Because it is the only shareware-type launcher that currently supports Control Strips, I’m using it as an example of a typical one.
I rather like Desktop Strip because it always stays in the foreground and because its limited rule set makes it easy to master. Desktop Strip respects your screen space, offering vertical or horizontal strips that can be shrunk to just a tiny title bar (though you cannot name the strips – the title bars are blank) and petite (though not miniature) tiles. Desktop Strip comes with three modules that – without any supplementation – make it a useful utility: application menu, a tile/pop-up menu of launched applications; Monitor Depth, a tile/pop-up menu that changes your monitor settings; and Program List, a module that displays a separate tile for each launched application.
Using Program List, you can drag-launch documents. You can switch to any launched application by clicking its tile (or Option-click to switch to it and hide the current application, or Option-click the tile for the current application to hide all other applications). Command-clicking a tile from any of the three Desktop Strip modules brings up a short menu of options for configuring the module. You can temporarily hide the Desktop Strip palettes and set whether Desktop Strip hides itself when a screen saver is active.
In terms of common features, Desktop Strip lacks the ability to hold items on tiles (such as inactive applications, documents, and folders) – it can only display Control Strip modules and launched applications. If you find this a fatal flaw, have heart. The next version should be released with an additional module, called HandyMan, which lets you put documents, folders, and applications on a strip. You can also expand the strip out into a grid, where each row (or column, depending on how you set it up) represents the contents of specific folder. I’ve seen a pre-release version of HandyMan and it fits nicely with Desktop Strip.
If you like the fact that Desktop Strip sits on top of other windows (a feature that I like enormously, especially since its easy to shrink the strips down to almost nothing), you may also want to try HoverBar – it’s not as fully featured as Desktop Strip, but it is the only other launcher that floats on top of windows, and I plan to discuss it more next week.
Choosing a Launcher — Choosing a launcher is hard work if you have to look at them all, so I hope this part of the desktop launcher series gave you a better idea of the basic possibilities, and perhaps alerted you to an interesting utility that you hadn’t already tried. The desktop launchers that I mentioned in this part were those that I felt most cleanly illustrated how a set of common features might work in a real life application. Next week’s installment will focus on additional desktop launchers that do not as easily serve as typical examples or that are more fully featured. Also, thanks to everyone who wrote in plugging their favorites.