This week we bring you news from last week’s MacWorld Expo in Boston, with info on exciting and noteworthy products like the show-stealing WYSIWYG HTML tools PageMill and SiteMill, plus Nisus MailKeeper and SoftWindows 2.0. If you don’t have real Internet access, check out an overview of FTP via AOL and CompuServe, plus get the real info on the SLIP patch for Netscape 1.1 and the rumors of Microsoft buying a stake in Turner Broadcasting.
More Netscape SLIP Patch Info — We have more information about the recently released update to Netscape 1.1N (see TidBITS-289). First, the patch is intended for SLIP users, and shouldn’t make any difference for users with PPP connections or direct Internet access. Second, the patch only applies to Netscape 1.1N; users who purchased Netscape 1.1 and want the patch should download a copy of 1.1N and patch that version. So, if you use a SLIP connection and experience problems with Netscape 1.1, you might want to try the update. Be sure to keep an unpatched version of Netscape around in case the fix doesn’t help. [GD]
Bill and Ted’s Excellent Network? The Los Angeles Times reported last week that Bill Gates and Ted Turner recently met in Seattle to discuss Microsoft buying a $1 to $2 billion stake in Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. Microsoft is said to be interested in both the CNN brand name and in Turner’s video library for use on the Microsoft Network; Turner is probably interested in an infusion of cash either to buy back Time Warner’s 18 percent share of his company or to make a bid for CBS, the broadcast network currently being purchased by Westinghouse. If this goes through, perhaps we can look forward to the release of "Casablanca 96." [GD]
MSN to Offer TCP Services, Mac Client? Bill Miller, director of marketing and business development for Microsoft Network (MSN), said Thursday that MSN will offer direct TCP/IP connections in the first half of 1996 on a city-by-city basis for a fixed subscription rate. Miller also said that MSN will be available to Macintosh users a year after MSN’s introduction on 24-Aug-95. Time will tell, but I wouldn’t be surprised if these statements were only half true. [GD]
Third Party and Vendor Directories — Apple Developer Services recently released the Third Party Products Web Database, a series of Web pages that contain short descriptions of products, along with live links and/or email addresses for vendors. The listing can be viewed either by category or alphabetically, and though it isn’t yet comprehensive, it seems off to a good start. Of course, the ultimate vendor listing has been and remains at Elliotte Harold’s Well-Connected Mac, which now lists over 1,300 Mac-related vendors. [GD]
Another MacWorld Expo has come and gone, and I was heartened by some changes from previous years. First, and pleasant for those attendees who don’t hail from the tropics, both the temperature and humidity were reasonable for most of the week. More important was the fact that the show had more energy to it than previous years, and it had more products that might interest a large proportion of Macintosh users.
PageMill and SiteMill — The software product names on everyone’s lips were PageMill and SiteMill from Ceneca Software (see Tonya’s article in this issue for more information). The $195 PageMill is a WYSIWYG HTML editor that works as it should, without relying on any codes or much knowledge of HTML itself. The more expensive SiteMill, although priced out of the range of the individual at about $795, enables you to easily manage an entire Web site.
SpeedDoubler from Connectix also garnered some attention with its claim to significantly improve the performance of emulated applications on Power Macs. It includes some features for 68K Macs, intelligent disk caching and faster copying and trashing code, but the impressive feat is speeding up performance of emulated applications. Connectix claims that the $99 SpeedDoubler (street price of about $60) outperforms even the new 68K emulator included in the Power Mac 9500 and its more recent brethren. Connectix also showed a tape loop of the movies that won their QuickCam contest – some of them are hilarious and may show up on the Web soon.
Connectix — 800/950-5880 — 415/571-5100 —
415/571-5195 (fax) — <[email protected]>
Digital cameras have become increasingly popular, and we give the $750 Casio QV-10 digital camera (available soon at major electronics stores) honors for coolest hardware toy at the show, thanks to its active-matrix, full-motion display and other innovative features. Electronic images are great, but sometimes you just have to print them for the set of grandparents you haven’t yet turned on to the Internet, and for that Fargo’s $500 ($400 at the show) FotoFun printer would be perfect, since it’s a 4" by 6" dye-sublimation color printer. Several companies were shipping lenses and accessories for the QuickTake, including a tripod accessory that simplifies the process of taking pictures at the set angles necessary for creating QuickTime VR movies.
Fargo — 800/327-4694 — 612/941-9470
I.R.I.S DataPen — A close second to the Casio camera for neatest hardware device of the show was the I.R.I.S. DataPen, which scans and performs OCR on single lines of text. It’s shaped like a bulky pen, and you have to be careful to move the pen over the line of text without varying too much and at a constant speed, but it enters the text into any Mac application where you’d normally type. The recognition isn’t perfect, especially on strange fonts or small text (and the DataPen can’t do text larger than its scanning head), but for certain data entry operations (say, stock quotes or census figures), the DataPen could be your friend.
IRIS — 408/255-7190
MailKeeper — Along with the native version of Nisus Writer 4.1, Nisus Software shipped a neat little utility called MailKeeper. Although aimed at email, MailKeeper looks as though it will be the "textbase" program that I’ve wanted for so long now. You can easily capture any text selection and send it to MailKeeper, where MailKeeper automatically categorizes the information, recognizing special elements like email addresses and URLs. You can drag URLs from MailKeeper into Netscape, and it’s extremely easy to narrow the set of items stored in MailKeeper in order to find what you want. A full review of MailKeeper is definitely forthcoming.
Nisus Software — 800/890-3030 — 619/481-1477 — 619/481-6154 (fax) — <[email protected]>
You’ve Heard It A Thousand Times — If in future issues you notice the titles and jokes in TidBITS becoming more of a punishing experience, it will be because we plan to test drive Eccentric Software’s A Zillion Kajillion Rhymes and Cliches. A Zillion Kajillion Rhymes has been around for a while, but it now has 20 percent more rhymes, a new interface, and comes with a new Cliches feature. Type in most any word, and the program offers a list of cliches and catch phrases that include the word. The program lists for $49.95, and Eccentric Software sells it for $39.95.
Eccentric Software — 800/436-6758 — 206/628-2687 — 206/628-2681 (fax) — <[email protected]>
Retrospect 3.0 — Dantz Development showed pre-release versions of their new Retrospect and Retrospect Remote 3.0 backup software. New features stem from a rethinking of how users actually back up information, resulting in EasyScript, which asks users a few questions and then creates a custom backup script for them; Backup Server, which uses guidelines established by a network administrator to adapt to changing network configurations (such as PowerBooks appearing and disappearing); and finally, the concept of Groups, which enables easy backup of certain sets of machines on the network.
Dantz — 510/253-3000 — 510/253-9099 (fax) — <[email protected]>
SoftWindows 2.0 — Insignia Solutions released SoftWindows 2.0, the much-awaited Power Mac-only upgrade to its PC emulator. Speed is still the main limitation, with performance claims of 486SX speeds, but SoftWindows 2.0 now emulates a 486 CPU rather than the 286 chip emulated in 1.0. This change allows programs which require Windows Enhanced mode to run under SoftWindows, something not previously possible.
Insignia — 415/335-7100 — 415/335-7105 (fax) — <[email protected]>
Windows 95 Absent — Windows 95 demos were conspicuously absent from Microsoft’s spacious booth, although Windows 95 was reportedly running on Orange Micro DOS cards. A friend who was working at the Microsoft booth said that a number of people had come up and asked to see it but that (a) the people working at the Microsoft booth were Mac folks and (b) they didn’t want to be tarred and feathered, an activity of some historical note in Boston.
MacWEEK Every Day — MacWEEK editors were in short supply on the show floor, since they were holed up at the Four Seasons Hotel putting out eight-page, daily versions of the industry weekly. We heard that even with an impromptu Ethernet network of rented Macs and various cool hardware on loan for the show (such as a pricey Nikon digital camera), the task of meeting daily deadlines on top of the usual weekly deadline was a major challenge. MacWEEK takes a good bit of flak (with nicknames like "MacLeak"), but it’s one of our favorite publications and we enjoyed the daily versions. [I’d like to say it’s one of my favorite publications too; unfortunately, Ziff-Davis has spent the last ten months messing up my subscription. -Geoff]
Netscape and Apple — Flush with money from its record-breaking IPO (initial public offering), the new billion dollar baby Netscape Communications and Apple announced plans for a future version of Netscape Navigator to support Apple’s QuickTime VR. What with support for Adobe’s Acrobat PDF format, Macromedia’s Shockwave technology, and the Java programming language from Sun, it’s going to take Netscape a while to incorporate code from all these strategic alliances. Apple also announced the Apple Internet Connection Kit, a $59 package reminiscent of my Internet Starter Kit for Macintosh disk, although Apple includes Netscape and an Internet-only version of Emailer instead of MacWeb and Eudora. More important differences include Apple Guide information, a dialer application that uses Netscape’s Internet registration service with only a few national providers, and a lot less Internet documentation.
Boston MacWorld had more of a buzz than the last few major MacWorld Expos, and that buzz came in no small part from the steady hum of Internet talk, with an emphasis on HTML and the Web. (This was the first MacWorld Expo where many of the booths had T-1 connections.) I spent a few hours in the booth of my book publisher, Hayden, and watched a steady stream of people walk over to the Internet section, pick up a few books with "HTML" or "Web" in their titles, and then walk over to the cash register without even looking through the books.
In terms of HTML products, several word processors sported HTML features, including the currently shipping ClarisWorks 4.0 with its HTML export capability, the currently shipping NisusWriter 4.1 with an improved set of Sandra Silcot’s excellent HTML macros, and the soon-to-be-released WordPerfect 3.5 with its HTML features. WordPerfect 3.5 will export to HTML and has some WYSIWYG-like HTML editing features (plus table-creation and link resolution), but it’s not a complete solution except for simple HTML documents. WordPerfect takes many of the ideas in today’s crop of shareware HTML tools, cleans them up a bit, and pushes them a little further. Finally, although it’s not a sure thing, Microsoft continues to consider the possibility of releasing a Macintosh version of its Internet Assistant for Word 6.
Evolutionary add-ons to word processors get a smattering of applause, but the HTML tools I’ve been waiting for appeared at the show, in the form of two programs – PageMill and SiteMill. Developed by a new company, Ceneca Communications, the programs offer outstanding tools for making Web pages and managing Web sites.
PageMill — Simply put, PageMill is the PageMaker of the Web. Previous attempts at a WYSIWYG approach have had edges rough enough to give splinters; PageMill is polished, professional, and utterly Mac-like (not surprising given the Apple and Taligent backgrounds of the people who started Ceneca Software). PageMill users need not know any HTML whatsoever – creating Web documents in any other program is like writing Word documents in RTF, Microsoft’s human-unreadable Rich Text Format. Mac users almost never do anything in straight RTF, and they overwhelmingly rejected the idea of WordPerfect’s codes, so I expect that given an option like PageMill, many Mac users will reject the idea of using (or even knowing) HTML tags.
Working with PageMill is much like working in a simple page layout program – you can type text or use drag and drop to add text from pre-existing files. You can use drag and drop to add graphics (PICTs are automatically converted to GIFs), and a built-in graphics tool can do interlacing, transparent backgrounds, and image maps. PageMill can import existing HTML documents and correct errors in those documents. PageMill demos extremely well, and I’ll save more specific comments for when I review the program later this year.
PageMill supports HTML 2.0 (which includes forms) and some Netscape extensions (but not tables in this version). If Ceneca priced PageMill for $50 or less, I think they could sell the program to virtually every Web-savvy Macintosh user on the planet. Instead, Ceneca plans to sell the program for around $200, restricting its use to Web professionals and businesses. Although I think the price is steep, perhaps the high price will keep the number of customers to a manageable level. Ceneca’s greatest challenge may be in growing fast enough to keep up with interest in their product – PageMill was easily the most-talked-about product at the show. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see the program acquired or at least marketed by a larger organization like Apple or Claris; rumor has it that Guy Kawasaki is trumpeting the importance of PageMill and SiteMill within Apple, and from what I’ve seen, PageMill is the best HTML editor available on any platform.
SiteMill — PageMill’s companion program, SiteMill, helps you manage a Web site, and each main feature happens in a different view:
- Site View offers a hierarchical Finder-like overview of what resources are on your site, including pages, graphics, scripts, and so on. In this view, you can rename or move any item, and all links to that item will automatically change as well. The view also helps you identify errors relating to links.
- External References View shows all external links from your site. If an external link’s URL changes, you can update all external links to that URL in one easy step.
- Error View helps you fix up links in sites created without the help of SiteMill. You’d probably only use this view to fix up an existing site that you’ve decided to manage with SiteMill, since making errors in SiteMill itself is difficult.
- Finally, Page View is essentially the same as the full PageMill application, so if you buy SiteMill, you need not also buy a copy of PageMill.
SiteMill also demos extremely well, and I’ll save a more detailed look for when I review SiteMill later this year. SiteMill will list for $795.
Both programs require a 3 MB memory allocation, a color-capable Macintosh, and run on any version of System 7. Ceneca plans to ship them in the "third calendar quarter" of 1995. At a later date, Ceneca also plans to release Windows and Unix versions of both products.
Ceneca Communications — 415/842-6810 — 415/842-6818 (fax)
Claris Corporation — 800/544-8554 — 408/727-9054 (support)
Nisus Software — 800/890-3030 — 619/481-1477
619/481-6154 (fax) — <[email protected]>
Novell Applications Group — 800/451-5151 — 801/225-5000
801/228-5077 (fax) — <[email protected]> (support)
For people without access to a direct Internet connection, both the CompuServe Information Service (CIS) and America Online (AOL) have added graphical FTP capabilities through their client software. (For those unfamiliar with FTP, it stands for File Transfer Protocol and is the major way of transferring files on the Internet.) Unfortunately, although they are a godsend for those who don’t have direct access and can’t use MacTCP-based programs like Anarchie or Fetch, both CompuServe’s and AOL’s FTP services leave much to be desired. Of course, CompuServe now has PPP dialup access for its customers (see TidBITS-274), so CompuServe users with MacTCP and MacPPP can use the excellent Anarchie or Fetch programs for FTP. Rumor has it AOL may add some sort of direct Internet connection in the future as well.
FTP on America Online — AOL was the first commercial service to offer FTP through a graphical client, and although the client is graphical and functional, it’s not great. In a nutshell, AOL’s FTP makes me feel like I’m wading through treacle; it’s none too speedy, and using it requires a multitude of mouse clicks, windows, and dialogs, interspersed with seemingly interminable periods staring at a spinning beachball cursor. The actual file retrieval goes relatively quickly, but getting to that point takes too much effort. For instance, although AOL’s FTP can handle most directories, dealing with a large directory requires clicking a More button one or more times in order to view the entire directory listing.
Another disadvantage of AOL’s FTP system is its excessively hierarchical organization. When you go to keyword "FTP" you get a dialog allowing you to search for FTP sites (limited and almost useless in my experience), a list of help information, and a Go to FTP button. New users may want to see this dialog; unfortunately, experienced users are unable to skip it. Clicking on the Go to FTP button brings up a short list of Favorite Sites like <ftp.info.apple.com>, <ftp.borland.com> (for Windows users), and <ftp.microsoft.com>. If you don’t want to access one of these, you must click an Other Site button in order to use a dialog that permits you enter the name of the FTP site you want. Ideally, AOL should provide a keyword that takes you directly to this dialog.
Although the Other Site dialog does not allow you to specify a directory to display, a useful shortcut lets you paste an FTP URL (such as you might copy out of TidBITS) that points at a directory, not a file (just lop off the filename if present), to go to a particular directory on a remote site. Once you find the desired file, you double-click it and get another dialog with information about the file, and another button to click before you actually start downloading. Chugging through these steps every time, even if you know exactly what you want, makes AOL’s FTP feel sluggish.
AOL’s FTP does have a couple of points in its favor. Although it overloads you with windows early on, it does open non-modal windows that you can leave open and switch between once you connect to a site, or you can switch to another application to do something else or check information. Even though you can only work in one window at a time, it’s handy to be able to switch back to a different one easily. In contrast, CompuServe’s single modal dialog complicates the process of moving back and forth in an FTP site.
If you retrieve a GIF file, AOL’s FTP displays the file as you retrieve it, just as AOL does with its own files. AOL tries to keep original file names within the Mac’s 31 characters – a refreshing feature after dealing with CIS’s butchery of file names. And although AOL’s option to search for file sites is limited, it’s better than nothing (which is what CIS provides).
Perhaps most interesting is that AOL retrieves files to the AOL host from the remote FTP site before downloading them to your Mac. Thus, once a file starts downloading to your machine, you can abort the transfer and make it finish later during a FlashSession. This is a unique feature, and makes up in large part for AOL’s somewhat clumsy interface. Of course, the seriously paranoid will note that such a technique could constitute more of a security breach than a straight FTP connection if you’re transferring sensitive information.
FTP on CompuServe — CIS’s FTP client has an unusual modal interface (which requires CompuServe Information Manager) and has its own frustrating problems.
When you GO FTP, you see a single window that lists help files and offers access to CompuServe’s internal File Finders (they search inside CIS, not the contents of FTP sites). This window also provides a button for Selected Popular Sites, a button for an almost identical List of Sites, and a button for accessing any specific site you wish. The huge and badly-designed modal dialog for selecting a particular site does allow you to explicitly specify a directory on the remote site. Although you will have to reconnect if you don’t give a valid directory path, the ability to pick a specific directory can be a big timesaver, although it’s clumsier than pasting in an FTP URL.
Once you sign on to a site, you’re shown a modal dialog with any messages from the site (just like AOL), and clicking OK displays a single modal dialog that lists the available subdirectories of the current directory in the left pane, and the files in the current directory in the right pane. To move into a subdirectory, double-click it; to move out, click the Back button. Either way, both lists update to show the information for the current directory. Unlike most list dialogs on the Mac, each entry (a filename, frustratingly truncated if it’s too long since the dialog is not resizable) has a checkbox next to it; to retrieve a file, select the checkbox and click Retrieve. A useful Filter button lets you use wildcards to view only certain files in a directory; all files ending in ".txt", for example.
Unlike AOL, you do all your work in this single modal dialog. Some (like me) may prefer the limited window clutter this technique results in, others may prefer the more confusing (if more flexible) set of multiple windows available via AOL’s FTP client.
Unfortunately, the basic simplicity of the interface is marred by several major design flaws. For example, the way CIS FTP uses checkboxes to select the files to retrieve makes it look easy to retrieve a batch of files at once, but in practice it’s not. If you select several files to download and click Retrieve, CIS FTP will ask you to save each file just before it downloads it, so you can’t select a group of files and leave the computer unattended. In fact, because of its problem with file names, I find it less convenient to select a group of files than to download them one by one. The use of checkboxes may also erroneously imply to some that you can mark multiple files for downloading in different directories and then get them all at once.
Speaking of file names, CIS FTP handles file names with the elan of a lumberjack dancing "Swan Lake." First, it truncates all file names to the DOS standard of eight characters with a three character extension. Although this is understandable for DOS users, it is highly annoying for Mac users. When you consider that OS/2, Windows NT, and Windows 95 break the DOS straitjacket on file names, I call it unacceptable.
Even worse, if the file name has multiple periods, CIS FTP ignores everything between the first and last period. Therefore, a name like "ford.engine.gear.eps" would be truncated to "ford.eps" when downloaded. Multiple words separated by periods are a common convention in Internet file names. The way CIS FTP truncates file names will at best confuse; at worst, if you are retrieving two files with similar names, you could easily overwrite the first file with the second. Luckily, CIS FTP uses a Standard File dialog to save, so if you remember the name you can retype it correctly before saving.
CIS FTP also has some bugs with displaying files and subdirectories. If a directory list contains a number of subdirectories, CIS FTP will sometimes display some of the subdirectories in the list of files, where you cannot access them. Far worse, if you enter a directory that has no subdirectories, the subdirectory list will incorrectly retain the names from the previous directory. Similarly, if you enter a directory that has no files, the file list will incorrectly retain the file names from the previous directory.
Unlike AOL, CIS FTP does enable you to upload to FTP sites that allow you to do so; however, this feature is extremely error-prone, and worked rather sporadically in testing.
What About Searching? Neither AOL nor CIS provide an interface for doing Archie searches. Archie is a method of searching FTP sites for file names that match certain criteria; while far from perfect, it’s one of the few games in town if you don’t know where a particular file might live. The lack of an Archie client makes it difficult to use either AOL or CIS FTP unless you already have some idea where to look. Since both services are aimed at more novice users, it’s surprising neither has set up an Archie server for internal use (much like AOL has done with a Veronica server for searching for Gopher sites).
And The Winner Is… Well, it’s a bit of a toss-up. Both are better than nothing if you don’t have a MacTCP connection to use Anarchie or Fetch, but both have flaws that hurt their usability. I can’t recommend either as a preferred way to retrieve files but either will work in a pinch or if you have no other choices.