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If you thought flu season was bad, just imagine what Word users with macro viruses are going through! This week we also bring you news on how to find Japanese and German versions of TidBITS, plus info on updates to Claris Emailer, HyperCard, and a new beta of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. Plus, Adam weighs in on Internet commerce (and tries to sell James Bond a new car), and Tonya rounds out the issue with a detailed review of SoftQuad’s HoTMetaL PRO 2.0.

Geoff Duncan No comments

More Word Macro Viruses

More Word Macro Viruses — According to a recent CIAC bulletin, new Microsoft Word macro viruses have been discovered, and at least two of the new varieties are damaging. (See TidBITS-312 for a related story.)

Although the worst effects are still reserved for Windows users (apparently the virus engineers aren’t up-to-date on cross-platform concerns), users of Microsoft Word 6.0 or 6.0.1 on the Macintosh should be concerned. Microsoft has released new tools to combat these viruses, and many commercial anti-virus products are being updated to detect them as well.

I haven’t examined or tested Microsoft’s new virus protection tools, and though Microsoft claims these tools work on a Macintosh, they’re posted in a self-extracting ZIP format for DOS/Windows machines. StuffIt Expander with Expander Enhancer will decompress the file; so will Thomas Brown’s popular Mac shareware utility ZipIt. As with Microsoft’s earlier anti-virus tool, Microsoft’s new utility only scans files opened by choosing Open from the File menu; documents which are double-clicked in the Finder or chosen from the recent documents list are not scanned. [GD]

Microsoft — 206/635-7200 — <[email protected]> expander-352.bin stuff-with-ee-352.hqx 135.hqx

Geoff Duncan No comments

Emailer 1.0v3 Updater

Emailer 1.0v3 Updater — Fog City Software has released an updater for Claris Emailer which updates versions 1.0 and 1.0v2 to version 1.0v3. The update offers better support for enclosures and Internet Config, the ability to drag text files directly into messages, and the ability to set a default encoding for enclosures sent via the Internet. The update weighs in around 1.5 MB. [GD] 10v3Update.hqx

Geoff Duncan No comments

Internet Explorer Beta 2

Internet Explorer Beta 2 — Microsoft has released the second beta of its Internet Explorer Web browser for the Macintosh. (See TidBITS-311.) In addition to several bug fixes, this version revises some of Internet Explorer’s interface (including its History function, tool bar, settings, and keyboard shortcuts); unfortunately, it has yet to eliminate that embarrassing animated Windows logo, and it still creates one file per bookmark. Although I’ve seen mixed reports, in my experience this release is considerably less stable than the first beta. [GD] macdl.htm

Geoff Duncan No comments

HyperCard 2.3.5 Stack Update

HyperCard 2.3.5 Stack Update — Apple has released a HyperCard 2.3.5 update in the form of revised versions of the Color Tools, Power Tools, and Audio Help stacks. Most significantly, Audio Help now works properly on PCI Macs and has been revised significantly to conform more closely to Apple’s guidelines for sound input. In addition, Color Tools should be more reliable on systems with the Japanese or Chinese Language Kits installed, and the Picture XCMD in the Power Tools stack has been updated to support HyperTalk’s support for the clipboard property. The update is about 850K. [GD]

Adam Engst No comments

TidBITS Translations

Apart from an occasional translated issue, TidBITS has been written almost entirely in English throughout our almost six years of publication. That’s because, quite simply, we aren’t fluent in many other languages, and translation is hard work. Now, however, several teams of dedicated volunteers have been translating TidBITS into Japanese (Kanji) and into German. For their work, they’ve certainly earned our heartfelt thanks. Needless to say, the translations aren’t available immediately after publication, but if reading English is difficult for you, the wait is probably worth it.

Japanese — There are now twelve folks working on the Japanese translations of TidBITS, and they’ve been at it for several months now. You can receive TidBITS-J issues via a mailing list; to subscribe, send email to <[email protected]> with "subscribe your email address" (replace "your email address" with your actual email address) in the body of the message. If you prefer to read TidBITS-J on the Web, the HTML version can be found at the first URL below, and the issues that go to the mailing list are archived for access via FTP. You can also find TidBITS-J on Nifty-Serve and some FirstClass BBSs; email <[email protected]> for more information. /

German — The German translations of TidBITS started relatively recently, and they are currently available only on the Web. They’re done by Walter J. Ferstl, with invaluable assistance from his colleague, Gregor Retti. Due to the effort involved, not all issues are being translated. Still, some is better than none, if you want to read in German. You can find the TidBITS-Deutsch at:

Others? If you’re fluent in English and another language and have enough spare time on your hands to want to translate issues of TidBITS, let us know and we’ll see how we can help.

Adam Engst No comments

Net Commerce

I wrote in TidBITS-311 about Apple and marketing the Macintosh on the Internet, but – on further reflection – I don’t think many companies take Internet marketing seriously. That may be because it’s a totally different world than traditional marketing, and the folks making marketing decisions don’t know how to take advantage of the Internet’s strengths.

I’d like to offer a few concepts to anyone doing business and trying to work on the Internet. First, think information. Fizzy Web pages that leave users with more questions than they had when they arrived are a bad thing. Provide real information. Second, think community. For the most part, the Web stinks at creating community because it’s so easy to pop from one site to another, and sites that require a userid and a password annoy users who must try to remember their userids and passwords. Mailing lists are ideal for creating community. Third, think customer contact. I’m talking about frequent contact here, via email and other methods, and aside from the obvious utility of staying in touch with the customer, consider the fact that contact promotes trust, which is tremendously important on the Internet.

In the past, some of these concepts were hard to put into practice because the tools weren’t present, and when they were, they weren’t easy to experiment or play with. Now that problem no longer applies, thanks to cheap Apple Internet servers and a decent set of server software from a variety of companies. Of these companies, StarNine (now Quarterdeck) stands out, first because of WebSTAR, which they were clever enough to buy from Chuck Shotton back when it was MacHTTP, and also because of ListSTAR, which was developed internally and based in part on StarNine’s email gateway code. Being acquired by Quarterdeck recently gave StarNine yet another Mac Internet server, an IRC server for the Mac called GlobalChat (currently in beta, due out in February).

For the most part, I think StarNine realizes the power of Internet marketing. While we were at Macworld Expo, StarNine’s Director of Marketing, David Thompson, gave us a demo that involved all the above tools along with the recently announced WebSTAR Commerce Toolkit (also in beta and due in February), a CGI that aids in creating sites that can accept payment over the Internet. More on that in a minute.

Imagine, if you will, a European maker of expensive automobiles whose initials, to provide anonymity, are BMW. They recently paid what must have been a small fortune to have a new model featured in the latest James Bond flick. It had all sorts of features, probably including bulletproof glass, forward mounted missile launchers, and a passenger eject seat for getting rid of pesky co-stars. BMW could set up a Web site with WebSTAR, provide full specs on the car, and even include movies of it driving, blowing up bad guys, and so on. Of course, Java and Shockwave are just more data to WebSTAR, so yes, BMW could use them as well. But let’s face it. The kind of people who buy this sort of car don’t often need a test drive, so BMW could have a secured page served by WebSTAR/SSL (the secure version of WebSTAR) that let clients and secret agents order cars over the Web, pick whatever options seem appropriate, and then have the cars drop-shipped overnight to their mountaintop or undersea hideaways by Federal Express’s Parachute Division (and tracked via the FedEx Web page).

The WebSTAR Commerce Toolkit, written by Chuck’s cohort Louis Slothouber, lets customers choose payment options and calculate the total. It also works with First Virtual or a program called MacAuthorize to complete the transaction. First Virtual works best with information right now, but enables secure payment over the Internet, whereas MacAuthorize takes credit card numbers and authorizes them in real time. Great, so BMW has just sold a car for more money than the cost of most houses. But what next?

The Web site could feature a form that lets customers join a ListSTAR-based mailing list devoted to discussion of the cars, a list where BMW employees spend time. After all, if BMW drivers are continually destroying traffic in front of them with missiles when they just want to change the radio station, that’s something the engineers should know. The mailing list will also let customers share information about their cars, such as warnings about using the smoke screen in California because of strict pollution control laws. And, of course, the digests of those discussions should be converted to HTML and posted on the Web site to provide a searchable archive of the information.

But a good marketing person shouldn’t stop there, and our imaginary BMW marketing people do not. When they get the customer’s email address as part of the order, they add the address to several lists. One of these lists is used to send out a letter from BMW soliciting comments about the purchase a month or so afterwards, perhaps directing customers to a Web-based survey form. Another list is used purely for information from BMW itself, like a recall notice for that badly designed missile launching switch, or even a message informing current customers BMW has perfected the submarine conversion kit. All of this is fairly easily done via ListSTAR right now, and although I’d hesitate to serve a truly huge mailing list with ListSTAR, it’s proven it can handle thousands of users without trouble.

The final part of the scenario is an IRC channel devoted to BMW car buffs, run from StarNine’s GlobalChat server, but I have to admit that I think using IRC for support is stretching reality a bit far. I can imagine BMW-designed missile launchers, but chat-based tech support is just too much. The simple fact of the matter is that real-time discussions can only support a certain number of people before things become too chaotic, no matter what the medium. I’m being negative; I’m sure someone could figure out how to merge IRC into an overall marketing plan. In further discussions with David Thompson, he suggested a chat server could provide online "event-marketing" to draw people to the site for, say, a chat with Sean Connery. David also commented that chat is only the tip of the event-marketing iceberg, and audio and video can’t be far behind.

Now imagine that instead of BMW, this company was Apple.

I won’t pretend this marketing situation would be trivial to set up, since most serious things in life require real thought, and tools can only do so much thinking for you. There are places in the description above where a magic tool suddenly appears and takes care of a problem. But, if you’re in business to make money, you can probably afford to find someone who can write tools in AppleScript, Frontier, C++, or something. Or, you can figure it out for yourself, if that’s cheaper in your personal time to money ratio.

In the end, although I started writing this article because I think StarNine’s stuff is pretty neat, I think the demo David Thompson cooked up is as good a tutorial on the basics of Internet marketing as it is a demo of StarNine’s tools. The demo provides information, creates community, and fosters trust via frequent customer contact. All of those things aid both in making money and providing happy customers, who will then be inclined to plunk down more money after they’ve been forced to drive their BMW off a cliff and utilize the hang-glider option to escape the obligatory explosion.

You can find more information about StarNine’s products and mailing lists on their Web server. Oh, and you can check out civilian BMWs online, too. z3downloads.html

Tonya Engst No comments

Getting Warmer: HoTMetaL PRO 2.0

SoftQuad’s HoTMetaL PRO 1.0 for Macintosh came out in early 1995 amid some fanfare, since it was one of the first commercial Web authoring tools for the Mac.

The Macintosh world gave HoTMetaL PRO 1.0 a poor reception, and – based on my half-hour trial – I wasn’t surprised. In particular, I didn’t like HoTMetaL PRO’s DOS-style preferences (in which you edited text files to set preferences). I wouldn’t write about HoTMetaL PRO 2.0 if it hadn’t improved, but the 2.0 version rates a lukewarm nod of welcome.

Questionable Heritage — To give you a better idea of HoTMetaL PRO 1.0’s problems, here’s a list that Roz Ault <[email protected]> posted in the Apple Internet Authoring mailing list some time ago:

  • Don’t buy this program unless you have lots of RAM to spare. The program itself wants 8 MB (minimum is 6 MB) and you must run a browser alongside it.
  • It feels like a Windows program ported to a Mac, rather than something written to Mac standards and guidelines.
  • Although it’s not bad for adding codes, it doesn’t have the full-featured set of editing tools I want in a word processor.
  • On a IIci, it took a two minutes or more to load. The program is not PowerPC native, and on a Power Mac 6100/66 it took well over a minute to load.
  • The documentation is poor, and the accompanying HTML files (basically the manual) aren’t well presented.
  • Entering HTML is easy, but making changes is not. You can’t just delete a tag – you must follow certain procedures in the right order because of the way the program validates HTML.
  • The spell checker window usually hides the misspelled word in context, so you have to keep moving it around the screen. When you try to add a word to the dictionary, you get a file dialog box with no instructions (it apparently wants you to find the user dictionary).

The programmers at SoftQuad have been hard at work, and 2.0 requires just over half the memory, launches twice as fast, looks like a Mac program, and has numerous improvements to its overall operation. The program requires System 7 and runs on a 68030 or above, though SoftQuad recommends at least a 68040. The program prefers 4.5 MB of application RAM, and you’ll want additional RAM for launching a Web browser.

This review is based on version 2.0, release 3.69, which has a number of improvements over previous 2.0 releases. Although I did not test this, release 3.69 can import word processing documents and automatically apply HTML tags. Formats supported include WordPerfect for the Mac, Word 5.x, text, and RTF. This release also comes as a fat binary (the previous releases were 68K only), improves table editing, and fixes a number of minor bugs (including several I encountered in an earlier 2.0 release).

HoTMetaL PRO shows most tags onscreen as you work. To see a document sans tags, you use the preview, which loads the document into a Web browser. HoTMetaL PRO is rule oriented – it won’t let you insert tags willy-nilly, and it won’t let you edit, delete, or paste anything that breaks a rule. If HoTMetaL PRO were a person, it wouldn’t have even considered inhaling. The program supports HTML 2.0 (tags most Web browsers understand), some HTML 3.0, and a smattering of Netscape extensions. SoftQuad plans to release an updated rules file shortly (perhaps by mid-February), which will enable HoTMetaL PRO to support additional Netscape extensions (such as frames) and some Internet Explorer extensions. The rules file will be available on SoftQuad’s Web site.

The interface is Mac-like, though not particularly elegant. Until you learn the cogs and wheels of the program, you’ll use its three Microsoft-like toolbars a lot. I’d like to see more white space in the toolbars, but the images on the buttons work well, especially on the <DT>, <DD>, and <DL> buttons, which use gray and black greeking to indicate which part of a glossary list each button controls.

Several important preferences now live in a Preferences dialog box, including the font and size of displayed tags and an autosave feature. You still must edit a text file to change a number of other preferences.

Writing Tools — HoTMetaL PRO includes a spelling checker and thesaurus; unfortunately, both are mediocre. The spelling checker window still tends to cover the document so you can’t see misspelled words and it lacks an Ignore All option [which, as far as I know, is properly implemented only in Nisus Writer 4.1.x, where it ignores a word for the life of that document – Adam]. When it finds a mistake, it offers a hard-to-read, vertical list of fourteen suggestions for a replacement in what looks like 12-point Courier. The Thesaurus’s features for browsing among different words are limited.

HoTMetaL PRO offers an outline view which has nothing to do with outlining ideas, but does vaguely show the nested structure of your tags. You can’t re-arrange anything, the indentations of the levels are too small, you can’t tell if a level is fully displayed, and you cannot enter text.

The Find and Replace is sophisticated and complex (that’s a nice way of saying that I couldn’t figure out how to make all of it work!). It can do pattern matching, and it can "replace with found," though many users will find the syntax confusing.

As you set up a Find that involves pattern matching, you may have to try more than once before it works correctly. As you use trial and error, you must always remember to click out of the Find and Replace dialog box and to click back in. If you accidently close the box, or if you accidently press Command-F to bring the box to the front, the text in the Find and Replace fields disappears. SoftQuad is aware of this problem. Fortunately, the 3.69 release does permit you to paste into the dialog box, making the problem slightly less annoying.

Of course, if your text doesn’t require this level of massaging, you can turn off pattern matching and use the Find and Replace options much as you would in a word processor. Finding and replacing becomes more complicated (or impossible) if you want to look for text that includes a tag. The manual explains the rules, and – overall – the basic Find and Replace feature is usable.

Styles — HoTMetaL PRO’s styles help you see what’s happening as you compose a document. They do not change the appearance of the document when it displays in a Web browser; that is, even though you can set all your <H1> headers to 24-point purple with 20 points of Space Above, that setting does not translate into the final HTML document. This is as it should be, because it’s up to Web browsers to determine what a <H1> header should look like. Of course, given time, HTML will support optional style sheets, and – once that becomes reality – I’ll expect more of HoTMetaL PRO.

The Style dialog is easy to use, and the styles work acceptably. You must set each style from scratch – there’s no hierarchical style feature that enables you to indicate quickly that <H2>-tagged text should appear like <H1>-tagged text, only smaller. Styles are automatically saved in a separate file (and HoTMetaL PRO shows its non-Mac roots by naming the file hmpro2.stl). If you wish, you can save styles yourself in a file you name. You can load any style file into any HoTMetaL PRO document.

Support for European Languages — Recently, I received a message from Jean-Pierre Queille <[email protected]>. Jean-Pierre wrote about difficulties in composing HTML in languages that use lots of upper ASCII, such as French: "The problem for me in looking at the plain text version of an HTML document is not with the HTML tags, which I can read and understand. But I really can’t edit text with tags like "&eacute;" scattered all over the place." The good news is that HoTMetaL PRO would work fine for Jean-Pierre. Characters display as themselves, not as entities.

Tables — When you create a table, HoTMetaL PRO shows a rough grid; this pseudo-WYSIWYG approach is much easier to work with than a display of raw table tags. Some of the table tools are quite good, such as a palette for adding and deleting rows and columns, as well as for joining and splitting cells. Other tools are surprisingly lacking – you cannot select multiple cells, so there is no way to make a row of text bold quickly, or to change an entire row of <TD>-tagged cells (regular cells for table data) into <TH>-tagged cells (cells for table headers). You cannot press Tab to move between cells. Although you can align text in different ways and make borders of different thicknesses, these formats don’t display in HoTMetaL PRO.

Macros, Links, and Images — HoTMetaL PRO’s macro-making abilities are far from elaborate, but they do let you create keyboard shortcuts for inserting tags (for example, I made a macro that changes a <TD>-type cell to a <TH>-type cell). They also let you quickly insert pre-typed chunks of text. Macros must be recorded (you can’t write them using a scripting language). HoTMetaL PRO does not support AppleScript.

Like most HTML authoring tools, HoTMetaL PRO has a dialog box that helps you set up links. The Links dialog also offers a hotlist feature for storing frequently linked URLs. HoTMetaL PRO users can also import Bookmark files from Netscape or Mosaic into the hotlist.

HoTMetaL PRO supports inline graphics and offers a nice dialog box for setting up <IMG> tags. The dialog has a field for ALT text, and a checkbox for indicating if a graphic is an image map (though HoTMetaL PRO does not help you set up the image map file that makes the image map work behind the scenes). The IMG tag does not display with its attributes, and you must open a dialog box in order to change them.

In Conclusion— HoTMetaL PRO is worth consideration by experienced HTML authors who want a tool that shows HTML tags and enforces HTML rules. However, at its current list price of $195, HoTMetaL PRO 2.0 stands little chance of luring customers from more affordable options such as BBEdit. Even so (and although it’s too early to work up a sweat over it), I’m looking forward to HoTMetaL Pro 3.0, which SoftQuad plans to ship in the first half of this year. Given the rate at which SoftQuad has been improving HoTMetaL PRO, the 3.0 version may map out noteworthy territory in the HTML authoring landscape.

HoTMetaL Free 2.0 is available for free on SoftQuad’s Web site. According to SoftQuad, HoTMetaL Free works much like HoTMetaL PRO, except it lacks the spelling checker, thesaurus, conversions, macros, and printing.

SoftQuad — 800/387-2777 — 416/239-4801 — 416/239-7105 (fax)
<[email protected]>