Wondering about upgrading to Eudora Pro 4.0? Matt Neuburg explains what’s good and bad about the new version of the popular email program. Also in this issue, Adam reports on a recent trip to Australia, a problem with daylight savings time and Macintosh Extended Format volumes surfaces, Netscape releases source code to Netscape Communicator, Global Village sells its modem business to Boca Research, and we note new releases of Palimpsest 2.1 and GPSy 3.0.
Daylight Savings Time and Macintosh Extended Format — As portions of the United States sprang ahead to daylight savings time last Saturday, reports of creation and modification time problems on Macintosh Extended Format (HFS Plus) volumes began to surface. (Extended Format is an optional element of Mac OS 8.1.) A disk formatted in Extended Format stores file creation and modification times in Greenwich Mean Time. When you check or uncheck the Daylight Savings Time checkbox in the Date & Time control panel, your computer’s offset from GMT changes correspondingly. On an Extended Format disk, this changes the apparent creation and modification times for files; dates may change as well. Some people won’t notice, but others may have problems; in particular, backups may take longer or fill backup media because every file will appear to have been modified.
Dantz, makers of the popular backup program Retrospect, recommend either using the situation as an opportunity to make a full backup or changing the time using the Current Time field in the Date & Time control panel instead of the Daylight Savings Time checkbox. Another fix comes in the form of HFS+ DST Timefix, a tiny extension from Glenn Austin that causes Extended Format to ignore the fact that the Daylight Savings Time checkbox is checked. For extensive information about Extended Format, see "All About Macintosh Extended Format (HFS Plus)" in TidBITS-414. [TJE]
Netscape Releases Mac Source Code — Netscape Communications has released the source code to the Macintosh version of the forthcoming Netscape Communicator 5.0. Obviously, the source code is of interest only to developers, but we are curious to see how enterprising developers take advantage of the source code (the code is still governed by license agreements; see the MailBIT "Free Netscape" in TidBITS-414). [ACE]
Global Village Sells Modem Business to Boca Research — Last week, Global Village Communications announced plans to sell its entire modem business – including hardware, software, inventory, OEM agreements, and the Global Village name – to Boca Research for $10 million in cash and notes, plus a warrant for Boca to purchase up to 425,000 shares of Global Village stock. Boca plans to support current Global Village customers and develop new communications products under the Global Village name; meanwhile, Global Village will be renamed and focus on integrated communications servers for small and medium-sized offices. [GD]
Palimpsest 2.1 Released — Western Civilisation has released version 2.1 of Palimpsest, a hypertext application for managing and analyzing large collections of electronic documents. (For more information, see “Palimpsest 1.1 – Is There a Document in the House?” in TidBITS-364.) Palimpsest 2.1 supports the new look of Mac OS 8 and contextual menus, and offers better layout tools, more shortcuts, and enhanced printing. A subscription to Palimpsest costs $50 per year and includes full support plus all upgrades within that time. [ACE]
GPSy 3.0 Maps New Features — Directionally impaired Mac users will be relieved to learn of the release of GPSy 3.0, Karen Nakamura’s software for working with data from Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites. With a GPS receiver, a Macintosh, and GPSy, you can pinpoint your location to within 100 meters anywhere on Earth (the GPS system is capable of tracking to one sixteenth of an inch, but that capability is reserved for use by the U.S. military; see Karen’s article "Feeling Lost? An Overview of Global Positioning Systems," and a review, "Driving Through Trees: Using GPSy," in TidBITS-388). In addition to protocol additions for working with a wide variety of GPS units, GPSy 3.0 adds the capability to view your position using information from several Internet map servers, such as the U.S. Census TIGER Mapping Service and Geocities. GPSy is $50 and available as a 1 MB download. [JLC]
We found ourselves in an unusual situation recently. The Microsoft Office team wanted to sponsor TidBITS, irrespective of the fact that the Internet Explorer/Outlook Express group was already sponsoring us. When we decided to accept the second Microsoft sponsorship, we based the decision on three facts. First, TidBITS is a viable business and turning down a paying sponsor isn’t a good way to remain viable (particularly since a number of Macintosh publications have had troubles over the last year). Second, we’d never heard of a magazine turning down an advertisement because the company in question already had one in the same magazine. Third, and most important, we’re liking Microsoft Office 98.
That’s what it comes down to in the end when we evaluate whether or not we’ll accept a sponsor: is the product good enough, and, in this case, does it advance the Macintosh? Since we have minimal use for spreadsheets, Word is the crux of the argument for us. Despite the fact that Tonya wrote a book about Word 6.0, we used it only under duress, and although Word 5.1 remains functional, it’s over six years old and showing that age. Although we haven’t had Word 98 long enough for any major projects, it’s good enough to have instantly replaced both previous versions for those tasks best done in Word, such as working with book publishers and trading files back and forth with users of Office 97 for Windows.
Please don’t take the above comments as a review – they aren’t. Our full reviews of Word 98 and Excel 98 should be out soon, and we will say precisely what we think then. Nonetheless, it’s clear that Office 98 is proving beneficial for the Macintosh platform, with a number of reports of migration away from the Mac slowing or even stopping, thanks to Office 98 offering compatibility with Office 97 for Windows while retaining the look and feel of a real Macintosh program.
After spending four full weeks away from email while travelling in Australia from the middle of February to the middle of March, Tonya and I are back in the U.S and more or less caught up on life. We didn’t take a computer – we were moving around a lot and decided not to subject our PowerBooks to the vagaries of low-budget travel – and it was the longest we’ve gone without access to a computer or the Internet.
Although we didn’t miss being out of touch for that long, I regretted not having a Mac for two reasons. As a writer, I like to write about my experiences while travelling, especially since I’m thinking more about non-computer topics these days. Taking notes on paper then and trying to write from them now is proving slow and frustrating. Also, since our old QuickTake 150 can hold only 16 or 32 images, we were restricted to a film camera, which makes it harder to share the pictures with our many Internet-accessible friends and family.
Of course, the fact that we didn’t bring a PowerBook or check email for a month doesn’t mean we were isolated from the Macintosh world. Several weeks of our trip were spent in Perth, visiting Peter Lewis (of Anarchie fame), Andrew Nielsen, and a number of other Mac friends we’ve met over the years via email and during their trips to the U.S. It was fascinating to go from a more traditional vacation in Tasmania (where we gazed at beautiful scenery and gawked at the local wildlife) to being dropped into a large social group whose members we’d met in person only once or twice before.
The Macintosh kept popping out at us. In Hobart, Tasmania, we had an enjoyable dinner with several members of the local Macintosh users group. That dinner was set up by Peter Johnston, a former editor of Australian Macworld. Then, on a side trip to a small town called Pemberton about four hours south of Perth, we were chatting about what we do for a living with one of the staff at a gallery called Fine Woodcraft. One of the owners came out from the back room in time to hear the words "Macintosh" and "Internet" and immediately dragooned me into setting up Internet access on his new Macintosh in return for a pair of cappuccinos and tasty apple crumbles. We would have preferred to trade for the gorgeous jarrah wood and beaten copper buffet we were lusting after, but a little magic with older versions of ConfigPPP and MacTCP probably isn’t worth furniture.
Mac vs. PC Debate — One of the events we attended in Perth was a debate between Mac and PC users on the topic of "Will the Macintosh be viable into the 21st century?" It was meant to be light-hearted, since it was put on by an interactive multimedia association whose members rely on both Macs and PCs, but it did prove interesting. As the moderator said to general laughter while introducing the topic, "One of these platforms comes from an evil American mega-corporation bent on world domination… and the other comes from Microsoft." Each side had three presenters who were given five minutes each to introduce the argument, flesh it out, and rebut the other side. Interruptions and comments from the audience weren’t acceptable unless considered hysterically funny by the judge.
The women who led off the arguments for both sides were excellent, both speaking extremely well and finishing in their allotted times. The woman arguing for the PC side chose the sophistic tactic of taking Apple’s sales figures at two points in the recent past and drawing a straight line between them, conclusively "proving" that Macintosh sales would drop to zero on 17-Nov-98. Her argument prompted references from the audience to Mark Twain’s famous comment about there being three types of lies – lies, damned lies, and statistics. In a violation of the agreed-upon rules, the PC team then presented a laptop running a countdown to the point when Apple’s Mac sales would hit zero. This of course engendered not only an objection from the Macintosh team but snide comments from the audience about the accuracy of the number if the laptop’s Pentium chip had to do any division.
The Mac team took the lead during the second set of presenters. The man arguing for the Mac offered a solid recitation of facts from study after study showing that the Mac offers a greater return on investment than PCs and that this greater return on investment would ensure the Mac’s continued viability. In contrast, the PC presenter had failed to check his facts, and in a futile attempt to denigrate the G3 chip commented that the Mac team’s G3 performance claims might prove accurate "when it ships." This provoked howls of laughter, given the length of time the Power Macintosh G3s have been available. As he continued with similarly incorrect facts, our laughter grew, and at the end of his presentation the judge threatened to eject the lot of us if we didn’t quiet down for the final presenter. I couldn’t resist pointing out that at least the Macintosh is capable of ejecting disks via software, almost causing Peter Lewis to fall out of his chair laughing.
The rebuttal phase of the debate was somewhat weak for the Mac side, mostly because there wasn’t much to rebut. And, although the Macintosh presenter went slightly over his time, the time limit wasn’t nearly as problematic for him as it was for the final PC presenter. He had started with an involved comment about how the Macintosh was an excellent choice in certain industries, such as education, construction, marine, and so on, but he ran out of time before he was able to deliver his punch line (filling Macs with concrete for boat anchors, using them as doorstops in schools, and so on). We Mac devotees could not permit such an opportunity to pass, so as the time ran out with him having just recommended the Mac for a variety of industries, we cheered and applauded loudly enough to drown out the punch line. Dirty pool, but in a good cause.
Mac Users in Australia? I was curious if the Australian Macintosh community would seem qualitatively different from the Mac communities here in the U.S., but in fact, it seemed pretty much the same. At a MacGeeks user group dinner in Perth (held at a Japanese restaurant run by a Macintosh user who provided a Mac hooked to the Internet as a kiosk for people waiting for take-away meals) we ran into programmers, network administrators, and support folks. We met novice users while travelling, most of whom liked their Macs and only used PCs under duress for specific applications, if at all. At the heart of the situation, these people reminded us of other Mac users we’ve met over the years in different parts of the U.S. If anything, they’re somewhat more insulated from the capriciousness of the U.S. computer market. They pay for that insulation in higher prices for software, hardware, and Internet services plus inane international policies, such as the New York Times Web site offering free subscriptions for only a month for non-U.S. users. It’s no wonder the Australians tend to have a somewhat sardonic sense of humor about everything American, the computer industry included.
Readers of TidBITS already know that I live inside my email program, and that my email program is Eudora. I liked Eudora Pro 3.0 when I wrote about it in December of 1996, and I like Eudora Pro 4.0 now.
Nightmare on Installation Street — However, I must admit that initially my transition to Eudora 4 was anything but smooth. Indeed, this is the first Eudora upgrade that required any significant transition at all from its users. Earlier versions were basically identical to the version preceding them: you installed and launched the new version, its look and features were completely recognizable, and you started sending and receiving mail as if nothing had happened. Some menus may have been rearranged and there were some added capabilities, but basically it was the same old familiar Eudora. (Indeed, to this day I still occasionally encounter Eudora 2.0 or even earlier, and I feel instantly at home with it.)
Not so, this time.
To begin with, the Eudora installer did something utterly uncharacteristic: it meddled with my System Folder. First, it installed the Thread Manager extension, which I don’t need because it’s built into the system. So I deleted it.
Then, the installer moved my WindowShade and Color control panels into the Trash, and replaced them with the Appearance Manager (a control panel and an extension). Naturally, I wasn’t about to stand for this, so I promptly undid it, removing the Appearance Manager stuff and putting back my original control panels. And what happened? Eudora refused to run! It turns out that Eudora 4.0 requires the Appearance Manager.
Now, that’s all very well if you have Mac OS 8 or 8.1. You’re already living with the Appearance Manager; it’s a required part of the system. But I’m still back at System 7.6.1 (the reasons I haven’t upgraded to 8.1 are complicated, so don’t ask). So suddenly Mac OS 8 menus and windows were being inflicted on me, just so that I could run one little email program! I turned off the Appearance Manager’s system-wide platinum appearance, because it was messing up some of my Open/Save dialogs; the result was anomalous, because now Eudora alone had the platinum look, including different windows, a differently colored menubar, and so on. Ultimately I installed Kaleidoscope just to obtain uniformity of windows and menus once again.
On the other hand, when I moved my old preferences and mailboxes into the new Eudora Folder and started Eudora, it coped beautifully, even though it now requires a different arrangement of sub-folders and files within them. Files were moved automatically to their proper places, my settings were preserved, and my old mail was available. I was ready to roll.
Back to Square One — That’s when I got my second shock: the new Eudora doesn’t look much like the old Eudora. Take, for example, the first column in a mailbox window, the Status column. Previously, a letter appeared in each row of this column telling you what you’d done with the corresponding piece of mail: R if you’d replied to it, F if you’d forwarded it, D if you’d redirected it, S if you’d sent it, and so forth. That was perfect for a verbal person like myself.
Now, however, these abbreviations had been replaced by mysterious arrow icons whose direction are supposed to be significant: west for replied-to, east for forwarded, north-east for redirected (and a check-mark for sent). Unfortunately, I’m not good at distinguishing directions, or at associating arbitrary directions with abstract concepts – so all I see now is a meaningless arrow. (And to top it all off, the icons draw badly on my screen, so that they’re hard to see.) Whatever possessed the Eudora folks to ruin a perfectly good thing like this? [The answer is the many complaints that the Eudora folks received over the years about Eudora being ugly, since it lacked a colorful interface. -Adam]
Something similar has been done with the icons across the top of a message window, but I won’t bore you with the details. Suffice it to say that the interface, which used to be magnificently functional – dry, crisp, monochrome, and two-dimensional – has now been needlessly cluttered with exactly the sort of "trendy 3D junk" that Eudora used to deride (and, ironically, still does) in its Display settings panel.
Another major step backwards is the manual, which might be kindly described as "degenerate." What used to be a clear, generously informative document has now become a muddled mess, utterly confusing on many important points and woefully incomplete – some of the valuable reference and technical material has been moved into a PDF file, but some of it is utterly gone.
Juggling More Balls — After a week of using Eudora 4.0, I had recovered completely from the shock of its new look, and found I was more productive than ever before.
Most significantly, both checking and sending messages now happen in threads (sub-processes) separate from the main thread in which you read and compose messages. This means that you can download received messages, upload queued messages, and write a new message, all simultaneously. I love doing this; it makes me feel as if I had suddenly developed an extra appendage, like the monkey in the Dilbert cartoon who is twice as productive as Dilbert because he can move the mouse with his tail while he types.
Signatures, personalities, and stationery can now be edited through a single tabbed window; there is no longer any need to go through a hierarchical menu, a Settings dialog panel, and the Save dialog respectively to get at these features. Indeed, not just these, but also the address book, filters, and the mailbox configuration window are now directly available from the Windows menu. This change is not minor. Previously, I was unable to figure out how to use personalities and stationery, because accessing these features was so difficult; now I use them all the time. What’s more, you can drag tabs from one window to another to customize them; in other words, you control what features combine into each single window.
Styled text can now be sent and received either in Eudora’s private text/enriched format or in the more universal HTML. I am constitutionally opposed to styled text in email, but when I do receive an HTML-coded message it is a blessing to be able to read the darned thing! Also, HTML messages mean that inline images can appear anywhere in a message. Some users have reported that received HTML is slow to resolve itself into styled text; this is said to be addressed in the upcoming version 4.0.1.
A long-standing request of Adam’s has at last been implemented: nickname auto-completion. If you have designated the nickname "Neuburg" to stand for "[email protected]", you can now type into a message field just the first few letters of the nickname, such as "Neu", and then tab out of the field; the nickname will be completed and its value substituted, automatically.
Bugs and Gripes — I have not encountered much in the way of bugs. There are still some minor problems with the text engine when you edit an outgoing message, but they are so rare that I can’t be more specific. Some users have reported difficulties with threaded sending and receiving, including crashes; I have not seen this. I did have some problems with threaded receiving until I unchecked the "Backup resource fork toc’s" setting. I sometimes have an occasional mysterious freeze in Eudora, but it doesn’t appear to relate to threading.
The Filters dialog has been improved, but the capabilities of filters have not. For instance, there is still no option to save filtered messages as separate text files automatically.
The Find dialog is still a strong candidate for the worst piece of interface in the known universe. Trying to determine which mailbox will be searched or where the search will start is like trying to set up your VCR. (Indeed, the Find dialog seems to be modeled after a VCR.) After you finally have your search set up, if you delete the search word to try a different word, all your settings are lost. And unlike other email clients, Eudora stops at the first match, rather than presenting you with a mailbox of all found messages that you can manipulate like any other mailbox. The whole thing is idiotic.
Moving the Eudora Folder, something that many users wish to do, is still clumsy; you must create an alias to the moved folder and place it in the System Folder, start up from a Eudora Settings file, or some other obscure trick. Why can’t one just set the location of the folder with a dialog? Even the otherwise abhorrent Netscape Mail gets this one right.
Signatures are not shown in the message window, making it all too easy to send out a message with the wrong signature attached. I often find myself taking the following clumsy steps: I press the signature pop-up to learn the name of the signature attached to the current message, and then I open the Signatures window and double-click that signature to see what it looks like. Why not have an option to add a signature pane at the bottom of the window?
Eudora’s way of combining styled text with quoted material in a reply drives me nuts. What I want are those nice greater-than characters:
> You know the sort of thing
> I mean.
But if there is any styled text in the message, you get instead a funny bar-down-the-left-side quoting style. And if you then try to solve this by removing styles from the message, the barred material becomes ordinary text – it does not turn back into quoted material, and lacks the greater-than characters.
Luckily, the forthcoming Eudora Pro 4.0.1 does automatically replace the left-bars with greater-than characters when you send without styles. And meanwhile, there is an undocumented workaround (thanks, Adam!): hold Shift and choose Paste as Quotation from the Edit menu (Command-Shift-‘) to paste as an unstyled quotation. Eudora puts only a single greater-than character at the beginning of each paragraph, which looks wrong, but when you actually send the message, provided you send it without styles, Eudora breaks the lines with a greater-than before each line.
Tried and True — Despite these quibbles, Eudora remains my trusty companion. Much of the time, my computer is Eudora, plain and simple. If anything, Eudora 4.0 seems even more trusty than before, handling mailboxes stuffed with many megabytes of messages without a murmur.
Readers desirous of becoming power Eudora users should study Adam’s "Eudora Tricks & Tips" article; I must admit that even I learned a thing or two from it. And, you might also want to check out the page he maintains for his Eudora Visual QuickStart Guide – he posts tips from the book there regularly.
For those wishing to stay on the cutting edge, Eudora Pro 4.0.1 is currently in public beta; it offers a few minor changes but mostly small bug fixes. Support for IMAP, the alternative to POP that large organizations want so their users can check mail and leave it on the server, is slated for version 4.1 due later this year.
Eudora Pro 4.0 is now priced at $39. There are no discounts for owners of previous versions, but for such a reliable workhorse and lifeline, it’s still a bargain. I recommend it wholeheartedly.