If you haven’t investigated Mac OS 8.5’s Sherlock, you’ll find Kevin Savetz’s introduction to searching the Internet a good start. Also this week, Adam traces the rise and fall of eMediaweekly and offers an installment of Tools We Use. The news abounds with updates, including Norton Utilities, PowerBook G3 modem software, Virtual PC, StuffIt Expander, and KeyQuencer, plus bits about Connectix’s battle with Sony and Extensis’s rescue of Suitcase from Symantec.
Norton Utilities for Macintosh Updated to 4.0.3 — Symantec has released a free 4.0.3 updater for Norton Utilities for Macintosh. Changes in 4.0.3 include only the use of Mac OS 8.5.1 on the bootable CD-ROM for new purchasers and a minor fix for UnErase. Version 4.0.2, for which there was no online update, had more extensive changes and fixes to 4.0.1, including general items like "Disk Doctor 4.0.2 includes enhancements that improve repair capabilities and reduce instances of unrepairable errors," along with specific fixes to less-important modules like DiskLight and WipeInfo. Since the full 4.0.3 update is large at 11.9 MB, Symantec has also posted incremental updates. Although it’s good to see Symantec updating Norton Utilities 4.0, that release did significant damage to the disk repair utility’s reputation (see "Norton Utilities 4.0 Problem Reports Abound" in TidBITS-451). We can recommend only that you proceed with caution and make sure you have a good backup before using any version of Norton Utilities 4.0. [ACE]
Extensis Rescuing Suitcase — Extensis Corporation has announced an exclusive agreement with Symantec to take over development, distribution, and marketing of Suitcase, the venerable font management tool for the Mac. (See "Font Outfitters" in TidBITS-334 for a comparison of Suitcase 3.0 and MasterJuggler Pro 2.0.) Symantec originally acquired Suitcase with Fifth Generation Systems in 1993. Under Symantec’s management, Suitcase saw one major update to version 3.0 but has otherwise been ignored. With this agreement, Suitcase may become one of the only products to escape Symantec’s gravity well. During the second quarter of 1999, Extensis plans to release its first update to Suitcase, which hopefully will resolve widely reported problems using Suitcase 3.0 with Mac OS 8.5. Neither Extensis nor Symantec have disclosed financial details of the agreement. [GD]
PowerBook Patch Prevents Power Pops — Apple has released the PowerBook G3 Series Modem Extension 1.0.2, which fixes a handful of annoyances related to turning the PowerBook G3’s built-in 56K modem on or off. When the computer is put to sleep, power is immediately turned off to avoid draining the battery. Also, the sound monitor source is toggled to None when turning the modem on or off to prevent a popping sound. The update is a 190K self-mounting disk image. [JLC]
Virtual PC 2.1.2 Adds USB Support — Connectix has released a minor update to Virtual PC that should be welcome for owners of iMacs and the new Power Macintosh G3 machines who run Windows in emulation. The free update enables Virtual PC to identify the Imation USB SuperDisk and VST USB Floppy Drive correctly, plus lets the Hard Drive Expander utility detect if a hard drive disk image is part of a saved state. The updater is a 612K download. [JLC]
Aladdin Ships Faster StuffIt Expander 5.1 — Faced with competition from MindVision’s new MindExpander, a preview release of which can expand a number of formats, including MacBinary, BinHex, and StuffIt 4.x, Aladdin Systems has responded by updating StuffIt Expander to version 5.1. New in StuffIt Expander 5.1 are integrated support for Zip, Gzip, and uuencoded files (those formats previously required the commercial StuffIt Engine); significant performance increases over 5.0; the elimination of the need for external files; access to Internet Config settings; support for helper applications for unknown file types; and a smaller file size. If you’re a registered user of StuffIt Deluxe 4.x or DropStuff 4.x, make sure to read Aladdin’s notes about how to continue to use those older versions with StuffIt Expander 5.1. StuffIt Expander is a 424K download. [ACE]
Connectix Wins First Round of Sony Lawsuit — The San Francisco Federal District Court last week rejected Sony’s request for a temporary restraining order on shipments of Connectix’s Virtual Game Station, a PlayStation emulator for Apple’s G3 Macs. On TidBITS Talk, there’s been speculation that Sony is suing Connectix not because the company expects to win, but because it’s important to protect intellectual property. If Sony didn’t sue in this situation, that fact might hurt Sony in a future lawsuit. Since companies often lose money on console video game hardware, instead reaping profits in sales or licensing of the games, it’s unlikely that Sony wants to stop sales of Virtual Game Station, which stands only to increase sales of PlayStation games. Along with other interesting information in that thread, we’ve posted additional details about Virtual Game Station’s hardware requirements. It turns out that hardware combinations other than Apple’s G3 Macs may meet Virtual Game Station’s requirements. [ACE]
KeyQuencer 2.5.5 Offers Mac OS 8.5 Compatibility — Binary Software has released an update to KeyQuencer 2.5, the company’s solid macro utility. (For a review of KeyQuencer 2.0 and more information about macro programs in general, see "KeyQuencer – QuicKeys Quencher?" in TidBITS-351, "The User Over Your Shoulder – Of Macs and Macros" in TidBITS-357, and "KeyQuencer Upgraded to 2.5" in TidBITS-415.) KeyQuencer 2.5.5 makes the product fully compatible with Mac OS 8.5 and 8.5.1, plus fixes bugs with LaserWriter 8.5.1 and non-Roman keyboards. With neither WestCode Software’s popular OneClick nor CE Software’s venerable QuicKeys being completely compatible with Mac OS 8.5, this update to KeyQuencer is welcome. The free updater to take version 2.5.0 of KeyQuencer to 2.5.5 is a 676K download. [ACE]
Late last week, Mac Publishing, the parent company of Macworld, MacWEEK.com, and eMediaweekly, announced that it has ceased publication of eMediaweekly. It wasn’t around for long: Mac Publishing first announced that it would be transmogrifying MacWEEK into the cross-platform eMediaweekly back in May of 1998, near the end of the recent Apple death spiral.
Market Timing — In retrospect, eMediaweekly’s timing was unfortunate. The plans to move from MacWEEK to a less Macintosh-specific publication had been in the works long before the May announcement, and although Steve Jobs had preemptively unveiled the iMac less than two weeks before, no one could have predicted that Apple would reverse its ailing fortunes so quickly. By the time eMediaweekly’s first issue appeared at the end of August, the iMac had shipped to great fanfare and impressive sales figures, and the Macintosh industry was on the way back up. What started as a seemingly clever way to ease out of the failing Macintosh market suddenly looked like a soldier surrendering just as the tide of battle changed.
It’s easy to think that the MacWEEK folks weren’t being loyal to the Macintosh cause. But as I’ve tried to say in the past, there’s a big difference between the individuals who make up a company and the company as an entity. I know that many of the people on the MacWEEK staff, though as shaken as the rest of us by Apple’s problems, still believed in the Macintosh. On a business level, though, Mac Publishing simply couldn’t afford to lose money on MacWEEK for long. The move to eMediaweekly was a business decision, and though it looked bad for Apple to have MacWEEK go away, replacing it with eMediaweekly was a softer blow. Ironically, even if Mac Publishing had doggedly continued publishing MacWEEK at a loss, it’s entirely possible that the magazine would still have had to cease publication. Having that happen now would have been far more damaging to Apple than the loss of eMediaweekly.
Who Was Reading? eMediaweekly targeted digital media professionals using the Mac, Windows, and Unix, a somewhat vague audience consisting mainly of previous MacWEEK readers. Although eMediaweekly sported a circulation of 85,000 and obviously met the needs of some people (judging from testimonials in the magazine), our informal surveys found readers somewhat confused about the focus and generally uninterested in the Windows and Unix content. Granted, we’re deep in the Macintosh industry, but so were many of eMediaweekly’s readers who may have found the content less compelling than when the masthead read MacWEEK.
Show Me the Money — Although the magazine’s content was cross-platform, eMediaweekly’s advertising-based revenue stream was not. I recently spent a few minutes counting the advertisements in eMediaweekly’s 11-Jan-99 issue. I created three categories: Macintosh-specific, platform-independent, and Windows-specific (I would have included Unix ads, but there weren’t any.)
There were no ads aimed purely at Windows users, which implied eMediaweekly hadn’t managed to attract advertising dollars from the Windows industry. For a controlled circulation magazine aimed at a cross-platform audience, that failure alone may have proved fatal.
Using a loose interpretation of what was a platform-independent ad (printers, memory, data recovery services, etc.), I counted 12 Macintosh ads and 27 platform-independent ads. With a tighter interpretation of "platform-independent" based on the wording and focus of the ad, I counted 23 Macintosh ads and only 16 truly platform-independent ads. Although I haven’t gone back to an old issue of MacWEEK, I’d be willing to bet that ratio didn’t change much from MacWEEK to eMediaweekly.
The Online Upshot — The question that remains is what will happen to MacWEEK.com, the heavily trafficked online arm of MacWEEK that survived the print publication’s transition to eMediaweekly. Over the last few months, MacWEEK.com has relied less on content from eMediaweekly, and has started to create partnerships with other sources of Macintosh content, TidBITS included.
MacWEEK.com has eked out profits online, which (as we know from long experience with TidBITS) isn’t easy and can be done only with a small dedicated staff, tight control of costs, and a focused online approach. It’s possible that the elimination of the unprofitable eMediaweekly will free up additional staff or operating capital for MacWEEK.com, although it’s equally possible that Mac Publishing will decide to concentrate solely on its main publication, Macworld.
Bon Voyage — In the end, the people who lose the most are our friends and colleagues at eMediaweekly, many of whom were laid off. With a limited number of journalism jobs in the Macintosh industry, many will have to search further afield. When MacUser and Macworld merged, we were impressed at the jobs many of those writers and editors managed to find, and we wish the eMediaweekly staff the best of luck as well.
In TidBITS-457, we introduced a sporadic feature called Tools We Use, each instance of which focuses on a single, clever program that makes our Macs easier to use. Although the Internet is awash with freeware and shareware utilities, Tools We Use focuses on programs actually used by members of the TidBITS staff. The first installment covered the freeware GURU (Guide To RAM Upgrades) written by Craig Marciniak and Steve Jackman; now, it’s time to take a look at Nick D’Amato’s Desktop Resetter 1.2.1.
Desktop Resetter — If you organize numerous icons on your desktop and frequently lose that organization (switching monitor resolutions can do it), you can use Desktop Resetter to restore your icons to their favored positions. I’ve found Desktop Resetter handy because I have two large monitors and I tend to keep icons pertaining to current projects on my desktop. The problem arises when I start up from a different disk that doesn’t know about my monitor settings. Much of the time, after I return to my primary startup disk, all my desktop icons are haphazardly splashed against the right edge of the right-hand monitor, requiring five minutes of fiddling to get everything back where I want. [I encounter a similar problem using my PowerBook 5300cs on multiple external monitors. -Jeff]
Enter Desktop Resetter. All you do is make sure your icons are placed properly, then run Desktop Resetter and tell it to remember your icon settings. Then you forget about it until the next time you find your icons strewn randomly about your desktop. Before you go to the work of moving everything back into place, run Desktop Resetter again and tell it to reset icons to their remembered positions. Obviously, icons that have appeared since you told Desktop Resetter to remember positions won’t move, but everything else magically jumps back into place. Since booting with other disks often happens in periods of high stress (like recovering files or testing dangerous software), it’s especially nice not to also suffer the irritation of a messy desktop.
I have no particular complaints with Desktop Resetter, since it does what it promises with a minimum of fuss. Although having Desktop Resetter remember icon positions frequently is possible, thanks to its Quick Remember hotkey (a Quick Reset hotkey is also available), that’s more than I need, so I’ve not messed with it. It’s worth reading the Read Me file for additional tips and hints.
Desktop Resetter is $10 shareware, runs on any Mac with System 7.5 or later, and is a 121K download. If you’ve ever been annoyed at having to reorganize desktop icons after switching resolutions or changing monitors, check out Desktop Resetter.
If your Mac isn’t yet running Mac OS 8.5, you may decide Sherlock is reason enough to upgrade. While the earlier Find File utility looked only for files on your hard disk, Apple’s new built-in sleuth adds Web searching to its repertoire of skills. Although Sherlock is a powerful tool right out of the box, additional clues have surfaced that can enhance your Internet searching abilities.
Three Tools in One — To call upon Sherlock, select Find from the Finder’s File menu, or press Command-F. If you’re not already familiar with the Sherlock window, you’ll notice three tabs at the top that access Sherlock’s three distinct functions. First, there’s our old friend Find File, which locates files on your hard disk based on file name, size, creation date, or other criteria. The second tab is Find by Content, which searches the contents of files for words (once you’ve indexed the contents of your hard disk). This is great when you know there’s a report on ocelots on your hard drive somewhere but you don’t know what the file is called. The third tab – and the function we’ll concentrate on for the remainder of this article – is labeled Search Internet.
The immediate benefit of using Sherlock to search Internet sites is that you can do it from your desktop: you don’t need a Web browser open, although Sherlock launches your favorite browser when you decide to view the Web pages you find. The Search Internet window has two areas: a field for typing search words, and checkboxes for choosing the sites to search. By choosing more than one site, you can search several engines at once; Sherlock combines and displays the results from all your selections.
Plug-Ins — A big part of Sherlock’s power is that it can use plug-ins, little add-ons that extend the range of sites it can search. If your favorite search engine isn’t supported out of the box, download the appropriate plug-in and you’ll be in business. When you install Mac OS 8.5, Sherlock knows how to search several search engines, including Excite, InfoSeek, AltaVista, Lycos and Apple’s Web site. More sites are included in Mac OS 8.5.1.
Sherlock is more than another way to search the same old search engines, however. Hundreds of plug-ins are available that enable Sherlock to search reference guides, news sites, mailing lists, shopping sites, and just about any type of information searchable on the Web. You might use it to search Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble simultaneously to find the best price on a book or to search six news sites for information about the International Space Station. And of course, with the TidBITS plug-in you can search all nine years of TidBITS articles.
Finding plug-ins is easy. Start with the Sherlock Internet Search Archives, where you’ll find nearly 300 plug-ins, neatly arranged into categories like commerce, financial, software, mailing lists, and travel. Another plug-in clearinghouse is The Sherlock Collection.
Apple also offers a short list of Sherlock plug-ins. If those don’t satiate you, still more plug-ins are available at Download.com (just search for "Sherlock plug-in").
If you have your own Web site with a search engine (or no plug-in is available for your favorite search site), you can create your own plug-ins. You don’t need to be a programmer: I can barely program my way out of a paper bag, yet I managed to create a plug-in in about an hour using Apple’s guidelines.
To install a plug-in, drop it onto your closed System Folder to have the Mac OS copy it to the Internet Search Sites folder for you. New plug-ins are usable the next time you launch Sherlock. Once you’ve installed a plug-in, you don’t need to worry about updates – Sherlock periodically checks for newer versions of your plug-ins. If it finds a newer version, it asks you if you want to upgrade.
Searching — Although Sherlock must wait for search engines to return search results like any other Web browser, Sherlock displays those results quickly since it doesn’t have to fuss with rendering an entire page. You save even more time when you use it to search multiple sites simultaneously because Sherlock provides a consistent interface. However, by insulating you from the search engine, Sherlock may not give you access to advanced searching features at different sites.
Once you’ve selected the sites you wish to search, type your search phrase in the Words field. Apple claims that you can use natural language searches (typing, for example, "Where can I find a recipe for fudge brownies?") although how well this works depends on the search engines you’re using. Natural language queries may confuse some search engines, and others may disallow certain characters or syntax. Even though it’s boring, "fudge brownies recipe" might be a more effective query.
Press the Search button and Sherlock goes to work. In a moment, the search results window appear, displaying results as soon as they’re returned by the selected search engines. Results are combined and sorted by relevance by default, so pages that are most likely to interest you float to the top of the list. Not all search engines supply relevancy information, however, so clicking the headers of the Name or Site columns re-sorts the list alphabetically or by Web site. Click the small sort triangle to reverse the list.
When you click an item that interests you, a short preview of that page appears in a pane below the results list. The preview may be quite descriptive, depending on the summary information provided by the search engine. Double-clicking a search result opens that item in your Web browser. If all the information you need is in the preview pane (for instance, the definition of a word from dictionary.com) you may not have to visit the Web page at all. In the upper-left corner of preview pane – possibly to the left of a banner ad – you also see an icon for the site that delivered the result: click that icon to view that site’s search results in your Web browser.
Next to a banner ad? Yes. You might find it disconcerting, annoying, or downright offensive to see advertisements in an application that ships with Apple’s system software. However, since most search engines make their money from ads, Sherlock provides the banner space to ensure that search sites’ advertisers aren’t completely bypassed. Otherwise, search engines might begin to ban Sherlock. [Neither Sherlock nor Apple control the content of these advertisements: they’re supplied by the search engines, some of which accept advertising some users might find inappropriate or offensive. -Geoff]
Save that Search — You can save the selected engines and search words by choosing Save Search Criteria from the File menu. Later, you can reload a search by choosing Open Search Criteria from the File menu or double-clicking the criteria file from the Finder. Sherlock immediately performs the search you saved. Unfortunately, there’s no way to save a list of engines without search words, and no way to load a list without doing the search automatically.
Search Sets, Sherlock’s Missing Feature — After you’ve installed more than a few plug-ins, you’ll notice Sherlock’s biggest missing feature: the capability to create sets of search sites. You might make one set for your preferred Web search engines, another for news sites, and another for online bookstores. Checking and unchecking many search engines when you want to do a different kind of search is a pain (though clicking the On column header in the Search pane brings the currently checked items to the top of the list, which can be helpful). The fact that you can’t resize Sherlock’s window adds to the clicking conundrum.
Although Apple should address some of these issues in future versions of Sherlock, a few utilities and patches can add efficiency to your searches. Tools such as Moriarty overcome the window resizing limitation by modifying one of Sherlock’s window resources. Others add the capability to manage plug-in sets.
Thanks to their experience handling application sets in Conflict Catcher, it’s no surprise that Casady & Greene has created a program that handles Sherlock plug-in sets. Sherlock Assistant acts as a shell for Sherlock: select a set from the Active Set pop-up menu (or click the checkboxes in the plug-in list), type in your search criteria, then hit the Search button. The criteria is passed off to Sherlock, including the plug-ins you specified. You can install new plug-ins by dragging them directly to Sherlock Assistant’s window (they’re copied to the Internet Search Sites folder in the background). Additionally, clicking a plug-in’s name displays information about it in the right-hand pane of the Sherlock Assistant window; double-clicking a plug-in takes you to the Web server used by the plug-in, although that may not be the home page of the particular search engine or Web site. Sherlock Assistant is freeware, and a 263K download.
Similar to Sherlock Assistant, Imagina Software’s shareware Holmes lets you specify sets and enter your search criteria before transferring the info to Sherlock itself. One helpful addition is a Holmes contextual menu plug-in, which gives you the option to highlight a word or phrase in any application, then Control-click and choose Search Internet from the contextual menu.
If you’re looking for something quick-and-dirty, the free SherlockSets application creates sets by moving unused plug-ins to a new folder, Internet Search Sites (Disabled). Running SherlockSets only enables and disables the plug-ins; pressing Return or clicking the Launch Sherlock button brings up Sherlock, where you see only the active plug-ins listed and enabled. Apple has also released a set of AppleScript scripts that manage sets of Sherlock plug-ins via Leonard Rosenthol’s OSA Menu (which you can find on the Mac OS 8.5 CD-ROM).
Despite a few nagging problems, Sherlock is an elegant tool that can benefit both newbie Web surfers and long-time users. If you haven’t tried it out yet, grab your magnifying glass and give Sherlock a close look.
[Kevin Savetz writes about Macs and the Internet for Computer Shopper and other magazines. An avid collector of vintage computers, Kevin is as likely to be playing with an Atari 800 or Timex-Sinclair as with his Mac.]