Claris Organizer returns! If you were a fan of Claris’s personal information manager, you’ll be pleased to hear it has been reincarnated as the Macintosh Palm Desktop, and it’s free whether or not you use a Palm device. Also this week, Louise Bremner passes on the sights, sounds, and tastes of Macworld Expo Tokyo. In the news, Adobe reveals Adobe GoLive 4.0, a new Web browser called iCab emerges, and Default Folder 3.0.1 and Aladdin DropStuff 5.1 appear.
Abode has published a confusing smorgasbord of upgrade pricing for U.S. and Canadian customers. Owners of any previous version of CyberStudio Pro or Personal Edition can choose an electronic download without printed manuals for $69; those owners or any registered owner of PageMill 3.0 for Mac or Windows can opt for a shrink-wrapped copy direct from Adobe for $99 plus shipping. Adobe also lists other options, including a bundle with Adobe ImageStyler and Adobe ImageReady. Adobe GoLive 4.0’s list price is $299. [GF]
Hail an iCab — We generally don’t comment on preview releases of software in TidBITS, but we’ll make an exception for iCab, a new Web browser from a German programming team led by Alexander Clauss and derived from a project for Atari systems. Available for PowerPC-based Macs, iCab features svelte system requirements, needing under 2 MB of disk space, less than 2 MB of RAM (with Virtual Memory or RAM Doubler; 4 MB without), and System 7.5 or higher. But that’s just the beginning: iCab offers support for HTML 4.0, Java applets via Apple’s Macintosh Runtime for Java (see TidBITS-467), sound and music via QuickTime, and support for contextual menus and Mac OS 8.5 features like Navigation Services – all with sprightly performance. iCab also offers features missing in the gorillas of the Web browsing world, Microsoft Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator (see TidBITS-465), including HTML error checking; a search feature that can hunt through local files, current Web pages, or send queries to remote search engines; connection logging; password and cookie management; and a sure-to-be-controversial image filter that can be used to block Web advertisements.
Default Folder 3.0.1 Complements Nav Services — St. Clair Software’s utility for enhancing Open and Save dialog boxes, Default Folder 3.0.1, adds support for Apple’s Navigation Services as well as a handful of other improvements. Unlike Action Files (see "Action Files 1.2 Usurps Nav Services" in TidBITS-467), which disables Nav Services in favor of its own interface, Default Folder incorporates its navigation and utility features into both Navigation Services and old-style Open and Save dialogs. Another improvement is the capability to click and hold outside an Open or Save dialog box to view a pop-up menu containing a list of all open Finder windows; selecting one opens that folder in the dialog. Default Folder 3.0 is $25 shareware, or $15 if you’re upgrading a copy bought before 31-Jan-98; owners who purchased after 31-Jan-98 can upgrade for free. The installer is a 870K download. If you downloaded Default Folder 3.0, you’ll want the 3.0.1 version that fixes a few bugs discovered in the first days following the 3.0 release. [JLC]
Aladdin Releases DropStuff 5.1 — Aladdin Systems last week released version 5.1 of their $30 shareware DropStuff utility for creating StuffIt 5.0 format archives, which can be expanded only by StuffIt Deluxe 5.0, StuffIt Expander 5.1, or by themselves if saved as self-extracting archives. DropStuff 5.1 includes four components: the DropStuff application, the Aladdin Compression control panel (which lets you choose between speed and size when compressing), the StuffIt Engine, and the StuffIt Engine PowerPlug. These last two also provide access to more decoders than are built into StuffIt Expander 5.1. DropStuff 5.1 requires System 7.5.3 or later and a 68020-based Mac with at least 8 MB of RAM. DropStuff 5.1 is a 1.2 MB download and is a free upgrade for DropStuff 4.5 users. People using older versions of the system software or who need to create StuffIt 4.0 format archives (the format didn’t change in StuffIt 4.5) can stick with an earlier version or download DropStuff 4.0, which also appears to work fine on current systems. [ACE]
Like last year, this year’s Macworld Expo/Tokyo (a.k.a. MacTokyo) was smaller than those I remember from the more distant past. The booths were set up only in the center of one of the double halls of Makuhari Messe, and this time it ran for only three days. However, unlike last year, the show floor was packed. No empty aisles and few idle demonstrators this time, although I still wonder at exhibitors who think they can sell their products without having any Macs in their booths.
The MacTokyo clientele has changed too. It used to be that you could easily spot the people who were going to get out of the train a few stops earlier, at Disneyland, but the group of young, fashionably dressed women I’d pegged as Mousers turned out to be mousers instead.
Escaping the Crowds — Although I timed my arrival for after the opening to avoid the crowds, I found I was locked into the nostalgic slow-march from the station to the Messe itself, stuck behind the usual guy who lights up and puffs furiously as soon as he leaves the station to make up for the smoking time he’ll lose in the Messe. There are now more of us who know to break away at the first overpass, but it’s still a preferable route, especially since it passes the piece of "artwork" that summarized Makuhari Messe for me when I worked there some years ago – the Steaming Heap of Rubble. But it wasn’t steaming this time.
I arrived just after Steve Jobs’ speech had started, but sorry, I can’t report on it. From the stairs at the entrance, his head could be seen in stereo on the twin screens over the low wall, but there was no way I could squeeze closer through the crowds around the screens. Nor I couldn’t hear anything over the noise from the rest of the hall. Most exhibitors with sound systems had jacked them up full in a vain attempt to grab attention, and someone, somewhere must have been using subsonics.
Never mind – there was plenty else to see and MacWEEK.com covered the reportedly disappointing keynote.
A Candy Colored Expo — Many of the big companies were there to promote Japanized versions of their products, and I did sit through some of the demonstrations later, when the thought of even an uncomfortable chair was welcome. But somehow all the new exciting bells and whistles failed to thrill, even those in fields I used to be involved in, such as DTP and graphics. The big demos were well attended, but afterwards most people drifted off towards the small booths where it was shuffling-room only and where the gewgaws and panoplies grabbed my attention. I found I was concentrating more on visual goodies than actual functionality. Does that mean I’m a frivolous person? If so, I wasn’t alone at MacTokyo.
The PR woman who later extolled the virtues of the iMac from the stage claimed that there are now over 130 iMac peripherals available in Japan. It looks like you can now buy a full set of matching or complementary peripherals to go with your candy-colored iMac, including matching baby-iMac speakers from Cozo; matching hubs, connectors, mice, and joysticks from a host of companies; nearly matching floppy disk drives (it’s difficult to make a metal case look like plastic, but Y-E Data have almost managed it); matching-only-if-you’re-color-blind CD-ROM cases; fluorescent perspex mousepads; defiantly non-matching replacement side panels to snap onto the round mouse; and more. The Shimamura Music Sound Pavilion even had chairs designed on the iMac theme, but only in blue, yellow, or near-white and they weren’t very comfortable, despite the distraction of their fascinating demos. And there were tiny cardboard iMac construction kits for 100 yen ($1).
In some cases (pun deliberate), the color was right but somehow the implementation was wrong. The colors are certainly accurate on the new Microline printers, but the semi-exposed innards looked sordid rather than mysterious as the iMac innards do. The more intense shades of the Alps MD-5000i Limited Edition seem a better idea in comparison. And was Wacom caught unprepared? Their Limited Edition ArtPad came only in Bondi Blue.
The brochure for the UniMouse had a picture of five mice in the regulation fruity colors, arranged in an imitation of the Yum poster that was pasted up all over the hall, but in fact there were mice in six colors on display. No, the sixth color wasn’t Bondi Blue, but yellow. The man demonstrating them said that since there are six colors in the Apple logo, they made the mice in six colors too. Will these lemon-colored mice become collectors’ items?
Escaping the Candy Colors — After a while, I began to feel queasy at the sight of all that candy-colored equipment – or maybe it was physical queasiness from all the free candy-colored candy I was pacmanning, on top of the constant noise and the heat. So it was a welcome relief to discover someone else has considered shrouding the naked iMac. In honor of an upcoming Gamera movie sequel, the man behind the counter at The Shade Shop had made a rubbery monster to fit over an iMac – a sludge-colored scaly carapace with tail extending from the back and face protruding from the front, above the screen. Despite the piercing green eyes and an orthodontist’s dream collection of teeth, he looked rather friendly and his two heavily clawed front paws were held palm-forward on either side of the screen as convenient resting places for the round mouse when it’s not in use. The screen below the face was showing three views of a wire-frame model of a different version of this mutant creature, but I was so distracted by the frivolous aspects of the show I didn’t realise until later that The Shade Shop was there to sell this 3D graphics software – not monsters. See their real products at:
Aquazone was previewing Pinna, which puts three varieties of brightly colored birds on your screen, but they shot themselves in the collective foot by also producing a special edition of their virtual fish tank for the three days of the Expo, called iMacinfish. This generates cute little iMacs (along with short-tailed iMac mice and strange sessile blobs) in your choice of the six iMac colors, swimming around on your screen and occasionally turning to flash a quick cursive "Hello" at you. I’m told they also reproduce and die, but I didn’t catch any of them at it. The bank of six iMacs running matching versions of iMacinfish drew all the attention away from the parrots, "Gouldian Finches," and "Red Factor Canaries" that were fluttering, roosting, nesting, and preening on the other side of the booth. Or maybe the plain white background behind the birds was just too unconvincing?
It’s reassuring to see that there are still innumerable small companies who consider it worthwhile to turn out Mac products for relatively small markets. Many were at the Expo: a point-of-sale sales-management system; connection software for NTT’s DoCoMo portable phone, several calendar and data packages that print a huge variety of maps, timetables, and schedule pages for pocket organizers; customizable postcard and sticker print packages; fancy printer papers (even recycled paper); and of course, excesses of fonts and clip art. There was even a package of medical clip-art: The Nishiyama Collection Vol. 1, Infectious Diseases, which ought to bear the subtitle: Disgusting Skin Conditions. I didn’t dare ask what they plan for Volume 2.
The technician at Amulet drew a crowd as he did upgrades of PowerBook 2400s and G3 PowerBooks while the owners waited. My feet later told me I must have stood there for hours in fascination, watching him dismember a PowerBook 2400 within minutes, then snap in new memory, hard disk, G3 upgrade, and the English keyboard that the PowerBook 2400 ought to have had from the start. Mind you, 17,800 yen ($150) seems excessive for a keyboard panel that merely lacks the Kana screen-printing and the unnecessary conversion keys on either side of the too-short space bar. Plus-Yu were selling them slightly cheaper, and in some of the candy-colors too.
Two questions. Does the PowerBook 2400 really run so hot that it needs a fan-cooled cooling plate to rest upon? Even if it’s a very attractive cooling plate that I don’t doubt will soon appear in candy colors? And why has no one has produced a combination printer / scanner / fax / copier for the Mac market in Japan?
Little Energy Left in Games? I was surprised to see little interest in heavy-duty games. There were demos of Tomb Raider and a couple other packages running, and a few people did stop and play with them for a while, but then they moved on. I thought that the impressive rendering enabled by the speed of the G3 would have been more seductive, both to game writers and to game players, but maybe there’s truth in those reports I’ve seen on TV that Japanese gamers are moving away from domestic game machines and towards the arcades. I didn’t watch for long, but it seemed that Osaka Ennichi was more popular. It’s not new, but maybe it’s more nostalgic for Japanese gamers – it emulates five games of skill that are (or used to be) common at temple festivals, such as goldfish-skimming and frog racing.
There were a few more 500 yen ($4) games and distractions on sale, including a Talking Dragon which appears to be a localized variation of Talking Moose, but speaking Osaka-ben – the Osaka dialect that Tokyoites find so funny. They didn’t have a demo running, and I managed to overcome the impulse to buy it, just to see what it’s like.
Escaping the Crowds Again — I left an hour or so before the show closed for the day, planning to drop in on the Macintosh Museum I’d seen advertised in the neighboring Convention Center, but there was a long line of people who had clearly had the same idea. However, that meant I could speed walk to the station before the crush hour started and I had enough room on the train to read on the way back to Tokyo. That’s definitely worth remembering for next year.
A few years ago, I realized it was time to abandon my tangled mess of scribbled and photocopied papers that formed my personal information management (PIM) system. I had tried using Now Contact and Now Up-to-Date, but never developed the same enthusiasm about them as many of my friends. Then I discovered Claris Organizer: it had a sharp interface, combined addresses with a calendar and to-do list, and printed the information on sheets that fit the small three-ring binder I used as a poor-man’s Day-Timer. For a while, I was a happy, more organized man.
When I decided to buy a PalmPilot, where I could store the same information in a pocket-sized handheld device, I faced the same dilemma as all Macintosh-using PalmPilot owners: the device worked with either Pilot Desktop 1.0, an ugly Windows port, or Now Contact/Up-to-Date, using the buggy Now Sync. I briefly entertained romantic notions of learning AppleScript to somehow share the Pilot Desktop information, but reality intruded and I abandoned Claris Organizer.
Until now. Although Pilot Desktop never advanced beyond version 1.0, a funny thing happened in Cupertino. In the middle of last year, after Apple reabsorbed Claris and killed everything but FileMaker and ClarisWorks (now AppleWorks), Organizer was sold to Palm Computing. Not only was an improved Macintosh Palm desktop application on its way, it was going to be based on my old favorite! After long months of waiting, Macintosh Palm Desktop 2.1 has been released. Not only can most Mac owners of Palm handhelds take advantage of a modern PIM that synchronizes easily with their Palm data, but Organizer users have the assurance that their Claris software continues to survive (something Emailer users still can’t claim).
A Good Price for Everyone — The Palm Desktop software is available now as a free download from Palm’s Web site (with additional server support from Apple) in three binhexed portions: the Palm MacPac v2 Installer (12.6 MB), Documentation (2 MB), and Palm Extras (24.3 MB). You only need the MacPac Installer to use the software, but there are plenty of goodies in the Palm Extras to warrant the lengthy download (see below).
Palm has decided to offer the software free to any takers, whether you own a Palm device or not. The only restriction is that Palm will provide support only to users with a valid serial number from the back of a Palm handheld. Obviously, they would prefer that users support them financially by purchasing Palm devices, but there are other benefits to be gained by offering the software free. In addition to a potentially larger user base, people who buy Palm devices later will find that their data is already set for immediate synchronization.
Palm Desktop is also available in stores on CD-ROM, which also includes a printed Getting Started Guide and the adapter required to connect the HotSync cable’s serial connector to your Mac’s serial port, for $15. The adapter is also available by itself for $6 if you’ve just bought a Palm device and choose to download the software over the Internet.
What’s New for Organizer Users — Overall, most longtime Organizer users may not notice many changes, since much of the updating has centered around adding Palm device compatibility. The Instant Palm Desktop menu, formerly Instant Organizer, now works reliably instead of being an almost guaranteed way to crash your Mac. The Instant Palm Desktop menu appears at the right side of the Mac’s menu bar, and you can use it to view tasks, today’s appointments, and frequently used phone numbers, or to find and create records without launching the Palm Desktop application. Palm Desktop also provides Mac OS 8.5.1 compatibility and fixes a few bugs (including menu redraw problems).
Another major change is that Palm Desktop now runs only on PowerPC-based machines. Although Macs generally have more longevity than other computers, Apple hasn’t shipped a 68K-based system since late 1996, and according to sources at Palm Computing, the program would still be in development in order to make it backward-compatible with 68K-based Macs.
Think Sync — If you’re a Palm device owner, you’ll discover that there’s more to this update than just the ability to share your handheld data with your desktop. The entire synchronization architecture has been rewritten, enabling third-party developers to write conduits that use your data with their applications. For example, Mac users can finally take advantage of the Palm OS’s built-in Mail and Expense applications. Shana’s Informed Palm Expense Creator takes your expense data and formats it into a variety of existing forms; Actual Software’s MultiMail Pro Conduit lets your share email from Eudora or Eudora Lite (Emailer and Outlook Express support is coming soon) with either Mail or Actual’s MultiMail Pro email client. Demonstration versions of each conduit are included in the Palm Extras, along with DataViz’s Documents to Go (which lets you view Word and Excel documents on your Palm handheld).
Palm III and Palm V owners can also take advantage of faster HotSync operations, thanks to a new software library that resides in the Palm OS. Transfers of up to 115 Kbps are now possible, compared to a maximum of 56 Kbps for Windows users.
The new HotSync Manager does more than just oversee the HotSync process. To install a program onto your handheld, simply drop the file onto the HotSync Manager icon. From here you also control the configurations for multiple Palm users. My only complaint so far is that the interface would be better if the Install, Users, and Conduit Settings features were available in one tabbed window, rather than requiring repeated trips to the menu bar.
Dreaming of Beaming — One surprise not enjoyed during Palm Desktop’s public beta phase is infrared support for performing HotSync operations. Owners of the original Bondi Blue iMacs now have something to point at their IR port. By installing a collection of four libraries that live in your Extensions folder, plus four libraries on the handheld, you can HotSync without lifting a single cable. I’ve found this especially handy when I’m working on my PowerBook outside the office, when my Ricochet modem normally occupies the serial port (see "Tied Down No More: the Ricochet Wireless Modem" in TidBITS-366). Florent Pillet’s utility Palm Buddy is already equipped to handle IR transfers, which means you can perform full backups of your data without wires.
Open AppleScript Access — Unlike the closed-off Pilot Desktop 1.0, the new software is scriptable, with a handful of scripts included in Palm Extras. Annoying VCard enclosures (".vcf") can be automatically turned into new contact records. If you want to send someone’s contact information via email, running the Mail Contact Info script from within Palm Desktop grabs the data and pastes it into a new message in your email program. Palm also included a PowerBook Setup Script for making it easy to toggle HotSync serial monitoring on PowerBook G3 Series machines, though I have to admit that I haven’t had any difficulties with my PowerBook G3.
Apple’s AppleScript group is reportedly enthusiastic about Palm Desktop and plans to offer additional scripts at their site. Scripts written for Claris Organizer are also available.
A More Advanced Organizer — For some Palm device users, just being able to HotSync reliably will be a boon, while others will appreciate the ability to run third-party conduits and synchronize via infrared. PalmPilot users who have suffered with Pilot Desktop 1.0 for three years will be happy to find that Palm Desktop is now a modern PIM with the features that Claris Organizer users have enjoyed the entire time. In an upcoming issue of TidBITS, I’ll go into more detail about how Palm Desktop works with your important data, and how Palm device owners can overcome a little interface shock to access advanced features not found in the Windows Palm Desktop.