The Macworld Expo season is starting, and we offer tips on figuring out what you’ll want to do and see at Macworld Expo and in New York City. Also this week, Adam starts an article series on Hacking the Press, Matt Neuburg looks at the outliner Inspiration 6, and we put out the call for more translators. New releases include an important patch for Word 98, FileMaker Pro Web Companion 5.0v5, ATM Light 4.6, and PowerMail 3.0.4.
Microsoft Patch Helps Word & PowerPoint — Microsoft recently released a patch for Macintosh Office 98 that fixes a troublesome bug in Word 98 and adds support for upcoming file formats in PowerPoint 98. The patch to Word fixes a problem where Word could corrupt data when saving files containing complex table formatting. The PowerPoint patch enables the program to open files created by the subsequent versions of PowerPoint for Windows and Macintosh. The update is a free 5.6 MB download. [JLC]
Web Companion 5.0v5 Available — FileMaker Inc. has released Web Companion 5.0v5, the Web publishing component of FileMaker Pro 5.0 and FileMaker Pro 5 Unlimited. Web Companion 5.0v5 fixes two Mac-specific crashing bugs, permits substitution tags to be used inside the new inline action tag (useful for creating flexible queries embedded in a Web page processed by Web Companion), and returns proper MIME types for CSS and XSL style sheets. The update also fixes a problem where new portal records were unintentionally created by Instant Web Publishing and introduces new syntax for editing or creating records containing related fields. You need this update only if you’re using FileMaker’s Instant Web Publishing or custom Web publishing; it doesn’t change anything in the FileMaker application itself. Web Companion 5.0v5 is presently available for English-language versions of FileMaker 5; localized versions should be released shortly. The update is a 650K download. [GD]
ATM Light 4.6 Adds OpenType — Adobe has released Adobe Type Manager Light 4.6, adding support for displaying OpenType fonts. OpenType is a font specification co-developed by Adobe and Microsoft that combines both PostScript and TrueType font information into the same file, supporting a larger variety of international and extended typographic characters. ATM Light 4.6 is a free 2.5 MB download; it requires a PowerPC-based machine with Mac OS 8.1 or later. [JLC]
PowerMail 3.0.4 Available — CTM Development has released PowerMail 3.0.4, squashing several bugs and adding the capability to export messages in tab-delimited text format. The new version of the email client fixes a handful of crashing problems and miscellaneous errors, and also launches faster than previous versions. (See "Migrating to New Climes with PowerMail" in TidBITS-530.) PowerMail 3.0.4 is a 2.3 MB download and requires Mac OS 8.5 or later; a 30-day demo is available. [JLC]
Correction: IE 5.5b1 Not on MacHack CD — I screwed up! Contrary to what I said in "The MacHax Best Hack Contest 2000 Winners" in TidBITS-537, Internet Explorer 5.5b1 (the hack entry from the Microsoft Internet Explorer team) is not on the MacHack CD-ROM that’s available for sale. It was on the CD distributed to MacHack attendees, and I incorrectly assumed that the two CDs would be identical. Since the availability of the CD-ROM was a last minute thing at our publication time last week, the comment about IE 5.5b1 wasn’t in the article draft that the MacHax folks fact-checked for me. My apologies for any confusion or inconvenience, and rest assured that wet noodle flagellation was carried out with enthusiasm! [ACE]
Poll Results: What A Tangled Web We Weave — Last week’s poll asked what sort of tools you use when you create Web pages, and the results proved fascinating. Respondents were mostly a do-it-yourself kind of crowd, with 79 percent using text-based editors like BBEdit versus only 53 percent using graphical editors like GoLive. Far fewer used HTML converters built into other applications (16 percent) or Web-based tools like Apple’s iTools (7 percent). It was good to see that 71 percent of the respondents test pages in multiple Web browsers, though fewer than 20 percent rely on HTML validators or link checking utilities. [ACE]
Poll Preview: I Go, You Go, We All Go Expo — It’s nearly on time for Macworld Expo again, and we’ve started up our coverage with a look at how to plan your time and find your way around at the show. Plus, we’ll be writing several articles after Macworld Expo to tell you what we saw that warranted mention. But are Macworld Expos a big deal to you? Do you go to every one? Do you go when they’re nearby, go occasionally, or (gasp!) not go at all? This week’s poll asks how often you attend Macworld Expos – vote today so we can get a sense of whether TidBITS readers are likely to bomb off to the nearest Macintosh event or stay rooted at home behind an Internet connection. [ACE]
Over half of Apple’s sales come from countries other than the United States, and we at TidBITS try to accommodate the international arms of the Macintosh community through a variety of translations. Thanks to the efforts of our volunteer translation teams, you can read TidBITS each week in Dutch, French, German, Japanese, Spanish, and Russian. But these translation teams – especially the German team, which serves over 1,500 readers each week, and the fledgling Russian team – need your help! TidBITS issues don’t translate themselves, and the more people helping out with a translation, the easier it is for everyone. So, if you can read English and write in German, Russian, French, Japanese, or Dutch, check out the appropriate Web page below to volunteer.
If you wonder why we don’t just use an automatic translation tool, consider the page linked below, which contains English translations (one using Systran’s software, the other using Transparent Language’s software) of a paragraph about EIMS 3.0 that I took from the German edition of TidBITS-532. Although parts of the translated paragraphs are understandable, the translations overall range from the laughable (Systran translates "Qualcomm" as "agony COMM") to the almost inexplicable (Transparent Language translated a clause that said "perfect for running EIMS and a mailing list server on the same machine" to "is so it problem-free possible, a Mailinglistenserver and EIMS on the same computer run to leave."). I don’t think machine translation will be replacing our loyal volunteer translators any time soon.
If you enjoy reading one of our translations each week, let the translators know, regardless of whether you’re up for becoming a translator. The translation teams appreciate the kind letters many of you have sent over the years, and your encouragement makes the task of translating each issue all the more worthwhile.
Ah, summer (at least in this hemisphere), when a Mac geek’s thoughts turn to testing AirPort wireless networks outside, and to Macworld Expo in New York. After a rough first year, people are becoming accustomed to the idea of having Macworld Expo in New York City in July. General griping was down last year from 1998’s minuscule show, and I suspect it will be even quieter during this year’s show, which runs from July 19th through July 21st. It’s now clear Macworld Expo will be staying put in New York for the foreseeable future (watch it move next year just to make me look stupid!), so my approach has been to enjoy the opportunity to explore the city – it’s great for walking, museums, and people-watching. But after some of that the day before the show, I’ll be hoping to see plenty of TidBITS readers, so here is a brief guide to getting around in New York and finding me (and Contributing Editor Matt Neuburg) on the show floor.
New York Via Vindigo — It’s unusual for a cold PR call to be anything more than annoying, but the PR representative for Vindigo was right on target when she called me last week. Vindigo is a city guide – complete with information on restaurants, shops, and attractions – but rather than muck about with hefty and out-of-date books, you access Vindigo on your Palm OS-based handheld. Vindigo provides guides for New York, Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C., and for each city, you can tell Vindigo where you are or where you want to go by street intersections. Then you can tell it that you want to eat, shop, or play, and Vindigo displays matching restaurants, shops, or clubs. For any given place, Vindigo provides a review from sources like zagat.com and local newspapers, walking directions with approximate distances, contact information, and (of course) a related ad so the service can remain free. You can create your own reviews and ratings, and the next time you sync your handheld, Vindigo sends your notes to the centralized server and checks for updates so you don’t find yourself going to places that have closed or relocated. Vindigo has been shipping for Windows for several months, but the company has released a Macintosh conduit today, just in time for Macworld Expo. I’ll definitely be trying out Vindigo while in New York; if you’re a Palm user unfamiliar with New York City, it might be worth a look.
Macworld Expo Pocket Show Guide — As long as we’re on the topic of Palm OS guides, it’s worth grabbing a copy of Palmtop Publishing’s Macworld Expo Pocket Show Guide. It’s a 64K Palm OS application that provides a searchable database of exhibitors, booths, workshops, and session topics. I’ve used previous versions of this guide, and it has saved my bacon on more than one occasion when I need to have a meeting at some company’s booth, but I don’t know where the booth is located. It definitely beats the paper-based show guide for finding information fast. You can download it at the URL below, or just send email to <[email protected]>.
TidBITS Events — As always, we have a number of public events which we encourage TidBITS readers to attend – we love to meet readers in person, and if nothing else it’s always good to have a few shills around lobbing softball questions and effusive praise when our publishers are within earshot! We’ll be happy to sign copies of our books – you can bring your existing copies, buy them at the show, or use the links below to buy through Amazon if you want to come prepared.
On Wednesday, July 19th at 5:15 PM, I’ll be on Macworld Contributing Editor Chris Breen’s Pundits Panel with Andy Ihnatko and Bob LeVitus as my illustrious companions. This panel discussion was a blast when Andy and Chris and I did it with Jason Snell of Macworld back in January at San Francisco – I highly recommend resting your feet for 30 minutes at the Mac Publishing booth (#531) on Wednesday.
On Thursday, July 20th at 11:00 AM, I’ll be at the O’Reilly booth (#181) doing a short presentation about the main irritations about Windows that bite Macintosh users (and there should be time at the end for signing copies of Crossing Platforms and answering questions). Then, at 3:00 PM, I’ll be at the Peachpit booth (#955) signing copies of my Eudora Visual QuickStart Guide and answering questions about Eudora and email.
On Friday, July 21st at 1:00 PM, I’ll be giving a 90 minute conference session on "Backup Strategies for Successful Restores" (Room 1E14) with Craig Issacs of Dantz Development. Also on Friday at 2:30 PM, TidBITS Contributing Editor Matt Neuburg will be at the O’Reilly booth talking about how children (of all ages) can learn to program with REALbasic.
Macworld NY Netter’s Dinner — Al Tucker is once again organizing a Macworld Netter’s Dinner in New York City on Wednesday, July 19th, with everyone meeting at 6:00 PM by the doors leading out of the Javits Convention Center. Although being on the Internet is no longer unusual these days, as was the case when the first Netter’s Dinners took place in San Francisco, the dinner is still a nice chance for people who have been on the Internet a long time to get together for a meal. Pre-registration via Kagi is required, so make sure to visit the Netter’s Dinner Web page for the details.
Macworld NY ’00 Events List Online — The indefatigable Ilene Hoffman has been gathering events for the Robert Hess Memorial Macworld Expo Events List, so if you’d like to see what there is to do at Macworld Expo in New York this year, check the list for public events and parties. If you’re hosting an event of any sort at Macworld Expo, you should make sure to submit it – after all, we’re talking free publicity here. And as always, we encourage anyone planning parties to read our "Macworld Geek Party Guide" from TidBITS-415 for tips on throwing successful trade show parties.
Have a great time at Macworld and New York City, and we hope to see you there!
Inspiration Software recently shipped Inspiration 6; TidBITS readers may recall from my reviews of Inspiration 4 and 5 that this program is an outliner sporting a diagram view, where each item of the outline can be accompanied by a picture, and lines with arrows and labels can run from one item to another.
For a complete list of the changes in version 6, consult the Inspiration Web site. None of them taken alone is major; they are mostly small interface tweaks. Nonetheless, taken together they are significant, because the overall effect is to make Inspiration much more fun and easy to use. For example, gone are the ugly, blocky diagram pictures of earlier versions; Inspiration 6’s pictures are sharp, professional, colorful, and attractive. (Their logo, however, is still that dreadful green-and-purple picture of a man with the top of his head sawn off.) And Inspiration now comes with lots of diagram templates for charting concepts likely to arise in an educational context – for example, similarities and differences between two characters, or the structure of a fairy tale, or a science lab report, or the assignments and activities missed by an absent student.
Thus, instead of being rewritten, Inspiration has been refocused towards kids and those who work with them. This seems a splendid idea. I’d have no hesitation in giving Inspiration 6 to a child as a place for brainstorming, planning a report, organizing ideas or information, or just having fun with words, pictures, and arrows.
To be sure, I’m disappointed that Inspiration’s underlying concepts haven’t been given any new thought. In the diagram view, for instance, interesting and complex relationships can be drawn that a conventional outline would be utterly incapable of expressing: e.g., ideas A and B can both point to idea C, while idea C can point back at idea A. To cope with this, the Inspiration folks might have rethought the whole notion of an outline, creating some entirely new way to present such relationships in a text-based hierarchical milieu. But they didn’t, and if you switch such a diagram to outline view, you get nonsense. Again, since lines connecting ideas in diagram view can also have labels, the Inspiration folks might have introduced some powerful mechanism for filtering out all but those ideas joined by some particular set of keywords, thus turning Inspiration into a new and sophisticated hypertextual tool for the storage, retrieval, and study of ideas and their relationships, like the old MacEuclid. But they didn’t. Or they might at least have improved their HTML export functionality, whose wretched quality I mentioned in my review of Inspiration 5. But they didn’t.
Still, an easy and attractive program for helping and enticing children to diagram their ideas is a fine thing. I can only applaud, and I hope that parents, friends, and teachers will be tempted to put it into children’s hands.
Inspiration 6 costs $70 ($40 to upgrade from previous versions); a free trial download is available. It requires System 7, and occupies 30 MB on disk, 6 MB of RAM.
The last two years that I’ve attended the MacHack developers conference, I’ve also participated as a speaker. I’ve done this in large part because the attitude that permeates the conference is one of sharing knowledge, and although I can’t contribute a line of code to a hack, I can explain to developers how the press works and how developers can better interact with the press, for the benefit of everyone via improved reporting. In the spirit of the conference, I call this session Hacking the Press. Although my talk and representation of it in this article series are aimed primarily at developers, it should shed light on the inner workings of the Macintosh industry in which we all play roles.
The Utility of Exposure — In this first installment, I’m going to look briefly at the basic question of why anyone would bother trying to score press coverage for their product. It may seem painfully obvious, but you’d be amazed at the number of developers, both large and small, that don’t seem to grok this basic principle: the goal is increased exposure for your product and company. And for those who fail to understand the goal of increased exposure, consider the following results of exposure and decide if they’re attractive:
Additional sales. If you’re attempting to make money by selling your program, increased exposure is likely to help increase the number of people who will plunk down their hard-earned cash for your software.
Improved brand recognition. If you’re trying to make a name for yourself or your company, increased exposure can help make that name the first one that springs to mind when someone thinks of the overall topic. For instance, it’s impossible to think about desktop publishing without thinking about Adobe and Quark. But what about Diwan Software (Ready, Set, Go!) and Corel (Print Office)?
Enhanced reputation. Many developers who release their software for free are doing so to satisfy the little voice inside that wants recognition for good work and the reputation that accompanies that recognition. But if no one learns about and uses your program, how can it help your reputation? Keep in mind that reputation is incredibly valuable in helping to open doors elsewhere in life. For example, the reputation I built up publishing TidBITS helped open the door that allowed me to write the best-selling Internet Starter Kit series of books.
Successful altruism. Many developers, particularly smaller ones, write software solely to help other users. Even if there’s a financial component to your overall goals, the more people who know about your work, the more likely the software can help them. For instance, when I write books, I do so with the hope that they’ll earn some money, but my primary goal is to help readers. If the book doesn’t sell well, I’m disappointed both on financial grounds and because few people benefited from my work.
Types of Exposure — Of course, the press isn’t the only conduit for telling potential users about your software, but in many ways it’s the best. Let’s finish off this week’s article with a look at the different possibilities.
First, it has become important to have a Web site, and indeed, it should provide extensive details, including pricing, system requirements, release notes, support information, patches, mailing list archives, and so forth. There aren’t any limits on how much information you can put on a Web site, and you shouldn’t skimp. You don’t get any points for a concise Web site, and if you’re confused about what should be on your Web site, put yourself in the shoes of users and journalists. And even if a Web site doesn’t automatically increase your software’s exposure, you will gain a resource that’s always available, working for you while you’re working on other projects.
Although a solid Web site is important, users know they’re seeing only your side of the story. For instance, it’s tempting to publish a comparison table with competitive software that puts your program in a positive light, but no one will be surprised when your program wins on every comparison. There’s nothing wrong with doing such comparisons, but don’t assume that users will take your word on everything. Plus, no journalist worth his or her table salt will look at your comparison and say, "Wow, now that I’ve seen this nicely formatted table I can see that GurgleWeb is by far the most powerful Web browser on the market."
Second, it’s important to employ some sort of advertising, which can take a variety of forms, all of which are designed to tell people about your program and its features and benefits. Advertising in publications is great on two counts – you control exactly what’s said, and it’s extremely important in helping publications survive (which is necessary for editorial coverage). However, advertising is less important than it was before the Web, when it was a primary source of information for potential buyers. I remember poring through the ads in computer magazines for every scrap of information I could find. These days, advertising is more about branding and basic name identification – you want users to think of you instantly as soon as a problem solved by your software appears.
On the downside, advertising does cost money, and if you’re making claims about your product, you can be sure that many people will take your claims with a grain of your aforementioned table salt. We’re all becoming ever more media-savvy – I remember when I first learned that the paper catalogs put out by MacConnection, MacZone, MacMall, and others listed only products that had paid to be featured (it’s called cooperative advertising, and TidBITS covered it a few times back in 1996 and 1997). Before, I’d always assumed that merit was somehow related. So although advertising is important, relying on it can be dangerous if users don’t buy into the message you’re trying to convey.
Third, and here’s where we’ll pause for this week, we come to the most important form of exposure (in my humble but utterly biased opinion): editorial coverage. Other than the minimal cost of a review copy and possibly a bit of your time working with the writer, editorial coverage is essentially free, making it more attractive than advertising for those on limited budgets. Plus, any opportunity to connect with writers and editors is valuable in its own right. Even if the coverage is limited, such as being mentioned in a review of a competing product, it’s almost always better to receive the coverage than not. Full coverage is of course ideal, and although space varies from publication to publication, a review not only offers readers far more detail than any advertising you could buy, it also carries far more weight with readers than anything you can say, either on your Web site or in an ad.
The risk with editorial coverage is that it may not be entirely favorable, since you don’t have any control over what the reviewer writes. But is that entirely true? In reality, there are ways you can improve your chances of getting coverage, avoiding bad coverage, and recovering if you do happen to be on the receiving end of some bad press.
I’ll include those tips in future installments of this series, which will also look at the different types of publications and the best ways of interacting with each type, the roles different people within your company (development, marketing, PR) play when dealing with the press, what journalists are like and how to interact with them, and finally the types of coverage you can expect and the value of each type.