At Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference today, Steve Jobs previewed Jaguar, the next major revision to Mac OS X. It might make you want to pounce on Apple’s new OS, as we’ve done with our reporting in TidBITS. Also, we pass on some potentially useful opportunities for small companies at Macworld Expo 2002 in New York. In the news, we cover Default Folder 1.5, ConceptDraw Presenter, icWord 2.1, and how international users can get Adam’s iPhoto book.
Default Folder X 1.5 Mixes with Cocoa — St. Clair Software has released Default Folder X 1.5, its invaluable enhancement for Mac OS X Open and Save dialogs. Along with a few bug fixes, this version adds the previously missing compatibility with Cocoa applications and works with Bare Bones Software’s Super Get Info to display information about files. Default Folder 1.5 also works with an upcoming release of Keyboard Maestro to use key commands when switching folders in file dialogs. Default Folder X 1.5 is a free update to users of previous versions; it’s a 1.7 MB download. [JLC]
ConceptDraw Presenter Takes On PowerPoint — CS Odessa has released ConceptDraw Presenter 1.0, the latest product derived from their powerful diagramming software (see "Make the Connection with ConceptDraw" in TidBITS-553). ConceptDraw Presenter competes directly with Microsoft PowerPoint – it enables you to create presentations with text, graphics, and sounds, plus transitions between slides. You can display presentations directly within ConceptDraw Presenter or export to PowerPoint format, HTML, PDF, Macromedia Flash, or several graphic formats. ConceptDraw Presenter can also open PowerPoint presentations as well as ConceptDraw diagrams. Although this initial version of ConceptDraw Presenter has some rough edges, it appears to offer a credible alternative to PowerPoint for those who don’t already own Microsoft Office. ConceptDraw Presenter is available for both Macintosh (Mac OS 8.6 through Mac OS X) and Windows for $200; owners of other ConceptDraw products can buy it for $120, and academic users pay $85. A demo version that can’t save is available as a 10.3 MB download. [ACE]
icWord & icExcel View Office Documents in Mac OS X — Panergy Ltd. has released icWord 2.1, a Mac OS X-compatible version of its useful Microsoft Word and AppleWorks document viewer for those who don’t own Word or AppleWorks (see "icWord Reads and Prints Word Documents" in TidBITS-543). Although icWord doesn’t allow editing of documents, you can read them and save them to text, RTF, or AppleWorks format. The main change from icWord 2.0 is Mac OS X support, although Panergy also improved graphics handling, text export, and keyboard shortcuts. In terms of Mac OS X support, icWord 2.1 joins the company’s icExcel 1.1, which enables users to view, print, and convert Microsoft Excel and AppleWorks spreadsheets. Both utilities cost $20 and are available as a bundle for $30; upgrades from icWord 2.0 are free, as are 30-day trial versions of both programs. [ACE]
iPhoto Book Available Internationally — I was surprised and distressed to discover that Amazon wouldn’t let international buyers of my iPhoto for Mac OS X: Visual QuickStart Guide book download the electronic version in advance of receiving the paper version. (See "New Book Documents iPhoto Features and Quirks" in TidBITS-626.) I’ve been working with Peachpit to figure out some way around this problem, and I think I’ve found one. It’s not ideal, but it should work. Go to the book’s page in the Peachpit catalog and work through the process of buying the book. When you’re done, Peachpit will send you email with the information you need to download the book, and you’ll of course receive the paper version of the next edition.
Here are the problems, and I apologize in advance for not being able to figure out any better way to offer international ordering in the time available. First, the book costs $16 instead of the $14 at Amazon. Second, when you get to the actual order form, ignore the comment about ordering from an international office (they may not know about the book’s PDF version) and enter your country in the Special field. Third, international shipping is a rather high $14 and can take a long time. One of the problems with trying new distribution approaches is that you realize just how much trial-and-error has gone into the traditional methods; hopefully we’ll have this working more smoothly for future efforts. [ACE]
Our periodic examinations of how a Macworld Expo represents the state of the Macintosh industry usually involve analyzing the number of attendees and their mood, the number of exhibitors, and the range of products shown. For the upcoming Macworld Expo in New York City 17-Jul-02 through 19-Jul-02, two recent events could help improve these last two parts of the show.
Under One Tent — Often the companies with the most interesting products are small firms that can’t afford booths, given the astronomical costs of exhibiting at Macworld Expo. These companies, when they come at all, often end up with a station in a special-interest pavilion. Station space is less of an outlay than a full booth, the company doesn’t have to buy booth furniture, and there’s almost no setup. Plus, pavilions group companies in the same industry, providing opportunities for making contacts and improving the likelihood of attracting interested attendees.
That the’s theory, anyway, and it has worked well for the developer-oriented MacTech Central pavilion for the last eight years. That pavilion, run by MacTech Magazine’s parent company Xplain Corporation, expanded to include small Internet companies when MacTech subsumed the Internet-centric NeTProfessional magazine. Other pavilions haven’t been as successful, and at this year’s Macworld Expo in San Francisco, MacTech Central was larger than all the other pavilions put together.
Now however, IDG World Expo, organizers of Macworld Expo, has handed over the task of managing all the pavilions to Xplain. (A few areas like gaming, the music and audio theatre, and Apple’s business solutions area remain unaffected by this move.) For Macworld Expo 2002 in New York, Xplain will be adding a number of new pavilions that focus on a variety of markets.
Station packages start at $3,000. If you’re a small company interested in exhibiting at Macworld Expo, visit the Web page below for details and reservation information.
Consumer Feeding Frenzy — To a small company, $3,000 is still a lot of money, especially once you add the costs of travel, food, and lodging. Many companies offset the costs of exhibiting with product sales – companies like Aladdin, Peachpit Press, Connectix, and Power On Software all sell a lot of their products at the show. That’s been difficult for small companies though, since either they don’t command enough presence, lack the staff and resources to handle on-site sales, or are in a pavilion, where the focus is on demonstrations, so sales aren’t allowed.
This year IDG World Expo has named DevDepot as producer of the official store of Macworld Expo. Thus, any exhibitor – even those in the pavilions – will be able to sell through DevDepot, which has long maintained a presence on the Macworld Expo show floor with a 45-foot-long tractor trailer-based warehouse. Although companies that can sell on their own may clear more profit per sale when doing so, having a single, coherent place where attendees can buy hardware, software, or accessories is highly worthwhile. Though it may not seem so, it does cost a company money to make a sale, and working with resellers does increase sales volume. Any company interested in selling through DevDepot should contact them at <[email protected]> for details.
Proving Grounds — My introduction to our Top Mac OS X Utilities series about how Apple values tiny utility developers over all others was intentionally sarcastic, but it is important for the industry to nurture smaller companies. It may not happen in every case or quickly, but some small companies do grow to become stalwarts of the industry. Quite a number of firms have moved from MacTech Central to the main show floor at Macworld over the years. If Xplain taking over the pavilion organization duties and DevDepot providing a sales outlet for all exhibitors can encourage the growth of more small Macintosh companies, we all benefit.
As you have no doubt noticed, we have been increasing the amount of Mac OS X-specific content in TidBITS. Although there are good reasons for this change, it can create some tension, since many users continue to rely on earlier versions of the Mac OS. A few people have expressed concern at our trend toward more Mac OS X content; until now we’ve stuck to private replies, but I want to make our reasoning public.
Before I get to that, though, how many people really are using Mac OS X? Matt Deatherage, the publisher of MDJ and MWJ, did some calculating based on numbers that came out of Apple’s recent quarterly results. Apple has shipped about 3 million Macs with Mac OS X pre-installed so far, and as of last quarter had shipped 1 million boxed copies of Mac OS X. Based on those numbers and some extrapolation, Matt estimates there are about 4.2 million copies of Mac OS X out there, of which he can imagine only about half – or 2.1 million – in regular use. When you compare that number with Apple’s standard customer base claim of 25 to 30 million Macs (many of which can’t even run Mac OS X, to be fair), you see that fewer than 10 percent of Macs out there are likely to be running Mac OS X. Of course, now that Mac OS X is the default operating system on all new Macs, that percentage will climb fast – Matt estimates that within a year it could be as high as 50 percent, perhaps higher if you consider only Macs that are capable of running Mac OS X.
I suspect TidBITS readers tend to adopt new technologies earlier than many users, so it’s likely that our readership has switched to Mac OS X in greater numbers than would otherwise be expected. But let’s not restrict ourselves to speculation – we’re running a poll this week on our home page that asks what percentage of time your primarily Mac spends booted iinto Mac OS X. Please participate in the poll so we can learn two things: how many people have switched to Mac OS X at all, and how completely those who have switched are using it. For instance, Geoff Duncan and I both switched our primary Macs to Mac OS X recently, but he still spends heaps of time in Mac OS 9 to do professional audio work, whereas I haven’t left Mac OS X since installing.
Why It Doesn’t Matter — Unfortunately, no matter what these numbers show, the painful truth is that Apple has ensured we don’t have much choice in our Macintosh coverage. Think about the kind of articles that appear in TidBITS for a moment. If we’re reviewing software, writing updates about software we’ve previously reviewed, or even covering events at a Macintosh event, we’re basically stuck with writing about Mac OS X-specific topics.
That’s because Mac OS X topics are all the news that’s fit to print – they’re happening all around us, whether we like it or not. Apple has made it crystal clear to developers that Mac OS 9 is a dead-end (going so far as to hold a mock funeral for Mac OS 9 during the Worldwide Developers Conference keynote), so almost all are spending their efforts either on carbonizing their existing applications (usually instead of adding new features) or writing new applications for Mac OS X. Combine all that Mac OS X product news with the fact that it’s easy to be interested in the new world of Mac OS X, rather than the familiar Mac OS 9 desktop where there are no surprises, good or bad, and you understand the trend toward ever more Mac OS X coverage.
We’re not alone in this – every other major Macintosh publication has struggled with the same dilemma, and all those with which I’m familiar have made the same decision. Mac OS X is the future, and technical publications can’t live in the past. In some respects, we have it even worse than most, since we seldom, if ever, revisit topics that we feel we’ve covered sufficiently in the past. That’s what our article database is for, and although it’s occasionally tempting to republish an older article that people could still benefit from, it feels like cheating.
What To Do? Although we’re happy to listen to feedback from TidBITS Talk, here’s our current thinking. We will continue to cover products and events specific to Mac OS X, and the frequency of coverage is likely to increase. However, we plan to focus our coverage toward topics related to switching to Mac OS X – with the recent releases of Retrospect 5.0 and Photoshop 7.0, two of the last remaining barriers to adoption for many people have fallen (QuarkXPress remains the most heavily used productivity application that runs only in Classic mode). For instance, our series on Mac OS X utilities is intended to help people migrate from Mac OS 9, and I’m working on an article laying out a series of preparations that can significantly ease the pain of upgrading. As time goes on, of course, Mac OS X coverage will cease to be distinct from general Macintosh coverage.
Until then, however, we also intend to try including information in every issue that will be of interest to those not yet running Mac OS X. That content might take the form of articles unrelated to the Mac, but sometimes it might be more subtle, such as the way I noted that several of the Mac OS X utilities I covered last week were also available for Mac OS 9. It’s not worth a separate article to make such a small point, but don’t assume that just because an article seems to cover Mac OS X that there’s nothing of interest to those who haven’t switched.
One thing you won’t read is complaining about the transition to Mac OS X. It’s been hard, and it will remain difficult for some time to come. But the time to complain is over – Apple has been crystal clear about how Mac OS X is the future for several years now, and complaining now will change nothing. Constructive criticism may help, however, and where there are appropriate criticisms to be made, we’ll reserve the right to make them so long as we can simultaneously offer potential solutions.
At the Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) today, Apple CEO Steve Jobs previewed the next major release of Mac OS X, codenamed "Jaguar," due for release in "late summer," which we would interpret to mean the end of August. Along with a number of Mac-only features that we’ll cover below, Jaguar will build in the latest versions of the Unix operating system and tools that lie under Mac OS X. Some of those tools, such as the GCC 3 compiler, could help developers provide improved performance, and others, like the next generation Internet protocols IPv6 and IPSec, will help Mac OS X be a first-class Internet citizen. Those changes, though welcome, are unlikely to affect users as much as the higher profile improvements Jobs outlined. One caveat – we’re not developers and Apple didn’t provide a webcast of the keynote, so we’ve had to piece details together from a variety of sources. More details will undoubtedly become known as WWDC continues.
iChat — Adding to Apple’s iApp stable, Jobs announced that instant messaging software called iChat would be built into Jaguar. iChat will be compatible with AOL Instant Messenger (AIM), marking the first time AOL has allowed any company to work with AIM. That hasn’t stopped a variety of companies from reverse-engineering AIM support, and with Mac OS X users added to AIM’s 150 million user party, AIM compatibility will become even more attractive. You won’t need an AOL or AIM account to use iChat – it will work with your iTools username and will reportedly also let you create buddy lists of local network users as well. Apple plans to integrate iChat with the enhanced Mail and Address Book so you can see the online status of people in your buddy list and turn email exchanges into real time chats. iChat’s interface is simple – it uses "dialogue bubbles" to present instant messages in a "graphically conversational manner." And you thought balloon help was dead.
As much as we’re not fans of instant messaging, iChat will probably be a hit by virtue of being bundled with Mac OS X. Chat applications haven’t evolved much from their inception years ago, so we’re hoping that iChat does more than offer a pretty Aqua interface. Our wish list? An auto-correct option that ensures words are spelled correctly coupled with an auto-expansion function that turns the common abbreviations like "cul8r" into the actual words of "See you later." So what if we’re old-fashioned?
Mail — Apple’s bundled Mail client has thus far failed to measure up to any well-known email clients. Judging from the WWDC keynote, though, the next version of Mail will provide more competition via filters with multiple criteria, automatic saving of message drafts when you quit, better handling of multiple accounts, searching across mailboxes, color highlighting, security features, support for virtual private networks, and support for QuickTime.
Most interesting, though, is the promise of a spam filter that works on the semantic content of spam. Apple must be extremely careful in how Mail identifies spam, since false positives could prove highly damaging to the business reputations of companies whose legitimate mail was incorrectly identified. We had significant problems with Outlook Express’s Junk Mail Filter marking TidBITS as spam when it first shipped – despite the fact that TidBITS has always been an opt-in mailing list, a number of readers reported us as spammers based solely on Outlook Express’s say-so. If that judgement were to come from Apple’s default email client, especially given that it will be used heavily by novices, it could be utterly disastrous to companies like us that rely on email communications.
Address Book — Backing up iChat and Mail is a new Address Book. The main change to Address Book is that any application can now access its system-wide database of contact information. It supports vCards and reportedly will also offer LDAP (Lightweight Directory Access Protocol) searching. Plus, it’s tied into Apple’s forthcoming Bluetooth support, so you can exchange vCards with PDAs and cell phones. It’s unclear if other applications will be able to use Address Book to work with databases containing other sorts of information; also unclear is if the database engine underlying Address Book offers sufficient performance and robustness to be used in such a way. We’ve been agitating for a system-level database since 1996 (see "The Database Returns" in TidBITS-341); it would be nice to see Apple finally provide such a service.
Finder Improvements — Fans of Mac OS 9’s spring-loaded folders will be happy to see the feature return to Mac OS X, enabling you to click and hold on a folder to view its contents and drill down into other nested folders. Also new in Finder windows is instant searching via a Toolbar Search field into which you can enter file names or text in a document; the results are displayed in the Finder window. It promises to be much better than today’s glacial searches via Sherlock.
The Finder will also receive performance boosts from multi-threading and from Quartz Extreme, an enhanced version of the Quartz rendering engine that’s responsible for drawing graphics. Quartz Extreme offloads graphics processing to a supported video card, freeing up the Mac’s main processor(s) for application-specific tasks. Graphics-intensive programs like 3D games and video utilities will see performance improvements, as will the drawing of Finder interface elements such as drop shadows and transparent windows. However, the key phrase here is "supported video card," which includes the Nvidia GeForce2 MX, GeForce3, GeForce4 Ti, GeForce4, or GeForce4 MX, as well as any ATI AGP Radeon card – and preferably cards with at least 32 MB of VRAM. So, essentially, only the newest Macs (other than the iBook) will be able to take advantage of Quartz Extreme, no doubt an effort by Apple to stimulate hardware sales when Jaguar is released.
Sherlock 3 — Although we primarily use Sherlock to find files, Apple has always pushed it as a way to find Internet information such as news headlines or phone numbers. Those features have never impressed us, in part because Sherlock has always been a jumping-off point, displaying results that load into a Web browser when clicked. Sherlock 3, however, will be able to display properly formatted results in its own window, turning Apple’s online sleuth into what looks like a clone of Karelia’s excellent Watson, although Watson offers more tools than appear in Apple’s screenshot of Sherlock 3.
Handwriting Recognition — One of the more intriguing announcements was support for handwriting recognition, referred to as Ink on Apple’s Web site. Reports from the conference claimed that handwriting is recognized by any application that accepts text, including Unix programs such as Terminal. However, Apple’s Jaguar page notes that Ink works in Mail and TextEdit, with an additional program called InkPad used to copy and paste written text into programs that don’t support Ink. An input tablet is reportedly necessary, though we suppose a finger on a PowerBook or iBook trackpad might work as well.
Ink will no doubt ignite a new round of speculation about a Mac OS-based handheld device, which we’ll believe when we see it. In the meantime, adding this type of low-level support provides developers with an alternative to keyboard-based input. We can imagine graphics programs supporting Ink for adding text to illustrations, or educational programs relying on it to help children learn to write. However, it’s important to remember that handwriting recognition has never caught on with most computer users, not to mention the fact that tablets remain uncommon input devices.
QuickTime 6 — Apple’s Jaguar preview also included QuickTime 6 and QuickTime Broadcaster. QuickTime remains one of Apple’s key technologies, with QuickTime 5 for Mac and Windows being downloaded a few million times each week. QuickTime 6 will sport (yet another) new user interface and better performance of streaming media over limited-bandwidth connections. It will also enable users to view MPEG-4 video. The MPEG-4 standard is a way to encode audio and video for use on digital devices or for transmission over the Internet; it was defined nearly four years ago and is itself partially based on QuickTime. Like QuickTime, MPEG-4 can scale to a variety of devices and deliver content in limited bandwidth situations (like typical Internet streaming applications today). MPEG-4 also targets high-end digital television and video markets, has features for creating interactive applications, and offers digital rights management features. MPEG-4 also supports Advanced Audio Coding (also known as AAC – a perceptual audio encoding method from Dolby Labs which offers better fidelity than MP3 audio in less bandwidth). With QuickTime Broadcaster (combined with QuickTime Streaming Server), QuickTime 6 will probably make Jaguar the first platform that can create, stream, and view MPEG-4 video.
A complete MPEG-4 solution is nice in theory, but it’s currently mired in licensing issues. The multimedia and video industry has cringed at a licensing proposal which includes a per-minute use fee (roughly $.02 per hour), along with fees for shipping MPEG-4 encoders and decoders. Although Apple has essentially completed development of QuickTime 6, it won’t ship until licensing issues are worked out. Including QuickTime 6 in Jaguar may indicate that Apple has confidence that MPEG-4 licensing issues can be finalized soon.
Rendezvous — Jaguar will also include Rendezvous, a new technology from Apple intended to ease administration and configuration of IP-based network services. Long-time Mac users fondly remember how easy it was to set up and configure AppleTalk networks: you plugged in the devices, turned them on, and they magically all knew about each other. Rendezvous promises to bring the same functionality to IP-based networks, letting devices both discover services available on the network and advertise services they offer – and it’s all supposed to work over Ethernet, AirPort, Bluetooth, FireWire, and other networking technologies. An iBook with an AirPort card could automatically find a printer connected to the iMac upstairs; a user could set up iTunes to serve as a music jukebox for an entire local network. Rendezvous is based on a draft IETF standard called Zero Configuration Networking and should be most useful in small networks where network administration is low-key or absent; let’s hope Rendezvous doesn’t expose any security bugaboos.
Windows Compatibility — On the cross-platform front, Jaguar improves Mac OS X’s connections to Windows-centric networks. No longer will you have to type URLs for accessing a shared Windows folder via SMB – Jaguar includes SMB browsing. Plus, in news that probably isn’t popular with the folks at Thursby Systems who work on DAVE, Jaguar will also let Mac OS X share files with Windows machines (although Apple’s press release didn’t mention printer sharing). Finally, Jaguar will offer built-in PPTP (Point-to-Point Tunnelling Protocol) security for virtual private network (VPN) uses.
Universal Access — Mac users with disabilities have been pretty much locked out of Mac OS X so far, with only Niemeijer Consult’s KeyStrokes and Black Cat Software’s Mouseki offering onscreen keyboards under Mac OS X. The release of Jaguar should improve the situation significantly, since Jaguar will offer APIs that let developers provide screen magnification via Quartz, out-loud reading of text under the cursor, access to everything via the keyboard, and visual notification of alerts. It’s possible Apple will provide simple user-level utilities with Jaguar, but it’s even more important to provide these system-level capabilities to the developers working on tools for Mac users with disabilities.
Bated Breath — Jaguar promises a great deal, but with developers receiving a copy at WWDC, there’s hope that we’ll see not just the technology in a few months, but also a wide variety of applications that take advantage of these new capabilities to offer features never seen before. Apple will undoubtedly preview Jaguar again at Macworld Expo in New York in July, although there the demonstration should be aimed more at users than developers. Until then…