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TidBITS#744/30-Aug-04

Bare Bones introduced BBEdit 8.0 today, and we have the scoop on what’s new in the venerable text editor. Meanwhile, Jeff Carlson digs his way out of a Palm Desktop installation nightmare, and Adam explains how Take Control updates work technically. In other news, the newest fashion accessory seems to be the action figure: Adam’s and Microsoft’s duke it out. We also note the releases of SpamSieve 2.2, OmniWeb 5.0.1, and AirPort 4.0.1, plus a FMChecker DealBITS drawing.

Adam Engst No comments

SpamSieve 2.2 Improves Accuracy, Notification

SpamSieve 2.2 Improves Accuracy, Notification — Michael Tsai has released SpamSieve 2.2, the latest version of his award-winning anti-spam program for a number of common email clients (see "Tools We Use: SpamSieve" in TidBITS-667). SpamSieve 2.2 performs better message analysis, uses the Habeas Whitelist, and takes SpamAssassin’s tests into account when evaluating incoming messages. The program can notify you of new "good" mail by flashing a Griffin PowerMate or by playing sounds in your email program. SpamSieve’s Apple Mail plug-in now protects against Web bugs, colors messages according to their spam rating, and moves false positives back to the proper inbox. You can also use AppleScript to access SpamSieve’s corpus and rules, and it’s now possible for the blocklist and the whitelist to import addresses and match on more fields. For full details, see SpamSieve’s version history. SpamSieve 2.2 costs $25, although updates are free to registered users and there are $5 discount coupons in "Take Control of Spam with Apple Mail" and "Take Control of What’s New in Entourage 2004. [ACE]

<http://www.c-command.com/spamsieve/>

<https://tidbits.com/getbits.acgi?tbart=07076>

<http://www.c-command.com/spamsieve/ manual.shtml#version-history>

<http://www.tidbits.com/takecontrol/spam-Apple- Mail.html>

<http://www.tidbits.com/takecontrol/entourage- 2004.html>


Jeff Carlson No comments

OmniWeb 5.0.1 Fixes Glitches

OmniWeb 5.0.1 Fixes Glitches — The Omni Group has released OmniWeb 5.0.1, a maintenance update to the alternative Web browser (see "OmniWeb 5.0: the Powerful Web Browser" in TidBITS-472). This version fixes a bug in the History feature, updates the Help files, and corrects a security vulnerability in handling PNG image files. The update is free for registered owners of OmniWeb 5.0, and is a 5.7 MB download. [JLC]

<http://www.omnigroup.com/applications/omniweb/>

<https://tidbits.com/getbits.acgi?tbart=07775>


Jeff Carlson No comments

AirPort 4.0.1 Updates AirPort Express

AirPort 4.0.1 Updates AirPort Express — Apple’s AirPort Express base station received an update this week, to version 4.0.1. The update improves the use of profiles in AirPort Admin Utility, and improves the way WEP keys are handled with third-party access points. Although AirPort Admin is enhanced to version 4.0.1, this update applies only to owners of the AirPort Express; owners of original AirPort and AirPort Extreme Base Stations are still at version 3.x (the revisions are specific to base station and version of Mac OS X). The AirPort 4.0.1 update is a 1 MB installer via Software Update or as an individual download; a Windows version is also available as a 7.5 MB download. [JLC]

<http://www.apple.com/airportexpress/>

<http://www.apple.com/support/downloads/ airport401formac.html>

<http://www.apple.com/support/downloads/ airport401forwindows.html>


Adam Engst No comments

Adam’s "Take Control of Buying a Mac" Interviews

Adam’s "Take Control of Buying a Mac" Interviews — After releasing "Take Control of Buying a Mac" recently, I did a pair of radio interviews, one for Shawn King’s Your Mac Life show, and one for Gene Steinberg’s Mac Night Owl show (in the second half). They’re fun to do and (I hope) fun to listen to. [ACE]

<http://www.tidbits.com/resources/744/ AdamEngstonYML.mp3>

<http://www.macradio.com/Friday/>


Adam Engst No comments

DealBITS Drawing: FMChecker

FileMaker Pro 7 has been out for few months now, and since FileMaker Pro 6 soon won’t be available for purchase, many people are facing the need to upgrade. But FileMaker Pro 7 is such a major change (so much so that William Porter called his TidBITS article about it "FileMaker Pro 7: Can You Say Paradigm Shift?") that upgrading an existing FileMaker solution could be truly difficult, particularly if you’re dealing with someone else’s badly documented databases. So if you’re thinking about upgrading solutions created in FileMaker Pro 3, 4, 5, or 6, you might want to take a look at FMChecker, a inexpensive standalone utility (it doesn’t run within FileMaker Pro or FileMaker Developer) that quickly reveals a large number of otherwise scattered and hidden details about your FileMaker Pro files. It can tell you if all referenced files exist in the current environment, what elements a formula uses, how many times a file has been closed improperly or recovered, if a file is currently in use, under what operating system and FileMaker version a file was last used, and much more. It runs in Mac OS 9, Mac OS X, and Windows, and a free preview version is available.

<http://www.fmchecker.com/>

<https://tidbits.com/getbits.acgi?tbart=07587>

In this week’s DealBITS drawing, you can enter to win one of five electronic copies of FMChecker, worth $50. Entrants who aren’t among our lucky winners will receive a discount on FMChecker, so if you’re interested in the program, be sure to enter at the DealBITS page linked below. All information gathered is covered by our comprehensive privacy policy. Be careful with your spam filters, since you must be able to receive email from my address to learn if you’ve won.

<http://www.tidbits.com/dealbits/fmchecker.html>

<http://www.tidbits.com/about/privacy.html>


Adam Engst No comments

My Action Figure Can Beat Up Microsoft’s Action Figure

Now here’s an odd marketing campaign – so odd, in fact, that I wonder if I’m missing a level or two of self-mocking irony. Microsoft is running a sweepstakes to promote Microsoft Office 2004 for Mac based on the slogan, "Get in touch with your inner suit." This is a good thing? "Suit" isn’t generally a positive term – the suits are the buttoned-down executives generally responsible for (or at least blamed for) all the bad stuff in technology companies. Dilbert’s pointy-haired boss is a suit. Enron suits bilked shareholders of billions. This is not a good thing.

<http://sweepstakesonline.com/macoffice/>

But wait, it gets weirder. There are nine prizes. Why nine? No idea, other than perhaps it’s an odd number. But then, 11 would have made more sense, since Office 2004 is really considered Office 11 (check the names of its preference files if you don’t believe me).

So what are these prizes? If you win, you get a copy of Office 2004, of course, but the real prize that Microsoft is pushing is a "business professional action figure." In the picture of the hip young fashion designer on the sweepstakes Web page, you can see what that means: a personalized doll that looks sort of like you, dressed in your Monday-go-to-business-meetings best. Look at the picture. Would you rather be (or date, if you just can’t put yourself in her Manolo Blahnik shoes) the hip young fashion designer or her dolled-down doppelganger? Her action figure looks like one of those women who take their glasses off in old movies to encourage the male lead to exclaim, "Why, you’re beautiful!" I also wonder what kind of actions the figure will be able to perform. I’ll bet it can schedule meetings, make random sales forecasts, and perhaps even fire other action figures like that perpetual slacker Barbie. Do you think it will have a voicebox? A programmable voicebox? The mind boggles at the possibilities.

Let’s assume you really want a "business professional action figure" sitting on your desk, reminding you that your mother wanted you to go to law school. What’s it worth? According to the rules, the approximate retail value of the prize is $787.88, and, although that doesn’t seem at all approximate, subtracting $399 for Office 2004 shows that your action figure will cost $388.88. That’s one pricey doll! But at least it will sort of look like you. And just think of how having your own business professional action figure will help break the ice at cocktail parties.

(Tip to Microsoft: preview your Web pages in Macintosh Web browsers, since the rules page looks terrible in all the browsers I tried. Oh, and while you’re at it, the light grey text on a white background on the main sweepstakes page is almost impossible to read.)

<http://sweepstakesonline.com/macoffice/rules/>

Of course, the sweepstakes is a publicity stunt, so if you win, you must agree that Microsoft can use your name, likeness, hometown, and biographical information (and presumably the name, likeness, hometown, and biographical information of Mini You as well). It’s a bad thought. You could get in touch with your inner suit, and anti-Microsoft zealots can get in touch with you.

All I can say is that, since I actually have a personalized action figure created for me by hand and presented to me at Macworld New York by the good folks at Power On Software, if you’re going to get an action figure, you want one that will impress your friends, not one that worries about month-end budget numbers and corporate reports. I’m extremely proud of mine, and although I’m undoubtedly biased, I think it’s a remarkable likeness. Well, except for the muscles.

<http://www.tidbits.com/resources/744/ AdamsActionFigure.jpg>

<http://homepage.mac.com/adamengst/ iMovieTheater15.html>

<http://www.poweronsoftware.com/>


Jeff Carlson No comments

Escaping Palm HotSync Installation Hell

It all seemed easy enough. The task: Set up the iBook (the computer my wife uses) so that it would synchronize with her Palm Vx. The actions: Download the latest Palm Desktop installer; run the installer; synchronize. The reality: Installation Hell. If you’ve encountered problems installing or using Palm’s Mac software, hopefully my experience below will help.

The Price of Free — First, a rant about getting the free software. After following a few links at PalmOne’s site to locate the Mac Palm Desktop software, I clicked the Mac OS X link and ended up on a page where I had to specify my handheld type and (again) my operating system version (even though, as near as I can tell, the Palm Desktop installer is the same software for every Palm handheld).

<http://www.palmone.com/us/software/desktop/ mac.html>

On the next page, I had to provide my name, email, country, handheld type (again), and (yes, third time) my operating system version; oh, and be sure to make a point of turning off the option for PalmOne to send junk via email.

<http://www.palmone.com/us/support/macintosh/mac _desktop.html>

On the next page… I was told to look for an email message that would tell me where I could download the software. (I’ll save you the trouble: use the second URL below to access the Mac OS X download directly.)

<http://www.palmone.com/us/support/macintosh/ macdesk421.html>

<http://www.palmone.com/us/support/macintosh/ macdesk421_legal.html>

I can understand wanting to exchange name and email information for free software, but these hoops are flat-out stupid. Do companies not realize that it’s in their best interests to make it as easy as possible for their customers to connect with them and download free updates?

Install, Install, Install — With installer in hand, I ran it on the iBook and got an error stating that the application Transport Monitor could not be launched due to a shared library error. Fortunately, I ran into this problem when I first upgraded to Mac OS X 10.3 Panther; at the time, the solution was to log in as root and install the software using that account.

On the iBook, however, this trick didn’t work. I tried installing under multiple admin users on the machine; tried using Brian Hill’s utility Pseudo to install; tried installing while logged in as the root user. Nothing. I uninstalled, reinstalled, manually removed all traces of Palm Desktop and HotSync from the various Library subfolders, and generally spent way too much time trying to get it to work.

<http://personalpages.tds.net/~brian_hill/ pseudo.html>

Finally, hours later, I realized that the solution was at hand – or rather, buried in an old email that, thanks to Eudora’s excellent search capabilities, I was able to retrieve in a few seconds. Following the publication of my TidBITS article, "PalmSource to Drop Mac Support in Palm OS Cobalt," I received a friendly note from TidBITS reader Pamela Crossley, who wrote:

<http://www.eudora.com/>

<https://tidbits.com/getbits.acgi?tbart=07543>

"All one has to do is take the HotSync Libraries file that was installed under Jaguar, and manually drag it to /Library/CFMSupport/. Any permissions issues (which, as you note, probably are what prevents this file from being installed correctly in the first place) can be resolved at that point through the info panel for the CFMSupport folder. It is all extremely simple, and people who have done this don’t have problems with HotSync and Panther afterward."

I don’t have any machines currently running Jaguar, but I did have a Previous System folder on the iBook’s hard drive from when I upgraded to Panther. Sure enough, the HotSync Libraries file was there. I replaced the newer version with the older version, logged out, logged back in under my wife’s account, and everything worked.

Customers Must Be Earned — Sadly, this is an issue that’s been around since February. The latest version of Palm Desktop (4.2.1), released in May, was supposed to fix the problem, but in my case, for whatever reason, it didn’t. I acknowledge that my problems don’t automatically justify development effort on a company’s part, but I’m not the only one affected by the problem – and a solution has been found, so I can’t imagine it would be difficult for PalmOne to incorporate a fix.

<https://tidbits.com/getbits.acgi?tbart=07656>

PalmOne recently revamped the Mac-specific area of its Web site to trumpet how Palm OS handhelds can work with iCal, Address Book, Entourage, and other solutions, such as transferring photos. Unfortunately, I get the sense that PalmOne lacks the interest, or the manpower, to get beyond the marketing and consider Mac users as what we are: devoted customers.


Adam Engst No comments

The Story Behind Take Control Updates

As you know, we offer free minor updates to our Take Control ebooks to customers; it’s a great way for authors to keep their ebooks up to date with new software releases, to respond to feedback from readers, and to fix any mistakes that slipped in. From what we can tell, readers appreciate the service, so it’s a great example of how publishing electronically helps everyone.

Helping customers learn about and download the updates has been challenging, however, and in this article I tell you what we’ve done, what we’ve learned, and what we’re doing now. Even if you’re not a Take Control reader, you may find it interesting to read about the pros and cons of different methods of distributing updates to digital products.

On Saturday we released three updates, version 1.1.1 of Glenn Fleishman’s "Take Control of Your AirPort Network" (to fix a few typos that slipped into the 152-page ebook and add a $10-off coupon for Sustainable Softworks’ IPNetRouterX), version 1.1 of Joe Kissell’s "Take Control of Email with Apple Mail," and version 1.1.2 of Joe’s "Take Control of Spam with Apple Mail" (to address changes in Mail 1.3.9, add clarifications, provide new screenshots, and more). It took some time, for sure, but the fact that we could do three updates in such a short time is an indication that we’ve come a long way from our start 10 months ago. In fact, in that time, we’ve tried four different approaches to providing free updates with varying levels of success; the lessons we’ve learned may prove instructive to others providing updates as well.

<http://www.tidbits.com/TakeControl/airport.html>

<http://www.tidbits.com/TakeControl/email-apple- mail.html>

<http://www.tidbits.com/TakeControl/spam-apple- mail.html>

Password-Protected Archives via FTP — Our first approach seemed sensible enough on the surface; we’d inform customers of an update via email and give them an FTP URL which they could use to download the update. To restrict the URL to customers, we protected the StuffIt archive containing the update with a password, and our email included that password. The approach worked fine in our testing, and it undoubtedly worked for many people, but it fell down in a number of ways:


  • People use a wide range of programs for downloading via FTP, from solid FTP clients like Fetch and Interarchy to Web browsers to the Finder (generally the worst of the lot). Download problems with FTP URLs occurred much more frequently than we would have liked.

  • Some programs also had trouble processing the StuffIt archive, not calling StuffIt Expander properly, trying to open the file in another program, or not opening it at all. Most people managed to get past these problems, but the instructions we provided often didn’t match reality.

  • You wouldn’t believe the ancient versions of StuffIt Expander people are still running! That wouldn’t matter except that password-protected archives don’t always expand properly in much older versions. It really is worth keeping StuffIt Expander up to date to avoid confusions like this.

  • Downloading and printing at work on a PC, which some people like to do, required that people download StuffIt Expander for Windows. (With Panther’s built-in support for Zip files, switching to that format in general made sense for both Mac and PC users.)


eSellerate Coupons — One of the core tenets of Take Control is to do more of what works and less of what doesn’t, so we quickly changed gears. Our second approach to providing free updates was to send email to every customer of an ebook giving them a special coupon code that, when used in an eSellerate order, gave them a free copy of the ebook in question. This method worked quite well, due to a few advantages:


  • The eSellerate order process was familiar, and although people still occasionally have troubles (usually solved by trying again with another browser or turning off download accelerator utilities like Speed Download), the vast majority of orders, and thus free updates, went smoothly. If the free update was the only ebook in the order, eSellerate’s system was smart enough to skip asking for credit card information.

  • Because the update process required placing an actual order, people often used it as an opportunity to purchase other ebooks they hadn’t yet bought, making it good for business.


However, there were still some problems that made us unhappy with this method of providing updates.


  • Making people run through an entire order seemed like more effort than should be necessary, even if they didn’t have to enter credit card information.

  • Doing the work necessary in eSellerate to set up the coupon and make the file available for download took me more time than was reasonable for a very small update. Extracting email addresses from our database added significantly to the necessary effort.

  • Since every update download was a real order, it added a lot of data to our order database, data that was either essentially uninteresting or potentially confusing. That in turn required more work on my part to pull out these zero dollar orders when preparing royalty statements for our authors.


eSellerate Redownload — In an attempt to reduce the amount of effort and keep the unnecessary data out of our database, particularly with very small updates, we tried a third approach. eSellerate allows anyone who orders to download the file they’ve bought up to three times (the email receipt contains a URL that leads to a Web page with various after-order services, including another link leading to a Download Now button). By allowing three downloads, eSellerate makes it possible for people to work through problems they have downloading, but the download URL can’t be posted in public. We had a tiny update ready, so we replaced the file appropriately in eSellerate, and then sent email to everyone who had bought that ebook, telling them how to download it. It was a big mistake, for many reasons:


  • Email continues to become less and less reliable due to spam and spam-fighting efforts, so some percentage of people never received their email receipts at all. Many of those who did receive a receipt threw it away or lost it. The end result was that lots of readers couldn’t find the URL that would let them download the update without help from Tonya.

  • Since many people buy more than one ebook, and since people had email receipts from all the orders that had resulted from previous free updates, a number of people had trouble finding the right receipt, again requiring help from Tonya.

  • If someone had, for whatever reason already downloaded the file three times (they experienced a dropped phone line or a browser crash, for example), eSellerate wouldn’t allow any more downloads until Tonya reset the download counter in eSellerate’s order tracking system.


Luckily, it’s easy for us to solve customer problems; after a quick check to verify that the person is a customer, Tonya usually sends them a copy of the ebook they’re having trouble getting. Readers seem to appreciate this fast solution to the problem at hand, but we’d of course rather avoid the problem altogether. The amount of work this method caused was insanely higher than any other approach, so we clearly needed to rethink the entire process if we were to move away from the free coupon strategy.

Check for Updates Button — After talking about all sorts of crazy ideas, including an application that could store the differences between two PDF files and use that information to update an original PDF, I realized that I was thinking about the problem all wrong. In many ways, ebooks have a lot in common with software, and if a developer had asked me how to handle updates, I would have said to build update checking into the application, automatically downloading and installing available updates with user assent. Obviously, since we distribute PDF files, not full-fledged applications, there’s a limit to what’s possible, but enabling the user to check for updates from within the ebook itself was within the limits of possibility.

The trick for us is that we’re now running Web Crossing, which, along with its many other benefits, is an entirely programmable system. With some help from Sue Boettcher of Web Crossing, I created what is essentially a CGI (Web Crossing calls it a "macro") that accepts as input data embedded in a URL and returns a Web page that tells the user if an update is available, and if so, provides a protected and obfuscated link to download the update. The advantages are numerous:


  • A single click on the Check for Updates button loads the Web page, and if an update is available, a second click downloads the update. That’s a lot easier than requiring people to run through a full order on eSellerate.

  • A separate part of the Web page lets readers sign up to receive notification about updates in email along with notifications of new Take Control books in general. That makes sending out update notifications a lot easier (before, it involved extracting addresses from our database and putting that data in the Bcc line in Eudora).

  • We can post information about both available updates (so people can decide if they want to bother downloading) and upcoming updates (so people can postpone printing if an update is due shortly).

  • No unnecessary data ends up in our order database.


The system isn’t perfect yet, of course. Certain download utilities have trouble with the way I serve download URLs through a CGI, and we discovered that if you use Acrobat Professional 6.0, you must set the Web Capture preferences to open Web links in your Web browser, not in Acrobat. (Otherwise, Web pages are added to your ebook, and the download link won’t work.) I’m sure other issues will crop up, but as long as handling new quirks remains less work than any of the other systems we’ve tried and discarded, it’s good for everyone.

Obviously, the particular system I’ve developed isn’t portable outside of Web Crossing, but I hope that anyone who needs to provide updates to users can learn from our experiences to do it in as clean and efficient a way as possible.


Adam Engst No comments

BBEdit 8.0: Even More Muscular

BBEdit has long enjoyed a well-deserved reputation as a powerful text editor for programmers and HTML coders, so when Rich Siegel, CEO of Bare Bones Software, wanted to show me the latest features in BBEdit 8.0, available today, I was curious about where they could have taken the program. Was it going to be one of those upgrades that offers only a few minor improvements and which many people can’t justify? As it turned out, nothing could be farther from the truth: BBEdit 8.0 is one heck of an upgrade, and I think anyone who’s serious about editing text in BBEdit will find a number of significant improvements that make the upgrade price worthwhile. Let’s look at some of the most interesting among the more than 100 improvements.

<http://www.barebones.com/products/bbedit/>

Document Drawer — Tabbed browsing has taken the Web browser world by storm, so it’s not too surprising that Bare Bones started to get customer requests for tabbed editing: a single-window interface where tabs provide quick access to multiple open documents. What that really translates to is that people don’t so much want the Web browser tabbed interface, which breaks down after just a few tabs for lack of horizontal space, but a quick way to switch among documents. Enter the Document Drawer, which is a standard Mac OS X drawer listing the names of documents open in the current window. It’s a bit like OmniWeb’s tabs showing in text form, and it’s a brilliant way to keep a lot of documents (such as all the pages in flux in a Web site or development project) open at once.

Don’t want to use the horizontal space on the Document Drawer? BBEdit 8.0 also features an optional Navigation Bar at the top of the window that provides forward and back buttons, and a pop-up menu listing the open documents in that window. I know I seldom find myself working on only a single HTML file at a time, but I don’t usually need to see my multiple documents simultaneously in separate windows (though that’s of course still possible).

Multi-File Search — The Document Drawer’s emphasis on keeping multiple files open helped encourage the next major new feature, which is improved multi-file search. BBEdit has long been able to search through multiple files and display the results in a single browser window, but you could select only a single folder at a time; now a drawer in the Find & Replace window lets you select any arbitrary set of files and folders for the search, or collections such as all of a window’s open documents or all open documents. Even better, those searches are now preemptively multithreaded, which means that you can not only keep working in BBEdit while a search is running, you can keep working in BBEdit while multiple searches are running. And, since each search is a separate thread, they take full advantage of multiple processors.

Text Factory — Ironically, despite BBEdit’s power, I still find myself going back to the Classic version of Nisus Writer for certain text processing tasks – not because it’s more capable than BBEdit, but because its macro capabilities make it easy to string together multiple Find & Replace actions. BBEdit drives another nail into Nisus Writer’s Classic coffin with its new Text Factory feature, which provides an interface for stringing together multiple instances of BBEdit’s text manipulation tools. You can save a set of Text Factory settings as a separate document, and you can either run it across multiple documents in a batch, or against a single arbitrary document any time you like.

In essence then, Text Factory brings batch text processing to BBEdit. For instance, for the last nine months I’ve been merging lists of email addresses for the Take Control Announcements list every time we release a new ebook. It’s a tiresome, particular process that involves about six steps in BBEdit to format each of two files appropriately, merge them, and run several iterations of the Process Duplicate Lines command to eliminate duplicates. In fact, it was so time-consuming that I re-engineered our ordering process to eliminate it, but if I’d had Text Factory automating the process, I might never have bothered.

Along with BBEdit’s internal commands, you can add AppleScript or Unix filters to Text Factory commands, which enables even more sophisticated processing of files.

Preview via Local Server — One of the most useful features added during the BBEdit 7.x days was Preview in BBEdit, which used Apple’s WebKit to provide a nicely rendered live preview of an HTML document. The only problem with Preview in BBEdit, which I like and use regularly, is that HTML files on sites that rely on dynamic processing (such as my Web Crossing server) often don’t render particularly well, since there’s no server to generate the dynamic bits of the page.

Well, now there can be. A new option in BBEdit 8.0 lets you specify a local Web server (such as the copy of Apache launched by turning on Personal Web Sharing) as a preview server, and instead of just rendering the page directly, BBEdit sends the code through the server and renders what comes back.

There is a slight catch, of course, which is that the local server must be capable of everything your primary server is, and it must have access to all the images and other assets that your pages use. But it’s not a bad idea to have a testbed server anyway, so I imagine people who use BBEdit for a lot of HTML will start thinking about the best way to integrate this into their workflows.

Better Mac OS X Application — A number of the improvements in BBEdit are under the hood, and are aimed at making it a better Mac OS X application. Most notably, Bare Bones claims that it’s a full-fledged Unicode program now, so you can work with multiple script systems in the same document (in the previous version, you could use only a single script system at a time). BBEdit 8.0 now uses the Mac OS X system-wide spelling checker, but it unfortunately doesn’t yet support Check Spelling As You Type. Rich said that feature is at the top of the list to add; I hope we’ll see it in an 8.1 release relatively soon, since the lack of inline spell checking actually drives me to write certain things in other programs.

Also, although fonts still aren’t a big deal in BBEdit (where you can display only one per script system), the program now uses the Mac OS X Font palette. It’s worth noting that although the Unicode underpinnings would conceivably enable BBEdit to become a styled text editor, Bare Bones stated no interest in adding such a feature. I can see why Bare Bones might want to avoid styles, since BBEdit simply isn’t about making text look good. However, one aspect of that decision that I find disappointing is that being able to style text is a way of adding metadata to runs of text within a document, which in turn enables all sorts of additional things you can do in terms of text processing. That’s one area where Nisus Writer still beats out BBEdit, since Nisus Writer macros can search for and work with text based on its font, color, style, and more. Perhaps a future version of BBEdit could add user-defined styles as a way of applying metadata to text.

Other Features — Additional features abound. BBEdit 8.0 now includes an open source tool called HTML Tidy that cleans up HTML code to make it easier to read; it includes additional CSS markup commands. People working in Web scripting environments and other currently unrecognized languages can now create their own syntax coloring to make reading code easier. The new syntax coloring capabilities are aimed primarily at scripting and programming languages, and Rich said they’ll be concentrating more on SGML and XML coloring in the future.

Whereas BBEdit 7.x added support for the CVS version control system, BBEdit 8.0 brings support for most of the things programmers want to do in the Perforce version control system as well. BBEdit 8.0 also adds support for Exuberant Ctags, which creates an index of functions in source files that enables these items to be found quickly. You can now optionally have a yellow highlight on the line containing the cursor, which may make working in complex documents easier. The Philip Bar has been replaced by the Page Guide, which puts a light grey background on the right side of the page where you could soft-wrap text. Tab stops can now be displayed as light gray lines running the full length of the window, a boon to anyone who regularly works with columnar textual data. For a full list of new and modified features, see the Bare Bones Web site.

<http://www.barebones.com/products/bbedit/ features.shtml>

Details — BBEdit 8.0 requires Mac OS X 10.3.5 or later; Mac OS 9 users will have to stick with BBEdit 7.1. New copies cost $180 through 31-Oct-04 and $200 after that. Cross-upgrades from BBEdit Lite, Adobe GoLive, or Macromedia Dreamweaver cost $130. Upgrades from BBEdit 7.x cost $50 (unless you purchased since 01-Jun-04, at which point they’re free), and upgrades from 6.5 cost $60. Bare Bones also offers user group, educational, and quantity discounts, and if you want to check it out first, there’s a 30-day demo available as an 11.3 MB download.

<http://www.barebones.com/products/bbedit/ demo.shtml>


TidBITS Staff No comments

Hot Topics in TidBITS Talk/30-Aug-04

The second URL below each thread description points to the discussion on our Web Crossing server, which will be much faster.

<http://emperor.tidbits.com/TidBITS/Talk/>

<http://www.tidbits.com/search/talk.html>

Escaping Palm HotSync Hell — This week’s article originally appeared as an ExtraBITS posting and generated discussion on TidBITS Talk. Readers debate the solidity of Palm’s desktop application, and comment on The Missing Sync 4.0, which was reviewed in TidBITS-743. (7 messages)

<https://tidbits.com/getbits.acgi?tlkthrd=2300>

<http://emperor.tidbits.com/TidBITS/Talk/164>

What to do with really old Macs — We like Macs. We don’t like to throw them away. They work for a long, long time. But, really, some older models aren’t as useful today as they were in 1989. Here are some options for donating or disposing of older Macs. (9 messages)

<https://tidbits.com/getbits.acgi?tlkthrd=2301>

<http://emperor.tidbits.com/TidBITS/Talk/165>

OmniWeb 5.0: The Powerful Web Browser — After posting a note in ExtraBITS about the odd commentary regarding OmniWeb, numerous other people chime in with things they like and don’t like about OmniWeb 5.0. (17 messages)

<https://tidbits.com/getbits.acgi?tlkthrd=2291>

<http://emperor.tidbits.com/TidBITS/Talk/155>