Previous Issue | Search TidBITS | TidBITS Home Page | Next Issue
Hot news arrives in the form of the PowerBook 145 and Salient's acquisition. Mike O'Connor contributes some little-known tips for working with QuickTime movie players, and for you network junkies we have a detailed look at the Internet, the first in a series of articles on network connections. Finally, for those of you using PowerBooks, check out our review of Nisus Software's smaller word processor, Nisus Compact.
Copyright 1992 TidBITS Electronic Publishing. All rights reserved.
Information: <firstname.lastname@example.org> Comments: <email@example.com>
Nigel Stanger writes about Apple's choice of the name Newton: "It's quite obvious when you think about it. What was Apple Computer's first logo? Newton sitting under the apple tree. The original company slogan also mentioned Newton. Unfortunately I can't remember it, and I left the book [West of Eden] at home. It was profound, anyway. Whether this is actually the reason they chose "Newton" is anyone's guess, but I wouldn't be surprised if factored into the decision."
Nigel Stanger -- firstname.lastname@example.org
Mike O'Connor, author of Navigator and programmer extraordinaire, passes along some QuickTime tips of interest.
Here is a user interface command I'll bet nobody knows. In any QuickTime movie window that uses the standard movie controller you can hold down the Control key and click in one of the single step buttons at the right end of the controller. A tiny slider bar appears which you can then drag to play the movie at variable speed forward or backward!
Here is some other control stuff that works in standard QuickTime movie windows.Double-click on image = play
Single-click on image = pause
Shift-double-click on image = play backward
Left, Right arrows = single step
Up, Down arrows = volume
Space, Return = toggle play/pause
Option-click on speaker icon = toggle sound mute
Shift-drag the play bar = select section of movie
Finally, a good, little-known way to select a section of a movie is to first position yourself at the start of the selection. Hold down the Shift key, and type Space or Return. The movie starts playing, selecting the played portion as it goes. When you release the Shift key, it stops playing and the played portion is selected.
Wild, wacky stuff! -Mike
Mike O'Connor -- email@example.com
Talk about frustration. I was watching America Online's FlashMail download my mail earlier this week, and I'd received a couple of files that were going to take 20 minutes to download. But, just under the file transfer dialog box, I could see a mailfile from Salient with the tantalizing title "Salient Acquired!!!" Tonya and I spent the next 20 minutes speculating on the who and why of the deal, and we were still surprised when we finally read the letter.
It turns out that Salient wanted to expand their services overseas (hurrah!) and didn't have the capital or the organization to do that. I also wouldn't be surprised if they were vaguely looking at other platforms for their patented compression technology, but that's just a supposition. In any case, and this seems to have happened fairly quickly, Fifth Generation Systems expressed an interest in purchasing Salient, and last weekend, the deal was done. Neither company has commented on the price, but I suspect that Salient was worth a good deal.
Salient will probably retain its name, and will stay at its offices in California rather than move to Louisiana. Primarily though, they will have the financial backing of Fifth Generation, which will allow them to expand beyond what they can do now. Interestingly, Fifth Generation doesn't have a high profile in the Macintosh market despite publishing Suitcase, SuperLaserSpool, FastBack+, and various other utilities. Adding the popular AutoDoubler and DiskDoubler to their line will help enhance Fifth Generation's image in the eyes of Mac users, something which won't hurt now that Fifth Generation is gearing up to compete directly with Symantec's Norton Utilities and Central Point's MacTools with the new Public Utilities package that we mentioned briefly in TidBITS-123.
Terry Morse, Salient -- firstname.lastname@example.org
The time has come. You've probably noticed that I usually write out addresses in the so-called Internet format. For example, when I give a CompuServe address, I replace the usual comma with a period and append "@compuserve.com" to the end. Look above at Terry Morse's CompuServe address for an example.
I settled on that method some time ago for a good reason. TidBITS is very popular on the commercial services, but they are nowhere near as large as the worldwide Internet. Our Internet mailing list holds around 2500 people, and an estimated 42,000 people read the Usenet group comp.sys.mac.digest, where all the issues are distributed as well. Thus, it makes sense to bias the address styles to the majority of readers. In addition, I figured that CompuServe readers would realize how to reverse-engineer the address format.
The networks are all becoming more interconnected, a move that I highly applaud. The latest addition to the Internet gateways came from America Online, which announced its gateway several weeks ago. GEnie has long promised to add an Internet gateway, and I even heard rumors about the paranoid censors at Prodigy thinking about adding some sort of connection to the rest of the world. If only they'd link to reality in the process.
In this series of articles I'm going to take you to many of the services that carry TidBITS and talk about how these services connect to each other. These articles are not meant to be the ultimate in gateway information because this information changes frequently, and quite frankly, I'm sure that there's a ton of stuff I haven't seen yet. I also believe strongly in experimentation, so I haven't provided moron-proof instructions here. Consider it an exercise in network navigation. One thing I should note right off. AppleLink and CompuServe both charge for mail sent to and from the Internet, something worth checking into before using those gateways heavily. I'll say more about the charges in later articles.
Internet mailing list -- As I said above, the best places to find TidBITS on the Internet are via our mailing list and the Usenet newsgroup comp.sys.mac.digest. To subscribe to our mailing list, send email to:
with this line in the body of the mailfile:
SUBSCRIBE TIDBITS your full name
You will be automatically added to the group if the LISTSERV can return mail to you. Keep the acknowledgment letter you receive confirming subscription because it tells you how to leave the list if you're going away for the summer. All you have to do is send the command SIGNOFF TIDBITS to the same LISTSERV address. Signing off and then subscribing again is a good way to switch addresses if you start using another machine.
Usenet -- I can't tell you specifically how to find the Usenet group comp.sys.mac.digest because every machine is set up differently and there's no telling if yours even carries the Usenet groups. If you want to check, try typing "rn comp.sys.mac.digest" at the command line (most of these sort of machines have command lines). For help, type the letter h,, or, before you get into the program, type "man rn" for more general help. The best resource is a friend who knows - please don't ask me for any more help with your specific setup since I won't be able to help.
FTP Sites -- TidBITS is stored on many FTP (File Transfer Protocol) sites around the world. I've compiled a short list from searching with Archie, which I'll talk more about in a minute. In each case, you can reach the site in question by typing "FTP <hostname>", where <hostname> is the name of the machine or its associated IP (Internet Protocol) number. Many people use "FTP sumex-aim.stanford.edu" but you should pick the site closest to you to cut down on network traffic. Check in the online help or with your local gurus for instructions on how to further use FTP.
Host akiu.gw.tohoku.ac.jp (126.96.36.199) [Good for Japan]
Host wuarchive.wustl.edu (188.8.131.52) [A big site]
Host uhunix2.uhcc.hawaii.edu (184.108.40.206)
Host sumex-aim.stanford.edu (220.127.116.11) [The main site]
Host sics.se (18.104.22.168) [Good for people in Europe]
Host plaza.aarnet.edu.au (22.214.171.124) [Good from Australia]
Mailservers -- Those of you on the other side of the gateways were just frustrated by the above paragraphs because you can't read Usenet and you can't FTP files. However, there are some sites that will deliver files to you via email as well. This is not foolproof because almost every gateway has a limit on file size. CompuServe's limit is about 50K; MCI Mail goes up to about 70K; AppleLink is a strict 30K, which includes the headers; and America Online will truncate incoming files (destroying them if they are programs) at 27K. Incidentally, you can only request programs that have been encoded in the Binhex 4.0 format (look for a .hqx filename extension) because it changes binary files to text files. StuffIt Deluxe Lite and Compact Pro both include deBinhexing functions. Despite these quirks, mailservers (of which our fileserver is one) can be very useful. If you send email to <email@example.com> with the single word "locations" (no quotes) in the Subject: line, you'll receive a file listing known locations of TidBITS, which will also tell you about a few mailservers. For simplicity's sake, I will only mention the one run at Rice University at the moment. To find out what files are available and to request a file, send email to:
with lines like this in the body of the mailfile.
$MAC GET tidbits-130.etx
Do be aware of the file size limits on the gateways because it's simply rude to overwhelm them and these services will only exist as long as they aren't abused. In addition, sites like the LISTSERV at Rice often have internal limits of how much you can request per day. Rice sets that limit at 256K of files, although it will still deliver a single file per day if it is over that size.
Network Guide -- I strongly recommend that everyone interested in gateways request a very specific file from a different LISTSERV. This is the best list of all the available gateways and how to address mail from one to another. Anyone who uses the Internet heavily should read this file. At about 23K, it should fit through all gateways. To get the Network Guide, send email to:
with this line in the body of the mailfile
GET NETWORK GUIDE
Archie -- Archie is a truly cool program that makes searching the world's FTP sites for a specific file far easier than doing so by hand. Archie has a database of a large number of FTP sites and can search that database on a keyword, returning the name of the file and its location. Those of you on the Internet can telnet to an Archie machine and search interactively, and those not directly on the Internet can send email searches to Archie machines and receive the results back via email. I'll warn you though, doing an Archie search on "tidbits" will create a file larger than most gateways can handle because it finds every instance of the word at every machine in the database. I'm only going to give one Archie machine address here because of space reasons, but there are at least nine all told. The entire list is in the Special Internet Services list, which I'll talk about in a bit.
If you're on the Internet, you can "telnet archie.rutgers.edu" and login in as "archie", at which point you'll get basic directions and pointers to other Archie machines. A simple search would entail typing "prog <keyword>" and remember, you want to be quite explicit or you'll find too much. To get more information about using Archie via email send email to <firstname.lastname@example.org> with the single word "help" (no quotes) in the Subject: line.
Special Internet Services -- Scott Yanoff took up the task of compiling a list of neat Internet services some time ago, and it has grown into a 14K file offering brief connection information on services ranging from the useful to the esoteric. Some of them include machines on which you can play real-time chess and Go with other people and machines containing information on the weather, flying conditions, geographical statistics, recipes, and NASA. You can find the list posted regularly on the Usenet group alt.bbs.internet (and probably others, but that's the one I read) and you can get on Scott's mailing list by sending a polite request to:
Well, I think that's enough for now. The information I've provided here could keep anyone on the Internet busy for the rest of their lives since so much of this stuff points to other things. Those of you who work with the Internet only through mail gateways will find plenty of interesting stuff too.
The latest solid rumor, oxymoronically enough, concerns the next round of PowerBooks to emerge from Cupertino. From the sounds of it, Apple will be upping the ante in the middle of the line with a PowerBook 145 that will essentially be a 170 without the active matrix screen or the FPU. The main change from the 140 is a 25 MHz 68030, although we would prefer it with the floating point unit (FPU) to bring it to full IIci/170 speed.
Apple will also drop the price to below what 140 currently goes for - rumor has it as much as 30% less. As with all of Apple's price drops, this may not affect the street price. However it also may mean that you'll be able to pick up a 140 at a fire sale price this fall when the 145 ships, and we have no reason to believe that it will be delayed since there's little new functionality promised.
Small, modular programs are among us. Not many, but a few, and it's a trend I hope to see more of in the future. Why pay for and store the program code needed to do something you don't want or need. This is one of the main design philosophies behind Nisus Software's new low-end word processor, Nisus Compact, which costs about $95 discounted. Nisus Compact has three main draws. First, it includes a number of useful features for PowerBook users. Second, it introduces a neat categorizing utility called File Clerk that actually may succeed where the Hierarchical Filing System fails, and third, Nisus Compact is a good example of a program that sacrifices frills, not power, in the quest for a small, fast, word processor. I'd also like to congratulate Nisus Software for naming Nisus Compact using real English words and avoiding the ad-speak "Lite" or "Kompact."
What's gone -- I'm not just beating a dead pet peeve above. "Compact" really does describe Nisus Compact, because it looks at first glance like nothing so much as Nisus with about half of the menu choices missing. Gone are the colors and the more esoteric styles like boxed text. Gone are the macros, entirely, as are the indexing and table of contents tools. Cross referencing, glossaries, graphics, placed pages... Nisus Software removed it all. Considering what I do, which is write a lot of straight text without pretensions of desktop publishing, I only miss a few things in Nisus Compact. High among those are macros, the Get Info... feature (which I use constantly to check how much space I've got when creating a TidBITS issue), and the more sophisticated items in Nisus's Preferences like Auto Indent and the ability to tell it not to open an Untitled document at startup. Luckily, Nisus's Intelligent Paste, which puts spaces in around pasted words correctly 98% of the time (unlike any other Macintosh program that I use), has been built into Nisus Compact as the default.
What's still there -- But why am I talking about what's not in Nisus Compact? I've already cheated significantly in this review, but with good reason. Above I told you what Nisus Software took out of Nisus to create Nisus Compact; in this section I'll tell you the major items that are still present; and in the next section I'll talk more about what is new to Nisus Compact. As a result, you may wish to find issues #116 through #118 of TidBITS, which is our definitive review of Nisus, perhaps the most complete one ever done (Nisus has a lot of features worth writing about). After you're more familiar with Nisus's standard features, you'll understand better what's cool about Nisus Compact.
Nisus Software left a shell of Nisus's GREP-based pattern-matching searching abilities. By that I mean that you are limited to about what you can do in Microsoft Word 5.0. Well, it's not that bad, since you can find the GREP patterns matching Any Character, Any Word, Any Text, Any Digit, and you have the OR function and, most importantly, the Found replacement value (so you can search for any set of three characters, a dash, and four numbers, and replace each set with precisely what you found, but in bold, for instance). Unfortunately, some of the more powerful parts of Nisus's PowerSearch aren't present. I see no reason why they took out PowerSearch as it stood in Nisus - if you're going to include pattern matching at all, why cripple it?
You can define character styles and attach Named Rulers to them, giving you all the power of Nisus's styles, and all of the fancier keyboard shortcut tricks like command-up arrow work just fine. You can have as many Undo's as you could possibly want, limited only by memory and the number 32767, and you can even place and move graphics in the graphics layer, rather than as characters, if you hold down the Control key when selecting them. Everything in the file format (which is identical to Nisus's) is supposed to transfer back and forth without problems. In my tests, that was true, so even though Nisus Compact can't create colored text or certain special styles, it can display them and retain them in files. Even goodies like the Nisus Catalog are present, although Nisus Compact doesn't manage files as well as Nisus can.
What's new -- Nisus Compact has two main features that do not exist in Nisus - the PowerBook utilities and the File Clerk. Nisus Compact can store itself in memory via a checkbox in the Preferences, a feature which presumably limits disk accesses on the PowerBook, extending battery life. There's an option for thicker cursors, and I gather that you also get a battery monitor in the Info bar at the top of the screen. Nisus Compact adds the current time to that Info bar too, so you don't even have to run SuperClock or Now's AlarmsClock. Finally, I hear that you get a Sleep item in the File menu when on a PowerBook.
The File Clerk is completely new, and a bit harder to explain. It has two parts, the File Clerk Catalog (a list of files you've categorized) and the Categorize dialog, which lets you categorize files. If the File Clerk Catalog is open when you close a file, it will pop up the Categorize dialog, which has four columns of categories. You can also select a file in the normal Catalog (a list of files in the current folder) and click the Categorize button to pull up that dialog. Anyway, Nisus Software has defined the four columns as File Type, File Contents, Action, and Proper Names, and they've also provided a decent-sized list of suggestions, so File Type includes things like Letter, Notes, and Report, and Action includes things like To Send, Urgent, To Finish, Finished, and so on.
You can add your own items to these four categories, and you can change the column names as well, if they aren't appropriate. I think most people will find them more or less on target. To categorize a file, you simply click on one or more items in one or more of the columns. Click to select, click again to deselect, no shift keys or anything else to fool with. For instance, if I was going to categorize a letter to my mother about visiting her, I would select Letter from the File Type column, Personal and Travel from the File Contents column, To Send from the Action column, and my mother's name from the Proper Names column. I'm quite impressed with the File Clerk because I've found it a quick and unobtrusive method of categorizing files without having to type in categories each time or select items from pop-up menus. From what I've heard, it blows Word's Summary feature out of the water.
What good will categorizing do? Well, if you've got a ton of documents like I do, you probably have a decent method of organizing them. Even still, it can be hard to pick the right one at any given time. The File Clerk Catalog provides a list of all the files that have been categorized, and since that list is likely to be pretty long, you just click the Show Categories button, then click on the appropriate categories, and the File Clerk will narrow the selection for you. What I especially like is that as you narrow the selection, it removes unnecessary categories from the list, so the available category choices shrink as you go. When you finish the selection, you go back to the File Clerk Catalog window and only the matching files are listed. Double-click, and there's your file. There's also a pop-up menu for limiting the files to ones created within certain dates, and if the several choices aren't appropriate, you can type in your own specific date ranges. Overall, I think the File Clerk is an excellent way to avoid the tyranny of the Hierarchical Filing System, and I anxiously await its arrival in the full-fledged version of Nisus.
One other new feature - despite the fact that the Find feature isn't as powerful as Nisus's, Nisus Software did add fuzzy find, so you can find words (more likely names) that you can't necessarily spell. For instance, "nekecerie" matched "necessary," despite being abysmally spelled. I don't know how often I'd use this, but it's neat nonetheless.
What should be there -- What I'd like to see more than anything else in Nisus Compact is the ability to transfer macros to it from Nisus. If Nisus Software really expects us to use Nisus Compact on our ubiquitous PowerBooks and the full-fledged version on our more powerful desktop Macs, then this single feature would allow us to keep a basic set of personal functions on both machines. Many of the features that Nisus Software has removed from Nisus aren't really necessary for working with text on a daily basis. If you use Nisus and have a bunch of macros built up, your macros are an integral part of your writing environment. I don't need a glossary or indexing, but I do need my personal macros that do Smart Quotes correctly, unlike all known Smart Quote features, and re-wrap return-delimited lines from online services. People could also create libraries of macros for the public, so if you wanted one little feature, you could just download that macro. Commands that weren't appropriate to Nisus Compact would have to be filtered out, of course, but I still think it would be a spiffy addition.
What should be fixed -- I heard that Nisus Software's main programming team took only three weeks to convert the core of Nisus into Nisus Compact. That's impressive, and they did an excellent job on the whole. Nonetheless, there are still some problems. Nisus Compact is as much of a CPU hog in the foreground as Nisus is, and some communications programs will work very slowly in the background. However, MicroPhone II 4.0's ZMODEM implementation never so much as hesitates, even with Nisus running full tilt in the foreground. Nisus Compact claims it prefers 900K of RAM, which is odd for a program designed for the anemic memory systems of many PowerBooks. Nisus Software said that you can set the memory size down to 500K, but that will limit your number of Undo's and the size of the file you can have open. 700K is probably a fine compromise. The programming haste also shows in a few places cosmetically. For instance, if you try to use a module that's not loaded, the resulting SFDialog that lets you find it has some icons at the bottom that are cut off a third of the way down. These are nits, and Nisus Software has probably fixed them already since I have a very early version.
Modularity -- As it ships, Nisus Compact has no dictionary, no mail merge, and no ability to customize the keyboard shortcuts. You do get a balloon help module, but you have to purchase the dictionary and the mail merge/menu keys module separately from Nisus Software for $29.95 for one or $39.95 for two, and other cool modules are in the works. If you own Nisus already, Nisus Compact can use the same dictionaries, and you may not want the mail merge or menu keys module. I think Nisus Software chose wisely which modules to break out so Nisus users don't pay for something they already have and no one has to mess with mail merge or menu keys if they don't wish to spend the money. Interestingly, unlike Word 5.0, you can load modules after startup if you wish. Nisus Compact will simply ask you to locate them, although it doesn't store the locations for future use, which would be nice.
In the end... -- I think Nisus Software is on the right track with a small, fast word processor that doesn't bristle with desktop publishing features. They are specifically aiming Nisus Compact at the PowerBook user, and there's no reason to assume that a PowerBook user will want less power, just fewer speed- and space-consuming frills. On the whole, Nisus Compact succeeds admirably - it is small, fast (even usable on a Classic), and capable of almost anything you could want to do on the road as far as document creation and manipulation goes.
Aside from smoothing the rough edges, I think Nisus Software could go further in providing a powerful, yet quiet (free of bells and whistles) word processor. A Macro Player module would be great, of course, and I'd like to see the full PowerSearch (but not PowerSearch+ - no one carries a GREP manual on the road) implemented as well. By leaving out these important text-manipulation features, Nisus Software unfortunately reduced the power in the name of compacting the program. There's a difference between power and frippery - Nisus Compact has little or no frippery, and with just a touch more power in the areas I've mentioned, it would be an absolute killer of a word processor for home or the road, especially for those of us used to the full power of Nisus.
107 S. Cedros Avenue
Solana Beach CA 92075
Non-profit, non-commercial publications and Web sites may reprint or link to articles if full credit is given. Others please contact us. We do not guarantee accuracy of articles. Caveat lector. Publication, product, and company names may be registered trademarks of their companies. TidBITS ISSN 1090-7017.
Previous Issue | Search TidBITS | TidBITS Home Page | Next Issue