Tune in this week for a review of the popular email client program Claris Emailer 2.0, plus Adam's thoughts on the benefits of smaller Mac fairs in comparison to large trade shows. Also, we note the need for ongoing vigilance against Macintosh viruses, welcome a Portuguese TidBITS translation, give pointers to an Apple Internet Solutions guide, and offer news on NetObjects Fusion and upgrading some Global Village modem cards.
This issue of TidBITS sponsored in part by:
Aladdin Systems -- 408/761-6200 -- <http://www.aladdinsys.com/>
Makers of StuffIt Deluxe 4.0, the Mac compression standard, and
InstallerMaker 3.1.3, the leading installer for Mac developers.
Small Dog Electronics -- Special deal for TidBITS Readers!
NEW Message Pad 2000 with keyboard, spreadsheet and case: $1049
More Info: <http://www.smalldoggy.com/#tid> -- 802/496-7171
Virus Complacency -- Though there are few Macintosh viruses (especially in comparison to the PC world), in the last few weeks I've received several reports of virus-infected CD-ROMs or files (the most recent one an upload caught by alert Info-Mac archivist Michael Bean). Although all the viruses were old and easily handled by John Norstad's free Disinfectant 3.6, I believe many Macintosh users have been lulled into complacency by the minimal virus problems of late. In addition, many people have become Mac users in the last few years, and thus missed the era when most Macintosh viruses appeared. Most existing Macintosh viruses aren't particularly dangerous, but it's always worth running an anti-virus program. For more information on the different viruses, read Disinfectant's excellent online manual by selecting Disinfectant Help from the Apple menu. If you feel like spending money (we at TidBITS recommend and use Disinfectant), check out commercial virus protection software like Symantec AntiVirus for Macintosh and Datawatch's Virex for Macintosh. [ACE]
TidBITS in Portuguese! We're especially pleased to welcome our latest translation of TidBITS, this time into Portuguese. If you or someone you know would prefer to read TidBITS in Portuguese, check out the Web page below. Special thanks are due to Henrique Penha <email@example.com>, who put together a team of six translators and is coordinating the effort. More volunteers would be extremely welcome, so if you're interested in helping, send Henrique email.
As always, let me know at <firstname.lastname@example.org> if you want to help with any TidBITS translation. We've had some interest in Italian and Russian translations but have lacked either a strong coordinator to get things rolling or enough translators to make the amount of work manageable. [ACE]
New Fusion Version -- NetObjects Fusion 1.0, software for creating Web sites, shipped in late 1996 and blazed new ground with its site-centric emphasis, including easily changed site styles for text, graphics, and navigation bars. Like the soon-to-be-released Adobe SiteMill 2.0 (look for more information next week), Fusion makes it easy to modify a site's structure, and like the recently-released CyberStudio 1.0 from GoLive Systems (see TidBITS-376), NetObjects Fusion used tables behind the scenes to enable users to place objects on Web pages freely.
Great ideas take time to refine into practical implementations, and last week NetObjects shipped Fusion 2.0, a new version that - by way of a casual look - has matured significantly. The new version has many new features including a spelling checker, support for Macintosh drag & drop, better support for frames, and the capability to import existing sites as a whole, instead of page-by-page. A 30-day trial version is available (as a 14.5 MB download) from the NetObjects Web site.
Fusion 2.0 is still rather stout: the new version requires a PowerPC-based Macintosh, wants 16 MB application RAM, and a full install takes a startling 90 MB of disk space. The expected retail price for Fusion 2.0 is $495; inside the box is a coupon for a $100 rebate, good through 31-Jul-97. NetObjects -- 415/482-3200 -- 415/562-0288 (fax) -- <email@example.com> [TJE]
Macintosh Internet Solutions Resource -- Starfish Technologies, an Australian consulting firm specializing in Mac OS, Unix, and internetworking, has prepared a useful overview to Macintosh Internet solutions. Originally commissioned for use by Apple resellers in Australia, Apple Australia has made the guide available for anyone needing solid information about Macs and the Internet. It's great to see Apple's overseas divisions contributing to the international Macintosh community in this way. Software developers who wish to have their Internet-related products (commercial, shareware, or freeware) included should contact <firstname.lastname@example.org>, and anyone interested in other comprehensive collections of Macintosh Internet resources should check out the Web sites below. [ACE]
by Adam C. Engst <email@example.com>
Recently, Tonya and I have attended and spoken at two relatively small Macintosh fairs, BMUG's one-day MacFest in Berkeley and LAMG's two-day MacFair in Los Angeles. Both have been around for a number of years, and both were obviously extremely popular, given the crowds (BMUG's MacFest hit 7,500 in attendance). Afterwards, we found ourselves comparing them favorably to the full-bore Macworld Expos in San Francisco and Boston.
Macworld Expo Overload -- Macworld Expos are no longer as necessary for learning about new products, in large part because the Internet has improved communications about those new products. It's occasionally useful to see a demo, but I can generally learn more in 15 minutes on my own than by watching a typical hour-long demonstration. The conferences at Macworld Expos can be worthwhile, but, since speakers aren't paid, the quality ranges widely. And, let's face it, Macworld Expos are incredibly draining. You're on your feet in a large city for 16 hours a day for three or four days, and there's just too much stimulation. Everyone's shouting, everyone wants you to see their products, try their products, buy their products, and you can't even walk on the streets without having Expo-related brochures shoved in your hands.
Sure, going to a Macworld Expo is a thrill, but many of us have figured out better and cheaper ways to get our thrills that don't involve injury to the lower extremities. At computer shows I'm more interested in meeting people, catching up with email friends, chatting with people who read TidBITS or my books, and generally getting out a little, something us work-at-home types don't do all that often.
The Small Fair Solution -- For those purposes, smaller regional Macintosh fairs turn out to be just the ticket. The show floors occupy the space of a large hotel ballroom, not the dual halls of San Francisco's Moscone Center, which are roughly the size of Rhode Island (and don't get me started about travelling between the vast halls at the World Trade Center and Bayside in Boston). The regional shows have plenty of people, but not so many that your personal space is constantly compromised. It's easy to walk the floor at these smaller shows and spend time at each booth, or to browse through quickly looking for someone. The booths tend to be relatively spartan, which is refreshing after the expensive, often spurious extravagance of Macworld Expo booths. John O'Fallon, president of Maxum Development, concurred, saying, "Putting everyone in a simple 10' by 10' booth without a lot of glitz is nice. It keeps the cost down and lets everyone focus on products instead of stage shows."
Better yet, the booths are often staffed by people who know something, another pleasant change from the well-groomed, yet frequently clueless marketing denizens of Macworld Expos. That's in part due to the preponderance of smaller companies at the smaller fairs, but both shows had representatives from larger companies as well, including Apple. Sheer numbers of vendors don't compare to Macworld Expos, but even still, MacFest sported 43 vendors this year, and hopes to hit 50 next year. My impression was that LAMG's MacFair had even more vendors on its somewhat larger show floor.
The vendors I spoke with afterwards, including folks from Maxum Development, APS Technologies, Sonic Systems, and Dantz Development, seemed happy with the response they'd gotten, although the user group audience wasn't always a perfect mesh. As John O'Fallon noted, "User group members don't buy Internet servers as often as business customers, not surprisingly. We'll be watching for similar small shows with emphasis on business or the Internet. There are several of these we have done already (Mactivity, StrictlyBusiness) with varying degrees of success."
Another nice aspect of the small user group fairs that we attended was that they were inexpensive, not just for vendors, but also for attendees. Conferences can easily cost $200 to $800 these days, and that's before travel and hotel costs. BMUG's MacFest was free to the public, although they requested a $5 donation. LAMG's MacFair wasn't free, but it was inexpensive in comparison with Macworld Expos, which cost may only $25 for access to the floor but $170 for access to the conferences, keynotes and sessions (all of which were included at MacFair). Despite being inexpensive, both BMUG and LAMG were extremely pleased with the financial boost the fairs provided.
Some Thoughts -- I mentioned this topic while chatting at my favorite local Macintosh dealer, Westwind Computing, and the president immediately expressed interest in having a fair here in Seattle. Needless to say, he wasn't up for organizing it on his own, but volunteered on the spot to help line up vendors. With some coordination from dBUG, the local Macintosh users group, and the local Apple office, a small local Mac fair in Seattle isn't inconceivable. And, if BMUG and LAMG can put on these kind of fairs, and merely mentioning the possibility in Seattle can produce such a reaction, I can only assume that other parts of the country and the world could do the same. Each show would carry the flavor of the group that organized it, so some might focus more on desktop and high-end publishing, whereas others might be more Internet-related.
These fairs need not be difficult to put on. Colleen Miller of BMUG noted that organizing MacFest didn't require a massive staff. "I put the entire thing on myself with the help of Sean O'Connor and, on the day of the event, numerous volunteers. Just about everything went smoothly. The key to running such an event is starting early and making sure you're incredibly organized. Also, press, marketing, and a combination of big name companies and new, cutting edge companies are key to making sure you get attendance."
I don't want to imply that the huge Macworld Expos don't have their place. Bringing together tens of thousands of Macintosh users and hundreds of vendors is useful. The big shows help vendors meet distributors outside the U.S., network with other developers, and get in front of the press (although I think the traditional press would appreciate the smaller fairs if complaints from fellow journalists are any indication). However, a short, sweet, small Mac fair can be a breath of fresh air. As Colleen Miller said, "Accessibility, cost, and a general feeling of camaraderie make the smaller events much better."
by Glenn Fleishman <firstname.lastname@example.org>
I recently spent some time wrestling with software upgrades, and discovered some hidden morsels in a couple of Global Village downloads. Although some of these enhancements have been available for a while, I chose to wait and bulk-update my PowerBook in one session. If you use a PowerPort Platinum or Platinum Pro PC card, Global Village has a firmware update that upgrades the 28.8 Kbps modem to 33.6 Kbps. Additionally, they've released a beta version of the PowerPort PC Card control panel that temporarily fixes a "port busy" error when using Open Transport/PPP (see TidBITS-354). The following assumes you're using Open Transport 1.1 (1.1.2 is the latest version) and System 7.5.5 or later.
PC Card Updater -- The PowerPort PC Card update is a 1.2 MB download containing an application that updates the PC Card's firmware. Firmware is software that lives in some kind of persistent memory; unlike RAM, turning off electricity doesn't erase the contents, but (unlike ROM) applying certain charges or triggering a pin on the chip allows new code to be installed. The new Global Village firmware adds the protocols and routines necessary to support 33.6 Kbps modem speeds - that is, if you have a phone line and provider that can support it. (Now that I'm updated, I get 31.2 Kbps consistently, which is almost 10 percent faster than 28.8 Kbps).
If you use OT/PPP (which I highly recommend), the 33.6 Kbps update also comes with a modem script that you must use. Copy the script "GV 28.8/33.6 for ARA 2.1/OT-PPP" to the Modem Scripts folder in your Extensions folder, and then use the Modem control panel to select the new script. Otherwise, OT/PPP will not recognize the new speed and won't initiate PPP correctly.
PC Card OT/PPP Beta -- The beta PowerPort PC Card control panel fixes the "port busy" problem that's been reported frequently by folks using the PowerPort PC Card with OT/PPP. Essentially, the problem causes the Mac OS to think another application is using the serial port, which prevents you from using your modem. I've had this problem for months off and on, and the only solution I found was to turn off RAM Doubler 2 (or vary the amount of extra RAM it was adding) and reboot. Although the port problem has nothing to do with Connectix's software, this worked fairly consistently for me. The new PowerPort PC Card control panel has alleviated this problem for me entirely.
Snooze & Lose -- Even though I've given Global Village my email address with multiple product registrations, I never received email notification of either piece of software, both of which are available free of charge. This seems like a missed opportunity for Global Village; I was ecstatic to get a free update that gave me 33.6 Kbps capability, and being able to access my serial port consistently without rebooting is a godsend. In the future, I hope Global Village will take advantage of its customer email lists to notify us of tremendous time savers like these two downloads. I'm pulling out less hair already.
by Jeff Carlson <email@example.com>
I'm surprised at how much I rely on electronic mail. What used to be just another method of communicating has become my main link to the outside world, my to-do list, and a searchable database of projects. On top of that, email enables me to communicate regularly (and inexpensively) with my mother in Sacramento, California, my father in Redmond, Washington, and a collection of friends around the world.
This reliance on electronic communication calls for heavy-duty email software. After using Claris Emailer 1.1v3 for a year and living with some of its limitations, I was eager to try Emailer 2.0. What I've discovered since is a full-featured program with few shortcomings.
A Brief Overview -- The great benefit of using Emailer when it first came out was its capability to handle multiple email accounts. Although one America Online account may be fine for a beginning user, more people now access and manage email from multiple sources. Emailer allows you to send and receive standard Internet mail using POP and SMTP, plus email via CompuServe, AOL, the now-defunct Claris OfficeMail, and RadioMail.
Emailer not only lets you connect to any combination of the above at once (including multiple addresses on any service) but also lets you schedule unattended mail checks. Impatient types can set Emailer to check for mail every two minutes, while calmer users can schedule bulk sends and receives in the middle of the night, or even at designated times on certain days.
Emailer offers a range of encoding and compression options for sending attachments to other computers using different operating systems. Email messages can be composed offline for later transmission, or saved as drafts until you're ready to send them. Emailer also supports Internet Config, which stores your main Internet settings in one location accessible by a number of applications (like Anarchie and Microsoft Internet Explorer).
My Hard Drive is Back! One of the biggest shortcomings of Emailer 1.x is the way it stores messages. It saves each message as an individual file, which can inadvertently consume a huge chunk of disk space. The Mac file system divides a hard disk into 64,000-odd pieces, each of which can be occupied by only one file, or one part of a larger file. On a sizable hard disk (say, 2 GB), that means the minimum amount of space allocated for any file is 32K - even if that file contains only one character! If you have hundreds (or thousands) of small files, that lost space adds up quickly. And if you store hundreds of messages in Emailer 1.x, you might start to believe that a 2 GB hard disk isn't very large.
Emailer 2.0 saves all mail in a main Mail Database file, with a Mail Index file that tracks it. After upgrading to 2.0, a friend of mine reported that he reclaimed about 85 MB from the reduced file overhead alone!
Storing messages in a centralized database also improves performance, since Emailer must open and close far fewer files. Emailer 2.0 can perform multiple simultaneous searches for words, and although the search speed isn't as fast as I would like, I no longer have to go make coffee while conducting search.
If you switch from 1.x to 2.0, I cannot stress too highly the importance of making a backup of your mail files and reading the instructions that come with the program. If you don't follow them to the letter, you may lose data.
For me, the only problem the switch has caused involves synchronizing my mail between the PowerBook and my desktop machine. Where before I had to copy only the added or changed email files, usually no more than 20K each, now I must copy one 25 MB mail database each time. Since I regularly synchronize the two machines, I bought a relatively inexpensive 4-port network hub to create a two-machine Ethernet network at home.
Adjusting to the New Look -- Because I had grown comfortable with the interface in Emailer 1.x, the split-window approach of version 2.0 required some adjustment on my part. Along its left side, the main Browser window displays folders such as In Box and Out Box, plus user-created folders; the contents of the selected folder show on the right. On smaller screens this can feel cramped, requiring experimentation with resizing the message columns - Subject, From/To, Date, Priority - and the vertical bar separating the two main sections. If you prefer to not have email folders and messages parceled within the Browser, you can also open folders as their own windows.
Emailer also has a floating Toolbar window containing buttons for common commands and a floating Connection Status window. For users who don't want to interpret icons, positioning the cursor over a button displays a label that names the button. I'm more oriented toward keyboard shortcuts, so I chose to reclaim precious screen real estate by hiding the Toolbar.
Emailer's new interface has dozens of smaller adjustments that demonstrate the engineers at Claris thought about how people use the product. For example, managing multiple accounts is now easier. Under Emailer 1.x, if I wanted to send a message to a number of people from <firstname.lastname@example.org> instead of <email@example.com>, I had to specify my From address manually for each recipient. In version 2.0, a single pop-up menu allows me to choose from which account all the recipients will receive the mail.
Filing a Mass of Email -- A welcome addition to Emailer 2.0 is its increased flexibility when working with mail folders. You can now create sub-folders within folders, and rename them from the Folder menu. I currently have 56 mail folders, so being able to nest my Article Ideas folder under a main TidBITS folder helps me stay organized and reduces visual clutter.
Each email message includes a pop-up File icon, allowing you to file it in a mail folder quickly. A similar button appears on the Toolbar. You can also drag & drop a message to its intended folder, or (my favorite) press Command-Option-F to bring up a dialog listing folders, select the one you want, and press Return. One nice touch is if you file a message while it's still open, the message window stays onscreen until you close it.
Prioritizing Actions -- The most difficult thing about email is organizing and categorizing what lands in the In Box. Emailer's Priorities and Actions features allows me to at least pretend that I have some control over the bulk of mail that arrives every day.
Mail Actions act as filters for incoming mail, and are, in my opinion, invaluable. Emailer 2.0's Actions have been beefed up from the previous version, adding more options for examining your mail and executing commands based on what it finds. For example, I've set up an informal mailing list for eSCENE, an electronic magazine I edit in my spare time. Whenever anyone sends me a message with "yesmail" as the Subject, Emailer files their message in an eSCENE folder I've created, then automatically sends a confirmation to the sender. I could also choose to automatically add email addresses to my Address Book, forward a message, print a message, add or remove a sender from an Address Group, or run a designated AppleScript. All without a moment's intervention from me.
I use Actions primarily to prioritize incoming mail. Any message can be marked as one of 19 user-defined priorities (Emailer reserves the twentieth for alerts) that can be assigned separate colors. When I receive a piece of email from Adam, Tonya, or Geoff, the message appears in my In Box marked "TidBITS" and colored purple. My other clients have separate colors, and some items (such as press releases) get filed in designated folders for later perusal. By prioritizing the email in my In Box, I can respond to it faster and file the messages in folders.
One notable improvement over version 1.x's automatic filing feature is that Emailer 2.0 tracks unread messages that have been filed. A small envelope appears on folders that contain unread messages, and the folder names appear in bold. From the Mail menu, via the Go to New Mail submenu, you can jump directly to folders with unread mail.
Recently, Fog City Software (the original developer of Emailer) released a set of Mail Actions that attempt to block unsolicited email ("spam") by checking incoming email against a list of domains known for sending large amounts of unsolicited email. Although unsolicited email is a complex topic (see TidBITS-347 for a primer) and I can't vouch for how effective these Mail Actions will be, they might be worth a try if you are tired of receiving email about how to make a billion dollars without even changing out of your pajamas.
The King of Address Books and Other Features -- Without a doubt, Emailer's Address Book rates as one of its coolest features. Not only can you store names and email addresses, but searching is a breeze. When you begin typing in the Filter field, the list dynamically narrows as it finds strings matching what you've typed. In most cases, typing two or three letters narrows the search to the name you want.
Adding names is also a graceful process. Every incoming email message includes a plus (+) button next to the From address; clicking it creates a new entry, with first name, last name, email address, and account filled in. You can also drag & drop an email address onto the Address Book window to create a new entry, or even drop a text file containing a list of email addresses to create a set of new entries at once.
Other improvements include enhanced AppleScript support and integration (including a separate AppleScript menu and sample scripts such as Speak Unread Mail), and a spelling checker that, ironically, flagged "email" and offered no alternative. Also, a fairly comprehensive, context-sensitive online Help system is now standard fare.
Reliable -- There are still a few things that I'd like to see changed: Emailer doesn't support redirected mail like Eudora; pressing Command-D in an open message deletes that message unless you're viewing an Auto File Log, which you must delete from the Browser; and if you add an address to a Group, the address in the Group doesn't update if the original address changes. It would be nice to be able to select multiple messages in the Browser and save them to a single text file. But these are minor details that I've largely been able to route around. As someone who relies heavily on email, I'm impressed and relieved that I can rely on Emailer to handle it.
Emailer 2.0 requires a 68020-based Macintosh or newer, System 7.1 or higher, 9 MB disk space, and 2 to 3 MB RAM. Claris gave Emailer an "estimated street price" of $49, and - in my checking - the street price ranges from $45 to $50. Claris is offering a $10 rebate on upgrades from 1.x, and to owners of various other Apple software. Claris also has a downloadable demo weighing in at about 4.1 MB.
DealBITS -- Through the URL below, Cyberian Outpost is offering TidBITS readers Claris Emailer 2.0 for $42.95, which is $2 off their normal price.
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.