close this bookTidBITS#128   19920615
View the documentMailBITS/15-Jun-92
View the documentMenu Usage
View the documentWord Processing Notes
View the documentFileMaker Pro 2.0
View the documentApple Newtons II
View the documentThe Works Concept
View the documentReviews/15-Jun-92
View the documentFoot Notes

This is an issue of the small and the large. First come short notes about Super Boomerang, pop-up menus, and three of the most popular word processors, Word, Nisus, and WriteNow. Then comes the meat of the issue with a preview article on FileMaker Pro 2.0 for the Mac and Windows, some in-depth analysis of Apple's Newton announcements, and a look at works programs by Matthew Wall that leads into a special issue on ClarisWorks later this week.

Topics:

  • MailBITS/15-Jun-92
  • Menu Usage
  • Word Processing Notes
  • FileMaker Pro 2.0
  • Apple Newtons II
  • The Works Concept
  • Reviews/15-Jun-92

Copyright 1992 TidBITS Electronic Publishing. All rights reserved.
Information: <info@tidbits.com> Comments: <editors@tidbits.com>


MailBITS/15-Jun-92

Early apologies if you see this a little late - we've been married exactly one year now and the champagne might get in the way of uploading this issue everywhere. Time flies when you're having fun.

QuicKeys ElectroOops -- I completely forgot to mention in TidBITS-127 what CE Software included in the QuicKeys upgrade, and I can't expect everyone to remember TidBITS-123, which talked about what would be in the upgrade. My apologies! It's too late for the upgrade now, but still, sorry about that.

Super Boomerang Tip -- Alberto Ricci writes, "Wow - here is an incredibly useful feature that Hiroaki Yamamoto put in Super Boomerang. If you are using any application, and you have the Open or Save standard file dialog in front, and you've got Super Boomerang installed, clicking on a window that belongs to the Finder (one of the windows in the background - just click a part of it if it's partially covered by other windows) will bring you to that level of the hierarchy in the standard file dialog. Click, click, click, and you'll be jumping from one place to another of your mounted volumes."

Information from:
Alberto Ricci -- FRICCI@polito.it

New Apple Campaign -- We've heard from the estimable Pythaeus that Apple has begun a completely new advertising campaign that may address some of the complaints Mac users have had with Apple's advertising. The new campaign will go head-to-head with Windows, much like Sculley's presentation at Macworld SF when he had an assistant try to make a PC-clone into a multimedia machine. Some ads might run a bit like this...

All I really wanted to do was simplify my job. So I bought Windows. I added extra RAM. I replaced my video card and monitor. I installed a mouse. I bought a half-dozen new programs, configured the system, set the DIP switches on the printer, and as I sit here watching my spreadsheet crawl on my PC, I'm thinking to myself "THIS IS MAKING IT EASIER?"


Menu Usage

by Fred Condo -- CONDOF@CGSVAX.CLAREMONT.EDU

In Howard Hansen's EXCELlent review of Excel 4 in TidBITS-127, he makes the following comment about the pop-up menus feature:

When you hold down the command and option keys and click the mouse, Excel brings up a pop-up shortcut menu right next to your mouse pointer. Select a range of cells, command-option click, and Excel allows you to instantly cut, copy, paste, clear, delete, or insert, as well as change number, alignment, font, border, or patterns formatting. This saves the trouble of mousing all the way up to the menu bar, finding the right option and choosing it. (I find our ever-increasing computer laziness quite wonderful!)

Unfortunately, pop-up menus are inherently more difficult and slower to use than are pull-down menus. This is due to Fitts's (1954) Law, which governs hand and arm movements. The application of Fitts's Law is discussed by former Apple interface guru Bruce Tognazzini (1990, May) and by Walker, et al. (in press). Fitts's Law essentially states that more precise manual motions must proceed more slowly than coarse movements.

The reason for this is that you can mouse off the top edge of a pop-up menu, but you cannot mouse off the top of the menu bar. This "impermeability," as Walker, et al. call it, makes the menu bar essentially an infinitely tall target. The user can therefore program a very coarse, quick movement for the mouse hand to access the menu bar.

One heuristic that might improve pop-up menus is to cause the most recently used command to be the one that comes up under the mouse pointer. However, unless Excel 4's menu structure is so complex that it requires a great deal of cogitation to recall the locations of the common commands that pop up, the drawbacks of pop-up menus will very likely overwhelm the benefits. Moreover, by the time a user of Mac Excel 4 remembers to and does press the command and option keys, she or he could likely have moused up to the menu bar and chosen the appropriate command.

Now, it is altogether possible that the pop-up menus in Excel 4 do make it quicker and easier to use, but it is not for the reason Mr. Hansen proposes.

References:

Fitts, P. M. (1954). The information capacity of the human motor system in controlling amplitude of movement. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 47, 381-391.

Tognazzini, B. (1990, May). Pull down menus win hands down. Appledirect, pp. 25-27.

Walker, N., Smelcer, J. B., & Nilsen, E. (in press). Optimizing speed and accuracy of menu selection. International Journal of Man-Machine Studies.


Word Processing Notes

Much has happened recently in the word processing world, so much in fact, that it's starting to become hard to track. For those of you who haven't been watching as closely as we have (we're word processor junkies, and word processing is probably the most common task for which people use computers), here's the news, labeled for your convenience by weasels (apologies to Dave Barry).

New PIMs for Word -- Very good news: Word 5.0's modularity has started to pay off, and Microsoft has made new Grammar and Spelling plug-in modules (PIMs - and you thought PIM stood for personal information manager). The grammar checker had a nasty habit of crashing when running under System 7 on a 68000-based Mac, and the Spelling PIM slowed to an incredible crawl if you added more than a few hundred words to a custom dictionary. Both of those bugs are now fixed, and the Spelling PIM has been generally improved. You can get the new PIMs by calling Microsoft tech support at the number below and being nice. Or, if you wait a few weeks, Microsoft may make the PIMs available on the online services.

Microsoft Tech Support -- 206/635-7200
Microsoft Customer Service -- 800/426-9400

Information from:
Laurel Lammers, Microsoft Corporation

WordBASIC cancelled -- Bad news: All is not completely happy in Microsoft-land, and Microsoft recently announced that they will not ship the WordBASIC plug-in module for Word 5.0. Period. MacWEEK quoted Microsoft Word product manager Leslie Koch as saying that WordBASIC will have to wait until the introduction of Word 6.0 in mid-1993. This means that all of you who had hoped to automate tasks within Word 5.0 will have to rely on QuicKeys or nothing at all. The Word 6.0 release will reportedly share most of its code with the Windows version of Word, much as Excel on the Mac and Windows share 80% of the core code. This means that the Mac version will be completely rewritten, which will hopefully take care of some of the lingering problems with figure, footnote, and table numbering discussed on the nets recently.

Information from:
Michael A. McGuire -- mcguire@utkvx.utk.edu

Related articles:
MacWEEK -- 08-Jun-92, Vol. 6, #22, pg. 4

WriteNow 3.0 ships -- Good news: T/Maker has shipped version 3.0 of their small, fast word processor, WriteNow. We haven't had much time to seriously evaluate it yet, but a review is on its way. In short, WriteNow 3.0 is small (287K program size, and although it prefers 490K of RAM, it can use as little as 325K), fast, and has a really snazzy implementation of styles, including both character and paragraph styles, a domain previously inhabited only by Nisus among Macintosh word processors.

T/Maker -- 415/962-0195

Paragon Concepts changes name -- Marketing news: As far as we can tell, this has nothing to do with their products, but Paragon Concepts, makers of Nisus, Nisus Compact, QUED/M, and several other products, recently changed its name to match its flagship product, much as SSI renamed itself to WordPerfect Corporation some years ago. From now on, Paragon will be known as Nisus Software. Making a clean sweep, the company has moved to 107 S. Cedros Avenue, Solana Beach, CA 92075.

Nisus Software -- 619/481-1477

Nisus XS slips -- Bad news: Jim Bates of Nisus Software Tech Support reported on CompuServe that Nisus XS, the module to provide System 7-savvy features to Nisus, has been postponed again. Jim says that Nisus Software anticipates releasing Nisus XS at the end of the year. Orders are no longer being taken for XS, but if Nisus Software is standing behind loyal customers who have already ordered the update. If you ordered Nisus XS before 09-Jun-92, you will receive the update for free when it does ship, and your credit card will not be charged. If you have already paid for Nisus XS or had your credit card charged because the Nisus XS purchase was combined with another product, your money will be refunded and you will receive XS for free when it ships.

I must say that I am extremely disappointed to hear that the release date has slipped again, but I hope that Nisus Software uses the extra time to come up with a truly amazing product. As powerful as it is, Nisus has perhaps even more potential than power, and for those of you who still wonder how it compares to Word, keep an eye out for a short comparison from Matt Neuburg, author of our definitive Nisus review in TidBITS-116-#118.

Information from:
Jim Bates, Nisus Software -- 75300.1243@compuserve.come


FileMaker Pro 2.0

Claris has given notice that it intends to pull no punches in the Windows market. At PC Expo in a few weeks, Claris will show a pre-release version of FileMaker Pro 2.0 for Windows, along with its almost identical twin for the Mac. The marketing elves have been working long and hard on this release, and the press materials are extensive and useful, hopefully foreshadowing the program itself. Claris's emphasis on the Windows version of FileMaker Pro 2.0 is especially interesting given Apple's forthcoming ad campaign against Windows - perhaps this shows that Claris is not completely under Apple's control.

But enough of the marketing nonsense - you want to read about the programs. Perhaps the most interesting thing is that the two versions of FileMaker Pro are almost identical, sharing 85% of the core code,. If you've used FileMaker Pro on a Mac, you'll be able to use it under Windows, and you'll even be able to transfer files directly, without any sort of conversion. From the promotional pictures that Claris distributed, the two versions can create databases which even look almost identical save for the Windows-specific interface elements like the ugly underlining of the Alt key character and the short filename in the title bar. One of FileMaker Pro 2.0's main selling points on the Windows side is the interface since Claris is known for producing well thought-out interfaces that bring the power of the programs to the surface.

Other useful features that may not be common in Windows databases include ScriptMaker, which allows you to create scripts by selecting items from menus and clicking on buttons, extensive graphic tools for designing layouts, sophisticated text handling that makes FileMaker Pro into an excellent platform for database publishing, and instant updating of multi-user databases, even over mixed platform networks. There's also automatic record locking and release for ensuring data integrity, and FileMaker Pro 2.0 still has its multi-user file server technology, so you don't have to have a file server to take advantage of the network capabilities.

This isn't to imply that the versions are entirely equal. The Windows version uses Dynamic Link Libraries to support Novell NetWare and PhoneNet Talk networks, and it supports TrueType, Bitstream Facelift, and Adobe Type Manager fonts. Windows-based help is included, and for those of you with extra PC sound hardware, you can even add sound to your databases. QuickTime is still limited to the Mac version, although that will change when Apple ships QuickTime for Windows. The Mac version also supports Apple Events in scripting, so FileMaker Pro 2.0 can talk to other Apple Event-aware programs like HyperCard, Resolve, QuicKeys, and Frontier. Claris included other System 7 features, so much so that Claris claims it is "System 7 omniscient," including support for the Data Access Manager, Balloon Help, and TrueType, along with the Apple Event support mentioned above. Finally, you will be able to reorder layouts, reserialize records, and use wildcards in searches, and for those of you who do database publishing, FileMaker Pro 2.0 has more complete style control for text.

Without having seen a pre-release copy of the program, it certainly sounds like Claris has a winner with the dual-platform FileMaker Pro 2.0. We'll only know in the fall when it ships ($399 list, $89 upgrades for existing owners). Interestingly, the press information also implies that Claris wants to release another Windows product soon, and high on the list is MacDraw Pro, although my sources have said that ClarisWorks might be even more likely.

Claris -- 408/727-8227 -- 800/544-8554

Information from:
Claris propaganda


Apple Newtons II

Last week I talked briefly about what the Newton technology entails, setting myself up for this week's analysis. If you haven't seen last week's issue, I recommend you take a look.

Underneath all of Apple's hurrah over Newton being a Personal Digital Assistant (PDA), I see Apple attempting a paradigm shift. This paradigm shift may not be in the way people use computers but in the way people think about computers. It may not equal being clunked on the head by an errant fruit, but it's still important. And, to quote Foghorn Leghorn, that famous cartoon chicken, "Clunk enough people on the head and we'll have a nation of lunkheads." Hmmm...

Newton fits into Apple's class of Personal Digital Assistants, but most, if not all, of the technologies in Newton make up most, if not all, of what you would need for a full operating system. Apple's marketing folks may not want this to get out, but a Newton device is a computer that can do computer-like tasks given appropriate software. The question is, then, why has Apple sidestepped the terminology?

The term "computer" comes loaded with linguistic baggage linking it with numbers. After all, the first computers were machines that merely did basic math quickly. Computers have changed, and despite the ubiquitous spreadsheet, the vast majority of the time you use a computer you do not directly work with numbers. When you move the mouse, type on the keyboard, or look at a graphical display on the screen, you are not directly manipulating numbers, and in fact, one of the reasons for the Mac's popularity is that it removes even more of the explicit numerology from using the computer. You can drop into EDLIN under DOS and play with hexadecimal, but a Mac in its default mode will try its hardest to avoid spewing indecipherable numbers at you.

Despite this move away from numbers, the Mac is a computer, and no one pretends otherwise. Here's the trick. Apple wants all the people who have avoided a computer in the past to buy a Newton device, because the Newton is not a computer. It's a Personal Digital Assistant, and the fact that it doesn't do everything (which is often expected of computers) is fine - you wouldn't expect a human assistant to do everything for you either, although that person might help out a great deal in keeping track of your addresses, your schedule, and so on.

I've heard that one way to visualize how Apple intends the PDAs to complement today's computers is via a time-based graph. Along the Y-axis is the ability to perform a task well, while the X-axis is a time line for a project from start to finish. Computers, including the Mac, generally start out low at the beginning of a project and become more useful as the task progresses. It's not your imagination - it is hard to get started with brainstorming and conceptualization on a computer. That's where the PDAs come in. They start off high at the beginning of the project, and move down since their capabilities after the initial conceptualization are limited. Presumably, when the lines on the graph cross, it would be a good time to move work from the PDA to a computer, where it will be easier to solve the now-established problems. The power of Newton devices will certainly increase as time goes on, but with the addition of Newton technology in our Macs, the utility of computers at the beginning of projects will also increase.

Of course, this graph applies primarily to the so-called "early adopters" who will buy something at almost any price because they know they need it, and that set of people largely overlaps with the set of current Mac owners. Hence the additional emphasis on wireless communications and all that, which is in reality just magic that many people won't care about, assuming, again, that the primary audience will be non-computer users who will get started on Newton and then may even decide to try a computer.

Looking at that set of non-computer users, Apple's bean counters started drooling. There are millions of personal computers in use right now, but there are many times more people who have never touched one, and probably will avoid it as long as possible. I'm sure you all know people who have less than no interest in and may even be hostile toward computers. And then there are people who might like computers and may even be using them, but for whom the generalized power of the average computer just isn't quite right. This is why I've talked a lot about a Newton "device" - Apple intends to create many different types of Newtons for different specific ("vertical" in the jargon) markets. One example is a Newton for architects that would have a large screen that the architect could sketch on while talking to clients, the Newton cleaning up the sketch all along and saving it for further embellishment in a CAD program. Another example involves building Newton technology into student desktops so that the students can all communicate with one another and the teacher, who would have a desktop and a blackboard-sized display on the wall. No more dusty hands and spine-shivering chalk squeaks, but just think of the note-passing abilities! Actually, the realities of the school environment (little money and hard use) would seriously limit the efficacy of such a Newton, but it's still a neat idea.

I think there are several other rationales behind not calling the Newton devices computers. Despite Apple's acknowledged better graphical interface and well-thought out hardware, the majority of computer users (PC-compatible users) see Apple and the Macintosh as small fry, and quite frankly, many of them are so biased that they refuse to even try a Mac because "I'm just not a mouse person and it's not a real machine." There's no way Apple could sell a little pen-based computer to those people - they can't get past their mental blocks about Apple's computers. But a cute little Newton device that talks to their PC as well as it talks to Macs... that's another story.

Also, by positioning themselves outside of traditional computer market, Apple escapes the otherwise-inevitable comparisons with GO, IBM, Microsoft, Compaq, etc., and moves into an arena with Sharp, Casio, and Sony. I don't wish to imply that these companies are easy competition, but just think of Apple's two main advantages. First, although Newton is not a computer, Apple is a more obvious computer company, so despite the contradiction, that fact makes Apple appear stronger in comparison. Second, Sharp has licensed the Newton technology, and Sony and other selected companies will soon follow. These licensing deals, prominently mentioned, put Apple at the top of the heap before they've even introduced a product because it says that this Newton stuff is so cool that only Apple could have created it and everyone else has to license it from Apple. Of course, all this is moot for the time being, and we have to wait until the Newton devices show up in stores before making any final judgements. Nonetheless, I think Apple has done some intelligent positioning that just might pay off big.

Information from:
Pythaeus
Jeremy Norberg -- tlk@u.washington.edu


The Works Concept

by Matthew Wall -- wall@cc.swarthmore.edu

[This is an introduction to Matthew's full review of ClarisWorks, which will be a special issue immediately following this weekly issue. Keep an eye out for it! -Adam]

The works program - a single application combining several functions - has long been a strange and orphaned beast. The idea of a program which seamlessly (and at low-cost) integrates a variety of types of data is an appealing one. If perfectly executed, the works concept would be the perfect implementation of the basic Macintosh philosophy: the computer interface should be an easy-to-use and intuitive tool that builds on consistency to make the work process simpler.

The basic concept is not unique to the Macintosh or even to microcomputers. The lack of easy integration of both data and tools - standards is another word - might be considered the fundamental problem of computing technology since its inception. Differing file formats and types of data have been a consistent bugaboo for end users, as have the frustrations of learning different tools and interfaces for performing the same tasks across different applications. One need only look at the otherwise inexplicable continuing popularity of DEC's All-in-One or any set of Microsoft products as evidence that any solution promising integration is preferable to none in some environments. In fact, one of the most popular programs in history was AppleWorks on the Apple II, which some estimate to have sold over four million copies since 1984.

The works concept is entering its third era on the Macintosh. The first era was completely defined by Microsoft Works, the first, and until recently, the only integrated product. Considering the paucity of Mac products on the market at the time, Microsoft Works came as a great revelation. In the pre-MultiFinder days, people wishing to work on word processing and a spreadsheet at the same time could use Works. Works quickly grabbed a huge market share, to the point where even in 1992 Macworld lists Works as the number four bestselling Mac application (behind Word, Microsoft Office, and Excel) [according to Macworld Jan-92 p. 286. Interestingly enough, Works fell to sixth in May and eleventh in July.]. But in typical fashion, Microsoft sat on its big fat market share and on further Works development for five years. A set of tools once revolutionary now seem childishly simplistic. Only the inherent inertia and resistance to change among the typical computer user has kept Microsoft Works alive at all.

MultiFinder ushered in the second era of works on the Mac. With the maturation of MultiFinder in System 6 and the coinciding drop in memory prices, buying more than one application and running them simultaneously became practical. Users had access to a wider variety of choices for individual "modules" under MultiFinder, and software publishers began to allow formatted exports and imports to file formats of their competitors. (In my opinion, APDA's push of XTND and easy file exchange is the single most important development for Mac applications in the era between MultiFinder and System 7.) Microsoft Works became far less attractive to people needing a full featured spreadsheet or word processor but having little or no need for one of the other modules.

We're now in the midst of a works renaissance of sorts, with the release of three new works programs - ClarisWorks, BeagleWorks, and GreatWorks, and the announcement of the development of Microsoft Works II. I'm not sure how four companies suddenly decided that the time was ripe to develop new generations of works programs, but I suggest some possible reasons:

  1. There's no real reason for a Works program, but software developers couldn't ignore Microsoft's continuing profits from Microsoft Works.

  2. With the migration of major word processing, spreadsheet, and database programs to high-memory, large disk-space, and zippy-processor Macintoshes (cf. Word 5.0, Excel 4.0, FileMaker Pro, et al.) a new market has emerged for the still-lively installed base of low-end Macs.

  3. The introduction of the already immensely popular PowerBook line has created a new need for a low-memory, small disk-space "notetaking" integrated application.

  4. The idea of integrating data and tools under one application is basically a good one and is receiving new life on its own merit.

The commercial motivations for developing the new works products are probably some combination of the above factors, and your reason for buying a works program likely corresponds closely to one of the following:

  1. You've been using Microsoft Works and are dying for something better.

  2. You need to keep up with how the high-end users use the Mac, but you're stuck with a low-end computer.

  3. You have a PowerBook and need to run more application types than you have disk space or memory.

  4. You like the idea of a single, low-cost, easy-to-use application and you don't need most of the fancy features of high-end programs.

The Future of Integration -- The constraints of the works concept in its current incarnation - low cost, low memory requirements, and low disk space requirements - demand that the individual modules of a works program represent "low-end" applications. This shouldn't necessarily be so, but most developers seem to be relying on System 7's Publish & Subscribe and Apple Events technologies as the future of application integration. Indeed, the Communications Toolbox is an early model of the operating system providing a mix-and-match supporting framework for users supplying their own customized tools. The future of application software will probably be modular, much as the future of programming itself is object-oriented. In the meantime, the new generation of works program deserves some consideration if you find yourself in one of the situations described above.


Reviews/15-Jun-92

  • MacWEEK
    • Color Flatbed Scanners -- pg. 64
      • DPI Art-Getter
      • HP ScanJet IIc
      • HSD Scan-X Color
      • Microtek ScanMaker 600ZS
      • Mirror 600 Color Scanner
      • Mustek MFS-6000CS
      • Sharp JX-320
      • UMAX UC630
      • UMAX UC1200
      • XRS 6c OmniMedia
    • FourMat Learning Processor 2.0 -- pg. 74
    • ExpertWriter 1.0 -- pg. 74
    • QuickLetter 2.0 -- pg. 74

References:

  • MacWEEK -- 08-Jun-92, Vol. 6, #22

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