Mac OS 8 - it's here to stay! Geoff Duncan delves into some subtleties of this major upgrade, and qualifies everything with a bit of informal usability testing with some normal Mac users. This issue also features the release of the Robert Hess Memorial Macworld Party List, and an announcement of ClarisWorks for Kids. Finally, Tonya takes a site-centric view of Web publishing by comparing Site Weaver, SiteMill, and CyberStudio Pro.
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Macworld Expo Party List -- Ilene Hoffman <firstname.lastname@example.org> has posted the Robert Hess Memorial Macworld Events list (see TidBITS-310 for information about the late Robert Hess, who started the list) for the upcoming Macworld Expo in Boston from August 5th to August 8th. The list will change through August 6th, so don't assume that it's complete now. Do note that many of the events and parties during Macworld Boston require invitations; please don't ruin it for everyone by trying to crash invitation-only events. If you're hosting an event, you can submit a form with the information about your event or send it directly to Ilene. [ACE]
Claris Works on Kids' Software -- Claris is shipping ClarisWorks for Kids 1.0, a special version of ClarisWorks aimed at children ages five through eleven and perhaps the first Claris software to ship with a soundtrack. The passworded Teacher menu lets savvy kids or adults set preferences, the occasional alert message is labeled "Important Question," and the dialog box for opening files makes it easy to get at certain folders plus the many templates that ship with the product. The menu items and toolbar buttons are tastefully and brightly colored, and make me wonder wistfully why "productivity" software for grown-ups is usually so boring looking.
CWFK files are compatible with ClarisWorks 4.0. The estimated educational retail price is $49 and there's also site license pricing. To run the software, you'll minimally need System 7.1, a 68020-based Macintosh, 3,250K available RAM, a 13-inch monitor, and 30 MB disk space (to make CWFK speak, you must run MacinTalk, which requires additional RAM). A trial version is available as a 4 MB download; as of this writing the download link on the ClarisWorks for Kids Web site didn't work, but I could use the FTP site. Claris -- 800/544-8554 -- 408/727-9054 -- <email@example.com> [TJE]
by Geoff Duncan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Last week's article in TidBITS-389 gave an overview of some of the new capabilities and features in Mac OS 8. This article looks at some subtler real-world and technical details.
To determine what I should put in this article, I watched as two people used Mac OS 8 for the first time on one of my machines. (One is a power user and de facto Mac administrator at a large, multi-platform company; the other uses her Mac at home for word processing, simple Internet use, and educational CD-ROMs). I also asked four other long-time Macintosh users (two of whom work in the computing industry, all of whom are using Mac OS 8) what they knew about the release and what they expected from it. These notes respond directly to their comments and concerns.
System Folder Folders -- One of the first things people noticed upon opening the Mac OS 8 System Folder is that it has new sub-folders. Just as System 7 included folders for Control Panels, Extensions, Fonts, Preferences, and others, Mac OS 8 creates new sub-folders to reduce clutter. Many, such as Help, Voices, Modem Scripts, and Printer Descriptions, are self-explanatory; others should help when third-party applications adopt them, including Application Support (for programs with their own system resources, like many Adobe and Microsoft products) and Internet Plug-Ins (which will hopefully serve as a repository for browser plug-ins and add-ons, so updating or switching browsers isn't as painful). There are also folders outside the System Folder, including Assistants (with Apple's Setup and Internet Assistants), Utilities, and OpenDoc's Stationery and Editors folders. The Scripting Additions folder has been promoted to the root level of the System Folder (which can confuse some scripting utilities).
System Services -- Mac OS 8 includes a significant user interface revision to File Sharing. The File Sharing and Users & Groups control panels provide a better (though still occasionally clutzy) interface, and the Sharing Setup and File Sharing Monitor control panels have been rolled into a new File Sharing control panel. Setting up Sharing privileges for individual folders now uses pop-up menus rather than checkboxes, but a rather unfortunate Copy button confuses the process of propagating sharing privileges through a folder hierarchy. (Two users thought they had to copy sharing privileges to the clipboard, then paste them onto subsequent folders.)
Programs that use the system color picker can now use two new color pickers: the whimsical Crayon Picker (a big hit with dBUG, the local Mac user group) and an HTML Picker, which can display HTML expressions of colors (as three hexadecimal numbers, like 0099FF) and be restricted to non-dithering "Web colors." If you press Option in any color picker, the cursor changes to an eyedropper that can to pick up any color displayed on your screen.
Mac OS 8 also includes some cool under-the-hood gadgets. Text Encoding Converter 1.2 enables applications to convert text between arbitrary encoding systems (like Mac OS Roman to Windows Latin-1), letting special characters, diacriticals, and other text elements to translate correctly across systems, platforms, and languages. It's also the first step to providing Unicode conversion on the Mac, supporting the enormous Unicode 1.1 and 2.0 character sets, plus all Mac OS script encodings, many Windows encodings, plus some Web and email encoding schemes. Unfortunately, programs must take specific advantage of these services; hopefully that support will become more widespread.
Choose About This Computer from the Finder's Apple menu, and you'll see an enhanced overview of memory use. Under previous systems, applications that used temporary memory in the System heap were shown using the relatively small partitions set in their Get Info windows, while the System heap grew ever larger. Now, temporary memory used by applications is shown as part of that application's memory partition, so you can see how much RAM applications like Internet Explorer are really using. Unfortunately, the new About This Computer window confused one of my sample users: he wanted to know why an application was taking more memory than he had given it in the program's Get Info window, thought something was wrong, and restarted the machine.
On the networking side, Mac OS 8 includes Open Transport 1.2, which offers protection from the heavily publicized Ping Of Death and SYN flood denial-of-service Internet attacks. Open Transport is the only networking technology supported under Mac OS 8; you can't revert to classic networking even on machines that do not require Open Transport. Mac OS 8 also includes AppleShare Workstation Client 3.7.1, which can establish connections via TCP to AppleShare IP servers over local networks or the Internet.
A preliminary tech note on Mac OS 8 is available from Apple. If you need more detailed information on OS 8 internals, it's helpful.
Cache & Carry -- After last week's article on Mac OS 8, I received several messages from readers asking about Mac OS 8's performance on 68040-based Macs. I've been running OS 8 on a Quadra 650 for a few weeks, and the results have been quite good. System profiling utilities (like Speedometer and Norton System Info - MacBench wouldn't run) put the machine in the same ballpark as its performance under System 7.6.1. However, the machine feels somewhat snappier, especially switching applications and handling background processing.
There's one caveat to these performance notes: disk cache makes a world of difference, especially in the Finder. On either a 68040- or PowerPC-based machine, a 128K disk cache (set via the Memory control panel) seemed adequate until I increased it to 512K or 1 MB and noticed Finder responsiveness increase significantly. Suddenly windows opened, closed, and refreshed more quickly, and file intensive applications (like Web browsers) moved faster. I currently have my disk caches set to about 512K, but optimum settings will depend on your system and available RAM. Click the Default button in the Memory control panel for an initial setting for your machine, then adjust if necessary.
OS 8 Utilities -- Numerous utilities and add-ons for OS 8 are beginning to appear, although I'm only going to note items my sample users or TidBITS readers asked about.
Trygve Isaacson has released CMM Plug-ins, a PowerPC-only $10 shareware add-on for the Finder's contextual menus that lets users modify file creator types, hide and show items, play with text files (converting line endings and stripping HTML), and more.
Open Door Networks has released AFP Engage! (which enables you to double-click AFP URLS for AppleShare IP file servers) and Personal LogDoor, which provides logging, activity, and AppleTalk capabilities for Personal Web Sharing (and Microsoft's PWS). Both are commercial products, but they don't require Mac OS 8 (they work with System 7.5 or higher).
Apple has updated MacsBug and System Picker for Mac OS 8; if you don't know what these are, don't worry about them.
Apple Events & AppleScript -- The most subtle, yet pervasive, changes involve the Finder and AppleScript 1.1.2, the first real update to AppleScript in about three years. Those who use AppleScript to automate and customize Macintosh will find that AppleScript 1.1.2 fixes known bugs (like concatenating with an empty list and using multi-character delimiters) and adds support for new application types (control panel and accessory applications). Bigger changes lie in the System and Finder. Many items previously scriptable through the Finder (like sharing privileges) now live in scriptable control panels, and the Finder handles several file properties in new ways: scripts compiled under System 7.x using these properties will now find the word "obsolete" following them when they are re-opened under Mac OS 8. If you remove the word "obsolete", the scripts will probably work fine under OS 8, but won't run under earlier systems. This forces some script writers to maintain different source scripts for different versions of the Mac OS. Apple has also changed the way applications and processes are treated, and the Finder now processes Apple events in separate threads, which can create misleading timeout errors. Apple has posted good information about AppleScript with Mac OS 8; I recommend it to all AppleScript programmers.
The Finder also has a new event up its oversized sleeve: "rapp," meaning "re-open application." This event will help programmers solve a problem many novice users experience: they don't realize that an application is still running, double-click its icon, and don't notice that the menubar has changed in response. The "rapp" event should let programs detect an attempted re-launch and respond appropriately (perhaps by opening an untitled window or presenting a dialog box). Unfortunately, a few older programs respond with an error, sometimes putting up a dialog saying that an Apple event error has occurred.
AppleScript 1.1.2 is not PowerPC native; that should come in AppleScript 1.2, which may be available by mid-1998.
Let's Focus, Group! How well did my informal group of Mac users understand the changes in OS 8? Pretty well overall, but perhaps not as well as Apple would like.
A rose by any other name is... a rose that's had its name changed. Apple's Copland operating system project was to have been called System 8, which was "coming soon" from Apple as early as 1994. In August of 1996, Apple mothballed Copland and in December of 1996 (after months of rumor and speculation) decided to acquire NeXT. This led to Rhapsody, the combined Apple-NeXT operating system project currently in development. Last March, Apple announced plans to release the Mac OS 7.7 update (code-named Tempo) as Mac OS 8, since it incorporated technologies developed for Copland, and sported a major user experience overhaul.
If that sounds familiar to you, consider yourself one of the Macintosh literati - none my informal group of Mac users could recite that whole story (with or without dates). The distinctions between Copland, System 8, Mac OS 8, Rhapsody and even the Be OS can be lost on users who don't pore over Macintosh magazines, Web sites, and mailing lists. All but one of my sample users asked me where "the NeXT stuff" was in Mac OS 8 (one even asked how to get to the Unix prompt). Another had read extensive coverage of the Be OS last winter and expressed disappointment Be technology didn't "show through." Still another had heard that nearly all control panels and extensions would break under Mac OS 8 (this would have been true of Copland) and was pleasantly surprised to learn Mac OS 8 had a high degree of compatibility with current system enhancements.
Mac OS 8's new platinum appearance can confuse users who grew up on System 7.x, since some interface elements can give false visual cues. One user wanted to know why the Finder's pop-up windows closed automatically ("When I open a drawer on my desk, it stays open until I bang my knee on it!"); another saw the wider window borders on most document windows and questioned "Why are all these windows modal - I thought Mac OS 8 was supposed to be multi-threaded?"
The six Macintosh users I spoke with are not necessarily representative of the larger Mac community, and it's inappropriate to draw sweeping conclusions from their comments. For space reasons, I also haven't mentioned how much of Mac OS 8 they cruised through with little or no trouble: Web Sharing, File Sharing, setting up a Desktop Printer, sticky menus, spring-loaded folders, collapse boxes, and contextual menus. More telling is that the two users I directly introduced to Mac OS 8 were favorably impressed and plan to buy copies for their own machines. Despite a few rough spots in the product and Apple's presentation of it, Mac OS 8 is a very good thing. Let me put it this way: if Mac OS 8 were free, I'd recommend everyone with the requisite hardware get it immediately. Since it's not free, you must decide for yourself if it's worth the cost. It is for us.
DealBITS Discount -- Cyberian Outpost is offering Mac OS 8 to TidBITS readers for $95.95, a negotiated $2 discount off its regular $97.95 price.
by Tonya Engst <email@example.com>
This ever-lengthening article series should be giving you a broad view of what's available for Web publishing tasks. In previous issues, I toured the world of Web publishing from a page-centric view. Last week, in TidBITS-389, I switched to a site-centric approach and examined UserLand Frontier. This week, we move from Frontier's complexity to look at a few simpler options: SiteWeaver by Miracle Software, SiteMill by Adobe Systems, and CyberStudio by GoLive Systems.
SiteWeaver -- SiteWeaver takes a bare bones approach to site management. Instead of providing a kitchen sink of tools for cleaning up a site, it sticks to the singular task of moving items within a Web site without breaking relative links. The software minimally requires a 68020-based Macintosh running System 7 or later with about 5 MB of free RAM.
SiteWeaver's main window, called Current Web Site, enables you to move files around the site and acts as a jumping-off point for working on site elements. The window displays items in an outline format, with different levels corresponding to different folders. Unfortunately, there's no way to expand or contract the outline, so if you have a big site you'll be doing a lot of scrolling. Once you locate an item in the outline, you can open it by double-clicking it, or load it in Netscape Navigator by Option-clicking it.
SiteWeaver is handy for setting up a site's structure from scratch. You can add new folders or pages to the outline at any time; the pages can be blank or based on templates; and pages can come from any program you like. If you work in new pages, however, you must be careful to close them, because if they remain open while you move other items, links to those items are not modified, and SiteWeaver does not notify you of the problem.
SiteWeaver can identify existing bad relative links in a site and provides an easy way to fix them. It has no features for working with external links (usually links to other Web sites). It can create reports that summarize all links in a site, list bad relative links, and note orphaned items that have no links leading to them.
In summary, SiteWeaver provides a simple set of handy features, and it does not lock you into using any particular HTML editor. (As you'll see, many of the more sophisticated packages lock you into - or at least strongly encourage you to use - a particular editor.) Regrettably, though, Miracle Software is charging too much for SiteWeaver. If you own World Wide Web Weaver (reviewed in TidBITS-385), SiteWeaver costs $59. If you don't, prices range from $109 to $139. For those prices, I'd expect more features for manipulating the site outline, professionally edited documentation and dialog boxes, and more features (such as FTP or remote link checking). Miracle Software plans to release SiteWeaver upgrades; perhaps Miracle will price these versions more appropriately, given the competition.
SiteMill -- In terms of features, Adobe SiteMill 2.0 picks up where SiteWeaver leaves off, though it lacks the ability to create new pages, so you cannot quickly build a site's skeleton in SiteMill. Like SiteWeaver, SiteMill displays a site in a Finder-like outline view. Unlike SiteWeaver, SiteMill offers conveniences for working with the outline: the outline can expand or contract to reveal and hide folder contents; items can be sorted by name, kind, date, and so on; and - if you sort by name - you can quickly move to items beginning with a certain letter by typing that letter. As in SiteWeaver, you can open a file by double-clicking it, and you can Option-click to open a file in your preferred Web browser (SiteWeaver is limited to Netscape Navigator).
Along with the Site view window, SiteMill also offers an External URLs window that lists all external URLs. There's a command for verifying them (thankfully in the background), and you can update a changed external link once and then SiteMill will change it throughout the site. SiteMill can also identify problematic relative links in a site and help you fix them.
SiteMill can operate as an FTP client, making it possible to upload a completed site to a remote Web server. You must set up your exact path in SiteMill's preferences - there's no way to first connect to the server, see where you are, and then upload. This streamlines operations once everything is set up and working correctly, but it's hard to troubleshoot and options like Synchronize are a little scary. (Synchronize modifies a directory on a server so that it exactly matches a folder on your desktop, complete with deleting files that don't match those in the folder.) There's an option for uploading only files that have changed, but there is no download option. In my testing, I've been unable to make SiteMill upload to any of three different server programs. Given the troubleshooting and testing I've done, I suspect the problem may be local to my machine, but I suggest making sure SiteMill works with your FTP server before buying, especially if your server is not mainstream.
Unless you upgrade from SiteMill 1.0 (a free upgrade) the only way to get SiteMill is as a component of the PageMill 2.01 package. Not surprisingly, SiteMill picks PageMill as its HTML editor of choice. For example, SiteMill automatically incorporates changes made to PageMill documents, but changes made in other HTML editors require that you reload the site, a process that would grow tedious if done frequently. As another example of SiteMill's synergy with PageMill, dragging an item from SiteMill's Site view window to a PageMill document creates a link from the document to the item. If you use PageMill for basic layout, but then tweak files elsewhere, you must tread carefully in SiteMill, because some actions will trigger PageMill to examine and potentially alter the HTML in those files.
Adobe continues to emphasize Adobe Acrobat's PDF as a file format - SiteMill lists Acrobat files as site resources and can work with links in Acrobat documents. Adobe recommends optimizing Acrobat 3.0 files after working with them in SiteMill; SiteMill cannot perform this function automatically.
SiteMill's Find and Replace, though functional, is limited. It lacks wild card options, and doesn't offer a technique for replacing in only a portion of a site or to approve individual replacements.
SiteMill requires (minimally) a 68020-based Mac running System 7.1 with at least 2.5 MB free RAM and a 4-bit monitor. For "best performance" the requirements increase to 68040-based Mac running System 7.5 with 3.5 MB free RAM.
Although my impression of SiteMill is mixed - for every new good feature, I've thought of at least one way it could be better - the fact remains that PageMill users should find SiteMill a handy way to manage their sites, certainly better than SiteMill 1.x or managing them by hand. However, If you already use other site management tools, I'm not convinced that the PageMill/SiteMill package represents a compelling solution. If you can't decide between PageMill and its closest pre-SiteMill 2.0 competitors (Claris Home Page and Symantec Visual Page; see TidBITS-386), or if you are teetering between PageMill and other software that includes site management options (such as CyberStudio), the fact that PageMill 2.01 lists for $149, but is commonly available for under $100, may tip the scales in PageMill's favor.
CyberStudio -- That said, it's time to revisit CyberStudio. The $349/$149 (suggested retail price/academic) CyberStudio integrates text-based and visually oriented tools for composing Web pages with site management tools (for a look at its page composition features, see TidBITS-387). Like SiteMill, which prefers that you use PageMill, you wouldn't buy CyberStudio for site management alone - you'd buy it if you plan to use CyberStudio for the majority of your page development.
CyberStudio forces you to surrender control over the directory structure of the final site. When CyberStudio "renders" a site, it creates a site folder containing a default page, plus a Pages folder for other pages and a Media folder for other site resources.
CyberStudio displays a site in several views; the one that best parallels the view in SiteMill is the tabbed Project View, which has different tabs for different resource types: pages, media, URLs, and so on. You can group items in mock folders in these views (which expand and contract, much like Finder outlines), and items can be renamed without harming relative links. The URL view stores full URLs, and if you modify a URL stored there, all such URLs in the site can update automatically. Unfortunately, CyberStudio lacks a feature for checking external links. Further, although CyberStudio can import a site, the process for adding external URLs to the URLs tab is cumbersome and by no means automatic. Other views offer a look at a site's hierarchy, with the ability to drill down on any one page and look in detail at resources linking to and from it.
CyberStudio has a built-in FTP feature, and though it didn't work with NetPresenz (an FTP server from Stairways Software), it did work generally for me, and let me move around in a server's directory structure as well as download files. CyberStudio lacks automation for uploading only changed files or for synchronizing directories - in fact, to upload, you must drag in items from the Finder, a fact that renders the FTP feature more show than substance.
Like SiteMill, CyberStudio has a site-wide Find-and-Replace that misses the boat. In CyberStudio's case, the feature runs extremely slowly on my Power Mac 7600 and lacks wildcard searching. Another feature found in CyberStudio (and one that PageMill lacks) is the ability to label files (for example, you might label them to indicate if they're ready to be published).
Summing Up -- In the end, SiteMill brings to PageMill a stronger set of site management features than CyberStudio offers, but neither program's site management features are must-haves. SiteMill works best in conjunction with PageMill (which isn't my favorite HTML editor) and CyberStudio's site-related features need fleshing out. Even so, both these products have much to offer. As I noted earlier in this series, if you live in the Adobe milieu, you'll find PageMill especially easy to work with, and now that it includes SiteMill you get a lot of bang for the buck. If CyberStudio's marriage of text and visual tools appeals to you, you'll find plenty of useful features, with the bonus of some help with site organization, help that - if you wish - you can easily work around, thus maintaining a site's structure independently from what CyberStudio thinks is happening. Next week, space permitting, I'll examine a few more applications that fall under the umbrella of site management, and then we'll take a few weeks off to make room for Macworld Expo coverage before finishing with a look at handy Web publishing utilities.
DealBITS Discount -- We've arranged for Cyberian Outpost to offer TidBITS readers PageMill 2.01 (which includes SiteMill 2.0) for $97.95, a $2 discount off Cyberian's regular $99.95 price. We've also negotiated a $295.95 price for CyberStudio, $2 off Cyberian's regular $297.95 price.
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