About the Macintosh
Chapter 8


Contents
Apple Extras
Apple Backup
AppleScript
Apple Video Player
At Ease
CloseView
Easy Access
HyperCard Player
Newton Demo
Performa Extras
PowerTalk
QuickDraw GX
Apple Extras

System 7.5 owners have got lots to explore on their machines. As well as enhancements to the System itself and improvements to its various accessories (see the last chapter), System 7.5 also comes with the following add-ons which you can use or install as you wish:

Apple Backup

What would you do if your Macintosh's hard disk broke? Given that it contains probably all the things you've ever done with your Macintosh since you bought it, a spell in a psychiatric hospital followed by intense counselling is the most likely outcome. But you can safeguard against losing your precious data with this application. It lets you copy the entire contents of your hard disk on to floppy disks, or just the contents of the System Folder (sometimes, all that's gone wrong with your hard disk is that the System information has become damaged in some way and simply needs replacing).

Apple Backup can do either of these things but - unfortunately -no more: Backing up my hard disk, for example, would take 284 floppy disks and 174 minutes! Which means that it's hardly going to prove a feasible weekly safety measure. Backing up your hard disk is a chore at the best of times...

Instead of using Apple Backup, look out for back-up applications from third-party suppliers. These can do all manner of useful things - the most useful of which is 'incremental backups' - once you've made your first; full back-up, the following backups only back up the things which have changed since last time. This method is much quicker, and much more efficient.

AppleScript

We met AppleScript in the last chapter when we took a look at the sample automated tasks available from the Apple menu. AppleScript is supplied with System 7.5, and you'd be wise not to remove it because many applications now depend on it to run. In the AppleScript folder, you'll find some more sample scripts, the AppleScript editor (shown) where scripts can be created and edited, and a two-part guide to what AppleScript is and how you use it. Don't expect to be able to leap straight in and start scripting - this is strictly programmers' territory.

Quick tip: you can create your own scripts the easy way, though. The Finder in System 7.5 is 'recordable'. This means that if you start the Script Editor 'recording' then go back to the Finder and carry out a sequence of actions, the Script Editor will record these as an AppleScript script, which you can then save and use again. Be careful, though - don't inadvertently create and distribute a script that empties all your files into the wastebasket...

Apple Video Player

Some new Macintosh models are sold with video cards - you can display and record TV and video in windows on your screen. This is the program that displays the TV/video. (If your Mac doesn't have a TV card, you might still be able to buy one separately.)

At Ease

Tucked away this corner of your hard disk is a completely different interface for your Macintosh, one that hardly ever gets a mention in the Macintosh press or in books. The Macintosh is by far the easiest machine for beginners to master (and that includes PCs equipped with Windows 95), but it's still tough for absolute beginners. The screen is covered with icons, you have to do strange things with the mouse and you're terrified you're going to wreck things.

At Ease is a replacement interface that consists solely of big colourful buttons you can click on to do the things you want. It's ideal for parents who want to make their Mac foolproof for the kids, or for those teaching someone else how to use a Mac for the first time.

When you set At Ease up you can choose which applications, files and folders are available and you can use passwords and other security measures to prevent users straying, accidentally or otherwise, into the Finder, where they might trash valuable data.

You can even set up many different 'users', each with their own user name and password and unique configuration of applications, files and so on. At Ease is much maligned amongst the 'serious' Mac fraternity, but it's an excellent way of helping beginners use your machine and of controlling access amongst a body of students, for example.

CloseView

You'll find CloseView in the Special Needs folder. It's a control panel which, once installed, lets users with poor vision magnify the display by a chosen amount, view the screen white-on-black or black-on-white and use keyboard shortcuts to control the magnification.

Easy Access

The Easy Access control panel is also in the Special Needs folder. It's for people with physical disabilities and lets them configure various keyboard and mouse options to make using their Macintosh easier. Inexperienced users could find the Sticky Keys option useful - with this switched on, you don't need to hold down the shift, command or option keys when you have to type a complex keyboard combination (a tiny symbol at the far right of the menu bar shows you when you've pressed one of these 'modifier' keys).

HyperCard Player

HyperCard is an application that's been around almost as long as the Macintosh itself. They practically grew up together. Indeed, HyperCard has been given away with Macintoshes right from the start, usually in 'player' form. The HyperCard Player can show HyperCard documents. ('stacks') that other people have created, but provides only limited tools for creating or editing your own stacks.

HyperCard is a cross between a database and a programming language, but is a lot more fun that either of those two definitions make it sound. When it was first developed it had to do very complex things in a small amount of memory on slow machines - and it was a marvel. Now, the hardware has moved on, and HyperCard is showing its age, not helped by the multimedia add-ons that Apple continually bolt on to it in an effort to keep it up to date.

Your main use for this HyperCard Player is likely to be for viewing stacks created by others - many companies or individuals distribute information, catalogues and indexes and HyperCard stacks.

Newton Demo

If you don't have one of Apple's clever little Newton hand-held computers/organisers, this demo will give you a taste of what you're missing.

Performa Extras

Owners of Performa Macintoshes get several useful little help files and 'tours' which explain how to use their computers and some of its more important features. These guides are now provided with System 7~5 in the Performa Extras folder.

PowerTalk

Phew. PowerTalk is a New-for-System-7.5 System Extension designed to make networking and communications dramatically simpler and straightforward. You can use it to handle voicemail, faxes, email from co-workers and more. It comes with 'catalogues' for storing contact details, and can be used to organise working groups amongst other things. You can also get 'gateways' so that your Mac and PowerTalk can interface directly with the Internet and other on-line services. PowerTalk is a serious networking tool outside the scope of home users - it also takes up a big chunk of RAM once it's installed.

If you want to find out more, though, take a look at the documentation files that come with the PowerTalk software in this folder especially the animated tour (illustrated above).

QuickDraw GX

The first thing you need to know about QuickDraw GX is that if you install it your System will occupy about 8Mb of RAM (16Mb on a PowerMac). The second thing you need to know is that you need to take special precautions with your existing PostScript fonts to make sure it will be able to work with them subsequently. The third thing you need to know is that your printer may not yet have a QuickDraw GX driver (or your fax modem) and the fourth thing you need to know is that there are still relatively few applications which support the features offered by QuickDraw GX anyway. It had better be good.

QuickDraw GX promises the following:

  • 'Intelligent' fonts with more control over tracking, kerning, font weights and a greater range of special characters.
  • Many new graphic effects (transparency, rotation, skewing and more).
  • Files can be saved in a new format (PDD) which other QuickDraw GX-owning Mac users can view even if they don't have the application that created them. Improved printer sharing on networks.
  • You can print files by dragging them on to a desktop printer icon.
  • Files in a print queue can be more easily re-ordered.
  • It accepts extensions that allow printing effects like watermarks and multiple-page 'thumbnail' printing on single sheets (these two extensions can be found in the QuickDraw Extras folder).
  • You can mix page sizes in a single document
  • It's hard to be convinced, not least because of the colossal RAM overhead. (Will everyone really go out and buy another 4Mb of RAM just to run QuickDraw GX?)

    And many of the 'enhancements' are to allow the Mac's in-built printing language (i.e. QuickDraw) to compete with Adobe's PostScript. Macs with QuickDraw GX will be able to get QuickDraw printers (the lower end of the market) to jump through hoops. But most serious Mac users have PostScript printers already (the price differential is diminishing), and professional Mac applications like QuarkXPress and Photoshop output in PostScript because it's the standard format in the publishing industry QuickDraw GX may be able to outshine PostScript in some areas, but PostScript is here, now, and supported by the whole Macintosh industry (And doesn't need another 4Mb of RAM.)

    Expert tips
    Apple's venerable HyperCard application has been given a new lease of life with AppleScript scripting support. Since version 2.2, programmers have been able to attach AppleScript scripts to HyperCard handlers - this dramatically improves HyperCard as a programming tool, and gives AppleScript scripts a decent front-end to work from.

    If you want to do more with AppleScript, get the official AppleScript package from Apple. With it you get documentation (which is more precise than understandable, alas) and the FaceSpan interface application, which lets you create more complex and better-looking (easier to use, too) AppleScript applications.

    If you fancy the idea of QuickDraw GX's universal document format, but don't fancy losing all that available RAM, take a look at Adobe's Acrobat software. This creates a PDF (Portable Document Format) file out of any Macintosh document, and anyone else with a copy of the Acrobat Reader (freely distributable) can read and print your documents without the original application. You can also add goodies like hypertext links, 'hot' tables of contents and pop-up annotations.

    If QuickDraw GX catches on, Mac users will be able to create much more complex documents without the expense of a PostScript printer. However, part of the expense of a PostScript printer is due to its internal processor, which takes a valuable workload from your Mac's own CPU when you print. And remember: all PostScript printers can print QuickDraw output, but QuickDraw printers can't cope with PostScript.

    If you do have a PostScript printer, and you keep getting PostScript errors, the chances are you need more RAM in your printer. PostScript is singularly unhelpful in explaining why it's turned up its toes, but RAM is almost always the culprit. If you're printing DTP layouts, 2Mb might just cope with a single page. If you're printing several pages at a time, you'll need 4-6Mb minimum.

    Still getting PostScript errors? Check the Chooser, to make sure you're using the right printer type, and check your software's Page Setup and Print dialogs to make sure the right printer driver is selected. It's easy to overlook.

    Main Index


    Please send any comments on this document to:
    G.Mills@compserv.gla.ac.uk
    (George W. Mills, Computing Service, University of Glasgow)