The Low End Mac Mailbag

Switch from Internet Explorer, RIP MacHome, and More Thoughts on Replacing Claris Home Page

Dan Knight - 2006.08.31

Today's letters fall into three categories: a diatribe against Internet Exploder Explorer, thoughts on the demise of MacHome magazine, and a lot of thoughts and suggestions about replacing Claris Home Page as a WYSIWYG HTML editor. The last topic always brings in a lot of email. - Tip Jar

Switch from Internet Explorer

After reading Low End Mac Broken (Again) in Internet Explorer 6, Andrew Main comments:

Dan,

"Internet Explorer - in every incarnation to date - is the most uncompliant, inconsistent, abominable browser ever foisted upon the Internet using public."

Maybe you should put this little note somewhere at the top of LEM's home page, with a recommendation that Windoze users try Firefox or Opera instead. So long as everyone keeps going out of their way to accommodate Micro$oft, they have no incentive to get with the standards. Why should a Macintosh site go to so much extra trouble for people who aren't even using Macs? Be different if it was Mac browsers that thumbed their noses at Web standards.

Andrew

Andrew, I would love to thumb my nose at Microsoft Internet Explorer, but it's really hard to get people to think different (to borrow a phrase) about operating systems, browsers, email clients, or whatever else they're used to using.

Over the course of August, 29.2% of our visitors are using Internet Explorer, and 25.9% are using Windows-only version 5.5 or 6.0, and 1.4% are already using IE 7. (On the plus side, that means 1.9% of our visitors are using IE versions older than 5.5, with maybe half of them on Macs.) If I were to put up a "Switch from IE" note, I'd be telling 3 of 10 visitors that they're using the wrong browser.

There are ways to do that, but in many cases these people are visiting LEM on work computers where they're not allowed to install software. Still, your idea has merit. I think I'll add a page on recommended alternatives to Internet Explorer for those who are able to do so.

Safari falls a bit behind that at 28.8%, and it's only available to Mac users. (Opera comes in at 2.1%, OmniWeb at 0.2%, and iCab at 0.1%. Konqueror, a Linux browser, accounts for 0.2% of our traffic.)

Windows users are discovering Firefox, which accounts for more traffic at LEM than any other browser at 31.2%. You can add 1.4% for Netscape, 2.4% for Mozilla, and 2.1% for Camino for a grand total of 37% of our visitors using Mozilla-based browsers.

Operating systems: Windows users make up 49.5% of our traffic, with Mac users at 44.5%, and Linux trailing at 3.3%. Unknown, NetBSD, Solaris, and the rest together account for 2.7%.

Now comes the numeric analysis (yes, I was once a math geek). These numbers are approximate:

  • Visitors with Windows-only versions of Internet Explorer: 27.3% (59.0% of Windows users)
  • Windows users not using IE 5.5 or later: 22.2%
  • Mac users using Safari: 28.8% (64.7% of Mac users)
  • Mac users not using Safari or IE: 14.7% (with an estimated 1.0% for old Mac versions of IE)
  • Firefox/Mozilla/Netscape/Camino users: 37.1%
  • F/M/N users on Linux: 3.1%
  • F/M/N/C users on Macs: 15.6%
  • F/M/N users on Windows: 20.3%

Numbers are approximate and rounded off, but it paints an interesting picture. Although we have far more browser choices than Windows users (Safari, OmniWeb, Camino, and iCab are exclusive to the Mac), Mac users who visit Low End Mac are more likely to use the default browser than Windows users visiting our site.

Put another way, visitors to Low End Mac are more likely to not use their default browsers than the general public, whether they use Macs or Windows PCs.

R.I.P. MacHome Magazine

Gerry Coleman writes:

Hello Dan! Long time reader, first time (I think) writer.

I'm surprised by the lack of attention given on the Mac web to the demise of MacHome magazine. Except for a mention or two on some smaller Mac sites (such as Macsimum News), very little has been written.

I was a subscriber to MacHome for more than two years. Though some dismissed it as a magazine for Mac "newbies", I found it to be a great resource for software and setup help. My first issue introduced me to Konfabulator (later Yahoo! Widgets) and Blackhole Media's expense calculating software Burn - well worth the subscription price.

The Web provides nearly instant information for us Mac junkies, but there's still no substitute for a well written, in-depth magazine. (At least I still have my Macworld subscription, though it's focus is more toward professional users.) But it's a shame that the Mac community has lost another voice, and that it leaves with barely a whisper. I know I'll never see my renewal payment, but I will miss MacHome.

Cheers,
Gerry Coleman

According to Macsimum News and the MacHome website, the magazine was "reaching over 50,000 unique Mac users each month." That probably means it had a circulation of 16,000 to 20,000 including newsstand sales (magazine readership is generally figured at 2-3 readers per copy). That's an awfully small subscription base, and magazine subscriptions in general are declining.

The Web is a big part of the competition, but so are books. Macs for Dummies and its relatives are doing a far better job of helping the Mac newbie learn the Mac than any monthly magazine could ever do. Between good reference books and the Internet (especially with Google to help you find things), there's just less need for magazines these days.

I was never impressed enough with MacHome to subscribe, so I can't say that I miss it, but I do feel bad for all those subscribers who appear to have been left in the lurch. To the best of my knowledge, CCR Media has not refunded them for the balance of their subscriptions.

Dan

TextEdit as an HTML Editor

In response to Nvu and SeaMonkey Can Supplement, but Not Replace, Claris Home Page, Liam Greenwood writes:

Hi Dan

I thought this might be of interest to you in your search for a Claris HomePage replacement.

http://www.macosxhints.com/article.php?story=20060828093624972

Cheers, Liam

Thanks for the link, Liam, and three cheers for Mac OS X Hints! Convert Formatted Text to Valid HTML Using TextEdit holds out hope:

"if you work in a native Cocoa application like TextEdit using only the tools Apple provides for word processing (which admittedly take some getting used to, and handle only basic formatting needs - much like basic HTML itself), you can easily work in a WYSIWYG mode and then convert the file to clean HTML that you won't be embarrassed to call your own."

The secret to producing clean HTML or XHTML using TextEdit is to open Preferences, choose the Open and Save tab, and make two setting in the HTML Saving Options: Choose HTML 4.01 Strict or XHTML 1.0 Strict as the document type and select No CSS for styling.

When you're done editing, use Save As... and save your file at an HTML file. You'll have very basic HTML or XHTML that includes things like bold, italic, and numbered and unnumbered lists. Very nice, and very free. And I can apply my TextSoap filters as service instead of using the TextSoap application. (One tool I forgot to mention in my article.)

Drawbacks: No provision for creating links and no way to add graphics. Still, for writing and editing before the design stage, a nice tool - especially since several of our writers send RTF and Word .doc files.

Thanks again for the tip!

Dan

Home Page Irreplaceable (So Far)

Davy Moseley says:

Dan, I just have to chime in about Nvu and SeaMonkey Can Supplement, but Not Replace, Claris Home Page.

I agree with you 1,000 percent that we need a modern replacement for Home Page. I use Dreamweaver for final production of a few newspaper websites, and I Google every week or so for a possible Home Page replacement for all the preproduction prep work.

One handy Home Page feature you didn't mention was its ability to open text documents and convert to HTML automatically (with the lovely <p> tags, I might add. Why, of why, can't any of the HTML editors out there use <p> tags instead of <br> tags?!? But, I digress.)

I don't use Home Page anymore. Too much overhead to have Classic running all the time on my G4 iMac, but I'm contemplating going back to it because there just is not any better alternative. I have to convert a couple of dozen .txt news stories a day.

In the old days, I would drag all my .txt files onto my Home Page alias and then do a rapid fire Apple-S, Apple-W until I had a folder full of happy .htm files.

Currently, my convoluted process involves opening all the .txt files in TextEdit, do a Shift-Apple-T to convert to Rich Text, then Apple-S to save, but the document is now converted a "Untitled-1,zillion" or something, so I have to have paid attention to what the filename was before so I can name it correctly when it is saved. Whew. This sounds like a pain, but TextEdit does actually use <p> tags. Still, I'm not sure it is worth the extra trouble.

I too would pay $100 or more for such an option.

Longtime fan of LEM. Thanks for all you do.

Off topic: Are you still doing a lot of the site in PHP? Specifically, do you have all your articles in a SQL database, or are they still static, "real" pages? I'm contemplating what to do with several thousand stories on one of my sites. To DB or not to DB.

Thanks.

Davy Moseley

Dave, I hear you. I've never used Home Page's drag-and-drop feature, mostly because I use it as a writing tool - and when I edit, I first run everything through TextSoap to convert "smart" quotes, eliminate extra spaces, and do a little more tidying up. Then I paste into my Home Page template.

Another reader suggested TextEdit, which does produce very clean HTML or XHTML code as long as you set it to the strict setting. This looks like a great tool for quick and dirty text work, but there's no support for images or links.

Low End Mac is still a hybrid site. We have static pages with static include files, but we also use PHP and MySQL to generate our home page, our RSS feed, recent links at the end of our articles, and a few other things. My goal it to eventually have several master templates (home page, index page, hardware profile, regular articles, mailbag columns, news roundups, FAQs for our 30-some email lists, product guides, price trackers, etc.) and have everything run through PHP and MySQL.

That's going to be a lot of work, and I'm not rushing into it.

Dan

I Love Home Page

Charmian says:

Like you I love Home Page by Claris. Why isn't there a simple Web creation program? I am getting worried that when I go to Intel Mac, I will no longer have access to Claris Home Page. Only chance is that I did install Claris Home Page onto an Intel Mac using Parallels, and I could if pressed do the editing there and put it in a shared folder - but I don't like Windows.

Charmian

Thanks for writing, Charmian. I'd guess that I do 90% of my work in Home Page, using the other apps only to post-process what's been written. I've never tried Home Page on Windows; like you, I choose to avoid Windows.

If/when there's a viable replacement for Home Page, you'll hear about it on Low End Mac.

Dan

Replace Claris Home Page with Blogging Software

Bill Grady suggests:

Have you given thought to using WordPress or Movable Type? Their JavaScript-enhanced WYSIWYG text area input fields would do your plaintext writing needs right.

Bill Grady

Thanks for writing, Bill. I've looked over both, and they appear to be Web-based software. I'll try to find the time to upload and fiddle with them, but I prefer something that runs locally so I can use it even when I have no Internet connection.

Dan

Indeed, they are Web-hosted applications.

The beauty of these systems is that you don't need to "work" at your site, really. The ads and banners are all pre-positioned in your templates, and they only change when you change the template. The content is all you worry about, and if you need to write content when you're "off-line", then TextWrangler is your solution. Save your off-line writing as unformatted plain text (or plain HTML if you're using lists and the like), and then just paste it in to the WordPress "compose" window.

You can sign up for a free hosted WordPress install at wordpress.com just to try it out.

Seriously, best thing since sliced bread.

- Bill Grady

The Perfect Low-end HTML Editor

Andrew Main says:

Dan,

"I bought a copy of iLife 06 in hopes iWeb would be that tool. After all, it came from the same company that gave us Home Page a decade ago."

But it isn't, you see. It has the same name and (more or less) the same logo, but beyond that it's an entirely different company. Nobody who worked on the old Mac OS and applications is still at Apple, so far as I know. All new programmers, mostly recruited from NeXT, with all "new" (or at least stubbornly their own) ideas.

A "new" broom (well, Steve did not use a Mac from 1986 until OS X came out) has swept clean.

Remember the first screen shots of OS X in Macworld? Not even an Apple menu, until enough Mac users screamed to get it back - and even then, though it is certainly useful, it isn't really the Apple menu we'd known and loved. (I didn't move to OS X until FruitMenu came out, and I have never used OS X without it.)

The same thing has happened to AppleWorks: Instead of updating that excellent app for OS X, it was abandoned and a whole new "application suite" named iWork created to "replace" it. Which it doesn't, not really.

Pages looks snazzy but lacks even the ability to positively define line spacing (so that a paragraph's lines are all on the same spacing, even if fonts and language scripts are mixed) - a "feature" present in MacWrite II some sixteen years ago. And of course iWork is missing the excellent low-end Draw and Paint modules that I used in AppleWorks with the word processor (never used the other parts).

Pages appears to be really more of a presentation environment for iPhoto than a real word processor - or page-layout app, as some reviewers have touted.

The new Apple is all about bringing multimedia to the masses, not about everyday work like word processing and working Web design. I haven't looked at iWeb and have no Web design experience to judge it by, but would guess it to be the same: a clever way for unskilled users to put family photos on the Web (preferably via a $100/year .mac subscription), not an app for people who actually make their living creating Web pages.

I'm hoping to see more from Open Source software. NeoOffice is quite good, other working apps are coming along. Too bad Nvu seems to have gone to sleep, but maybe there's enough energy in the SeaMonkey project (reading your piece, I can see the value of composer and browser in the same app) that it'll eventually fill the need. Maybe you should get involved in the project - at least send this article to the people working on it? And to the Nvu project?

See < http://www.macintouch.com/readerreports/macsonintel/topic2537.html#aug19> for some more thoughts on OSS.

Andrew

You're right, Andrew. Apple isn't the same company that gave us the elegant simplicity of the Finder, created the gorgeous Platinum theme, and made networking something anyone could do with LocalTalk. Apple software today is as much about code bloat as anything Microsoft has ever produced.

I'll give Apple elegance, both in hardware design and software interface. But the best apps are coming from elsewhere, and often from the Open Source community. Konqueror, the heart of Safari, is Open Source. BSD Unix, the heart of OS X, is Open Source. Firefox, Camino, and SeaMonkey are Open Source.

Apple's apps are designed for impressive output, whether we're looking at Pages, Keynote, or iTunes. Elegant simplicity on the front end. Elegant output on the back end. But no way to muck about inside them and take real control.

The thing I really miss is AppleWorks, which began as an outside project for the Apple IIGS. By version 3.0 or so, it was the perfect integrated low-end app. I use the spreadsheet daily, and it's also my primary word processor. But it's dead as far as Apple is concerned, "replaced" by the high-end office suites and things like Pages.

Steve Jobs has done remarkable things at Apple, turning it into the company where style and substance coexist comfortably. What seems to be lacking is a focus on real world productivity as Apple creates app after app for newbies.

Dan

What About PageSpinner?

Chad Carino sent a very brief email:

Have you tried PageSpinner?

Chad Carino

Thanks for the suggestion, Chad. I've just downloaded PageSpinner ($30 shareware), and it looks like a very powerful tool for someone who likes to deal with HTML. There are times when I have to do that, but I prefer to work WYSIWYG. That's a big part of what makes a Mac a Mac, and it goes back to MacWrite, the first word processor for the Mac.

That said, PageSpinner looks like a very powerful tool, and I may add it to my arsenal.

Dan

Simple, Low-end Website Programs

Thomas Coppinger says:

I do not own either, but have read lots of praise for both RapidWeaver and Sandvox, I think both around the $80 mark. Mac 360 compared them with iWeb half a year back, and RapidWeaver came out as the decisive winner, with Sandvox second, and iWeb a poor third. Give them a try.

Tom

Thanks for writing, Tom. I've tried RapidWeaver in the past, and it has one serious failing I simply can't live with - it won't open my existing HTML files. Ditto for Sandvox - and for Apple's iWeb, for that matter.

I'm essentially looking for a word processor that creates HTML/XHTML files, not a design program, although these may be useful for projects outside of Low End Mac.

Dan

Moving to RapidWeaver

Andy Collins writes:

Hi Dan,

I've just read you latest Mac Musings on LEM today with interest. So I thought I'd "chip in". I'm the webmaster for the Hovercraft Club of Great Britain's website. I took over a couple of years ago, and I've slowly been digging in.

There is quite a mix of authoring tools at work here. Originally it was all written in MS FrontPage, which predates CSS, and so there are pages with tags that have embedded attributes. I have some PHP, forums, a gallery, a calendar that auto-updates the front page, etc.

In looking around for tools, I basically gave up on true WYSIWYG, as they all tend to make a bit of a mess when you re-edit. Tags can get confused, and they don't like it if you touch the code. Up until now I've been using Bluefish on Linux as a nice HTML editor - no WYSIWYG, but pretty good.

However, I'm in the process of moving over to RapidWeaver from RealMac software. It produces nice clean code, can do site management, has good theme support (with tutorials on how to roll your own). It has a different outlook to most other editors I've come across, in that you don't touch its HTML. If you want to do something specific (for example, drop into PHP), you write your code into the page as normal and then you tell RW to ignore formatting. From that moment one, that bit of code is all yours, and RW won't touch it.

So far I haven't found anything that I need that it can't do. Don McAlistair of screencastsonline.com has done four or so video podcasts that really show what it can do, so when you have a moment, give it a look. There is a full featured demo that's only limited in the number of pages you can publish. There is also a great forum.

If you'd like to see how the new site is coming on, take a look at www.hovercraft.org.uk/newsite, but I should warn you it's very much a work in progress and not nearly ready for the real world yet. It has all sorts of things going on, inserts of text updated by other code, PHP to pick up forum posts like a blogger, and more.

Please keep up the good work on LEM, it's one of my favourite daily visits.

All the best.

Andy Collins

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Andy. Microsoft FrontPage is to WYSIWYG HTML as Internet Explorer is to HTML display. The one create absolutely horrid code, while the other displays standard code horridly. The only benefit of FrontPage is that it's horrid code is optimized for IE's quirks.

The entire Low End Mac website - thousands of pages - was originally created in Claris Home Page, and all of the pages have probably been manipulated in BBEdit Lite (Classic Mac OS) and/or TextWrangler several times since then. (Both are great for global search and replace, like when powerbooksource.com changed its domain to pbsource.com.)

I've looked at RapidWeaver, iWeb, and Sandvox, and they all seem like very nice tools for creating a new site or recreating an existing one. None of them, however, will do the simplest thing any HTML editor should do - open an existing page. While these may be great tools for new projects, I need to be able to edit existing files as well as create new ones.

Dan

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Dan Knight has been publishing Low End Mac since April 1997. Mailbag columns come from email responses to his Mac Musings, Mac Daniel, Online Tech Journal, and other columns on the site.

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