Mac Musings

No Mac OS X Yet

- 2001.03.24 - Tip Jar

"Hi, my name is Dan, and I don't have Mac OS X on order."

"Hi, Dan!"

Although I finally have a Mac that supports it, I have no intention of buying Mac OS X in the near future. It's not that I wouldn't like to use it, but only one of the applications I use runs under OS X - everything else would have to run in the OS 9.1 environment.

I'll give it a couple weeks and see what OS X users report. There are rumors that OS 9.1 on OS X may actually perform better. If that's the case, maybe I'll buy. Maybe.

OS X Rules

It's not that I don't believe in OS X. I believe it is the best thing to happen to the Mac OS since MultiFinder. It will redefine stability, which is already pretty good with Mac OS 9.1

But to really benefit from OS X, you need programs that run within the Aqua environment. Almost everything I use doesn't. Here's my list:

  1. AOL Instant Messenger. If not OS X native, Fire is available.
  2. AppleWorks 6. OS X compatible.
  3. BBEdit Lite 4.0.1. Unknown.
  4. Claris Emailer 2.0v3. Abandoned.
  5. Claris Home Page 3.0. Abandoned.
  6. GraphicConverter 4.0.4. Unknown.
  7. Internet Explorer 5. Promised with OS X.
  8. Microsoft Word 5.1a. Several upgrades old, would have to buy upgrade.
  9. MYOB Account Edge. Compatible version announced.
  10. Photoshop 4. Several upgrades old, would have to buy upgrade.
  11. ramBunctious 1.5. Unknown.
  12. SETI@Home. Command line version available.
  13. WebChecker 1.2.1. Unknown.
  14. Mizer 1.3. HTML compression, would have to replace.

Out of 14 programs I use heavily, one is currently OS X compatible, two should be by now, and the third (AIM) can be replaced with the freeware Fire instant messenger. The others would have to be replaced or run in OS 9.1 compatibility mode.

Then there are the control panels and extensions I use, many of which are not yet ready for OS X - and some may never be.

  1. CopyAgent. Unknown.
  2. Default Folder. Unknown.
  3. Drivers for Kensington, Contour mice. Unknown.
  4. MenuChoice. Abandoned.
  5. PopChar Lite. Abandoned.
  6. QuicKeys 5.0. Unknown.
  7. SmoothType. Only works in Classic under OS X.

Believe me, going to OS X without these will change the way I work, because these are tools that improve my efficiency (except for SmoothType, which just beats the pants off Apple's font smoothing). I held off on Mac OS 9 until CopyAgent replaced Speed Doubler, and then discovered I had to upgrade my ancient QuicKeys 3.x as well.

Give it time and I'm sure all these utilities will be available for OS X - or someone else will have filled their niche. But until then, the power of OS X will take away some of the power I've had under System 7.x all the way through OS 9.1.

No, I'm not ready to make the move.

Proposal: Open Source Software

The best tools are those that work well and work with you, not against you. That's why I've stuck with antique software like Claris Emailer and Claris Home Page. They work well, they're comfortable, and I don't see any reason to change.

I'd like to propose a couple open source projects, perhaps written in a powerful accessible language like REALbasic: SavvyMail and SavvyPage. They would start out emulating Claris Emailer 2 and Claris Home Page, then grow from there.

SavvyMail

Emailer is fine for plain old email, but stumbles completely when it comes to styled email. Some of us believe that email doesn't need all those embellishments, but we're part of a shrinking minority. The first thing SavvyMail would need to add once it's got Emailer emulation down is dealing with styled email.

One reason I chose the name SavvyMail: The program would keep track of each user in your address book, marking each as plain mail or styled mail. Although you could set this yourself, you could also have SavvyMail set it automatically. Set the default to plain text, but if that person sends you styled mail, SavvyMail would update the flag for that user. Of course, this would be under user control.

If you send a message to a group of user, some marked for plain text and others for styled text, it would send a styled message twice: once to style users, and once with the styles stripped out to plain text users.

SavvyMail could also be expanded with several interfaces, allowing it to look like an Aquafied version of Emailer, Eudora, Outlook Express, or Apple's own email client.

One feature I'd love to see that Emailer lacks: a global SMTP server setting. If I'm on the road, I have to manually change that for each of the email accounts I have. A global override sure would be nice.

I'm sure there are other embellishments, but this is a starting point.

SavvyPage

I've tried the big bloated slow-loading site design programs: Dream Weaver, GoLive 5, and Freeway. I always end up back with the page-oriented Claris Home Page. It just works.

Better yet, Home Page tends to create HTML pages that just work. SavvyPage should do that, too.

Home Page is long in tooth and has a tendency to change some code. For instance, if you specify DOC TYPE, which has to appear before the <HTML> tag, Home Page will move it after the <HTML> tag when you open the page. Likewise, Server Side Includes have tags added before and after them, which too often results in an extra line feed or two.

Home Page doesn't directly support Cascading Style Sheets, although you can manually link to them. How much better if SavvyPage had a module for editing style sheets and let you view your pages with whatever style sheet that page is linked to.

Some people are very concerned about HTML 3.2 and 4.0 compliance, so SavvyPage should let the user select the DOC TYPE and have SavvyPage verify compliance to the selected standard.

One of the worst things about WYSIWYG page design program in general and Claris Home Page in specific is bloat. On average, the files Home Page creates can be compressed by 25% using Mizer 1.3 (my choice) and other HTML compression programs on the market. About 80% of this comes from simply removing the extra blank spaces that come from "pretty formatting" of source code. SavvyPage should do pretty formatting, but remove the extra spaces when the file is saved.

About the only reason I use BBEdit Lite is to do a global search-and-replace on my site. Home Page just can't handle all the files on Low End Mac, and even if it could, it's much slower than BBEdit Lite. A fast, powerful feature like that should be part of SavvyPage.

SavvyPage should also have some basic site management tools, allowing the site owner to rename or relocate a file or folder while the software updates all relative and fixed links. With a little more intelligence, it could automatically create a redirect page for each page that was moved.

Again, there would be other features that could be added as necessary.

Why Open Source?

By making SavvyMail and SavvyPage open source, nobody owns the project, anyone can use the software, and anyone can work to improve it. It also forces everyone to work with standards, rather than coming up a with a unique and incompatible way of doing things. It also means the source code is readily available, making it possible for users to find and fix problems as well as extend the program into new areas.

I don't know the viability of a project like this, but as an open source project, it could reach beyond Mac OS X into the worlds of Linux and Windows, creating cross platform solutions Mac users could share freely with friends, family, and coworkers beholden to the Microsoft platform.

But most of all, it would keep the spirit of Claris Emailer and Claris Home Page alive for those who have found these applications the best solution for email and Web page design.

Give me those kind of programs under OS X, and I'll have no reason not to order a copy.

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Dan Knight has been using Macs since 1986, sold Macs for several years, supported them for many more years, and has been publishing Low End Mac since April 1997. If you find Dan's articles helpful, please consider making a donation to his tip jar.

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