I tried to maintain a healthy skepticism about the NeXT computer-really I did-but it's hard to resist the hype. When I finally saw the machine, when I finally got to click the mouse button and drag windows around the screen, I realized there was no hope for me. I'm in awe.
The components are sleek black metal. Put your hand on the laser printer and wonder at how cool it is. Feel the raised logos on the power cord. We're talking classic styling here.
NeXT has also provided a beautiful user interface. Grab the mouse and move a window around the screen. No temporary dotted lines appear on this 17-inch monitor; the window, contents and all, moves just as smoothly and quickly as you please. Your menus collapse into one strip of main options. You can drag the strip and leave it anywhere you want, much like the tearoff menus in HyperCard or MacPaint, and you can leave any of the submenus open or drag them to other convenient places on the screen. Applications icons line the right edge of the screen; you can slide them off to make more room if needed. There are even two ways to see files: with the traditional icon-based Macintosh method and with a file browser with lists of directories displayed in columns so you can see several levels of directories at a time.
Screen and printer graphics are both driven by PostScript, so WYSIWYG is a lot more WYSIWYG than it is on our Macintoshes.
Bundled software includes a NeXT version of WriteNow, Mathematica, several online reference books (such as the complete works of William Shakespeare and a Webster's dictionary), and an electronic mail system that includes voice messages.
Also included is a programming environment that resembles colorforms, those sticky vinyl pieces we used when we were kids. To build the user interface for any Macintosh program, you usually have to write the code yourself. At best, you can summon routines from the Toolbox. On the NeXT, you build an interface by grabbing objects and defining them as input or output. You link interface elements with the core program objects as you define them. It's still no replacement for programming logic, but programming is much easier.
The optical drive holds more data than 350 floppy disks could store, and the computer comes with eight megabytes of RAM. A choir of angels should have burst out in song by now.
If you haven't fallen in love yet, listen to the NeXT sing. It has compact disc quality sound, clear as rainwater. As a matter of fact, you ought to hear the Amazon rain forest thunderstorm the computer can conjure up.
For people like me, the NeXT is overkill-like a Jaguar sedan with a wet bar in the glove compartment, a television in the back seat, and a jacuzzi in the trunk. Right now, you have to be comfortable with UNIX to run the computer (the system isn't quite finished). By June, though, UNIX should be completely hidden by NeXT's interface.
Don't look at the NeXT as your next computer; look at its features as a wish-list of options you should ask for if Apple ever calls.
Dabble with DTP
Brøderbund has stepped into the desktop publishing arena with three new, reasonably priced packages.
Drawing Table is an object-oriented graphics package along much the same lines as the original MacDraw-with a few added attractions, like the ability to wrap text around objects, a la Aldus' Freehand. You can also drag clip-art images directly from a window to your work without cutting and pasting. Not bad for a $129.95 graphics package.
The second installment in the trilogy is DTPAdvisor ($79.95), a design and market ing planner accompanied by a tutorial. Running under HyperCard, DTP Advisor is a collection of forms that helps you devise a public relations strategy. You go through all the stages, from audience definition to typeface choices. On each planning form, you can click buttons that explain the concepts involved. What's most impressive about the package is its use of hypertext. You still might get as much out of a book, but the convenience of clicking for information is hard to beat.
Third in the series, TypeStyler lets you create typographical special effects by twisting, stretching, shadowing, and shading letters. Again, Brøderbund has supplied a package with some high-end capabilities for a low-end price: $149.95.
Don't be fooled, though. Brøderbund's creativity line won't replace the capabilities of more advanced, expensive packages. You can produce some impressive documents and organize some exciting projects with packages like these, but if you need more sophisticated tools, you'll have to turn to a more sophisticated package. But for those of us who have the time and resources to only dabble and tinker with design and publicity, these programs can fulfill most of our needs.
In the past year or so, the Macintosh has grown up and moved into the real world of microcomputers, the business world. I realize Apple has to make a buck, but somehow programs that need more than a megabyte of memory can sap a lot of goodwill out of the little guy.
So I'm always pleased to find developers offering programs that preserve the Macin tosh's no-frills, no-thrills environment-easy to use, high-quality programs that work on low-memory Macintoshes. T/Maker (1390 Villa Street, Mountain View, California 94041; 415-962-0195) is just such a company, offering a strong word processor upgrade that works on a 128K Macintosh. WriteNow 2.0 ($195.00), the latest version of T/Maker's MacWrite-killer, is packed with features, including mail merge, both a memory-saving 50,000-word spelling dictionary and a luxurious 100,000word one, and a wordcounting utility.
Other nice features include tab fillers, those dots that print between a chapter head and its page number in tables of contents; Stationery, templates that control the page and paragraph format for all new files (you can override Stationery with a flick of the option key); and a powerful search-and-replace function, which finds returns and tabs and uses wildcards.
WriteNow also offers one of the most accurate WYSIWYG displays ever seen on a Macintosh. The footnotes show up at the bottom of the page, where you'd expect them to be, not in a separate window. (However, you must summon a footnote window to edit the citations.)
Most notably, you can work with as many as four columns, and they show up side by side on the screen. As you edit, the words wrap from one column to the next ... shades of desktop publishing.
Compared to Microsoft Word, WriteNow 2.0 is sluggish, but you need about a megabyte of memory to run Word well, not to mention more money in your pocket to get it to your desk in the first place. But when compared with the low-end word processors like Microsoft Works and MacWrite, T/Maker's package holds its own in speed trials.
Have you ever written a report in Microsoft Word and found that you needed to go back and italicize every occurrence of the word voilà? That'll be 20 search-and-replace operations, please. Find the word, select it, hit Command-Shift-I for italics, and then on to the next one. Right?
Wrong. Maybe you have a macro program. Maybe you could write a script that would accomplish the change with the stroke of a key. But here's a faster method that you should try next time you use Microsoft Word. Find the first occurrence of a word that you want to italicize. Italicize it as you normally would and then copy the newly formatted word to the Clipboard.
Call up the Change window from the Search menu. In the Find What field, type the word you want to reformat. In the Change To field, type a caret (Shift-6) and the letter c. Then start the search and voilà, you have your change.
You can use the caret-c method to change recurring words to any character format or paragraph format (centered, double-spaced, and so on). This trick doesn't work in MacWrite, Works, or WriteNow too bad, it's a nice feature.
- Heidi E. H. Aycock