Winter Time Blues

Seems like this winter has just been dragging its feet as it continues its slow pace through its never ending cycle. It really feels slower than usual this time. I thought that I had prepared myself for a long winter by planning well ahead of time what I wanted to get done. In fact, I prepared so well that I got everything done well in advance of when I had planned to.

So, since I am far ahead of myself, I’ve decided to slow down a bit and take some time to do a little exploring. I’ve decided that it’s time to pay a visit to shareware/freeware land and see what is readily available and enjoyable to use. I had downloaded several applications and utilities that I just never got around to using or evaluating properly. Following is a run down on what I found on just a few.

Tex-Edit Plus (version 1.6.2-1.6.3)

Apple was very kind to us when it gave us Teach Text and the Simple Text. I guess that they just didn’t want to overpower us with too much of a good thing. Thankfully Tom Bender decided that many of us are ready for a good deal more functionality than either of these Apple standbys can offer. Mr. Bender first started with the Tex-Edit version back in the days of System 6 for the Mac, improving on a good thing and upgrading to the present Tex-Edit Plus for System 7 and 7.5. Tex-Edit Plus fits very comfortably in the position between Simple Text and one of the commercial word processing programs which does everything.

Tex-Edit Plus is an easy to use program that does exactly what Mr. Bender designed it to do. Want to create text documents, create “Read Me” documents, read and edit text documents created by other word processing programs, prepare MS-DOS text that you can upload to a BBS, add color and style to AOL or Eworld e-mail or quote a passage from received e-mail for sender reference. How about drag and drop capability, find/replace capability, strip line feeds (from MS-DOS systems), convert UNIX to Mac format or vice versa. Probably one of its best attributes is its ability to read documents aloud if you have Apple’s Speech Manager extension in your system. You’re trying to finish up that upcoming paper for school or prepare an important letter but you’re tired and you don’t know if it sounds right. No problem, just use the sound menu and let the entire paper or your letter get read back to you, or just a selected passage or word. Really want to add some zip to your document, use Tex-Edit Plus to insert sound into your work. Tex-Edit Plus does it all. The best part of the whole deal is the size, coming in at about 380K and it is not a memory hog. And for those of you who like to read a manual when you go to use a new program, Mr. Bender has included one with the system that prints easily and logically lays out the program and its capabilities.

In the short period of time I have used the program, I increasingly find more uses for it and find myself going back to the manual and trying new things whenever I get the chance. Probably the most important thing about Tex-Edit Plus is the cost, $5.00 American (although Mr. Bender will apparently gladly accept an equal amount of foreign currency or stamps). For a shareware program that does what it does and for an author who listens to what the users have to say and makes improvements /corrections when needed, I don’t think you will find a better deal anywhere else. Available on AOL, Eworld and FTP access.

The Tilery (version 3.1)

I don’t know about the rest of you, but after getting my Mac and becoming familiar with it, the first thing I did when I started to customize was to get rid of the LAUNCHER. I don’t know what it was about it, but I didn’t enjoy using it at all. I’ve tried several other programs since, but just did not find one that pleased me. Not until I found The Tilery did a launcher do what I wanted it to do without being obtrusive or overbearing in appearance.

The Tilery is an application I have found to be very reliable and compatible with the rest of my system software. The Tilery was written by Rick Holzgrafe and is copyrighted by ©Semicolon Software 1991-1995. Formerly called “Applicon”, its name was changed to avoid conflict with an unrelated commercial product .

The Tilery displays tiles, each representing an application, control panel, document or folder. Clicking on a tile opens its represented item; applications are launched and/or brought to the front, documents are opened, folders are opened and displayed. Mr. Holzgrafe has set up The Tilery so that if tiles are hidden behind other windows, moving the mouse to a “hot spot” in a corner of the screen will make them visible. The Tilery requires System 7 or later, and will run on any Macintosh, preferring systems that include the Scriptable Finder and Macintosh Drag and Drop. (NOTE-If your system does not include Macintosh Drag and Drop, you won’t be able to drop Finder icons onto the tiles. If your system doesn’t include the Scriptable Finder, you won’t be able to use tiles for folders, Trash, control panels, and certain other features, such as “Find Original,” will be disabled. However, you can still create and use tiles for applications, desk accessories, and normal documents.)

I have found The Tilery to be easy to use, not overbearing and a lot more useful then the Launcher. Position The Tilery icon where you want it on your desktop and when you wish to use it, double click on the icon. The applications, documents, folders or whatever you have set up become immediately visible and ready for use. Enjoy having the Finder on-screen at the same time if you wish. The Tilery allows you to set-up the direction the tiles will flow within its guidelines, as well as the style of the tiles themselves. Using Drag and Drop, you can drag icons from the Finder and drop them onto tiles. Drop a document icon onto an application tile and it opens the document in that application, drop anything onto a folder icon moves or copies it into that folder.

This application is freeware (can’t beat that price) and well worth a tryout on your system, even if you don’t have drag and drop and the scriptable finder. Online help is easy to use and covers the most important points that you’ll need to know. Available on AOL, Eworld and FTP access.

Tech Tool (version 1.0.8 to 1.0.9)

This is a handy little freeware utility provided by Micromat Computer Systems, (commercial provider of other Mac diagnostic products) handy for rebuilding the desktop (which I would recommend doing monthly), zapping the PRAM and which also now tests for damaged system files and presents a display of system information. This program is usable with System 7 and up and provides you with a basic tool if you’re beginning to have some problems with your system. Try the analyze system button to ascertain if you’re having specific problems the program can detect by analyzing resource and data components and comparing them to known good system factors, letting you know if a given system file is damaged or not.

Rebuilding the desktop is a snap with this utility (remember if you’re using Macintosh Easy Open to keep it active while you turn off all other extensions) Once all other extensions are off, press the rebuild desktop button and the program completely removes the desktop file so that the next time the Finder loads, it inserts a new desktop file. Heck, the program will even give you the birthday of your CPU (the day they tested it at the factory and turned it on for the first time) Again, the price is right and the manufacturer wants to stay on your good side so that you’ll consider some of their other diagnostic programs for purchase. Available via AOL, Eworld and FTP access.

Now that I’ve looked over a few shareware/freeware products, I don’t feel so blue anymore! Well, time is starting to catch back up with me so I’ll take my leave for this month.

Before I forget, if you don’t have Speech Manager, or a similar product as in MacinTalk Pro or MacinTalk, consider downloading English Text-to-speech 1.4.1, provided you have 5 megs of hard drive space, 300K plus of RAM available and System 6.0.7 or later, and you’re interested in having your Mac speak to you. You must also be willing to go through a long download from Apple (50 plus minutes at 14.4) but this program is otherwise free. The original voice I got with my system 7.5 was “Marvin”, and after a while, Marvin just got very boring to listen to when I used Tex-Edit Plus to read back a paragraph or two. Now I have 22 voices to pick from and listening has become a lot more enjoyable. Available on AOL, Eworld and other Apple sites.

Have Fun!

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