Starting Line
My Mac Magazine #27, July ’97

Dear Readers:

Good news! I recently purchased a used PowerMac 6100 and am up to System 7.5.5! Finally, I’m beginning to recover from the fish tank episode. Up until I read Pete Miner’s June article, I truly thought I was computer cursed. I now realize my problems are the result of Pete’s computer curse overflowing! 😉

With the summer months finally here (at least in the rest of the country-the Northeast is reverting back to November!), I thought I’d keep the column short and sweet. Most folks like to enjoy the great outdoors, even if it is just vegging on the back deck, so I’ll try not to tie you up for too long.

For those of you in the Northeast, don’t forget! The MacWorld Expo is next month, August 6-8 in Boston. Personally, I love going just to be surrounded by all the Macs. After working all year in a Windoze environment, it’s very refreshing. And, if you have extra cash floating around, the deals on software are unbelievable! I’ve seen them range from 20%-80% off suggested selling price.

I’ve also found the vendor sponsored educational events to be extremely informative. I prefer them over the MacWorld seminars. They tend to be smaller, and while you usually don’t have any hands on, the small class size makes it easier to ask questions and follow what is happening.

Okay, enough chit chat. Let’s dive right into it!

Helpful Hints

HH #18: Brainstorming-What does this have to do with knowing how to use my Mac, you ask? A lot! I’ve found that oftentimes, when you run into a glitch and are troubleshooting your Mac, talking to someone else opens up the doors of creativity! This happens a couple of ways. The first is fairly obvious – that is the person you’re brainstorming with generally comes up with different ideas. The second way is that your creative juices get flowing and you hit upon more ideas to approach the problem. Getting two or three people involved in a problem almost always solves the issue without the expense of tech support.

As a side note, this is yet another function of user groups, so if you can join one, do so!

HH #19: Windoze Extensions-Now, who would want to know these? We’re Mac users and darn proud of it! Well, let’s face it, we are currently in an overwhelming Windoze world and at some point will need to use a Windoze machine or translate a Windoze document. If the creator of the document you need to get at is not around (or is woefully undereducated as most Windoze users seem to be), knowing the extension of the document helps considerably. Below is a list of some of the more common extensions and what they are.

.bmp bitmap graphic
.cdr CorelDraw document
.dbf database file
.doc MS Word document
.eps Encapsulated PostScript file
.gif GIF graphic
.htm Web page or html document
.jpg JPEG compressed graphic
.pct PICT graphic
.pdf Adobe Acrobat document
.ppt MS PowerPoint document
.qxp QuarkXpress document
.rtf Rich Text Format word processing document
.tif TIFF graphic
.txt text
.wk1 Lotus 1­2­3 spreadsheet
.xls Microsoft Excel spreadsheet

There are a ton more, but this is a good start. It also begins to give you a feel for how Windoze extensions work, so you can figure the extension out if it’s not on the list.

HH #20: Drop Caps-Almost every word processing and page layout program now offers drops caps. Granted, in most correspondence you are not going to want to use them. But, if you’re making some sort of flyer or announcement that needs to be posted at work, the local grocery store, at church, etc., or are making a newsletter, drop caps can come in very handy.

I’m not going to tell you how to access drop caps as it varies for each program. However, I am going to give you a couple of tips to keep those drop caps looking professional.

1) Keep the kerning tight. But what’s kerning?! Kerning is the space between letters. Most fonts have at least partial automatic kerning between more common letter pairs, such as “th.” Unfortunately, it’s impossible to cover all the letter pairs possible and that’s where manual kerning comes into play. If your program offers the feature, use it. Too much white space between the drop cap and the rest of the text makes your drop cap look as though it is by itself and not part of the text. It can be very distracting and ruins the look of your document.

2) But don’t make the kerning too tight! You don’t want the text running into your drop cap. There needs to be some space so you can read the individual letters. In some cases, manual kerning will not help. Or, maybe your program does not support manual kerning. An alternative is to do a soft return at the end of the first line of text and use the space bar to create space between the drop cap and the text.

You can also use this method to create more of a wrapped look to your drop cap. By this I mean the text wrap around your drop cap will more resemble a text wrap around a graphic. It can be a very nice visual effect.

3) A pop cap can be an interesting design twist. A pop cap rises out of the paragraph rather than dropping into it. There are a couple of ways to accomplish this. The first is to simply enlarge your letter and use manual kerning to keep the text from moving too far away from the cap. The second is to create a drop cap using the drop cap function in your program and adding a soft return or two immediately after the cap. This drops the text down to the bottom (or baseline) of the cap.

Correction: I inadvertently made a typo in last month’s column! My sincere apologies! The address for the William Shatner sing-a-long is really:

I had typed kirl instead of kirk. Again, my apologies.

Last, but not least: Please e-mail with your thoughts, suggestions, and corrections. I’ll be happy to answer and you’ll receive credit for your idea!

And so ends another Starting Line.


Barbara Bell (

Websites mentioned:

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