The MacFactor – Eye on the iMac

As I write this column in mid-August, Apple’s introduction of the iMac is still pending. Initial signs all seem to point to a resounding success, but I’m a little leery of a few factors that might still mar the machine’s initial and long-term success.

First, and perhaps foremost, is the tendency for technology journalists to become infatuated with power—sometimes losing any sense of perspective on products they write about and review. On the surface, the iMac appears pretty powerful, but it’s not the machine for heavy duty graphics work (though a few years ago a graphic artist would have been thrilled by its speed) and it’s not a machine aimed at the desktop publishing market (though I remember some desktop publishers awfully pleased with the much slower Quadra line). I fear you may read that the iMac has: a slow system bus; or only a 512 Meg back cache; or a mere 15 inch monitor; or a slower than SCSI universal serial bus (USB). The naysayers may even suggest it only comes in one set of colors (though that may change) or it’s too heavy to carry around by its handle.

Somehow, Apple has to step through this minefield by emphasizing that the iMac is aimed at a very specific target group—’non-power users’—in much the same way the original Volkswagen Beetle was targeted at people who simply wanted to get from one place to another. And like the Volkswagen’s New Beetle, the iMac will get you where you want to go with class.

Another concern is iMac connectivity. This may sound strange given that this is supposed to be one of the machine’s strengths, but connecting the iMac to an older Mac is not particularly easy. If your older Mac has an Ethernet port, you’ll need an Ethernet transceiver and an Ethernet crossover cable. You’ll also need to turn on AppleShare and start up file sharing, create users on both machines, select AppleShare in the Chooser, and then choose the name of the drive you’re sharing from the list that appears in the dialog box. The fact that I suspect I’ve left something out of this process indicates just how complex this whole procedure might appear to a ‘non-power user.’ If you have an older Mac without an Ethernet port, you’ll have to spring for some sort of USB/serial adapter and a go through much the same process.

I trust that around the time of the introduction of the iMac at least one of the print magazines may address this problem, but in a way, that’s too late. Apple expect to sell loads of iMacs to their already installed base and moving files from the old Mac to the new will be everyone’s priority. If Apple takes a black eye in the press for its failure to appropriately resolve this issue, the iMac’s market momentum could be affected.

I’d like to see an iMac Connectivity Kit that includes the hardware necessary to connect a Mac to an iMac along with some simple software script that could automatically set up users, turn on sharing, and pop the hard drives up on each respective desktop.

While visiting the Washington, DC area this summer, I had a chance to check out the local CompUSA and assess their iMac marketing effort. My initial impression was that at least this particular store was not prepared for an enormous iMac rush. There were no iMacs on display and I found only one salesperson ready to talk about this machine. My very unscientific study pointed to avoidance behavior by most of the sales staff. I asked the one ‘Mac expert’ about moving files from an old Mac to the iMac and, though he mentioned a USB/serial adapter, he incorrectly suggested that USB was just as fast as SCSI. I asked for the specifications and cost of a USB/serial adapter and he indicated that this information would be forthcoming when the iMac was officially launched. I also requested information about the CompUSA iMac $800 promotion and had a difficult time finding anyone who knew anything about it. After considerable delay, a manager asked if I was willing to put $200 down on the purchase of an iMac, to which I suggested that I’d like to see details about the promotion first. She then went into a back office, retrieved a coupon book, and let me look at it briefly, while she hovered over me.The manager informed me that two weeks prior to the release of the iMac, the store had already received some 20 pre-orders.

As CompUSA expands its Macintosh business, it’s crucial that the store staff be knowledgeable and enthusiastic about Apple products. The company should also ensure that CompUSA branches fully support its own national marketing efforts, such as the iMac $800 promotion.

Word 98’s new graphics capabilities are very powerful and can be used to help perform basic desktop publishing tasks like creating business cards, certificates, newsletters and the like. Making business cards can be frustrating because graphics and text blocks need to be arranged and placed in a table cell while avoiding the cell’s tendency to apply its built-in word processing regimens. It’s also possible to inadvertently lose a graphic beneath the table text.

A successful strategy I employed entailed measuring the card; constructing the card on another, non-tabular page; grouping all the pieces into a single object; and then pasting and aligning the card object onto the business card template. Pasting the card object appears to neutralize interference from the table’s built-in formatting.

The following outline demonstrates this strategy while providing experience with some of Word’s important new tools. (Note: the addresses have been changed to protect the innocent!)

Select a format (Avery, etc.)
Choose Envelopes and Labels, Labels, and then Options; select the required Label Product (Avery, MACO standard, other); scroll down to the appropriate business card format; after clicking OK, choose ‘Full page of the same label’ and then ‘New Document.’ Turn on the Drawing Toolbar and create a rectangular frame the same size as a single label; Copy the frame to the clipboard, create a new (non-tabular) working document, and paste the sample frame into the new document. (Note: you could also, of course, simply determine the size of the card and draw a similarly sized frame on your working document.)

Arrange text
In your working document use a different text box for each section of the card; choose a TrueType Font and an acceptable font size and style (I used mainly 6, 8, and 10 point text); use a borderless table inserted into a text box to organize columns of information; use different font colors to highlight particular areas; use the format text box toolbar to ensure that text and graphics boxes have a wrap set to NONE. (Note: the format text box toolbar is summoned by double clicking on the edge of the text box.)

Arrange graphics
Place graphics in text boxes; test print graphics to check print resolution; where graphics contain bit-mapped text, consider cropping or use a graphics editor to remove the bitmapped text; replace this with Word text (use a separate text box with transparent background and stack it properly using the Draw Toolbar).

Arrange card
Construct card by arranging text boxes and graphics inside the sample frame you pasted into your working document; check stacking order and background transparency to ensure desired degree of visibility; once card is arranged, use the Draw Toolbar to group text and graphics boxes; though it’s tempting to keep the box frame around the card, remember the card will be automatically framed in white once you separate them; if you do use a frame, group it with the other objects.

Construct card page
Prior to constructing a full page of labels, make sure the one label you’ve created in your working document is exactly the way you want it; select entire card and choose ‘Copy’ from the edit menu; go to Window and select your label layout; paste card into top left cell; also paste card in top right cell and align the two cards.

Test Print and adjust
Do a test print and hold printout behind template included in the Avery business card box. (Note: Most boxes of business cards include a couple of blank templates for this purpose); determine if cards are entirely enclosed in corresponding cells; if not, make adjustments using ‘Nudge’ commands in Draw Toolbar; once cards print out properly, group the two cards, copy and paste them down to the next two cells.

Test Print and adjust (2)
You may have to adjust the vertical distance between the two sets of cards; once your printed cards fall entirely within the template, copy, and paste to finish the page; some card formats have an odd number of cards vertically and so you may be required to copy and paste just two of the cards at a time; finally, print your cards at the highest resolution.


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