Good things come in small packages
©Copyright 1994 David MacNeill
This month Ill focus on a variety of little things that can considerably improve your Newton experience. With all the great new commercial software titles coming out lately I have fallen behind in my shareware coverage. Below youll find capsule reviews of my current faves. All shareware mentioned is available on the Internet at newton.uiowa.edu in /pub/newton, on eWorld, America Online, or CompuServe. And --drum roll please-- its time to reveal Daves Top Five Tips, collected over the last six months or so.
You can finally stop holding your breath for Quicken to come out on the Newton. A terrific $20 shareware account manager called PocketMoney by Hardy Macia is all most people will ever need. Now you can toss that tattered checkbook register youve been hauling around. Featuring a clean and intuitive interface, a great manual, and lots of report options to view your account data, PocketMoney is good enough to be commercial. There is also a companion utility called PocketButton that creates a $ button in your Notepad screen. Just tap the button when you are in the grocery checkout line to go straight to your last transaction entry. PocketMoney also exports in QIF format for all you Quicken users on either Macintosh or Windows. Great stuff!
Upper Buttons 1.0
With all those built-in and shareware buttons installed across the bottom of your screen, adding any new ones forces you to make some painful choices. Upper Buttons, a text entry "macro" utility, gets around all this by placing tiny icons in the folder bar across the top of the screen. Just tap on these little icons to auto-enter whatever text you like. I set up one to type my long distance card number, since I can never remember it, and another one to type "916-" since I dont like having to enter it for local calls when I create a new name card.
NetNames 0.95 and NetTest 0.5
If you ever find yourself tracing down AppleTalk network cable problems, you just gotta get these little utilities. Dont let those "beta" version numbers scare you; these tools work just fine. Pop a PhoneNet or LocalTalk connector into your Newtons serial port, jack into your network, then run NetNames to look for printers, file servers, routers, QuickMail clients, PowerTalk clients, or Newton Connection Kits. This is an extremely efficient way to locate cable breaks and track down disappearing resources due to extreme cable lengths. NetTest is for debugging zone-related problems and for listing name binding protocol (NBP) items.
Of course, the real reason NetNames and NetTest are so cool is that you look like a Star Trek officer waving a tricorder around. Be sure to have all your sounds turned on for maximum effect. Also, try saying things like "The termination module in this Farallon interface is causing resource image replications in this sector. I recommend a Level One diagnostic."
Before you install a new application on a RAM card, you always have to open the Card item in the Extras drawer and check the "Store new items on card" box. The problem is that, if youre like me, you always forget to go back and uncheck the stupid box! So all your Names and Notes get saved to your card instead of internal memory. Pull out your card and poof! theyre unavailable. CopyMachine is a simple utility that lists all of your stored items in two columns: Internal and Card. Tap the Move button to shuttle your stuff wherever you like to store them. No more poof!
Daves Top Five Tips
Although adding a few strategic commercial applications and shareware utilities can dramatically improve your life with Newton, theres nothing like learning a few nifty techniques to streamline things.
1. Speedy to-do entry
Once a week or so, go to your Dates file and drag out a half-dozen blank to-do items, all two lines high. Whenever you need to jot down a new item you wont have to fiddle with drawing a straight line, which can be challenging if attempted while playing drums, skiing, holding a child, or after consuming many adult beverages.
2. Ray-O-Vac Renewal batteries
These rechargeable alkaline batteries are cool. Unlike nicads, they dont have problems with memory effect or charge dissipation in storage. They last a long time (two weeks in a MessagePad 110,) are cheap, and the recharger is small and easy to use. The only thing wrong with Renewals is that they can be hard to find. Try K-Mart or Target.
3. Faster Names file access
Always keep at least one name card in your Unfiled folder. After a restart, Newton resets your Names file to show only Unfiled names. If you have no unfiled names, it takes forever to come up with an empty list. I keep copy of my own card for quick beaming.
4. MessagePad 100/110 moon phase trick
The 100/110 ROMs have a little improvement to the original Dates application. Tap just above the date in the upper left to see a little moon phase icon. Cool.
5. Improved handwriting recognition
MessagePad 100s and 110s have the ability to use letter by letter recognition in the Names file or everywhere. The only reason it is turned off by default is that Apple feels it slows things down to much. However, this works so well you might as well try it for yourself. Go to your Prefs, choose Recognizers, and check the letter-by-letter recognition box and the everywhere button. This engages both word and letter recognition, improving the recognition accuracy with only a very slight performance degradation. Works for me.
David MacNeill is a teacher and Internet consultant for the IconoClass, a Macintosh, Windows, Internet, and Newton training center in Sacramento, 916-565-3535. He can be reached on eWorld/NewtonMail at DaveMacNeill, or on the Internet at firstname.lastname@example.org.