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Computing With Bifocals
by Nancy Carroll Gravley

A column for people who remember what
the world was like before there was color.....




For Your Parents: How To Make Your Cursor Big
March 16th, 2000

Reader Joe Lanier wrote in recently asking if I knew of any software for the Mac that would enlarge the pointer, cursor, and I-bar on the Mac desktop. Joe was looking for something to assist an elderly relative to navigate more easily on his desktop. I really was not aware of anything, but figured there must be something so I went hunting. I found one program, especially designed for the Mac. It is called Biggy-Lite and is made by R J Cooper and Associates. To digress for just a moment , if you, or someone you know, would benefit from a site developed to assist computer users with special needs, I recommend that you check out their web site.

Biggy-Lite, which sells for US$29, is a scaled down version of Biggy, which sells for $99. There is a demo available at the download site, but the demo version only remains active for the first 15 minutes your computer is turned on. Biggy-Lite offers only about a dozen options, but for someone who just wants basic bigger items the Lite version should adequately fit the bill.

There are large and medium, static and animated versions. There are also choices for left handed persons. Actually, I had never considered the fact that pointers on computers face in the wrong way for lefties. This could make their life easier, particularly young people just learning to use computers for the first time.

Your normal Mac cursor is usually 16x16 pixels like this one.
Biggies are 32x32 and 32x64. They are all in color although these samples from their home page are in grays.

Although I see well enough that I found the large pointer to be an impediment rather than a help (I couldn't focus it in exactly where I wanted it because I am accustomed to using the regular size), I think this could be a wonderful aid for anyone with more limited vision. One of the things that frustrates my dad as he tries to learn to use his Mac is that he can't see the watch icon when it is telling him to wait. He thinks nothing is happening and he starts hitting keys and buttons. After all, when you use a typewriter, and have done so for more than 60 years, you expect to hit a key and have an instant action. He is not an impatient person, but he wants to make the darn thing work. If he could see the watch icon (or the large cup of coffee icon) he would know something was actually happening.

Once the program is downloaded it is very easy to install and use.

If you need reminders for downloading from the internet you may want to check some previous columns in which downloading was discussed. You can access all of them by scrolling to the end of this column and clicking on the Index. I first created an index last December and I received so many nice letters from people who were glad to have it that I asked the editor if it come become a permanent resource that I updated regularly.

Once the application is installed you will find it listed as part of the Control Panel list in the Apple Menu at the very top left part of your screen. When you move your cursor to Biggy, you will then have another box pop open that offers 4 tabs (like tabs of a file folder). Click on one to go to those settings. In each of the 4 settings you can choose the new icon that best fits your needs. You can change to a different one later using the same method.

Oh, and by the way, the user manual is printed in size 18 font!

Reader Tips

Lots of reader tips have come in the last few weeks and I want to share some of them with you, starting with the following three . I always appreciate readers who take the time to write and share their knowledge. These that follow were sent in by R.J.E. Dalziel-Sharpe from Australia. Richard wrote that he considers these his most useful mac helpers because they help unobtrusively and can be modified to just what he wants. Richard also mentioned being born in the mountains of Wales and learning to write with a slate tablet and slate pen. That reminded me that I learned to write with a stylus that was a changeable pin tip mounted on a pencil-like holder. We dipped the pin tip into ink bottles that were built into our desks. Sometimes I forget how far our generation has come!

AppleScript

Richard highly recommends that we learn to take advantage of the things that AppleScript has to offer. Since I myself have often wondered just what AppleScript is I read his message eagerly. It took Richard a couple of years into his first Mac to get the courage to try it and now he says he can't do without it and has 15 basic scripts that he uses frequently to take care of things that are repetitive, time consuming or necessary and he has been able to create all but one without any programming. (That's a good thing because he would have lost me right there.)

Richard explains that:

Each day I download share prices, not that I am an investor but just to keep my finger on the pulse of the market. Each day I would log onto my sharebroking site then dive down through layers of folders to open my shares spreadsheet. Then one day I opened up the Apple script Script Editor, clicked on record and went through the whole process, then saved the script as an application and put it in the Automated Tasks folder after calling it Open Shares.

AppleScript is included in any OS package 7.5 or above. It will work with 7.1 OS and up. If you have it on your machine already you can find it by using Find or Sherlock. The folder will be in the Apple Extras folder inside your Applications folder on your hard disk. If you are ready to experiment with this application you can search it out and see what it will do for you. That is what I plan to do.

TypeIt4Me

Richard's next tip is about TypeIt4Me. This application is available here at The Mac Observer through your instant access to VersionMaster. It is shareware, sells for US$27 and is available in more than one language. Again quoting Richard:

This is without doubt one of the really great mac programs. Although there are many wizards that attempt to guess what you are going to type they have 2 problems; firstly they only work in one application. Secondly they are not too clever about guessing what you are going to type. TypeIt4Me solves both of these problems.

It works in every mac program. And it will only type in what you want it to. No matter how fast you type no one can type as fast as your mac. So how can TypeIt4Me help? How many times a day do you type your name. Mine is Richard Dalziel-Sharpe which is 22 keystrokes. Using TypeIt4Me I can do it in 3. I type ri then the trigger key (you can choose any key as your trigger) and my mac fills in the rest, quicker than I can blink. When I start a letter I type adr and my trigger key and my mac types out my whole address. Even if I could type at 1000 words per minute I would not be as fast or as accurate as TypeIt4Me and I always have complete control of what it types because I am the person who gives it the info. To use it you type out the text you want it to type for you and highlight it. Then you click on the little "A that TypeIt4Me puts in the menu bar (you can even choose its precise position there) and select "Add an entry and a little dialogue box comes up asking you to select an abbreviation. The abbreviation can be anything you choose.

Handy Man

Richard's third tip is an application called HandyMan. (US$15, also available through VersionMaster) HandyMan is similar in some ways to Powerbar Pro which I covered in an earlier column but with two differences that may be important to you. Basically what these two program do is give you instant access to applications as well as drag and drop capabilities for some programs. However, HandyMan is a Control Strip Module, , meaning that it works with your Control Strip. They display aliases for the various applications that allow you to open those applications with one click.

I have tried both of these applications at different times and, like Richard, I can't get along without one or the other of them. For a detailed overview of what these programs do you may want to read the column referenced above. The two things that Handy Man offers that are unique are the size of the bar (which is part of the Control Strip) and the fact that you can hide the bar with one click if necessary or desired. Below is a picture of Richard's desktop that demonstrates the size of Handy Man as it exists on his machine. If Richard clicks on the triangle shape tab on the left end of the strip, the strip will disappear except for the tab. He can call it back by clicking again on the tab.

Next week's column will include more success stories.

If you have any tips, suggestions, or other comments about this, or any other Mac topics, send them to me so that I can share them with other readers.


Copies of Nancy's book Tips, Hints, and Solutions for Seasoned Beginners Using Apple Macintosh Computers With OS X are available in PDF download versions  for US$9.57 and in print version for $18.15 plus $4.00 shipping.   To view sample pages and get ordering information visit the September 14, 2004 column.


Post your comments below.
Check out Nancy's complete index of all her columns for the most complete list of tips anywhere. The list is categorized and is a great reference when you are looking for help!

A Capacious Catalog Of Computer Tips

Talking to a generation that remembers what the world was like before there was color, covers issues for people who don't care how their computer works, but rather what their computer and the internet can do for them.

Nancy has a Master's degree in Human Services Administration and prior to her retirement she worked for almost 30 years in field of mental health and mental retardation. She has been a Mac user for 11 years, and has recently developed an avocation of teaching basic computer skills in both group and one-to-one settings.


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