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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.....




iTools: A Great Tool For Beginners
June 7th, 2000

A few days ago I received an e-mail card from a friend. Instead of a generic picture, this card featured my friend's dog. His card, which he made utilizing the iCards from Apple, reminded me that I had been meaning to check out iTools, the latest addition to Apple's Mac options, and see what it is all about. A user must have Mac OS 9 before they can take advantage of iTools

There are several attributes associated with iTools, but perhaps the most important is that it is really user friendly and very easy to use. Almost anyone new to computing should be able to follow the directions supplied by Apple for any of the components of iTools, and instructions are available in 25 languages. iTools are accessed from the Apple site. Across the top of this page are tabs for easy access, including one for iTools. Before you can use iTools, you must download a small installer application and provide some basic information. Apple assures users that info will be kept private, and has posted an extensive privacy policy for users to review. The application is available free from VersionMaster found on The Mac Observer home page. To get it, find the VersionMaster search box and type in iTools. VersionMaster will take you straight to it. Then click on "version" and the installer will download automatically. You can also download it straight from Apple's Web site by going to the iTools link and following the instructions. Once it is downloaded, open the installer and follow the simple directions. The installer will take you through the steps of registering a screen name and password which you have to have to use the application.

There are four parts to iTools - E-mail, KidSafe, HomePage, and iDisk.

The Mac Observer columnist Kyle D'Addario covered the introduction of iTools from the floor of MACWORLD Expo in a January 6, 2000 review. Many of his comments are included in today's column.

Email

In Kyle's discussion of the e-mail he noted that:

The iTools installer takes you through the setup process, and then gives you the option of automatically configuring your e-mail client of choice. Several Mac Observer staff members have already registered, and the auto-configuration process has been flawless. Once registered and configured, users have full POP privileges to a username@mac.com e-mail address. Even better, users are given the option of having mail forwarded to another mail account. Thus, if you NEED an @mac.com e-mail address (because it is just too cool), but are comfortable using another mail host and server, all messages can be forwarded, and you can still give people your spiffy new Mac e-mail address. Users are also given the option of creating an auto-reply message. If on vacation, out of town, away from the computer, whatever, simply fill in the form and anyone sending you e-mail will automatically receive that message.

As soon as you sign in to iTools you are taken to the iTools center. This page allows you to choose from any one of the four components and the whole thing is as simple as can be. I clicked on E-mail and had the options of setting up a forwarding protocol or setting up an automatic reply. I clicked on forwarding and was sent to the forwarding page where my primary e-mail address had been automatically entered. All I had to do was click on submit and it was done. Auto Reply was equally easy to set up and it will automatically stay turned off until I tell it to turn on. If you choose "Setting Up Your E-mail" you will find simple directions for setting up different signatures using your Outlook Express. The more you use e-mail, the more you will realize that there are times when you just don't want to give out your primary e-mail address. Your Mac.com address will provide you with an easy to use alternate address to use in those times.

KidSafe

Again quoting Kyle's review:

KidSafe is yet another family oriented aspect of Apple's Internet strategy. KidSafe works like many other filter type applications. Certain sites are deemed worthy or acceptable for children to view, others are not. The difference with KidSafe, however, is that sites have been viewed and rated by educators. "Teachers and librarians" have poured over, according to Apple, 55,000+ sites that have passed KidSafe measures. KidSafe requires the download and configuration of another installer program, and works only with Mac OS 9. Once configured, however, KidSafe will allow children access to educational sites, while forbidding access to non-approved sites. KidSafe takes safety a step further by controlling access to chat rooms, file transfers, e-mail, and games. Apple has covered all the bases, while giving parents control over the desired level of security. If you have young children using the Internet, KidSafe will allow parents to rest easier about usage, and children to squeeze more educational content out of the increasing number of "non-educational" sites.

HomePage

Kyle's comments on Home Page noted that:

HomePage, as you might expect from the name, allows users to easily design a web site. Apple provides basic template options: resume, baby announcements, invites, iMovie Theater, and photo album. Once a template is chosen, users can set up headings, layout, content, etc. Early web authoring tools like PageMill and Claris HomePage spring to mind. Adding images is as simple as taking advantage of the last of the iTools, iDisk.

This really is an easy to use setup for someone who has never created a web page. There are limited design choices, but those that are present are very high quality and easy, easy to use if you know even the basics of saving images. As soon as you open HomePage the first time you are given a web address (URL) and the information that the site will host your page for free. A good place for a novice to start might be with the photo album options. If you can master that you will have most of the skills you need.

iDisk

Continuing with Kyle's assessment of iTools:

Apple's iDisk is the most robust, and perhaps simplest to use of the iTools. Once registered and logged in, users can click the iDisk tab. By selecting "Open My iDisk" an icon of a disk appears ON YOUR DESKTOP. The volume mounts like any other hard drive volume would, and you can interact with the iDisk as you would any mounted disk. The iDisk provides users with 20MB of disk space, and contains a number of default folders. The Documents, Movies, Public, Sites, and Pictures folders help users organize iDisk files. When using iDisk with HomePage, picture files placed in the Photos folder will automatically appear on your HomePage designed page. HomePage and iDisk also allow users to, get this, stream QuickTime movies from their HomePage site.

Up to this point in my evaluation of iTools everything had worked perfectly. I was really impressed with the whole set up. But then I couldn't get iDisk to open. I choose iDisk from the iTools tab and then clicked on "Open My iDisk." Nothing. I clicked it several more times with the same result. I exited the internet and started over. Nothing. By now a picture was emerging -- I had a problem. Since the extent of my technical skills ended at repeatedly clicking the open button I quickly figured out I had better go to the help option. iTools comes complete with an easy to use Help option. Help opened up a menu, including Troubleshooting. I clicked on that and had several options including one that said "Problems Mounting your iDisk". Aha said I, maybe this will help. Sure enough, one suggestion was:

Check that the AppleShare extension is enabled on your Macintosh. Open the Extensions Manager Control Panel and make sure there is a check in the box next to the AppleShare extension.

Unless your computer is networked with several other computers (in which case you probably don't need this column), AppleShare may well be turned off on your machine as well. To correct this, go to the Apple menu in the upper left corner of your screen, choose Control Panel and then Extension Manager. There you can turn on AppleShare by clicking on the box to the left of AppleShare.

The iDisk folder contains folders for pictures, sites, documents, movies, and public. To once again quote Kyle:

The Public folder allows users to share documents with other iTools users. Simply drag a file into the Public iDisk folder, and any user, with your iTools username, has access to that file. If you need to get files from one floppy-less Mac to another, there is no easier way. For simple file sharing, iDisk is king. By entering in the name of the Public folder you desire access to from the iTools site, that folder appears on your desktop, just like any other folder would. Copying files from iDisk is just like using the Finder. This truly is the next level of drag and drop.

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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