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Computing with Bifocals - Software to Put Under the Tree, Part II
by - November 23rd, 2004

In this column I am continuing with my recommendations for software that is available in boxes that can actually be giftwrapped for holiday-giving.  As in part one I am including on-line purchase sites although most retail stores that carry Apple products should have these mainstream products as well.


Keynote sells for US$99 ($99 - Amazon).  Keynote will only be of interest to someone who makes presentations in any format in which they use their Mac.  I love Keynote.  I have used it since the day Steve Jobs demonstrated it in his keynote address at Macworld San Francisco 2003 and then gave everyone in the audience a free copy. 

I literally went back to my hotel room, transferred my Macworld presentation from PowerPoint to Keynote and never looked back.  It may not be my favorite application, but it certainly is in the top three, so if you want to give something special to someone who teaches or trains consider this as a welcome gift. 

System requirements: 

  • Power Mac G3 or G4, PowerBook G4, eMac, 500Mhz or faster iMac or iBook (PowerPC G4 recommended)
  • Mac OS X v10.2 or later
  • 128 MB of RAM (512MB recommended)
  • 8 MB of video memory (32MB recommended)
  • 1GB of available disk space. 

Keynote is available from The Apple Store. (Choose Store > Software > Apple)

Print Explosion Deluxe

Print Explosion Deluxe sells for $59.95 ($52.99 - Amazon).  This application allows the user to create one-of-a-kind cards, banners, posters, gift bags, postcards, etc. that can then be printed on any home printer that works with your Mac. It comes with more than 8,000 ready-made, professional designs or you can create from scratch, and it supports OS 7.6.1 through 9.2.2 and OS X.  I have used Print Explosion for years and find it to be easy to use and stable.  It is a fun application for the creative or the creative at heart. 

System requirements are: 

  • Any PowerPC based Macintosh including iMac
  • 16MB of available RAM
  • CD-ROM drive
  • System 7.6.1 or later, and OS X 10.1 or later. 

Print Explosion is available from Nova Development.

Greeting Card Factory For Macintosh

Greeting Card Factory sells for $49.95 ($34.99 - Amazon).  It is made by the same folks to make Print Explosion, but it is only for greeting cards so perhaps it could be called "Print Explosion Light".  This is another application that I have not actually used, but based on my personal experience with Print Explosion, I don't hesitate to recommend it for those whose only interest may be making greeting cards.  The literature states that it has 45,000+ premium quality graphics, 300+ fonts, and more than five hundred 24-bit color photographs.

System requirements include: 

  • Any PowerPC based Macintosh including iMac; Mac OS X v10.1.3 or higher
  • 128MB of available RAM
  • CD-ROM drive. 

It is available from Nova Development.

.Mac Account - Retail Box (one year subscription)

A box version of a .Mac account sells for US $99.95.  Someone in Apple's marketing division got really smart and created a boxed version of the .Mac account as a gift item.  For those unfamiliar with .Mac accounts following is a very brief summary of what they include as listed on the Apple web site. 

System requirements:  Apple computer with Mac OS X v10.2.8 or later; 128MB of SDRAM (256MB recommended for iPhoto); An active Internet connection (Internet access required; fees may apply); Safari, Netscape 7 or later, or Microsoft Internet Explorer 5 or later.  The .Mac Account - Retail Box is available from The Apple Store. (Choose Store > Software > Apple)

iDisk: Your hard disk on the Internet.  125MB of default storage space on Apple's servers

.Mac Mail: First class e-mail service.  A e-mail address with 125MB of default storage.

HomePage: Easy, elegant web sites.  (Works with iPhoto and iMovie to automatically create web pages for beginners)

Virex: Industry leading virus protection.

Backup: Indispensable backup software.

.Mac Address Book and Bookmarks: Online contact and bookmark management.

iSync: Synchronize your personal information.

iCards: Personal e-mail greeting card service.

iCal: Online calendar sharing. Keep your calendar automatically updated on the web for friends, family, and colleagues to see.

Learning Center: Expert Apple training.

iChat: The best way to IM.

System requirements: 

  • Apple computer with Mac OS X v10.2.8 or later
  • 128MB of SDRAM (256MB recommended for iPhoto)
  • An active Internet connection (Internet access required; fees may apply)
  • Safari, Netscape 7 or later, or Microsoft Internet Explorer 5 or later. 

Mariner Write/Mariner Calc

Mariner Write sells for $79.95.  Mariner Calc sells for $79.95.  The two can be purchased as a package for $139.95. Both apps are available in both classic and OS X versions.

I love Mariner Write.  I did a review of it in October.  I think it is a must for anyone who does a lot of word processing and who must save documents or send documents to others in Microsoft Word formats.  This software does that, but without all the problems associated with using Word.  Mariner Calc  does the same thing to replace Microsoft Excel. 

System requirements:

  • For System 9.2 - 10.1.8 order Mariner Write 3.5.1.
  • For OS 10.2 > order Mariner Write 3.6.4. 
  • For System 9.0 - 10.1.8 order Mariner Calc 5.2.2.  
  • For OS 10.2 > order Mariner Calc. 5.3.1. 

Both products are available from Mariner Software.

Merriam Webster Medical Desk Dictionary

The Medical Desk Dictionary sells for $29.95.  The biggest advantage that a software version of a medical dictionary has over a desk bound copy is the ability to do searches.   Search options include:  Entry word is... Defining text contains... Verbal illustration contains... Function label is... Usage note contains...  This package contains 59,000 entries and 42,000 audio pronunciations explaining today's most widely used health-care terms.  It is available for both classic and OS X.  The Medical Desk Dictionary is available from The Apple Store (Choose Store > Software > Reference).


Observant Observers will notice that nowhere in these two columns suggesting software gifts have I mentioned games.  There is a reason for this.  I have found over the years of purchasing or testing games on my Mac that there are all levels of competence among game creators, more so than in any other field of software development. 

This is not exactly big news to long term computer users, but it does make it difficult to recommend games for different operating systems with different levels of memory, processors, video cards, and other such things, not to mention different levels of user skills. 

I have recommended several games since I began writing this column in 1998, but I have done so on a one-by-one basis.  When talking about gifts for a group of users I hesitate to start making recommendations, especially for games that I don't even know how to play. 

For example, if you want me to test poker or slot machine games then I am your girl.  Same for solitaire.  However, I don't know squat about bridge or hearts or chess, and simulation games just give me a headache.  I don't have the time or inclination to spend hours at my computer playing simulation games. 

So I am going to take the easy way out and suggest that shoppers for games visit The Apple Store, click on Store > Software > Family Games, and choose from the numerous games offered therein.  The chances of getting a quality  product are improved, the system requirements are included, and the manufacturer information if available.  There is a fairly good selection as well.

When making your gift choices don't forget my Hints and Tips book.  For ordering information click here.

Happy Shopping!

Check out our other 2004 Gift Guide's, too!

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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