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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.....

Useful Apps For Your Mac
December 8th, 1999

I don't know if it is because I am still a relative newbie to computer land, because I learned to type on a manual typewriter, or, as is more probable, some combination of the two. I just know that sometimes I am amazed at what computers can do. Several readers wrote in this past week on issues relating to last week's column. Some recommended programs, so I have spent this week trying out new things.

In last week's column I wrote about a program called KeyCaps that lets you determine where special symbols such as °, ©, and ß are located on your keyboard. Reader B.T. Corwin suggested that I try out a program called PopChar Pro 1.1.3. This simple program is one of the things referenced in the first paragraph that really amazes me. I had a job once wherein I frequently typed whole pages of equations. To get any special symbol I would remove a key from my typewriter, attach one with the appropriate symbol, type it, and then replace it with the normal key. Boy, have things changed.

The primary purpose of this tool is to allow you to type unusual characters or symbols without having to remember keyboard combinations. It installs a menu that shows all characters available in the font you are using and automatically changes as you change font choices. To use the program you need a processor of at least 68020, or better, and Mac OS 7 up to OS 8.6. This program is not free, but if you have need to frequently use symbols in your work or play then you definitely want to try this out. You can download a trial copy from VersionMaster, located here at The Mac Observer, that will remain active about 3 weeks. It is made by Uni Software Plus out of Austria and is available in several languages including English, German, and French. Cost for one license is US$39. Remember you will need Stuffit to open it

Once you have it downloaded you will see a folder appear on your desktop labeled PopChar Pro V1.1.3. Click that folder open and you will see an icon labeled installer. Click on that icon and the program will install quickly. Once you have it installed you will need to restart your machine. When your machine comes back up you will see a new pulldown menu on your menubar. The new menu is blue and has a P in the middle of it. Open a document of some kind, such as a word processing document. When the page appears, click on the blue PopChar button once and hold down the mouse button. A box will pop up that shows all the symbols that are available to you using the type font that you are using. To add a symbol to your document move the cursor to the chosen symbol while still holding down the mouse button. Release the mouse button and the symbol you have chosen will automatically appear in your document wherever your cursor is. If you need to move it, you can highlight it like any other text and move it where you want it. The pop up box will disappear until you need it again. It could not be simpler to use.

This next program was recommended by reader Michael J. McNall. It is called textSOAP 2.0.1 and was created by Mark Munz of unmarked software. It is shareware and sells for US$20. The program requires a Mac 68020 or later and System 7.1 or later. You can quickly download a trial copy from VersionMaster. The trial version will remain active for 21 days, after which some of the features will disappear.

If your operating system is less than OS 8 you will also need to download a free system extension named Appearance Manager 1.0.2. This software is made by Apple Computer Inc. and requires a minimum of System 7.1 to work. Apple has included it as part of the OS 8 or higher package. It took me a while for this application to download on my older mac. The time estimated for a 28.8 modem is 17 minutes. It took about 10 on mine. The only place I could find Appearance Manager 1.0.2 is at After the download is complete you will see a folder icon on your desktop. Open the folder and find an icon labeled Appearance Extension. It will look like a puzzle piece, which is what almost all system extensions look like. To install it, open your hard drive and drag the icon of Appearance Manager to your Systems Folder. A dialog box will appear asking if you want to put this in the Extensions folder. Click "OK" and you re done! If it says there is already a file with that name in your Extensions folder, then you already have it and do not need to install it again.

To activate the application you have to restart your machine, but you have to do that to activate the textSOAP as well, so wait and do both at once. By the way, when you start your machine back up you will see some changes in your desk top appearance. Your trash can icons will probably look different and some things may change color. This is because Appearance Manager has updated the appearance of your system.

You may be asking at this point if all of this is really worth it. I certainly think so. If you never open text you have downloaded from the net, or wanted to print out text from an e-mail message then you may not want it. If you do these things routinely you will probably think, as I do, that I have received a wonderful new toy. Here is how it works. You copy the information that you will be working with. (Highlight it by dragging the mouse from start to end while holding down the mouse button. Release the mouse button and choose copy from the Edit pull down menu or choose the apple key and the C key from your keyboard.) Then double click on the textSOAP icon. It will open with a work surface (a blank page) and a task box (called quick clean) located to the right. Paste your copied material onto the blank page (Select paste from the Edit pull down menu or choose the apple key and the V on your keyboard.) You have all kinds of options from the task box and you will have to work with them to see what each does and which ones you need. However, if you just click on SCRUB all the text will automatically be formatted back to that with which it was originally created. I truly wish that I had known about this long, long ago. It will save me hours over several months time.

On this same subject, reader Bob Craft wrote to point out that it may not be necessary to use this kind of extra program if you use Eudora Pro as your e-mail program. Bob states that "In that program, just select your text, hold down the option key and choose Menu:Edit:Unwrap Selection, then paste. Sometimes it's necessary to paste the text and repeat the process to take care of all the junk - but it's free and easy!

Preview: Next week's column will be written especially for the novice user who sits down in front of his or her Mac for the very first time. It will walk the new user through all the steps necessary to get the computer up and running. If you plan to give someone a first time Mac for Christmas, or if you know someone who is getting one for him or her self, you may want to print a copy of the column so it can serve as a resource.

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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