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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.....

Review: Print Explosion 1.0, A Mac-Only Graphics App For Consumers
July 28th

When I got my first Macintosh I was already fairly proficient using word processing, so I didn't have to put much energy into learning word processing on the Mac. For awhile that is about all I did on the computer. Then I moved into playing games and from there, branched out to using graphics software. I felt like I had been given a new toy. For one thing, I like to create, but I can't draw anything. For another, I was totally blown away by the fact that I could create business cards, stationary, and newsletters using the computer and that there were paper products available that corresponded with those tasks. Even with a black and white printer I did all kinds of fun things. I purchased sheets of business card stock with preprinted designs in color. I made personal cards for all my family and friends to put as an enclosure with gifts, to hand to new friends asking for telephone numbers, and to have their e-mail addresses available when needed. Last year, with the help of my color printer, I made personalized Christmas cards. I say all this to emphasize that I have had about 4 years experience using consumer graphics packages on Macintosh computers and consider myself to be more proficient with this type of software than any other. This is, of course, not to even remotely imply that I know how to use professional level graphics programs such as those used by designers, advertising firms, architects or the editors of The Mac Observer. I mean the kind of software that you can purchase at the local computer store for your own pleasure. Therefore, I was really excited to find out that a new graphics products has just come on the market and The Mac Observer was asked to review it. Being far and away the elder member of the staff, I exercised senior privilege (after all, being the elder member should be worth something!) and asked to review it.

Print Explosion 1.0 is a Mac-only application produced by NOVA Development. It was released last week at MACWORLD Expo and is available for around US$49.95. System requirements include a PowerPC-based Macintosh, a CD-ROM drive, and System 7.5.5 or better. The program uses 16 MB of RAM and the company states that it is compatible with all printers. The software includes more than 4,000 professionally-crafted designs, 50,000 graphics, and 500 True Type fonts. It supports major graphic formats such as JPEG, TIFF, GIF, EPS, and PICT. This means that you can create a document that incorporates photographs or other items obtained outside of this software. It has Drag and Drop capabilities that will let you move text or items between software programs by just dragging them, and last, but not least, there is a built in help guide that tells you "first do ‘this' and then do ‘this.'” I must say right up front that I am extremely impressed with this program from the aspects of ease of use and the options available. It is definitely next generation compared to any other program I have used. It took quite a while to install because there were more than 1000 files involved. However, after that it worked fast and efficiently. I gave it my acid test by opening the program and checking how far I could get without ever reading any instructions. In less than 20 minutes I completed a whole set of business cards without any help at all.

The first important aspect is the availability of templates. Templates are what make it possible for you to design a business card once and have it automatically print ten times on a page, in the exact places it needs to print to match the perforated card stock. The templates available with this program include greeting cards, signs and posters, flyers, banners, certificates, invitations, calendars, labels, letterheads, envelopes, business cards, fax cover sheets, report covers, postcards, party sets, gift tags, bookmarks, and crafts. Also included is an extensive collection of ready-made greeting cards in a variety of categories; and matching designs for letterhead, envelopes and business cards. There is even a special option that lets you add appropriate accent marks to words and letters as needed.

The second important aspect is the composition of the categories. Rather than list template layout after layout as I have seen in other software packages, this software categorizes the categories so that you can go straight to personal, retail, general services, etc. Then, when you choose the category you find a list of layouts that match that category. As you click on the different layouts you get an overview of it.

Example of the Options

You always have the option of choosing "blank" and creating something from scratch, which brings me to the third important aspect. There is this book. Not just any book. Not just a how-to book. Not just a users guide, but rather a book that does all of those things and shows you all of the included graphics. Unless you have ever spent an hour or more looking for that special graphic you saw yesterday, you may not appreciate the importance of this, but please just take my word for it. Rather than scrolling through graphic after graphic looking for that elusive gray cat, you can turn to the book, look under animals and find out just where that particular graphic can be found, or you can go to the index in the back and do the same thing. There are clip-art packages from many publishers that include books like this, but to have it come with a graphics application is a real plus in my book!

No matter which way you go to create a project you have almost unlimited options to change or personalize the object. These changes include changing type font, size, color, and style; changing graphics; changing background colors, and adding or subtracting components. For instance, on the business card I made I was able to change all aspects of the data by simply clicking on the portion of data I wanted to change. As you can see from the following example, it is really a simple, guided process to make changes.

Changing Text

After working through one project I checked out the other template categories. All of them were high quality and diverse. The category for envelopes was interesting because it allows you to create personalized or business envelopes with diverse return address options and of various sizes. The crafts category was perhaps the most interesting of all because I have never seen it offered in this kind of software. There were templates for making envelopes from scratch, for origami, for book marks, and several others.

It probably won't surprise you to learn that the company that makes this software also sells the associated paper products that allow you to make business cards, invitations, labels, gift cards, etc. The sample paper products included in my press kit are of very good quality and the prices in the catalog seemed reasonable to me.

I really do like this new software package and recommend it for novice and advanced users. Now all I need to do is get that iMac I want so much so I can use it myself! (I had to use someone else's PowerMac for the review)

Reader Comments

The July 14th column mentioned using floppies and I noted that before we had the current 3.5 in size we had 5.25 inch floppies. Karl Puder wrote to tell me that there was an even earlier version that was 8 inches. He also pointed out that while each successive kind of floppy disk has become physically smaller, each has held more data than the previous generation.

Patrick Ferguson also wrote a very nice letter that gives additional information about copying floppies. Patrick notes that there is a utility called "Disk Copy" that comes with your operating system and you can use it to make copies more quickly. The steps are as follows:

1. Insert the operating system installation disk that came with your system.
2. Open the "Utilities" folder you will find there. Inside you will find a folder named "Disk Copy".
3. Drag the folder "Disk Copy" to your desktop. (To drag, click on the icon once and while holding down the mouse button, drag the icon to a new location and let up on the mouse button.) There is a "Read Me" file that will tell you all the really neat things that you can do with Disk Copy.
4. Remove (eject) the system installation disk if it is on floppy, and insert the disk you want to copy.
5. Drag the icon of the disk you want to copy onto the Disk Copy Icon. (Try saying that fast 3 times!)
6. Disk Copy will read the disk and most likely will set its defaults to match. Click "Save" in the File Pulldown menu. Results will vary depending on which version of Disk Copy you have. If you have the version that came with System 8.5 you will end up with 2 new files on your desktop.
7. Eject the disk that you copied and insert an empty disk.
8. Drag the disk image you have created over the blank disk. You can continue to make as many copies as you wish of the disk without having to swap disks back and forth by repeating steps 7 and 8.

If your system software is earlier than 8.5 you can probably do this easily by reading the directions in the Read Me file.

And finally, Richard Dalziel-Sharpe from Australia wrote to make sure I clarified something from the July 21st column. When you are working from a photo CD it is important to remember that you can't change a photo as long as it is on the CD because the CDs are "locked" just as are any other commercial CDs you have. If you follow my directions and open it as a GraphicConverter document and save it to your desktop then you will be ok.

Richard also sent along a handy tip for speeding up things when you are editing in Graphics Converter, such as removing red eye from a photo. If you look on the GraphicConverter toolbox you can choose the magic wand (located to the right of the "A"). If you use this to click on the area of color you want to change and then select "clear" from the File Pulldown menu, all of the selected color will be removed from your document. Then you can use the "eye dropper" to select the color that you want to go into the empty space, using the "paint bucket" to fill the area. Just one caution though. If you are erasing or replacing a background color make sure that exact same shade is not used elsewhere in your photo because when you use the magic wand it takes out every instance of the color you select.

If you have any tips, hints, or thoughts on these topics, make sure you write me so that I can share your thoughts 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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