The 16th Annual Editors' Choice Awards
Mac users burst into the year 2000 energized and confident - with good reason, as it turned out. The year brought breakthrough Mac products such as AirPort, Font Reserve Server, and Voodoo5 5500, as well as impressive updates to programs such as the already well-established Microsoft Office suite and Adobe Photoshop.
The editors of Macworld are pleased to recognize this innovation and excellence with our annual Editors' Choice Awards. We surveyed every Mac product released between November 1, 1999, and November 1, 2000, to determine our nominees and winners in each category. These are the products that will inspire the next millennium.
WINNER Managing fonts for a large team was always a headache until DiamondSoft released this breakthrough product. The TCP/IP-based Font Reserve Server ($1,200, server software; ($130 per client; www.diamondsoft.com, 415/381-3303) eliminates font conflicts, manages access privileges and font licenses, and lets you create font sets that users can work with almost instantly. The server software is Windows NT-based, but the administration and client software is Mac-only.
RUNNERS-UP ImagePort 1.0 ($100; www.alap.com, 888/818-5790), from A Lowly Apprentice Production, is the only XTension out there that lets you tweak the layers, channels, and paths of most Adobe Photoshop files without leaving QuarkXPress. If PDF files are part of your prepress workflow, look to Adobe Acrobat InProduction 1.0 ($699; www.adobe.com, 888/724-4508). It combines PDF preflight and color-correction tools formerly available only in several separate third-party applications, and introduces a few new aids.
WINNER Adobe Photoshop 6.0 ($609; www.adobe.com, 888/724-4508) is one of the strongest upgrades this standard-bearer graphics program has seen in years. Previous versions of Photoshop specialized exclusively in bitmapped image editing, but version 6 introduces a new set of vector tools for creating precise shapes that remain editable. Designers will also appreciate the vastly improved text controls, layer effects, and color-management tools.
RUNNERS-UP For Web-graphics designers, Macromedia Fireworks 3 ($299; www.macromedia.com, 800/457-1774) was the best tool to choose a new version is now available). It offered an improved interface, better control of bitmapped image editing, and a History palette that allowed you to undo any number of steps in a single click and quickly turn your actions into executable scripts for reuse. Adobe Illustrator 9.0 ($399; www.adobe.com, 888/724-4508) makes an impact with the most-powerful and most-complete set of transparency tools around.
WINNER From its speedy renderer to its manipulation of NURBS Nonuniform Rationalized B-Splines), Maxon's Cinema 4D XL Version 6 ($1,695; www.maxoncomputer.com, 877/226-4628) packs enough bells and whistles to make more-expensive 3-D applications envious. Notable improvements include a highly customizable interface, new interactive polygon-modeling tools, improved bones and deformation tools, a construction history, a rewritten lighting system, and even a sound-editing capability.
RUNNERS-UP From Newtek, LightWave 6 ($2,495; www.newtek.com, 800/862-7837) remains a must-have for 3-D-production and -animation professionals. It boasts numerous new features and tools, including UV texture mapping, radiosity rendering, new surface and graph editors, and powerful morphing. Ashlar's Vellum Solids 2000 ($3,995; www.ashlar.com, 800/877-2745) is the only game in town for serious industrial design. It excels at working with the curvy free-form solids and surfaces prevalent in today's industrial designs.
WINNER Casady & Greene's SoundJam MP Plus 2.5.2 ($50; www.soundjam.com, 800/359-4920) is the best and most approachable application for Mac users who want to play and encode their own MP3s. This time around the company added an impressive list of features, including Internet broadcast and an automatic timer, as well as support for MP2 and WAV files, more hardware MP3 players, and multiprocessing. There's even a karaoke function that lets you drop the vocals from most MP3s and sing your heart out.
RUNNERS-UP With Peak 2.53 VST ($499; www.bias-inc.com, 800/775-2427), Berkley Integrated Audio Software has made an already great two-track editor even better. Version 2.53 includes support for the widely used VST plug-ins (it comes with 25), has an improved interface, and ships with ASIO drivers. Best of all, you no longer need a pesky floppy-disk key to authorize the program. Mark of the Unicorn's Digital Performer 2.72 ($795; www.motu.com, 617/576-2760) takes MIDI and audio sequencing to the next level with its new drum editor, additional audio effects, and very accurate MIDI time stamping.
WINNER Apple's iMovie 2 ($49; www.apple.com, 800/692-7753) revolutionizes digital video by bringing video-editing power and a host of user-friendly features to the home-movie set at an unheard-of price. QuickTime transitions and the Timeline Viewer feature make for marked improvements over the last version. iMovie 2 also lets you layer two soundtracks for voice-over-background-music capability. No longer is video editing the domain only of professionals with expensive equipment.
RUNNERS-UP Terran Interactive's Cleaner 5 ($599; www.terran.com, 800/577-3443) is an excellent upgrade to what was already an excellent product - Media Cleaner Pro. Cleaner 5's superb compres-sion algorithm, support for many formats, ease of use, and thorough documentation make it a necessary part of any video producer's tool kit. Pinnacle Systems' Commotion 3.0 ($1,995; www.pinnaclesys.com, 888/484-3366) is more than a fabulous rotoscoping tool for video producers who want to create special effects: the program also facilitates workflow and includes new compositing features.
WINNER When choosing a MiniDV camcorder, you'll usually pay more for portability. The Canon ZR10 ($999; www.canondv.com, 800/652-2666) is exceptional because it's both tiny and affordable. The Canon is the perfect introduction to the new MiniDV format - it even gives you an analog line so you can convert your old tapes to MiniDV.
RUNNERS-UP Optical image stabilization and a Progressive Scan photo mode make the Canon Optura Pi ($1,799; www.canondv.com, 800/652-2666) a great midpriced MiniDV camera. Helping to nurture the world of nascent filmmakers, the Sony DCR-VX2000 ($3,199; www.sony.com, 800/222-7669) is a standout, with entry-level 3-chip quality. This camera lets average folks produce professional-looking films.
Consumer Digital Camera
WINNER The number of features Canon packs into the 3.5-by-2-by-1-inch metallic body of the PowerShot S100 Digital Elph ($499; www.usa.canon.com, 800/652-2666) is definitely groundbreaking. You get a 2.11-megapixel CCD for brilliant shots, a 2x optical/4x digital zoom to get in close, multiple shooting modes, and a bright LCD screen. The S100 is the perfect combination of compact size, ease of use, and excellent image quality.
RUNNERS-UP The Coolpix 990 ($1,000; www.nikonusa.com, 800/645-6689), from Nikon, continues to balance quality, ease of use, and price. The latest model boasts a 3.34-megapixel CCD and a 3x optical zoom lens. Olympus's Camedia C-211 Zoom Digital Printing Camera ($799; www.olympusamerica.com, 800/622-6372) is a hit at any party, with a built-in printer for instant Polaroid shots. In QuickTime mode, the Camedia can capture up to 15 seconds of movie footage.
Professional Digital Camera
WINNER Canon's EOS D30 ($3,599; www.usa.canon.com, 800/652-2666) is the most advanced digital camera on the market today. Canon successfully implements a 3.25-megapixel CMOS sensor for crisp images and outstanding color reproduction. On top of that, Canon adds 11 shooting modes, 3-point auto-focusing, a 1.8-inch color LCD, and IBM Microdrive support.
RUNNERS-UP The only 4-megapixel camera with a custom-designed lens for digital imaging, the Olympus Camedia E-10 ($1,999; www.olympusamerica.com, 800/622-6372) has great image quality and many top-level features. Professional film photographers will feel at home with Nikon's first professional camera, the D1 ($5,900; www.nikonusa.com, 800/645-6689), since it shares many features with its 35mm counterparts.
WINNER The world of LCD computer displays is getting wider, thinner, lighter, and brighter. Nothing demonstrates this better than the amazing Apple Cinema Display ($3,999; www.apple.com, 800/692-7753). This 22-inch LCD monitor weighs only 25 pounds and takes up very little space on a desktop. It also features superwide viewing angles, 1,600-by-1,024-dpi resolution, and a single cable that handles monitor power, video signal, and USB connectivity.
RUNNERS-UP The bright and stylish 18.1-inch Senergy 850 LCD display from Princeton Graphic Systems ($2,999; www.princetongraphics.com, 800/747-6249) gives users both digital DVI) and analog VGA) connections, with a DVI-out connector for mirroring displays or connecting to a projector. The Wacom PL 500 pen-tablet system ($3,999; www.wacom.com, 800/922-9348) combines the abilities of a pen tablet with the instant feedback of an LCD screen. Yes, that means you can draw right on your screen. This new version of the pen tablet provides millions of colors, and at 15.1 inches, it's large enough to be your primary display.
WINNER This year, color ink-jet printers plummeted in price without losing quality. Our choice for best in overall print quality is Hewlett-Packard's DeskJet 932C ($199; www.hp.com, 800/752-0900). For less than ($200, you can enjoy photo-realistic prints and sharp black text from its 2,400-by-1,200-dpi print resolution.
RUNNERS-UP The Olympus P-400 ($999; www.olympusamerica.com, 800/622-6372) has a convenient LCD panel for previewing and selecting images from SmartMedia, PC Card, Compact Flash, or Memory Stick. It uses dye-sublimation technology to produce photo-quality, full-size prints. The Epson Stylus Photo 1270 ($499; www.epson.com, 800/873-7766) features six-color printing as well as solid black text with resolutions as high as 1,440 by 720 dpi. It offers a maximum print area of 12.76 by 43.76 inches for banner-size prints.
WINNER PGP Security's PGP 7.0 Desktop Security Enterprise Edition ($74; www.pgp.com, 888/747-3011) is more than just an encryption utility. The latest version provides - among other features - e-mail and volume encryption, a personal firewall, and intrusion detection. Most important, it's the only Mac client to support the IPsec network encryption standard for Virtual Private Networks.
RUNNERS-UP Connectix's CopyAgent 1.0 ($39; www.connectix.com, 800/950-5880) resurrects the most compelling feature of Connectix's old Speed Doubler 8, namely, the ability to duplicate only new or changed items. CopyAgent goes further to offer speedy network copying. Intego's NetBarrier 1.6 ($70; www.intego.com, 877/946-8346) offers comprehensive firewall protection for individual users. NetBarrier filters incoming traffic, and it is the first utility to check outgoing traffic as well, to protect your personal data from theft.
WINNER Even hard-core Micro-soft haters will have to admit that Microsoft Office 2001 for Mac ($499; www.microsoft.com, 800/426-9400) is a top-notch Mac product. Containing Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Entourage, it remains the only serious choice for serious business use. From the applications' uniform interface to a host of Mac-only features, this Office clearly laps its competition.
RUNNERS-UP AEC Software's FastTrack Schedule 7.0 ($299; www.aecsoft.com, 800/346-9413) is simple enough to make first-time users productive but feature-rich enough to keep sophisticated users happy. Voice recognition on the Mac platform still needs some work, but IBM's ViaVoice for Macintosh, Enhanced Edition ($141; www.ibm.com, 800/825-5263) improves on the original ViaVoice by adding direct dictation into any Macintosh application, AppleScript support, and a USB-ready headset.
WINNER After a five-year absence from the Mac market, SPSS's SPSS 10.0 ($999; www.spss.com, 800/543-2185) returns with a vengeance. No other program can compete with SPSS in terms of the number-crunching power that it brings to your desktop. SPSS includes a wealth of statistical and charting options, extensive help, and excellent tutorials.
RUNNERS-UP MYOB Accounting Plus Version 9 ($199; www.myob.com/us, 800/322-6962) remains the best accounting program for small and midsize businesses. Enhancements include multiuser support, recognition of foreign currencies, and improved search functions. AEC Software's powerful Details 3.0 ($299; www.aecsoft.com, 800/346-9413) is a specialized project-tracking database that serves novices and experienced users alike.
WINNER Every desk needs scissors, tape, and Grolier's Multimedia Encyclopedia 2001 Deluxe Edition ($30; www.grolier.com, 800/353-3140), from Grolier Interactive. Multiple navigation options make it easy to search for and find what you want. And the program supplements the extensive information on its two CD-ROMs with links to the Internet.
RUNNERS-UP With guided tours of 25 rooms and 3,000 images and illustrations, Montparnasse Multimedia's Louvre: The Virtual Visit ($50; www.montparnasse.net, 800/843-2665 for Barnes&Noble.com distribution) is the next best thing to seeing the French museum in person. The DVD-ROM software is easy to navigate and offers a wealth of information about art and history. Edmark's Talking Walls ($80; www.edmark.com, 800/362-2890) successfully blends text, audio, and video to teach kids history; topics range from cave painting to the Vietnam War.
WINNER Writers with visions of Oscars and Emmys couldn't ask for a better resource than Screenplay Systems' Movie Magic Screenwriter 2000 ($269; www.dramatica.com, 800/847-8679). In addition to a wealth of sample scripts, the program offers useful tools such as a character-name bank and a chat feature that lets you work with a remote writing partner.
RUNNERS-UP For people who make their living writing, producing, and creating, Official Software's Official Copyright 1.5 ($71; www.officialsoftware.com, 888/325-5445) is a straightforward and informative tool for protecting intellectual property. ISI ResearchSoft's EndNote 4 ($299; www.isiresearchsoft.com, 800/554-3049) is an improvement on what was already the best bibliography-management application available. This version adds some welcome interface changes and beefed-up search functions.
WINNER Few games have generated as much buzz - or have proven to be as addictive - as Aspyr Media's The Sims ($50; www.aspyr.com, 888/212-7797). There's a reason for that: the game combines a seemingly endless variety of situations and characters with great sound effects and fun graphics. The Sims is the first game to re-create real life with this much detail. Some people find it more compelling than their own lives.
RUNNERS-UP Surpassing the original Diablo might seem like a nearly impossible task, but Blizzard Entertainment's Diablo II ($45; www.blizzard.com, 800/953-7669) pulls it off. This sequel improves upon the original's lush graphics and adds new adventures and characters. Activision's Quake III Arena Mac ($46; www.activision.com, 800/656-5426) doesn't reinvent the wheel, but it is a masterful first-person shooter game. Great graphics and network play help this game stand out from the crowd.
WINNER Storage area networks have been primarily the realm of server clusters and graphics professionals with lots of dough. All that changed with MicroNet's SANcube X-stream ($4,099 for 270GB; www.micronet.com, 949/453-6100), which uses your Macintosh's built-in FireWire port to connect as many as four users to a six-drive RAID array.
RUNNERS-UP EZQuest's Boa CD-RW 12x10x32x FireWire PM ($369; www.ezq.com, 714/694-0031) takes the fear of ruining discs out of CD-R burning by using a Plextor mechanism with BURN-Proof technology. Microtech International's IBM 1GB Microdrive ($499; www.microtechint.com, 800/626-4276) is impressively small on the outside but big on the inside. IBM introduced this PC Card-size drive last year, but pushing it to an amazing 1GB capacity this year puts it in a class of its own.
Personal Digital Assistant
WINNER Our WINNER, Handspring's Visor Prism ($449; www.handspring.com, 888/565-9393), boasts a processor that's significantly faster than its predecessors, plug-and-play expandability via its Springboard expansion slot, and the ability to display more than 65,000 colors. The unmatched screen quality and built-in photo program make the Prism a great portable photo album.
RUNNERS-UP The Palm m100 Handheld ($149; www.palm.com, 800/881-7256) is an outstanding value, offering almost everything its more expensive competition does except mail and expense software) at an entry-level price. It's bundled with Mac desktop software and a Mac adapter. For those who crave Internet access, the Palm VIIx Handheld ($449; www.palm.com, 800/881-7256) is a dream come true. With it, you can surf the Web using text-only Web clippings. You can also send and receive e-mail through a Palm.net account or access POP accounts using third-party software.
WINNER Though two of the companies in this category had some financial troubles last year, they made some stellar products that deserve recognition. With its debut product for the Mac, the Voodoo5 5500 PCI Card ($229; www.3dfx.com, 888/367-3339), 3dfx expands the horizons of graphics professionals and 3-D gamers alike. Pixel-processing horsepower makes for smooth game play and quick redraws. The card's full-screen antialiasing feature provides stunning 3-D graphics at the highest screen resolutions. Support for new DVI flat panels and standard monitors has made it this year's coveted card.
RUNNERS-UP The Newer Technology iMaxpowr G4 ($699; www.newertech.com, 877/605-0010) is the only way to turn an iMac into a G4 with the Velocity Engine. The ATI Radeon Mac Edition 32MB DDR AGP ($279; www.ati.com, 905/882-2600) makes a leap in graphics-card speed and power. This card will inspire a new generation of games and 3-D-design applications.
WINNER Kensington Technology's TurboRing Trackball ($136; www.kensington.com, 800/235-6708) seamlessly blends form and functionality. The TurboRing offers easy scrolling, while its companion software allows you to customize the trackball's cursor response and configure its three buttons. What's more, the angled ball and ring reduce arm and wrist strain.
RUNNERS-UP Apple wised up and ditched the crippling round input device that shipped with its computers, in favor of the Apple Pro Mouse ($59; www.apple.com, 800/692-7753). With high precision, the sleek-looking optical mouse glides across any surface, and it makes mouse pads obsolete. Microsoft Trackball Explorer ($75; www.microsoft.com, 800/426-9400) was the first trackball to use optical technology. It comes equipped with Microsoft's excellent Intellipoint mouse software.
Internet & Development
Internet Client Software
WINNER With Internet Explorer 5 Macintosh Edition (free; www.microsoft.com, 800/426-9400), Microsoft has given the Mac community the most standards-compliant browser available. It fully implements HTML 4 and CSS-1 standards, has a sleeker new look, and loads pages noticeably faster than its predecessor.
RUNNERS-UP In addition to traditional chat tools, AOL Instant Messenger 4.1, a free utility from America Online ( www.aol.com, 800/827-6364), offers voice-chat and file-transfer capabilities and the ability to send images and sound files instantly. AvantGo Mobile Internet Service for Macintosh 3.3 (free; www.avantgo.com, 888/884-8812) lets you take the Web anywhere by downloading Web content to any Palm OS handheld.
Web Publishing Software
RUNNERS-UP Why pay for a program to build, post, and update your Web site when you can use Pyra Labs' Blogger (free; www.blogger.com, 415/538-8404)? Lasso Studio 1.5 for Dreamweaver 3 ($349; www.blueworld.com, 425/646-0288), from Blue World Communications, gives users without database knowledge an easy way to add database functionality to Web sites; Lasso includes a wizard for building a new database or connecting to an existing one.
Web Motion Software
WINNER Macromedia Flash 5 ($399; www.macromedia.com, 800/457-1774) makes designing interactive Web content much less painful. Its streamlined interface speeds up simple tasks, and its new programming language and scripting tools add professional power and flexibility to the program. The new Movie Explorer and Shared Libraries features help you keep track of complicated projects in large work groups.
RUNNERS-UP Newcomer Adobe LiveMotion 1.0 ($299; www.adobe.com, 888/724-4508) is the first program to let you produce animations in the Flash file format (SWF) without the steep learning curve of Macromedia Flash. The multimedia-authoring application iShell 2 (free to individuals, varying prices for commercial use: $975 for Silver membership and $2,750 for Gold; www.tribeworks.com, 800/807-4458), by Tribeworks, combines object-oriented design with QuickTime media and allows you to create custom interfaces for streaming media.
WINNER With Apple's AirPort Base Station ($299; www.apple.com, 800/692-7753), you can dial into your ISP from the backyard, get 11-Mbps wireless access to your office network, and share an IP address with multiple users. This silvery hub is endowed with a 56K modem and an Ethernet port and can support as many as ten remote computers wirelessly.
RUNNERS-UP The Linksys EtherFast 4-Port Cable/DSL Router ($179; www.linksys.com, 800/546-5797) is easy to install and easy on the wallet. It also has four autosensing, 10/100 ports. Dartware's InterMapper 3.0 ($295, up to 10 devices; ($1,995, unlimited; www.dartware.com, 603/643-2268) is the best network manager for the Mac - or maybe for any platform. It gives you an instant visual representation of your network.
WINNER Late Night Software's Script Debugger 2.0 ($189; www.latenightsw.com, 888/999-3210) adds tools that make advanced AppleScript users even more productive and lower the barrier to entry for novices. It can debug local variables and, through its unique Dictionary Explorer, give you unprecedented insight into the innards of AppleScriptable applications.
Director of Product Evaluation KRISTINA DE NIKE managed this year's awards.