Mac 911

Well, I admit it. I was starting to worry. Three Mac 911 columns under my belt already, and not once had the word ResEdit appeared among my allotment of vowels and consonants. It is therefore with a huge whoosh of relief that I include the term ResEdit not once, not twice, but a dozen times in this very column. In addition to demonstrating how you can use ResEdit to reveal the unseen, I offer advice on finding system software for Macs of yesteryear and insight into the do's and don'ts of formatting e-mail.

Before the main course, let's whet our appetites with the curious case of Dave Robbin of Hutchinson, Minnesota, whose nostalgic notions caused him to grab one of the 512K Macs his school was unloading. Pleased as Dave was with his new-old Mac, he was stymied by the fact that this ancient beast inexplicably came with an 800K system floppy disk--when the 512K Mac accepts only 400K floppies. Dave turned to Mac 911 to learn where he might find the system software he needs in a form he can use.

While Apple provides system software as old as version 6.0.3 at, 6.0.3 is far too modern for a rickety 512K. But fear not, Dave. Just point your browser to the Mac 512 User Group at This site, maintained by one G. Younk, focuses on antique Mac models and provides old versions of the Mac OS either via download or on floppy disks (yup, even 400K ones).

We'll now cleanse our palates with the story of Joe, a visitor to the Mac 911 Forum, who wonders under what circumstances one should format e-mail as HTML rather than plain text.

Here's the dope, Joe: HTML formatting lets you style your e-mail messages--complete with color, bulleted lists, and text alignment. However, not all e-mail clients handle HTML well--your words may appear as unformatted text or even as attachments, and messages that contain colored backgrounds and text tend to open slowly. Those who maintain mailing lists (such as the Mac Managers List) so abhor HTML that any message sent to these lists with such formatting promptly bounces back to the sender.

That said, I've had no trouble with HTML formatting. If, like me, Joe resists the most-blatant frippery--colored elements in particular--and avoids obvious bad moves such as sending HTML text to mailing lists, he should feel free to format as he chooses.

Jeff Seal of Salt Lake City asks how he might keep a copy of the files that Mac OS 9's Software Update control panel retrieves from Apple's site. The Software Update control panel is so efficient that it not only downloads and installs updates but also cleans up after itself by deleting the installer files afterward. Jeff would like to retain these installers and transfer them from his office Mac--where a T1 line makes downloading huge files a stroll in the park--to his home Mac, where downloading the same updates via his 56K modem becomes a trial. Although Apple makes it difficult to glom onto these installers, it's not impossible if you have a copy of ResEdit and know how and when to force-quit an application.

Begin by downloading a copy of ResEdit from the Apple Software Updates page ( ). Launch ResEdit, and when an Open dialog box appears, click on Cancel. Now select Get File/Folder Info from ResEdit's File menu, navigate to the root level of your start-up drive, locate the Cleanup At Startup folder, and click on the Get Info button. The dialog box that appears contains an option labeled Invisible (see "Making an Appearance"). Deselect this option, close the window, save your changes when prompted, and quit ResEdit.

When you next explore your start-up drive, you'll see the now-visible Cleanup At Startup folder, where the Software Update control panel stores update files.

Now run Software Update and download the files you need. Once the files have downloaded and installed, Software Update displays a dialog box with one option: Restart. If you wish to retain the installers, you must circumvent this dialog box by pressing shift-command-option-esc to force-quit the Software Update control panel.

Making an Appearance   To reveal invisible items, such as the Cleanup At Startup folder, deselect the Invisible option in this ResEdit window.
Making an Appearance   To reveal invisible items, such as the Cleanup At Startup folder, deselect the Invisible option in this ResEdit window.

Answer yes in the dialog box that asks if you really want to force-quit Software Update; with any luck, the Finder will eventually appear. (For a frightening list of what can happen if your luck runs out, see the next paragraph.) Open the Cleanup At Startup folder, and you'll find oddly numbered folders that contain the installers for the updates Software Update just downloaded. Copy them to some variety of removable disk (a Zip, for example), truck the disk home, and run the installers on your home Mac.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the following:
• Force-quitting an application can leave your Mac in an unstable state. There's a slight chance that performing this trick will corrupt some item on your hard drive. It's far safer to wait until Apple posts stand-alone versions of updates online, usually a week or two after they first appear in Software Update.
• ResEdit is a powerful tool that, if used carelessly, can seriously mess up your Mac. If you aren't sure what you're doing--and don't have a complete backup of your hard drive--stay away from ResEdit.
• If the installers won't run properly, download Tome-Viewer from VersionTracker ( ) and extract the update files from the Cleanup At Startup folder.

Contrary to assertions in my September column, James Walker's fine Acrobat shareware extension PrintToPDF allows you to create PDF files of sheet music. While PrintToPDF can't embed fonts, it can render selected fonts as bitmaps--at 288 dpi--instead of as text.

Several readers noted that, in October's column, I left out a solution for changing the default keyboard shortcut--command-tab--to switch between applications. Go to Apple's Help Center (under the desktop's Help menu), search for application switcher , click on the Switching Between Open Programs link, select Help Me Modify The Keyboard Shortcuts, and follow the on-screen instructions.

Tip of the Month

If you want to create a group mailing list in your e-mail client, you don't need to have the names in your address book. I selected and copied 52 names in an AppleWorks document and then pasted the names into a new group. It worked perfectly.
Janet Mobley
Santa Rosa, California

Contributing Editor CHRISTOPHER BREEN offers Mac tips and tricks each business day via the Daily Tips and iTips newsletters. Visit to subscribe.

Share tips and discuss Mac problems with other Mac users in the Mac 911 Forum ( ). Also send tips by e-mail to We pay $50 for tips selected for publication in Macworld. All published submissions become the sole property of Macworld.

Shareware and freeware mentioned in Mac 911 is available from the Macworld Online software library ( ).

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