Mac 911

Former PC users -- Switchers -- have received so much recent attention that longtime Mac users may feel disregarded: "Hey, I've been using a Mac since 1984! Where's my danged banjo-pickin' commercial?" Chin up. In a way, we're all Switchers -- from Outlook Express to Apple Mail, from QuarkXPress to Adobe InDesign, from the miserable round mouse to a multibutton rodent. With that in mind, this month's Mac 911 examines similar switches -- moving from AOL to a better ISP, leaving Microsoft Office behind, seeking alternatives to iCal, and swapping out a PowerBook's hard drive.

America Offline

My mom is on America Online and wants to get off. I've set her up with Microsoft Entourage and a new ISP, but she'd like copies of all her stored e-mail messages and bookmarks before she leaves AOL. Is there a way to retrieve them?
-- Steven Goodman, Macworld.com forums

There is, but AOL doesn't make it easy.

AOL uses proprietary formats for its e-mail, bookmarks (termed Favorite Places), and address book. Regrettably, the exclusive nature of these formats renders the import commands in Entourage and Web browsers impotent. Therefore, it takes a bit of manual labor to move messages and bookmarks out of AOL and into a format compatible with other applications.

AOL's e-mail format is the worst offender.

To shift her e-mail to Entourage, your mother will have to log on to AOL and forward all her saved messages to her new e-mail address. This is a tedious process, but it provides the minor side benefit of reassuring her that leaving AOL was the right thing to do.

To transfer her bookmarks, she must once again fire up AOL, choose Favorite Places from the Favorites folder in AOL's toolbar, select the bookmarks she wants to transfer, and drag them to the desktop, where each bookmark will turn into a separate file.

Then she must go to www.elephant-place.de/Link Converter, and download a copy of Michael Keuter's LinkConverter. This free OS 9 utility (which also works well in OS X's Classic environment) will allow her to convert AOL's bookmarks into files compatible with today's Web browsers. To convert the information, she can just drag those AOL bookmarks onto either the Link To MSIE or the Link To NAV icon.

Should your mother care to move her address book, refer her to Apple's Older Software Downloads site (www.info.apple.com/support/oldersoftwarelist.html), where she can get a copy of AOL Address Extractor. This OS 9 utility, originally intended to convert AOL addresses to a Claris Emailer-friendly format, will place the contents of AOL's address book into a text file. From that text file, your mother can copy and paste her addresses into Entourage's address book.

Out of the Office

I'm moving to OS X but would prefer not to use Microsoft Office. The problem is that I occasionally have to read and create documents compatible with Word and Excel. What are my alternatives?
-- Ken Moore, Ukiah, California

If you wish to read or create Word and Excel files that contain every exotic bit of formatting the two programs can generate, I fear you have no alternatives. I've found no other Excel-compatible application that can create or read Excel's translucent 3-D charts. Likewise, in any program other than Word, you may find it difficult to view the complete contents of Word .doc files with embedded graphics and movies or tracked changes.

However, if your needs are more modest -- if you simply want to create or open no-frills Word or Excel documents -- you have a few options.

The first is an application you may already own -- Apple's $79 AppleWorks 6 (   ; " Office Remodeling," December 2001). Bundled with the iMac, iBook, and eMac, AppleWorks can read and write documents in native Word and Excel formats.

ThinkFree's $50 Office (   ; October 2002) is an OS X Java application that reads and writes Word and Excel files in their native formats. ThinkFree Office has been far pokier than AppleWorks 6 on my 933MHz Power Mac G4, but it's perfectly capable of creating and rendering basic Word- and Excel-compatible documents.

If you're interested in exploring a free open-source alternative -- and you have a broadband connection capable of handling a 164MB download -- check out OpenOffice (www.openoffice.org). Based on Sun Microsystems' StarOffice, OpenOffice is an office suite that can generate and read documents in Word and Excel formats. OpenOffice requires OS X 10.2 and installation of the included X Window System, a set of libraries and programs that provide a graphical user interface in Unix.

In final beta as I write this, OpenOffice includes everything you need to install the suite on your Mac. However, the installation process can be tiresome -- six separate installer applications run in a series, and you must enter your administrator's password four times. Once OpenOffice is installed, you'll find that it boots slowly, and that fonts lack the smoothness they have in OS X's Aqua interface. Barring these inconveniences, OpenOffice does a remarkably good job of creating and reading even moderately complex Office documents -- better than AppleWorks or ThinkFree Office.

Change the Date

I need a more robust calendar application than iCal, and I'm willing to pay for it. Any suggestions?
-- Catherine Drozdowski, Macworld.com forums

There are three main Macintosh calendar applications. Microsoft Entourage, the e-mail client in the $499 Microsoft Office v. X suite, includes a comprehensive calendar component (   ; " Mac OS X E-mail Guide," October 2002). Palm offers the free Palm Desktop 4.0 (   ; July 2002). And Now Software has the $120 Now Up-to-Date & Contact 4.2.6 (   ; August 2002). Like iCal, they all include such features as alarms, to-do lists, integration with contacts, and Palm synchronization.

I'd start with Palm Desktop for the simple reason that it's free. In addition to costing nary a nickel, it's nicely laid out and supports the vCard and vCal standards -- thus allowing you to export contact and calendar information easily. Palm Desktop does not, however, allow you to share your calendars or publish them on the Web.

If you own Microsoft Office, you've already got Entourage. The integration of e-mail and contact- and calendar-management within a single application allows you to perform iCal-like operations such as creating a calendar event, inviting a group of people in your Entourage address book to that event, and sending invitations all within a single window. An update slated for this summer will provide greater integration with Microsoft's Outlook Exchange Server -- so you can share calendar information with other Entourage users and those who use Outlook on a Windows PC.

Now Up-to-Date & Contact (NUDC) isn't free, but it does allow you to share calendars across a network, thanks to the bundled Public Event Server. By the time you read this, Now may have released an update to NUDC that provides synchronization between NUDC and Apple's Address Book. An update to follow shortly thereafter may add the ability to subscribe to published iCal calendars. Keep an eye on Now's Web site for details as they become available.

The Cloning Kind

I'd like to transfer files from my PowerBook G3's (Pismo) hard drive to a higher-capacity drive. To do this, I bought a 60GB hard drive, along with a FireWire enclosure. I've downloaded Carbon Copy Cloner, and I'm ready to transfer files and make the switch. But I can't find a detailed description of how to do this.
-- Jim Furlong, Macworld.com forums

Install the new hard drive in the enclosure and string a FireWire cable between the enclosure and your PowerBook. Launch Disk Utility (found in the Utilities folder inside the Applications folder), select the Erase or Partition tab (depending on whether you want to format the drive as a single volume or partition it into more than one), and format the drive in Mac OS Hierarchical File System Extended (HFS+) format.

Launch Carbon Copy Cloner (free; www.bombich .com). From the Source Disk pop-up menu in the Cloning Console window, choose a volume on your internal drive that contains OS X. From the Target Disk pop-up menu, select the drive in the FireWire enclosure. Click on the Preferences button; in the Target Disk Option portion of the resulting sheet, select the Make Bootable option -- this will allow you to boot from the drive currently inside the enclosure.

Click on Save to dismiss the sheet, and then click on the Lock icon. When asked to do so, enter your administrator's password and click on OK. To copy the files from your internal drive to the new hard drive, click on Clone -- and go have a libation while Carbon Copy Cloner does its job.

Once the cloning process is complete, direct your browser to this article for step-by-step instructions on how to replace your PowerBook's hard drive.

Staying Awake

Is there a way to disable the sleep-activation settings temporarily for specific applications?
-- From the Macworld.com forums

You mean, for example, for those times when you'd rather burn a DVD with your Mac than create a coaster? Regrettably, I've yet to find a way to tie Energy Saver activation to individual applications. However, I can offer you a method easier than opening Mac OS X's System Preferences.

That method is Alexey Manannikov's free utility, SleepLess. When you launch SleepLess, it produces a tiny, floating palette with a button that reads Never Sleep. Click on this button, and your Mac will have a case of insomnia until you click on the button -- which now reads Sleep OK -- once again.

Smacking the Ceiling

I urged a friend to upgrade the RAM in his iMac by adding a 256MB chip, even though the manual suggests that rev. A and rev. B iMacs hold a maximum of 160MB of RAM. When we rebooted the computer, the amount of RAM had increased, but only by 128MB. Is there a way to use all 256MB on this iMac?
-- From the Macworld.com forums

Quite possibly. The first thing you should do is zip over to the Apple Featured Software site (www.info.apple.com/support/downloads.html) and, in the Search For Downloads field, type the words iMac firmware. Before an iMac can exceed Apple's RAM limits, it may need a firmware upgrade. Download the update appropriate for your iMac model and run it. If your iMac already has the latest firmware installed, the updater will tell you so.

If the firmware update does no good, it's time to contact the vendor that sold you the RAM. Although Apple claims some of its models will hold only so many megabytes of memory, they can actually hold more if given compatible RAM. For example, Apple claims that the original iMac can bear only 160MB of RAM when in reality it can embrace as much as 384MB. (My rev. B iMac ticks along quite nicely with 320MB.) The RAM vendor may claim that it supports only those limits provided by Apple. In such cases, ask to swap the RAM for a new chip. If the company refuses to swap, visit TechWorks (800/688-7466, www.techworks.com).

Why TechWorks? When I intend to exceed Apple's limits, I patronize a dealer that advertises its RAM as able to meet the Mac's real limits. TechWorks does just that. If my Mac doesn't recognize all the megabytes I've installed, I have the option to call TechWorks' tech support, politely clear my throat, and say, "Ya know, it says on your Web site that my iMac will hold 384MB of RAM, and yet. . . ." Under these circumstances (which I've never experienced, by the way), TechWorks should do the right thing.

Tip of the Month

Thanks to the keypad found on many Macs' keyboards, you may not need to display the on-screen keypad in Apple's Calculator. Here's how to make a calculator that displays only the results field.

In a text editor, open the Calculator preference file -- found in your user folder at Library: Preferences: com.apple.calculator.plist. Change the values under the key NSWindow Frame Calculator to read 555 380 182 75 0 0 1024 746 .

Save the preference file and enjoy your new, compact Calculator. If you want the old Calculator back, simply delete the preference file and all is normal again.
-- John Powers, Elyria, Ohio

UNSOLICITED ADVICE

If, like me, you install every intriguing utility that appears on VersionTracker.com, the Other portion of your System Preference window undoubtedly brims with preference panes for programs you haven't touched in months. Care to clear the clutter? Here's how.

Navigate to the PreferencePanes folder inside the Library folder at the root level of your hard drive (Library: PreferencePanes). Inside this folder you'll see folders bearing the names of some of the preference panes in System Preferences. Drag those panes you no longer need to the Trash.

Wait, you're not done yet. Preference panes can also dwell within your user folder, so go to Library: PreferencePanes and toss any preference panes there that you no longer require.

You really should be done now, but if you insist on viewing every PreferencePanes folder on your Mac, you'll find one more at System: Library: PreferencePanes. This folder contains Apple's preference panes -- items you can't trash without changing the permission settings of the folder. Unless you have a very good reason for doing so, you should not trash the items in this folder.

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