Many of us spend our computing days and nights looking at a shiny Aqua interface, but plenty of people still earn their lunch money staring at screens that look more like DOS than anything remotely graphical. Those systems include everything from Unix and Linux to IBM “Big Iron,” such as the AS/400, and nearly all require that you have some kind of terminal-emulation program to manage and program them. Two new OS X-native terminal-emulation programs — Ericom’s PowerTerm 1.0 and Celcorp’s CelView 3.0.1 — give your Mac quick access to these powerful systems, and while both work well, neither is a standout.
The $150-per-seat, OS X-only PowerTerm comes to the Mac for the first time in this version, ported from a Unix terminal-emulation program of the same name. As such, it comes with a quiver full of features that will appeal to users who need to connect to a variety of systems: VT terminals, IBM terminals (both 5250 and 3270), Data General, AIXTERM, WYSE, HP, TANDEM — basically, you name the terminal type, and PowerTerm has it covered. Entering commands is easy; you can click on any on-screen menu item to execute the command instead of typing it in a command line. Using the program’s graphical keyboard editor, you can change keyboard mapping with a simple drag and drop, and PowerTerm supports a wide range of languages.
The program includes powerful scripting tools that can capture your keystrokes and save them as macros, but it’s missing a key feature and has an irritating quirk. First, PowerTerm gives you no way to transfer files to or from your connected system, a shortcoming that may have you running to a PC or fudging with an FTP program to get the job done. Second, when you save a configured terminal session for future use, you wind up with four generic icons, none of which can be double-clicked on to open your saved terminal session.
When it comes to IBM host-based printing, PowerTerm includes excellent host print transform capabilities. This feature — which allows IBM mainframe and midrange systems to select drawers and envelope feeders on printers attached directly to your Mac — is especially important to remote users who need full IBM printing support when they’re outside of the office.
When it comes to terminal emulation on the Mac, CelView is the veteran, and it runs in OS 8.6 through OS X. CelView can connect to two platforms: either Mainframe systems or the IBM AS/400. Unfortunately, you can’t use one package to connect to both platforms. You’ll need to buy either the Mainframe version or the AS/400 version, and at $250 a pop, this is guaranteed to put a dent in your budget, especially if your work environment requires that you connect to both systems. Compare that with PowerTerm, which costs $150 and connects to them both, and more.
Like PowerTerm, CelView is capable of recording keystrokes that you can save as macros. The macros run at about one-quarter the speed of PowerTerm’s macros, but in CelView you can also create Quickstep toolbars and turn your macros into buttons that stay in a floating palette. In fact, CelView comes with a preconfigured set of macros that put every function key and a variety of other important commands one click away.
CelView one-ups PowerTerm by letting you transfer files to and from your connected system from within the program. But file transfer is limited by the fact that there is no EBCDIC-to-ASCII translation while you perform the transfer. This shortcoming severely limits the value of the transfer program. Also, CelView’s response time was noticeably slower than PowerTerm’s.
Unlike PowerTerm, CelView doesn’t support host print transform using TCP/IP, although host print transform is available if you’re willing to run AppleTalk. If you do use the AppleTalk option, you’ll have to set up a second Mac to act as a server for the print jobs, which is a less than optimal solution, especially in a small remote or home-office environment.
Macworld’s Buying Advice
Both PowerTerm 1.0 and CelView 3.0.1 perform terminal emulation without a hitch, but the choice between them is a toss-up — it will depend on what you need to get done. PowerTerm offers more than a dozen terminal-emulation types, has snappy response times, and includes one-click access to many on-screen commands, all for a very low price. But a big strike against it is that it has no file-transfer capabilities and odd file-saving quirks that can make working with it frustrating.
CelView’s custom toolbars of your own macros, file transfer to and from your connected system, and ability to use an older Mac OS make it an appealing choice for anyone who needs to connect to legacy systems. But those capabilities come at a premium, especially if you have to connect to more than one type of system.