When you see a picture of a drug molecule or a nanoscale computing element in a newspaper, you’re almost always looking at the result of an X-ray crystallographic study. CrystalMaker 5.0, a program that produces those types of images, was a runner-up for a Macworld Editors’ Choice award for its brilliant display (“The 17th Annual Editors’ Choice Awards,” February 2002). And the latest version, CrystalMaker 6.0.2, is even better: it’s easier to use and thoroughly optimized for Mac OS X.
CrystalMaker not only presents the results of crystallographic studies but also lets you build crystal models from scratch or import tables of crystal data in any of a dozen standard formats. The output is beautiful, fully rendered, 3-D crystal images, which you can view with the included stereoscopic glasses as PDF files, JPEG images, or high-resolution PICT files.
CrystalMaker 6.0 is a nearly complete reprogramming effort that takes real advantage of OS X. It abandons the event-processing model the Mac used before OS X, which seriously bogs down in the presence of multiple open windows. The new core of CrystalMaker is almost five times faster on redrawing tasks than version 5.0 (we used a 700MHz iMac G4).
CrystalMaker’s interface has been reconstructed, too. In the past, you had to go through a series of tedious dialog boxes to execute common tasks. Instead of dialog boxes for editing and display features, CrystalMaker 6.0 uses OS X sheets. You can have more than one sheet open at a time while you work, regardless of which one is active.
Macworld’s Buying Advice
If you’re a crystallographer, it’s time to upgrade to CrystalMaker 6.0. If you’re a science instructor, it’s no exaggeration to say this program alone would justify buying a Mac to produce materials for chemistry or physics lessons. It handles all crystal-display tasks with grace, and it’s a bargain.