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ATPM 2.10
October 1996




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MacAdemia Nuts & Bolts

by Belinda Wagner,

How Do I use a Macintosh? Let Me Count The Ways…

OK, it's a bad literary allusion. But, since Michael Tsai asked me to write an article on how I use the Macintosh platform in my professional and personal life, those sentences have been running through my head. I don't think I'm all that unique among Macintosh users. The innovative interface has been encouraging exploration from its inception. Maybe others express their creativity in different ways, but there is a common thread - the ease with which the possibilities can be explored and the difficulty of making an irretrievable error invite us all to "push the envelope," so to speak.

I bought my first personal computer in 1984. The Macintosh was the new kid on the block, but I chose a Compaq 286. I deliberated over buying a Mac, but my biggest need was reference management software which did not yet exist for the Macintosh platform. Six years later, reference management software again played a critical role in my life. Only this time, a Macintosh-only product was my salvation. More on that subject later.

Actually, I have to thank my ex-husband for my platform switch. His mindset was simply incompatible with DOS. We spent hours on the phone. He was at home, stuck somewhere in DOS and desperate for a solution. I was in the lab, cranking out experiments. Then, the inevitable finally happened. I uttered the words, "now hit 'return'" one or two steps too early and then listened helplessly as the hard disk reformatted itself!

A brand new SE was ushered into our humble flat in early 1988 with great fanfare. My ex-husband found that he could search "menus" for whatever it was that he wanted to do. The only phone calls I got at the lab now started like this, "Guess what I just figured out how to do!!!" This "gadget" was truly awesome. It was just so much easier to mouse around the Macintosh than hunt and peck around DOS.

In February of 1990, I finally sat down in front of my Mac to write my thesis. The keyboard was a little hard to reach because I was seven months pregnant. My due date was April 12—serious motivation! By April 3, 1990, the introduction alone had swelled to almost fifty pages containing nearly 400 references! The baby's crib, changing table and chest of drawers were cluttered with stacks of references. I was on the "home stretch" though. I needed another good day and a half to finish. "No problem," I thought as I got ready for a few hour's sleep. "I'll finish the thesis in a couple days and have a week to get ready for the baby. Besides, most first labors don't begin until a few days after the due dates. Plenty of time." About 12:30 am, April 4, my water broke...

Fortunately for my thesis, labor did not begin immediately. I spent the remainder of that night writing checks and projecting our income/expenses for the next three months in Managing Your Money. A brief check-up ensured that the baby was fine and I spent April 4 finishing my thesis. About 9 PM I set Endnote to formatting and it percolated for about two hours before the references were appended, magically, to the end of my opus. One last spelling check and an edit session with the references and the thesis was DONE, exactly 24 hours after my water broke. I had used every advanced feature of Macintosh System 6.0, MacDraw, Microsoft Word and Endnote that existed. I had achieved my goal of finishing the thesis before giving birth and our trusty Mac had earned a hefty share of the credit.

Today I have a six-year-old daughter who is a three-year Macintosh veteran thanks to At Ease. I hold a research faculty position in a clinical department of a major southeastern medical school. I am a single mom. In other words, my life is drastically changed except for one thing — a Macintosh is still the centerpiece of my home and office workspaces.

I work in a Windows-biased environment. The online purchasing requires a 386 IBM-compatible machine running Win3.1. The network that connects all the departments within the Division of Surgery and allows access to clinical data on patients is also Windows-only. I am the lone bastion of life that is not completely dependent upon Bill Gates as far as the eye can see...

However, I was the first in our department to surf the Web, even before my EtherNet connection was installed. I was the first to be able to search Medline from my office and download "too-large-for-floppy" graphics images to our print production department. I was also the first to NOT tally up a huge "housecall" fee from Information Services to set up and maintain my computer (besides being able to listen to CDs within 5 minutes of unpacking the box).

I like the current Discover card commercials. You know, where they get celebrities to talk about what they buy with it. Well, ATPM readers, here's a "what's on my Mac" spin-off...

[bw1 graphic] Kid Pix 2: my daughter's favorite and one of mine as well. I use it to create wild backgrounds which I export to Canvas. I also love the "attach sound" feature. It's a great way to send verbal correspondence to far away friends as an e-mail attachment.

[bw2 graphic] ClarisWorks 4: I began editing a newsletter in 1996. It was easy to learn the fundamentals of desktop publishing using ClarisWorks. Now I'm ready for some the more advanced features in....

[bw3 graphic] Ready, Set, Go: I haven't even begun to access the power of this Mac-only software gem. I'm eager for those cold icy days of winter to spend more time with this one.

[bw4 graphic] Fetch 3.0.1: The essential software for keeping my office and home hard disks current with each other (at least until I get my Duo). I upload large files or folders for later downloading at the other machine. This strategy is a real time-saver for getting large Internet downloads onto my home Mac. At work, I use the incredibly rapid EtherNet connection and dump the files onto my server space. From home, I download from the server rather than the Web which saves time and drastically decreases the frequency of corrupted files or disconnects.

[bw5 graphic] Netscape Navigator 3.0: I have tried Microsoft Explorer, but I prefer Netscape. The "stop" button on Netscape's tool bar is the clincher. My morning coffee is sipped while browsing the New York Times and my Personal Edition of the Wall Street Journal Interactive (now if I just make more dividends than the cost of the subscription....). I also am very active in promoting Web technology as a tool for enhancing education. My evangelizing involves surfing for sites that teachers can use. Most of our schools are "connected," but there is no time for teachers to search for useful sites. They e-mail me with their lesson needs and I respond by sending them a list of candidate URLs. I also learn a lot....

[bw6 graphic] [bw7 graphic] Endnote II Plus and Microsoft Word 5.1: No, I never upgraded to Word 6 because I still enjoy the ease of 5.1 which was sacrificed in the newer version. The seamless integration of Endnote makes writing grants and papers almost a joy. I use a custom Endnote style to print out Medline search hits in a format that mirrors the physical organization of our library stacks. The assistants who pull the journals never "sit" on my requests, because I've made their jobs so much easier.

[bw8 graphic] [bw9 graphic] Canvas 3.5.4 and Photoshop 3.0: How did I ever make slides and figures without these tools? My custom-designed backgrounds for slides are becoming a welcome break from the "yellow text on dark blue gradient" monotony at scientific meetings. The ability to scan everything from X-ray films to silver-stained gels into Photoshop and combine images with the vector-based capabilities of Canvas has drastically reduced my production expenses.

[bw10 graphic] [bw11 graphic] What's on my horizon? Well, Canvas 5 for starters (it's currently on back order). Other recent acquisitions include Claris Home Page and ActionLine (a graphical interface Java Applet builder). My first resolution for 1997 is to integrate the superior Macintosh-only features of Ready, Set, Go and ActionLine into the cross-platform capabilities of Web pages.

My own personal belief is that Web-based technologies will revolutionize every aspect of our professional and personal lives that rely on communication. I feel that the Macintosh platform is an essential component to realizing that goal. I fully expect that six years hence my life will be equally distinct from what it was six years ago. I also firmly believe that when the snapshot is taken, a Macintosh (or compatible) machine will retain its prominence in my workspace.

"How do I use a Macintosh? Let me count the ways..." is ©1996 Belinda J. Wagner. [apple graphic]

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