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ATPM 3.09
September 1997




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Segments: Slices From the Macintosh Life

by Steve Hussey,

A History of Using Macs

We have been Mac users since '84, when we bought a Mac 128K, single floppy drive & ImageWriter to do our technical documentation for a high end Hewlett Packard based software package. Over the years we upgraded our Macs constantly and now have stabilized on PowerBook 3400/240's which are just too cool.

We got into databases with what was then Nashoba's FileMaker database, loved it and stuck with it for many years as Claris took it over and it became FileMaker Pro. About 4 years ago we moved to 4th Dimension. It took a lot of learning but it was well worth the move. Today we use 4D (on Macs, although it is now cross-platform) to do contract developing. Somewhere along the way we realized that we had learned a lot about 4D and started to self-publish a series of guides to the more advanced aspects of 4D. The 4D market is small compared to FileMaker Pro and therefore we couldn't publish our guides conventionally—so we did it all in house.

Using FrameMaker 3, then 4 and now 5 we published our first guide about three years ago as the 4D Advanced Guide. A second edition followed, and later a third. The guide was written on our Macs, edited, proofed and published. We printed the first few copies on our HP LaserJet 4MV, then created a master from the 4MV and had it photocopied in bulk.

All sales were handled on the Mac, we wrote our own invoicing system in 4D, and even handled credit card authorizations from within 4D using Apple Events and MacAuthorize. Our voice-mail is MegaPhone on a Mac, our faxing all handled direct from Mac. We even do all our UPS shipping through our own UPS rate calculation/manifest/shipping system we built in 4D.

Earlier this year we created our first web-site using Adobe PageMill 2.0 and have been generating a steady revenue stream ever since. Claris Emailer 2 handles all our e-mail quickly and easily. We have also linked our 4D database to Emailer via Apple Events—so we can quickly keep our customer base up to date.

As the volume of material on 4D grew and grew we decided to make the fourth edition of our guide a digital version, on CD. Using Frame we created PS files, we then use Adobe Distiller to turn these into PDF files, complete with a hypertext table of contents.

Toast allows us to burn our own CD's in house. On the Mac we can create hybrid CD's which run on MacOS or Windows—something that is nearly impossible on a PC. The price of blank media has dropped to about US $3.50 per disk. This makes in-house production viable and cost-effective. By using CD-R's we can produce small batches of CD's, about 10 at a time, keeping stock in hand low. We can also update very quickly.

Today we publish a range of guides and tools for 4D Developers and we owe most of our success to our Macs. We just couldn't be this productive and efficient without them.

Blue AppleSteve Hussey is CEO of Alto Stratus LLC. The Segments section is open to anyone. If you have something interesting to say about life with your Mac, write us at <>.

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