September 1999

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MacWaves MUG
a SIG of Brookdale Computer Users Group
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Adobe Acrobat 4.0, Adobe Systems Inc., Macintosh and Windows, $199.

The process of creating a PDF (Portable Document Format) document can be as easy as saving a file in PDF format or in distilling a PostScript file into a PDF file. Once the PDF file is created, it can be opened and viewed in Acrobat Reader. This makes it possible for users of Macintosh OS, Windows, and Unix to view a file created from virtually any application. Many applications such as Illustrator, Photoshop and PageMaker allow you to save a file in PDF format. Such a file can then be printed or transmitted over the Web. Other applications such as QuarkXPress require you to print the file as a PostScript file, then open it in Distiller which converts it to a PDF file.

Once you have a PDF file, you can open it in Acrobat 4 and add lots of bells and whistles, including movies and sound. And you can do this easily with the superb toolbox included with Acrobat 4 including a TouchUp Text tool and Form tools. Acrobat 4 includes powerful linking tools with a Bookmark palette that allows you to create a table of contents and link it to any page in the document. Floating palettes and a Status Bar make it easy to access all the functions of this powerful and versatile application. Acrobat lets you embed fonts which guarantees that your pages will print or display exactly as formatted.

Other features include the ability to drag-and-drop or printing from-from-file functions and includes three levels of optimization: Screen Optimaztion for documents intended for monitor or Web viewing by downsampling images to 72 ppi and converting them to RGB files; Print Optimized for producing PDF files output to inkjet or laser printers; and Press Optimization which creates files for the service bureau or prepress facility.

The new annotation tools let you and others make notes and comments without changing the PDF document itself. Use the Pencil tool to mark text or circle errors and the Rubber Stamp tool to leave more important messages such as approval or disapproval!

Although there are more features for Windows users, for example the ability to download HTML pages directly into Acrobat, Macintosh users will find themselves right at home in the familiar interface , especially if they use other Adobe products. There is no doubt that PDF files will be used more and more frequently for print and Web distribution, as Acrobat and Distiller's ability to optimize performance for printing on anything from a laser or inkjet printer, to high-end prepress machines, to a computer screen makes it the program of choice for anyone preparing documents for any kind of distribution.

Adobe Acrobat 4.0 will be demonstrated at the September MacWaves User Group meeting in the Media Room at the High Technology High School on Wednesday, September 8, 1999.

Suitcase 8, Extensis Corp., $89.95, upgrade price, $39.95.

Fans of Suitcase who loved its interface but complained about its incompatibility issues can upgrade to Suitcase 8 from Extensis Corp. Just when you thought there wasn't anything else Extensis could do for the graphics/layout user, this remarkable company has released a totally revamped version of Suitcase, the venerable font management utility. Suitcase 8 turns fonts on and off, is compatible with Mac OS System 8.5, iMacs, and Bondi G3s. Font sets can be created that open on system startup, open with a specific application, or open temporarily. They can be opened without even taking the time to create any set by simply dragging the font on top of the Suitcase 8 icon. Suitcase 8 supports AppleScript for customized font management and comes bundled with Suitcase 8 XT, a QuarkXPress XTension which automatically opens fonts missing in a Quark document and in EPS files embedded in that document. Another bundled utility is Suitcase 8 FontAgent, which groups font families and previews fonts in the font menus. Simple to learn and easy to use, especially if you are running Mac OS 8.5/6, Suitcase 8 returns as a familiar face with a facelift that makes it a pleasure to use, especially if you are a Quark user.

The Little Mac Book, Fifth Edition, by Robin Williams. Peachpit Press, $19.95.

This all-time Mac favorite has been completely revised and updated for Mac OS 8 including three chapters on the Internet. Better even than Apple's excellent manuals, The Little Mac Book comes filled with tips, tricks, tons of illustrations, and a style that's as comfortable as the Mac itself. Whether you're a novice or experienced Mac user (Can you pass all the quizzes at the end of each chapter?) you'll find much to inform and to delight in this delightful and well-designed book. New users, especially, will find the opening tutorial a productive introduction to their Macs, while the remaining chapters will serve as a reliable guide on their computing journey.

Photoshop Magic: Expert Edition, by Brendon Perkins. Hayden Books, $45 with CD (Macintosh and Windows).

If you're ready to move beyond basic Photoshop tasks, Photoshop Magic will give you the opportunity to create truly stunning images and effects. Using a step-by-step approach and with the help of lots of screenshots and visuals, the author takes you through the process of simulating stained glass and water reflection, introducing artificial perspective for emphasis, changing weather, using light to set mood and creating animated Web graphics--for starters! Like all of the books in Hayden's Magic series, this one provides enough information about a topic to make you comfortable with the process, while guiding you through the process itself. The CD includes all the images you need for the tutorials, including animation shareware for both platforms. By working through the lessons, the user comes to appreciate the more complex dimensions of Photoshop while mastering some of its more arcane features. For example, the lesson on lighting changes in masks not only teaches you how to create a mask, but also how to define that mask to simulate natural falloff in brightness with distance from illuminating sources. By following each step in the dozens of tutorials, the user becomes more knowledgeable about Photoshop and more comfortable in creating images that range from realistic to fantastic.