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The Aisle Less Traveled: A Macworld Expo Floor Report
Pages: 1, 2

Six Degrees

Also newly shipping is Creo's Six Degrees, as in "six degrees of separation." This program is able to create and remember the relationships between the documents you work with and the contacts and messages in your email program.

For instance, if you create a document and email it to someone, Six Degrees remembers both the document and the recipient's name and considers them part of the same project. If someone else emails you another document with a lot of the same keywords as the first one, that document and that person also show up in the legend window.

Six Degrees software.
Six Degrees is software that can create and remember the relationships between documents, contacts, and email messages.

Six Degrees continually monitors new documents you create and new emails you receive, so that you can watch the legend change in real time. Compared to launching Sherlock or scrolling through your email list, Six Degrees may be the quickest way out of those "I know who sent it to me, I just don't remember where I saved the attachment" moments. Six Degrees can't show you paths or let you rename documents in its legend window, but part of the beauty of the program is that it only displays documents as links or aliases. It can detect just about any kind of document on your Mac (any that you'd want to open, anyway); you still do your work in the original application.

With the advent of the Jaguar Address Book, Six Degrees's contact features may seem superfluous, but if you're the type of person who hates burrowing through files or dealing with elaborate folder organization, Six Degrees may be $99 well spent.

Contour Design

The Shuttle Pro.
The Shuttle Pro Multimedia Controller.

What would a computer show be without accessories? The coolest accessory, though not technically new, is Contour Designs's Shuttle Pro. The Shuttle Pro looks like a wide, flat mouse, and feels more comfortable than most standard mice. If you do any video or audio editing at all, even splicing home movies in iMovie, you need this device. Its rubberized central wheel is the only humane way to operate a scrubber bar. Outside of that, the Shuttle Pro shines in its titanium-like finish and its fully customizable buttons (four below the shuttle wheel and nine above, all in easy finger distance).

After all, when you're using an audio or video program, you're probably going to spend more time with the mouse than the keyboard. If you put some thought into customizing these buttons, you may be able to avoid shuffling your hands to the keyboard entirely. (How do you remember what all those 13 buttons do? The top 9 have removable labels. The Shuttle Pro also has a Dock icon that you can click to see and change your customized settings.)

Thinkfree Office

Imagine getting just the most useful features of Word, PowerPoint, and Excel, for one-tenth the price of Microsoft Office. Then throw in 20MB of free backup space on the Web (even Apple doesn't give you that for free anymore). Want to stretch your imagination further? Then just suppose that this program works in Mac OS (both Classic and X) in Windows, and in Linux Red Hat. Just buy one Thinkfree Office CD and you can install the program on as many computers as you like, as many times as you like. (Take that, Microsoft!)

ThinkFree Menu
ThinkFree Office allows you to connect directly to a 20MB Cyberdrive to store your documents.

And if you're on the road and forget the CD ("say, you're at your friend's house," says Thinkfree's Sungmin Ro), your single $49.95 license grants you the right to download this Office suite as many times as you like. This company not only thinks different, it does different.

Thinkfree Office works on all three platforms because it's written entirely in Java. Its toolbars are neat and clear--more like AppleWorks' than Microsoft's, although Thinkfree Office cannot deal with AppleWorks documents. Thinkfree decided to pick its battles, to do fewer things but do them all well. So its Office can open any file created in any version of Microsoft's from any platform, but its presentation program can't insert QuickTime movies, as PowerPoint can. ("That's something kids like to play around with, but movies aren't used very much in a corporate environment," Ro argues.)

Documents opened in Thinkfree Office don't look exactly the same as the original, and you do miss a few bells and whistles (its list of spreadsheet functions is slightly less endless than the one in Excel). But for one-tenth the price (not to mention one-tenth the disk space), you can do just about anything in Word, Excel, or PowerPoint you'd need to do on a given day. In fact, if you're Microsoft-free and all you need is something to open all those .doc, .xls, and .ppt files people insist on emailing you, it's not a bad deal at all.

Gluon Job Tracker

Many kinds of workers (editors, artists, lawyers, and consultants among them), bill by the hour. While accurate recording of those hours is of utmost importance, many of us aren't very good about "writing it down," and cheat ourselves out of hundreds of dollars. If you're an employer of people who bill by the hour, on the other hand, your biggest concern is getting what you pay for. Is everyone working on the most urgent project, or is one person turning his or her attention to a lower priority job? Did you make enough money on your biggest account, or do you feel that you're spending more than half your time on something that brings in less than half of your money.

Screen shot.
Gluon Job Tracker monitors a variety of activities.

Gluon Job Tracker, by automatically monitoring how much activity takes place in the applications on Mac and Windows computers on a network, as well as tracking non-computer items such as phone calls, takes the guesswork out of work.

Once you tell Job Tracker what applications you're using and what kinds of jobs and rates you're working with, all you have to do is choose the job from a pop-up menu and get to work. The difference between using Job Tracker and programs that show how long a program has been open is that Job Tracker is sensitive to activity. Once a set amount of time since your last keystroke has elapsed (30 seconds, or 5 minutes, for example), Job Tracker turns off the clock. Unless you switch to working on a different job, you're off the hook as far as recordkeeping goes. Whenever you're working, Job Tracker is timing you.

As a boss, Job Tracker gives you an increased feeling of serenity. You don't have to wonder who's working on what project in what application--you can see each worker's activity in a compact list. So if a big deadline is looming, you can see who's "working" in Internet Explorer instead of Excel and ring them up with a gentle reminder.

Which begs the question, what programs can Job Tracker track? Just about anything ... Illustrator, Photoshop, InDesign, Dreamweaver, Word, Excel. If Job Tracker doesn't recognize it, marketing vice president Seth Elgart assures you that Gluon will write you a plug-in for it.

Nan Barber is the coauthor of Office 2001: The Missing Manual as well as the Missing Manual series copy editor, having edited the Missing Manual titles on Mac OS 9, AppleWorks 6, iMovie, Windows Millennium, Dreamweaver 4, and Mac OS X.

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