Everybody likes to get something for nothing. In the past several weeks, Mac users have had some tasty software freebies tossed their way.
First, there was Microsoft's Internet Explorer 5. A few weeks later, Apple made iMovie, the regular guy's movie-editing software included with DV iMacs, free for the download. The only catch is that you need a relatively new or heavily upgraded Mac to use iMovie.
Apple's system requirements for iMovie are a G3 or better with at least 64 MB of RAM, Mac OS 9, QuickTime 4.1 and a FireWire port so you can import digital video for editing.
This assumes you have a FireWire-ready digital camcorder (the least expensive cost about $900) to shoot the video you plan to edit with iMovie.
You can fudge a little on some of the requirements -- I circumvented the need for the camcorder (my heavily upgraded Mac clone still lacks a FireWire port) by converting some video I made with my Kritter USB camera with QuickTime Pro. To get iMovie to recognize the file, I dropped it into the media folder inside my movie's home folder.
While the Kritter was tethered to the Mac by its USB cable, it provided sufficient footage so I could play around with iMovie.
Apple also advises iMovie users to have at least 2 GB of hard drive real estate available, a pragmatic suggestion since each minute of digital video gobbles up about 210 MB.
If your Mac has what it takes, and you have the bandwidth or the patience for a 19.2 MB download, iMovie is one of the best pieces of free software you'll ever use.
Even without the tutorial that iMac DV owners have been provided on their hard drive, iMovie is fairly easy to learn through trial and error. If you decide you need the tutorial you can order iMovie on CD-ROM from Apple for $19.95. Within minutes I was able to cut my video into chunks, add sounds and titles, and create transitions between scenes.
If you want music on your soundtrack, you can add a tune from your favorite CD. You can also add still pictures and sounds recorded from your Mac's microphone to your movie.
Certainly iMovie lacks many of the features of high-end video-editing software, but for the money you can't beat it.
In my review of AppleWorks 6 awhile back, I noted that many users were unhappy with the new version because it changed or omitted a number of favorite features. At the time, an Apple spokesman said the company was aware of the complaints and would consider restoring some of the ousted features.
Fat chance, right?
Wrong. A few weeks ago Apple posted a free update to AppleWorks 6 (officially version 6.03) that addresses several user complaints. Last week Apple posted yet another update, version 6.04, to fix a bug concerning DataViz translators.
Among the notable improvements:
* AppleWorks 6 can now read RTF files. While not restoring the Swiss Army knife-like translation powers of its predecessors, it's a help.
* The pop-up font and point-
size menus have returned to the word processor document window. Hooray!
* Improved compatibility with third-party software.
* Snappier performance and increased stability, which never should have been an issue, but at least Apple addressed it quickly.
Apart from the welcome improvements for users, this update shows that Apple can be responsive to its customers when it wants to be. Here's hoping that's Cupertino's official policy now.
OS X beta
When Apple CEO Steve Jobs announced recently that Apple's next-generation operating system, Mac OS X, would not ship until January 2001, many Mac users were disappointed at the delay. But this setback has a silver (or should I say aqua) lining.
Instead of releasing a shrink-
wrapped version of Mac OS X this summer as scheduled, Apple will make available a public beta version of the operating system. That means you'll be able to download it for free to "test drive" on your Mac.
Be advised, however, that anything labeled "beta" is by definition unfinished and liable to cause problems the final version won't.
That said, the beta version will aid many pre-G3 Mac owners in discerning whether their hardware is truly OS X-ready. While Apple says a G3 Mac is required for OS X, software developers using earlier preview versions of the OS have reported getting it to run on Mac models based on the PowerPC 603 and 604 series of chips.
If you want to start preparing your system for an OS X trial, experts recommend that you set aside a 2 GB partition of a hard drive separate from the one on which your present System Folder resides.