From Pen Computing Magazine #8, February 1996

Newton Notes:

Information for Newton users

©Copyright 1996 David MacNeill

After arguing for my imperative need to have one of the first Newton 2.0 units, followed by days of begging and whining to Apple's beleaguered PR people, I finally got one. After just a few weeks with the unit I can best sum up my feelings about the new OS by saying this: I am never going back to a 1.3-based Newton. There is just so much richness and depth in the new version that retreat is unthinkable. Those of you who are still on the fence about upgrading your MessagePad 120 with the new ROMs or dumping your 110, 100, or Original to buy a new 2.0 unit, just do it. I am certain you will not regret it.

Newton 2.0 punctuation palette
Don't think that little caret cursor is only there to show you where your text will appear. Tapping on it will give you a handy pop-up menu of common punctuation symbols along with a space bar, return key, and a back-delete key.

Editing your old word list
If you are upgrading from an old 1.x machine, you probably have a good-sized word list. Of course, this old word list will import when you restore your old data to your new 2.0 machine, but there will be many unneeded words. The reason is that Newton 2.0 has a much larger ROM-based word list. You may find that many of the old words can now be deleted to save space and time. To do this, tap on the keyboard icon while in the Notepad, then tap on the word list (book) icon in the lower left corner of the keyboard palette. Start at the top of your list, then delete each word in turn, followed by a tap on the Undo button. If the word already exists in ROM, you will be prompted to determine whether you really want to add this word. This procedure takes some time but is well worth the trouble. When I did mine I cleaned out more than half of my rather large old list, a list I have been adding to across five Newtons since the product was launched.

Eclipse Easter egg
My intrepid editor, Conrad Blickenstorfer, showed me this entertaining little jewel: Open the Extras drawer, tap the folder tab and choose Setup. Tap the Setup icon, then set the date to October 23. Close all windows, then turn the Newton off. Turn it back on, go back into Setup, set the date to October 24, then turn the Newton off. When you turn it back on, the eclipse will animate across your screen.

Changing the backdrop application
Newton 2.0 allows you to set the Names, Dates, or Extras applications as your default or "backdrop" application. This is the screen you return to whenever you exit an application. I find that I prefer to use Dates as my backdrop, and when I need to write a note I choose the Notes icon in the Extras drawer. To try this cool feature, tap the Extras icon, then tap the info (i) button at the bottom left of the screen. Select memory info and you are presented with a wealth of memory usage information along with the Make Backdrop radio button list.

You can also select a non-ROM application as your backdrop. Open the Extras drawer, then press and hold the pen for a moment on the icon for the application you want to make the backdrop. By holding rather than tapping the icon will remain highlighted but will not launch. Tap the Action (envelope) icon and choose Make Backdrop. This will only work if the selected application is stored internally and not on a card because the chosen application must execute before the card is mounted.

Rearrange your Extras drawer
Newton 2.0 allows you to select and move the icons in the Extras drawer. To move an icon, tap and hold your pen on it, then immediately drag it diagonally a little until it moves with the pen. Drop it in the position you want it to go and the icon will insert itself in the new position, moving the others down. If you want to select one or more icons, hold your pen on it as described above. You can repeat this procedure to make multiple selections. You can then perform an action such as deleting them or moving them to or from a memory store using the Action or File button. If you want to delete an item just scribble it out. Poof!

Still in a heap of trouble?
The infamous heap memory space problem has been somewhat improved in Newton 2.0. The official Apple line is that OS level improvements and the new and improved ROM-based applications make heap memory much more efficient and less likely to run out. The main improvement is the ease with which heap memory, once used by an application, can be freed up for other uses. Newton developers, however, are saying that the heap situation isn't that much different from Newton 1.3. As one developer put it, "The system in general seems to be better at managing heap, in that it doesn't disappear quite as quickly, and installed packages don't all sit in the heap; they're in a soup. The Notepad is still pretty bad, especially if you have a big note being displayed. The Notepad never really closes so you have to realize this."

Characters in landscape view
On the Internet news group <comp.sys.newton.misc>, John Schettino posted his calculations for the maximum number of characters visible in landscape view: 20 characters down and 50 characters across using a 9 point font, and 24 characters by 60 characters using a 6 point font.

USWest 1.0
Thomas Poff <> has released USWest 1.0, an elegantly useful 110KB map reference to over 130 national parks in the western half of the USA. USWest includes park descriptions and instructions on how to get there. Thomas has included excellent navigation features, such as the ability to select a park from a list to auto-scroll there and a snappy drag-scroll map interface. USWest 1.0 is a bargain at $15 and is available along with Thomas' other handy reference applications at <>.

Date Man (formerly Wake Up Week)
The makers of the popular Wake Up Week have changed their name to Standalone Inc. They will release a Newton 2.0 version of WUW that will be called Date Man. Date Man has been redesigned from the ground up with a better interface, faster filing and a variety of bells and whistles. Date Man will also work on all previous Newton 1.x machines. For more information, contact <>.

KeyMan 2.0
KeyMan 2.0 is a clever little add-on for the keyboard palette. KeyMan gives you cut, copy, and paste functions, drag-and-drop clipping, a mini-calculator for the numeric keyboard, and a Dvorak keyboard option. This is a neat and useful little utility. KeyMan is $15. For more information, contact <>.

Until next time, don't forget to write! -Dave