From Pen Computing Magazine #9, April 1996

Newton Notes:

Information for Newton users

©Copyright 1996 David MacNeill

I am pleased to report that sorting through all the new software and hardware for Newton 2.0 devices in the last two months has been an almost overwhelming task. New products are being announced daily, which is a wonderful problem to have if you are in the Newton news business!

New Pen Computing web site
For those of you who just joined us, there is a wealth of information available on our new web site at <>, including my previous Newton Notes columns and all the Newton software reviews from the last three issues of the magazine.

Gary Trudeau, Newton booster
Regular readers of this column are well aware of my disappointment with Doonsbury's creator Gary Trudeau. His heartless lampoon of the MessagePad's original handwriting recognition was picked up by the low-tech lemmings in the popular press as proof that the product was a failure. It has taken Apple two years of hard work to overcome this bad mouthing. It seems that Mr. Trudeau has finally come around. Apple gave him a MessagePad 120 and he reports that he doesn't have "any handwriting recognition calamities to report." He also gave Apple permission to use the infamous "egg freckles" cartoon panel in the 2.0 ROMs as an Easter egg. To see it, write "egg freckles" (no quotes) on the Notepad, select it, and tap Assist.

Safe in its case? NOT!
I recently found out the hard way that a MessagePad 120 in the standard leather case is still vulnerable. Even though this case and many others like it have a thick flap to cover the screen, if you leave the 120's plastic screen lid open, it can be crushed. Last week I slipped on an icy parking lot and fell on my case, shattering the screen. I am sure that if I had the screen lid closed it would not have broken. The most distressing part is that once the screen is crushed the digitizer is useless, making a backup impossible. There is no keyboard command (assuming you even have a Newton keyboard available) that can initiate a connection with your desktop computer.

Slick alpha tabs shortcut
Half the time you want a particular name, it starts with the second letter in the pair-AB, CD, EF, etc. The next time you are presented with a row of alphabetic tabs in a Newton 2.0 unit, double tap on the tab to go to the second letter in the pair. Thanks to Leslie Judd for this cool discovery.

Newton System 1.3 updates
Apple has quietly posted system software updaters for the Newton 1.3-based units MP100 (415333), MP110 (345333), and MP120 (445333). They are essentially patches for compatibility with 2.0 units, and also contain several important bug fixes. The updates are available in eWorld.

Power User Preferences
Jim Bailey <> has released Newton 2.0 Power User Prefs, a little package that adds a panel to the Prefs application under Newton 2.0 giving access to hidden options that are normally inaccessible to the casual user. You can tell the Extras drawer to close automatically when you launch a package; enable the very useful Freeze function on packages in the Extras drawer; re-enable the old Undo/Undo button functionality; and enable a Pref for recording whether you are right or left handed. This package only works under Newton OS 2.0. Look for it at <>.

PowerKey Keyboard Driver
Gopi D. Flaherty <> has posted a Newton package that allows you to use Apple's Newton Keyboard with a MessagePad running OS versions previous to 2.0. Called powerKey, it presents a floating button that allows you to switch between handwriting and keyboarding in any text area. Check out <>.

Windows Development Tool
Timothy C. Hodges has released WinNewt 1.1, the only Newton software development environment for Microsoft Windows currently available. WinNewt provides tools that allow the Newton programmer to develop NewtonScript applications on a Microsoft Windows-based PC. WinNewt provides the user with the ability to design the appearance of a Newton application in a graphical environment, write the NewtonScript code for that application, and create a Newton software package in conjunction with Steve Weyer's Newt 3.1 development software.

A time-limited demonstration version of WinNewt is available for download from a number of Internet sites, including America Online (Keywords PDA and Windows), the Arizona Macintosh Users Group (AMUG) archive Submissions folder, and the University of Iowa (uiowa) archive Submissions folder. WinNewt also has its own page on the World Wide Web, located at: <>.

Newton as a portable kiosk
One of the coolest uses of Newton technology I have seen was created by Visible Interactive <>. VI provides touring systems designed for information-intensive environments such as museums, historical sites, and national parks. By adding a touch screen and audio capabilities, they have transformed the MessagePad into a mobile, handheld kiosk. The Newton provides the means for users to explore, educate, and entertain themselves as they navigate through environments such as museums and galleries. Users have the ability to control their experience in direction, pace, and content while accessing thousands of pages of text, hundreds of graphics, and hours of audio. The company has developed their own audio compression technique that really packs the bits onto the Flash RAM cards while maintaining excellent sound quality. They have also solved the theft problem by blocking access to the MessagePad's built-in software, rendering them useless outside.

Visible Interactive is currently installing several touring systems for the Smithsonian at the National Air and Space Museum, the First Lady's exhibit at the National Museum of American History, as well as in a traveling exhibit in celebration of the Smithsonian's 150th anniversary. A system is also in place in the University Art Museum at the University of California, Berkeley. Contact Roland Deal at 415-433-7781.