PelicanWare's Don Vollum
From Pen Computing #8
What impact will Newton 2.0 have?
DV: I do feel that the market is going to expand. I'm more concerned at the moment with
possible supply constraints on the MessagePad 120, but that's typical of a new product in
the early stage. I'm looking at double or triple the sales figures from last year. So I
feel that both the consumer market and the vertical market will improve; there's really a
lot going on there.
Newton 2.0 is a much more inviting environment and I think it will
be a big success for Apple and for developers.
Will you continue to develop and maintain Newton 1.x-based apps?
As long as there is a demand for 1.x compatible apps we'll continue to maintain our older
products. There are a lot of 100 and 110 owners out there and we intend to take care of
Tell us about Notion 1.5 now that you've acquired it from Eidetic.
DV: We were really glad to get Notion. After StarCore folded its tents it became available
from Eidetic, the original developers. The Newton 2.0 Notepad outliner and checklist
options are very basic. For example, there's no option to hide something; it's purely
visual. Notion is a forms-based tool that allows you to create all kinds of different
things. Notion 1.5 opens about twice as fast as the old version and you can set alarms for
reminders. It uses heap space much more efficiently now, and it's integrated with Names so
you can link contacts easily with a list. Most importantly you have the ability to sort
your data, which is very useful. Notion is really a very simple to use end-user database,
but I don't like to use the word "database" because it tends to intimidate
people. Notion is probably the most-used tool on my Newton; I use it for everything
throughout my day.
What makes QuickFigure Pro so fast?
DV: When I write an application I tend to be very focused on speed. I look at the things
that need to be fast, for example when opening. I'm just doing what seems to be natural,
making the application do the minimum it has to at critical times. I wanted QuickFigure to
be fast from the start. There are some technical things you can do. For example, the
Newton has all these views for this and that function, each incurring some system
overhead. If you want to speed things up you can just use one view and draw everything on
Do stationery-based apps like QuickFigure Pro 3.0 cause any problems?
DV: We're looking at doing Notion 2.0 as a stationery app, but there are problems taking a
forms-based tool and just sticking it on the Notepad. We may integrate an entry slip for a
Notion list. We want to see what people will do with QuickFigure stationery and go from
there. We don't have a grand plan yet, but we are definitely very interested in continuing
with it. There are potential problems when you put a complex application into stationery
like that. You have to be careful not to have too many worksheets on the screen at the
same time or you might run out of heap memory. Each instance of a QuickFigure stationery
worksheet that's visible takes up as much memory as running the QuickFigure application
Where is NewtCase going to go as the OS becomes more sophisticated?
DV: NewtCase is a product to correct the OS's faults. There will always be problems with
the Newton, always places where it can be enhanced. NewtCase 2.0 addresses all the
problems of earlier Newtons, while NewtCase 3.0 does that and opens up some new
GestureScript is a good example; using gestures to create macros. It
really speeds up launching when you have a lot of software. One of the really cool new
things is the new backdrop with its buttonbar. Its kind of like the control strip on
PowerBooks. You have easy access to the rotate button and a menu of all the stuff in your
Extras drawer. Apple has published a new way to do status bar buttons. Our buttonbar
supports both the old and the new button types automatically. Newton 2.0 supports freezing
an application, but you have to get a third-party tool to do it. NewtCase's Package
Manager will turn on this feature and handle it in a much friendlier fashion.
What are the advantages of Newton 2.0 from a developer's perspective?
DV: There is so much that you can do now that wasn't documented before, like the status
bar buttons I mentioned. In the old days Apple didn't want people messing around, but
there's been an attitude change. It's like they're saying people are going to do these
things anyway, so let's come up with a way that will work with future versions, make
everyone happy, and give people what they want. I think they spent a lot of time looking
at that. A lot of people at the Newton division were recently in the Newton shareware
community, some of them very outspoken. These guys really stretched the Newton to its
limits; they know what people are going to do. Apple did the right thing by hiring them to
work on 2.0. There are a lot of people in the Newton group who have never worked anywhere
else at Apple. I think Newton 2.0 is going to bring in a lot of new developers. The Newton
Tool Kit is pretty nice, and they keep working on it and improving it, and the Windows
version is coming soon.
Why the name PelicanWare?
DV: I originally wrote QuickFigure while on vacation in Mexico, and I liked to sit out and
watch the pelicans diving while I wrote. They were just so amazing to watch!