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January 2000 General Meeting Report

by Steven Kiepe, Vice President for Programs

Cold and bitter winds, with high temperatures below 30 degrees awaited our visitors from Redmond, Washington for the January general meeting. A somewhat reduced size throng of hearty individuals gathered this frosty morning to preview the next generation of Internet tools, Microsoft's Internet Explorer 5, and Outlook Express 5. The crowd was well rewarded for their willingness to venture into the cold and it appears that a new "fastest gun" is about to debut in the browser world.

Microsoft Macintosh Product Managers Glenn Myers and Irving Kwong blew into town on the heels of a major cold front but brought plenty of good cheer and more than a few outstanding door prizes. They kicked off their presentation with a rundown on Microsoft's recent announcements at MacWorld San Francisco. Of much interest to the crowd was the acknowledgement that Microsoft is working hard on the sequel to the highly lauded Office 98. This still unnamed new version will be compatible with "legacy" Macintosh operating systems including Mac OS 9 and will be closely followed by a Mac OS X native version soon after the latter makes its debut. More details on these new versions will be posted on the Microsoft Web site, as they become available.

The core of the meeting was focused on demonstrating Microsoft's new Internet tools, the recently released Outlook Express 5 and the soon to be available Internet Explorer 5 for Macintosh.

Users of older versions of Outlook Express will be very comfortable with the with the latest version's interface. Immediately noticeable are new button icons on the tool bar, designed by the Icon Factory. A new "flag" feature allows the user to annotate mail of interest for later follow-up. Messages can be scrolled through and sequentially paged by depressing the space bar and views can be set up to reveal only read, unread or "threaded" messages (those that have been replied to or forwarded). A dynamic history is created between messages, revealing message threads and creating a link between them. The resizable preview pane has most of the same features available in the larger message viewing window including autotext cleanup and font size adjustment (to get rid of the strange characters and out of alignment formatting that often result when messages are captured and resent).

Not only is Outlook Express 5 a great email and news application, it also has a built in address book with multiple fields that can be customized to hold extensive amounts of information on each individual record. This data could include birthdays and other major events, and up to 16 phone numbers and 13 email addresses per record. The application is also smart enough to only display the fields that have data entered. While the program still lacks some of the functionality of the Windows version of Microsoft Outlook, the gap has been closed greatly.

The second application in this one-two punch is Internet Explorer 5, to be released in late February or early March. It looks like a sure winner and even Netscape diehards came away impressed. With an extremely customizable interface, it can be configured to display web pages at the Windows standard 96 dot per inch (dpi) display or the Macintosh's default 72 dpi. This feature ensures that web pages optimized for Windows and using small fonts will still be legible on the Mac. Additionally, the improved rendering engine significantly accelerates the speed at which web pages are displayed on the Macintosh.

Many specialized functions are built into Internet Explorer 5. An intelligent search function accesses multiple search engines. There is a print preview feature to ensure that the web page you want is what you'll actually print. There is even a built-in auction tracker function for all of you electronic auctioneer addicts!

After fielding more than two hours of demonstration and questions, it was time to start winding down the meeting. Glenn and Irving brought a generous selection of prizes for the raffle, and with odds better than 1 in 7 of coming away a winner, there were a lot of happy people!

A large selection of reference manuals were passed out including copies of ClarisWorks 5 Compendium to Clifton Bailey, Tom Culbert and Larry Schwartz, PageMaker for Macintosh to Ken Clare, Photoshop 5 to Bob Mulligan, and PageMaker 6.5 to William Hark. Quite a few folks ended up sporting Microsoft Outlook Express T-shirts including Jamie MacDonald, Rob Clark, Al Lubarsky, Ken Lutterman, Jan Bailey and G. LeBon. The big winners of the morning included Jim Diamond, winner of GDT's PowerPrint USB, and three very lucky winners of Microsoft Office Gold Edition for Macintosh: Charlie Cooke, Ned Spencer and Ron Green.

Future general meeting topics:

February 26th &emdash; Asante on home and office networking, and 3dfx, developers of the new Voodoo 4 and 5 graphic acceleration cards.

March 25th &emdash; Corel will present Print Office, a blend of page layout, office form and letter templates, and general correspondence tools, and Derek Mihoka of Gemulators, Inc will demonstrate his amazing Gemulator, a hardware and software solution that allows Macintosh applications to be run on Wintel based machines.

April 22nd &emdash; Adobe In-Design, the new heavyweight champion in the desktop publishing arena.

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Revised March 26, 2000 Lawrence I. Charters
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