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Oct 97 MacTech Online

Volume Number: 13 (1997)
Issue Number: 10
Column Tag: MacTech Online

MacTech Online

by Nicholas C. "nick.c" DeMello <>

Building a Better ReadMe

You just finished your latest program and realized that the average user will never discover three of the new features on their own (or at least not appreciate the advantage of those features without a little explanation). That same user will find out that your program is incompatible with seven shareware system extensions that you couldn't accommodate, and that user will send you e-mail about each one -- separately. It's time to create your release notes (creatively titled "ReadMe"). This column lists a few online resources to make building your ReadMe just a little easier.

Keep it Simple

Most release notes are distributed as documents of the type "ttro" and creator "ttxt" -- SimpleText read-only documents. Originally, TeachText, SimpleText is that small text editor that gets added to your hard disk with every Apple software installation. Various groups at Apple enhanced TeachText to make it a better vehicle for their particular technologies. In 1995, a half dozen of these "enhanced" versions of TeachText were combined to form SimpleText, which can now create styled text, display colored text, play QuickTime movies, drag and drop text editing, convert text to speech, record sounds, play sounds, and has limited support for QuickDraw 3D.

Notice I said "display colored text" -- not create it. The easiest way to add colored text to your ReadMe files is with Alessandro Levi Montalcini's SimpleText Color Menu utility. This utility can modify a copy of SimpleText by installing two new menus. Features in the new menus allow you to colorize text, search, search and replace, store a default text style, and gives you the option of opening read only documents as editable text.

Pictures can be added to your SimpleText documents with a resource editor. Open the document with ResEdit or Resorcerer and save your pictures as 'pict' resources (number them 1000 and up) into the resource fork. Then, open the document with SimpleText and enter a non-breaking space (option-spacebar, the ASCII character $CA) where you want each picture to appear. SimpleText will draw 'pict' ID 1000 horizontally centered on the screen. The top of the picture will begin where the first non-breaking space appears. SimpleText will display 'pict' ID 1001 at the second non-breaking space and so on. Because SimpleText is a text editor, it will only allocate enough space on the screen for the non-breaking space character (not the picture), you will have to add sufficient white space to make sure the picture doesn't overlap text. Apple's Technote 1005 (by Bryan Stearns, revised by Mark Cookson), "The Complete Guide to SimpleText," provides a detailed description of fine art of importing 'pict' resources into SimpleText documents.

Download PICTify by Scott A. Johnson to help you collect those 'pict' resources. PICTify is a system extension which allows you to grab screen shots (cropped as you take them or of the whole screen). In addition to being able to take screen shots with menus down, PICTify has a feature to allow you to grab only the contents of the foremost window--ideal for taking quick pictures of dialog boxes. Best of all, PICTify allows you to save your images as either pict files or 'pict' resources.

SimpleText is not able to save documents as 'ttro'--but that is how Apple recommends you distribute your release notes. There are a number of utilities for changing file types, but I'm particularly fond of a freeware utility called "TEXT <-> ttro." It toggles files dropped on it between "TEXT" and "ttro" types, and causes the finder to immediatley update the icon (something many type utilities fail to do).

Alessandro Levi Montalcini, author of SimpleText Color Menu
Technote 1005: The Complete Guide to SimpleText
Scott A. Johnson's PICTify
TEXT <-> ttro by Laurence Harris

Beyond SimpleText

SimpleText isn't your only choice for creating distribution documents. Mark Wall's feature rich DOCMaker is the standard for creating stand-alone, self-running document files. DOCMaker allows you to add hypertext, pop-up graphics, startup-splash screens with sound, and even lets you import RTF files. It's overkill for a ReadMe, but when you find it's time to start including a manual with your application, this is the right tool.

Marco Piovanelli is the author of the WASTE (WorldScript-aware Styled Text Engine) library. This powerful text editing engine has been incorporated into many text editors, and appropriately enough into Marco's own answer to SimpleText. Piovanelli's scriptable Style editor lets you paste graphics from your clipboard within styled and colored text, then save those documents as stand-alone self-running documents, as read-only SimpleText, RTF, or your choice of over a dozen word processing formats.

DocMaker 4.8 by Mark Wall of Green Mountain Software
Marco Piovanelli's Style (also the WASTE -- WorldScript-aware Styled Text Engine -- Library)

These and other links are available at the MacTech URL database


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