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the Beta File- by Ryan Dill


Welcome back to the Beta File, your source for the latest breaking news in OS/2 beta development. Every month we scour the OS/2 world to bring you interesting news of OS/2 software in development. If you have a product that you're sure is going to be the next killer app, or you want a little free exposure for your beta test, drop us a note!

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Let's begin this month by mentioning a cool-sounding search and retrieval application by the name of File Hound. File Hound for OS/2 is meant to be used as a replacement for the "Find Objects" and "Seek and Scan Files" applets that ship with OS/2 Warp. Since OS/2's built-in searchers simply search files for any occurrences of the text you're looking for, you might end up with a large list of files, of which few have the actual information you're seeking.

File Hound, on the other hand, creates an index of significant terms in a file/document, and uses this index to search with. Since reading the significant terms takes less time than reading the whole file, searches using File Hound can be extremely fast, and also allow File Hound to order your results -- those files which seem to talk most about your search term(s) will be displayed first. According to developer Aaron Gaalswyk, "aided by the index, File Hound can search hundreds or thousands of files within a few seconds and display the results in a user-friendly interface, which ranks documents according to their relevance to a query."

The program includes ZIP archive and drag 'n drop support, easy launching of applications on a found object, remote access, searching across networks, and more. With the ability to use multiple indexes as desired, and user customization of indexing rules, it sounds like File Hound can find your lost file quicker and easier than anything else. Having just entered public beta testing, you can download a copy of File Hound from Hobbes if you'd like to see how well it works. More information can be found at either File Hound's web page, or by contacting Aaron.

Aaron expects File Hound will still be in beta until at least fall of this year, and pricing information will be made available around that time. He welcomes any and all feedback you may have on the program, so download it and try it out! (On July 15th, Aaron announced that beta version 0.2a of FileHound is now available. For more information, see the announcement at the old Best of OS/2 message board. -- ed.)

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The people at Panacea Software, makers of the HTML Studio web page editor, have released the first public beta of their new Usenet newsreader product, ProNews/2. ProNews/2 includes all the options you'd expect from a decent news client, including decoding, message filtering, off-line operation and extensive configurability. In addition, it includes a few gems found in very few other offerings, including its own process manager, fully customizable tool bars, and configurability on a newsgroup-by-newsgroup basis (rather than only one set of settings for the entire program).

ProNews/2 had been undergoing an internal beta program of about 10 people since near the beginning of June, but with the early bugs fixed, the developers feel that the time is right for the public to have its first chance to sink their teeth into the product. If you'd like to participate, download the beta of ProNews/2 from its web site, install, and away you go. This beta, 2B, will be fully functional until September 1st, at which time a new version (beta or GA) will no doubt be released.

The developers (Brian Lamb and William Young) say the newsreader will stay in beta, "until it's ready. When 1.00 comes out we really want it to be 1.00 and not 'still beta with a new name'." And when the GA version is available, it'll sell as a shareware product for around US$30. Any bugs that crop up should be reported to the team at panacea@program.com.

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If you were interested in OS/2 e-Zine! 's May review of NetChat for OS/2, developer Gary L. Robinson released the first cross-platform beta version on June 25th. Now available both on OS/2 Warp and Win95/NT, NetChat is an even better solution than before -- cross platform communications applications are the way to go, because you're not limited to talking to people from your own platform.

For those unaware, NetChat is a "talk" application which allows a direct, two-way text communication between users of the program. Unlike normal chat applications which require you to know the IP address of the person you want to talk to, NetChat includes a 'hailing feature' which allows you to simply e-mail a special message to a user, and their NetChat program (if running) will e-mail back that person's current IP address, allowing you to communicate. The procedure is simple, so there's no need to memorize any arcane commands like IRC; just hail and talk. You can even use PMMail or MR/2 ICE as the hailing monitor, so NetChat doesn't even need to be on to receive a hail.

No information yet on how long this version of NetChat will stay in beta, but registration at BMT Micro now is US$25, and I'd expect the price to remain about the same for a while. One great new feature of NetChat's license policy is that the license now includes the right to two registration keys for the price of one -- i.e., buying NetChat once allows you to give one of your friends a key for the program, and you immediately have someone to NetChat with, whether they use OS/2 or Win95.

If you'd like to try out the latest NetChat beta, it's available for download from NetChat's home page. More information about NetChat for OS/2 (and now Win95/NT) can be found either on the home page, or by e-mailing the author, Gary Robinson.

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Keeping in the vein of person-to-person communications, Kim Kruse Hansen, author of CUSeeMe/2, has announced the next release of the program is ready for beta testing. CUSeeMe/2 is the OS/2 version of a video conferencing program originally developed by Cornell University. Cornell wrote versions of the software for the Windows and Macintosh, and Hansen thought an OS/2 version was necessary, so began writing one. Since the OS/2 version hasn't been developed by Cornell, it includes a few features which are not found in the Win and Mac versions. (A list of current features can be found at CUSeeMe/2's news page.

Since it's a cross-platform program, CUSeeMe/2 is an excellent way to bring Windows, Mac and OS/2 users together. In addition, since in its simplest form it requires no more than a 14.4k modem (of course, more is better, and recommended) and Warp 3, most OS/2 users can use it. (The optional sending of video which is available in this latest beta, however, requires a Connectix Quickcam -- later versions may support MMPM VideoIn as well)

The beta phase has just begun, and is open to all interested. To participate, download the beta and test away. (This beta version, v2.08, is fully functional until October 1st.) Any bug reports should be sent to Kim Kruse Hansen.

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The people at Dadaware, makers of the cross-platform graphics manipulation program Embellish, have been busy the past few days. Not only have they announced a competitive upgrade of Embellish for ColorWorks users (see the announcement in e-Zine! 's News Folder), but they've also announced beta testing for the new version 2.02a of Embellish.

The main difference between version 2.01 of the program (see its web page above for a list of current features) and the new v2.02a is that Embellish now features GIF animation capability. This capability is untested on a wide scale (hence the release of a beta), but the developers say it should be fairly stable. Even if not, the beta has been designed so that it can coexist alongside of a currently installed version of Embellish, allowing you to continue with your graphics work even if something nasty should happen with the beta. The GIF animation feature adds to Embellish's current subset of Web-based graphic tools, which includes the creation of image maps, and the ability to deal with transparent/interlaced GIFs and JPEGs.

Beta testing has just begun, and is open to all interested. (It's primarily intended for experienced users of Embellish, but anyone who wants to can play around with it.) To be a part of the testing process, simply download the OS/2 beta from Dadaware's FTP site, install it, and e-mail any bugs you find to beta@dadaware.com.

Be quick, though, because Dadaware intends to release the GA version of 2.02 on August 1st, only two weeks from the appearance of this issue of the Beta File. Once released, Embellish 2.02 will sell as a commercial product, retailing for either US$59 (for the electronic version) or US$69 (for the full package, including the Win95 version). If you've never tried Embellish and want to try a non-beta version, there are demos for both OS/2 and Win95 available on Dadaware's web site. For more information, either visit their site or e-mail questions to marketing@dadaware.com.

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To conclude with this month, we'll talk about a new multiplatform graphics front-end available on Linux, MS-DOS, Warp, Windows 3.1, and Win95/NT. Sentient Real Time Systems Ltd. has a new product out called IPAD. IPAD is a vector drawing package that uses intelligent graphics objects to make repetitive tasks easier.

By 'intelligent', well... Normally in an application that uses graphics objects, when you want to do something to an object, you have to put it in a certain 'mode' first. With IPAD, every object has a set of rules governing it that tell it what to do when it's grabbed a certain way, or when it's touching a particular type of object, so when you click it a certain way it automatically switches into the right mode and you can keep editing. In the author's words:

"User interaction with IPAD is such that there is very little setup required (often none) prior to modifying some component of a drawing. Most other packages require objects be selected in order for special handles to be provided and then for these handles to be used to edit the object."
In addition, this intelligence allows you to move an object and have those around it automatically adjust their positions to compensate for the movement. Finally, when objects are grouped, each group can have its own properties completely independent of those of the objects inside it.

Besides its powerful 'intelligence' features, IPAD includes various other useful abilities, including some bit-mapped image handling, various printing formats, multiple windows for easy editing between images, support of the widely-used png and ppm formats, and an object-oriented file format which allows IPAD to be used as a front-end for various third party software, including code generators and state machine generators.

If it sounds like IPAD might be useful to you, you can download a beta copy to try out. The expected date of final release is September of 1997, and once released IPAD will sell as a commercial product for US$99. (There will be a limited evaluation version made available at this time as well.)

The OS/2 beta was announced with the other platforms back near the end of last month, and since then there have been more than 450 downloads of the product with no reported problems. If you do encounter a bug, or just have more questions on the product which its web page doesn't answer, get in touch with IPAD's author, Sergio Masci.

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Ryan Dill is a student in Computer Science at Acadia University in Wolfville, NS and OS/2 e-Zine! 's Technical Editor. He is reported to be relieved that, with the advent of Warp 4, talking to your computer is no longer considered a sign of mental instability.

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