Review: MacHeadlines Pro 1.8
Published by: Trexar Technologies, Inc.
Requirements: 68020 processor, System 7.5.1 or higher, 8 MB RAM, Internet Connection.
Shareware Fee: $19.95 (Pro)
Between school and work, I spend a lot of time tied to a computer. Often I have a television or radio on while I am working. This is for background noise, more than anything else. More often than not, I am blissfully unaware of what the current radio or television personality is talking about. As a side effect, I am also usually unaware of current events. That is why MacHeadlines Pro immediately appealed to me. Anyone who has watched the financial networks on cable or almost any sporting event has seen the tickers that run across the bottom of the screen. Sometimes they display stock information, sometimes news, sometimes sports scores. Now as long as you are connected to the Internet, you can have your own custom ticker on your monitor.
On the surface, MacHeadlines Pro sounds a bit like the “push” technology of a few years ago. One of the problems with push technology, was that the users did not have an excessive amount of control over what was displayed. You entered some preferences and the program would “push” the content to you. MacHeadlines Pro is more of a “pull” program—you can tell MacHeadlines exactly which Web pages you want to see and how it should look for content in those pages. MacHeadlines Pro then goes to those pages and “pulls” the content.
No News Is Good News?!?
The person who said this was probably the same person who had the blank look on his face when everybody else was discussing current events. The truth is everybody should make some effort to stay current with respect to the news. For instance, it would be easy to assume that there will not be a ticker tape parade for the Boston Red Sox this October, but if you missed the fact that the Red Sox won the World Series, you could be stuck in traffic for a while....Sorry about that, I guess I drifted off into my fantasy world again. Like I was saying, not hearing any of the story is a bad thing. Likewise, only getting the headlines is not a safe practice. For instance, a recent headline that tracked across my screen was “Visor puts heat on Palm.” Judging by the title, you might think it was an article about new hand warmers for skiers. Reading the article would tell you it was actually about a new PDA. MacHeadlines Pro makes it possible to get the whole story. Double-clicking on any headline brings up the related story in your Web browser. If there is a site with several stories that pique your interest, you can double-click on the site name and that site will be displayed in your browser.
MacHeadlines Pro comes with several Web sites entered into database by default. These sites include: MacWEEK, MacCentral, Macinstein, MacSurfer, Wired, Excite, CNET’s News.com, CNN, CNN/SI, Excite, Yahoo stocks, and MacAlive’s own Web site. If these are not to your liking, you can turn them off and on or enter you own site using the MacHeadlines Site Format (MHSF). With MHSF, you tell MacHeadlines Pro what sequence of either text or HTML tags, called tokens, to look for when determining a headline. All of the sites included with MacHeadlines Pro are sites where the headlines are presented as an HTML link—clicking on the headline displays the Web site for the associated headline. By creating your own tracked site using MHSF, it is possible to track sites that display all their information on a single page, like MacNN or DealMac. The only problem with this is that MacHeadlines stops parsing the headline when it gets to another tag, so if there is a link in the news section, it jumps to the next token. In this case, an option to indicate where a headline ends would be nice. The only problem I had creating a tracked site came when I entered the MHSF data in all capital letters and the site I was adding had some of the tags in uppercase and some of the tags in lower case. Since capitalization is inconsistent from site to site, it would be nice if MacHeadlines Pro could ignore capitalization when tracking sites.
There are two ways of displaying data with MacHeadlines Pro. The first method is to let MacHeadlines Pro load all the sites at once and scroll all the headlines across the bottom of your screen. The second method is to load each site one at a time and display the information from only the loaded site. This method is called “delayed circulation.” I had some difficulty with delayed circulation, though. With delayed circulation active, you can choose which site is currently displayed on the ticker. Unfortunately, MacHeadlines Pro seemed to continually switch to the site that was at the top at the list of sites to track. Also, when loading sites with delayed circulation and MacHeadlines Pro in the background, some of my keystrokes did not register. I can only assume this means MacHeadlines Pro was using a disproportionate amount of system resources while in the background.
Despite some problems with delayed circulation, MacHeadlines Pro is a great program for those tied to their computers but desperately trying to keep up on current events. Also, if you are not interested in adding tracked sites to MacHeadlines Pro, you might want to look at MacHeadlines Lite. It has most of the features of the Pro version, except you cannot add or delete tracked sites, and any changes made to the appearance on the ticker are not saved. But you can edit the tracked sites, which means, for instance, you could change the stocks that MacHeadlines Lite is tracking. If you use MacHeadlines Lite; however, I think you will realize that MacHeadlines Pro is worth $19.95. At first I was convinced I would not need to add sites to the tracked list, but now I have added pages from the online version of my local newspaper. If you spend much time on the Web, you too will find sites that you would like to track.