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ISSUE 580: Zisman- Dec 5 2000

The high-tech office


Mac users get versions of Symantec's PC software

They're about 10 per cent of the population. The stereotype is that they're more artistic, colourful and style-conscious than the plain vanilla majority. They're convinced that their way is better, or at least more fun, but feel discriminated against, with fewer choices that cost more.

They're Mac users. And they too need utilities, the software that we hope we'll never need but know that someday we probably will.

Utilities giant Symantec has offered Mac versions of its key Norton AntiVirus and Norton Utilities packages for years, but tended to focus most of its attention on the larger PC market. With its 2001 product line, however, the company has brought out new Mac versions of several of its PC products, Norton Internet Security and Norton Personal Firewall, and has bundled several of its Mac products into a utilities suite: Norton SystemWorks 2001.

As with the PC SystemWorks, the Mac version bundles the key programs, Norton AntiVirus ($105) and Norton Utilities ($150), together with several other products in a single box at a discounted price ($195). As well, Mac SystemWorks buyers get a pair of useful utilities from other companies: Dantz's Retrospect Express 4.3 ($75) is a backup and disaster recovery program, and Aladdin Spring Cleaning 3.5 ($75) removes hard drive clutter.

AntiVirus 7.0 (aka "2001") is easier to configure than earlier versions and offers several interface enhancements. Autoprotect can be turned on and off from a Control Strip module and individual files can be scanned using a context menu option. (Lesser-known fact: Command + Click on recent Mac operating systems brings up a pop-up context menu, like right-clicking in Windows). More types of compressed files can be scanned for infection.

Like the PC version, it now scans incoming e-mail. There are far fewer viruses targeting Macintoshes than PCs, but Mac users of Microsoft Office are equal opportunity targets. Their copies of these popular programs can be infected with the same Word and Excel macro viruses, often spread via e-mail, as their PC colleagues.

Like the PC versions, a LiveUpdate feature can connect online to Symantec to keep virus definitions and AntiVirus and Utilities files current. (A one-year free subscription is included.) Unlike the PC version, it won't run automatically every 15 days or so, but you can set it to start up and run on a regular schedule.

Norton Utilities 6.0/2001 includes improvements to the FileSaver feature to better recover lost files. Damaged directories can be restored with the new Volume Recover, while the Speed Disk defragmenter can now define how files on the disk are arranged for better performance. (Another lesser-known fact: Deleted files are still on your hard drive and can still be recovered and read by those in the know. That, in fact, is how U.S. Senate investigators got evidence on Col. Oliver North. But when Norton Utilities wipes the free space, deleted data is gone for good.)

Both the new Utilities and AntiVirus programs can be used with Apple's OS X beta, by booting under OS 9. The program CDs are bootable, making them usable for recovery in case of serious computing disasters. While I wouldn't recommend it, some may put off purchasing until they're struck with a virus infection or drive crash, trusting that they can boot to the program CD and make everything right.

SystemWorks installs the two Norton products from a single installer and both programs' features can be started from the main Norton Utilities screen. There's no integration of Retrospect Express and Spring Cleaning, however. They have to be installed and run separately.

SystemWorks 2001 is a bargain compared to buying all its component parts separately. Mac users may still end up feeling like second-class citizens, however.

One local retailer, for example, is currently advertising the PC version for $60 after a $40 rebate, while Mac users are more likely to have to pay full retail.

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Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan