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Go backBook infoAll about Lisa’s software

The third chapter of the book “The complete book of Lisa,” pp. 25-54.

Most personal computer system descriptions include in-depth examinations of their hardware, featuring an abundance of computer jargon: motherboard, bus, RAM, I/O board, card slot, backplane, and on and on. This is generally of little use, unless you plan to write programs.

Exactly how much memory a system has, for example, is irrelevant. What is important is whether there is a good business-graphics program, what size spreadsheets can be manipulated, how large documents can be, what types of type styles can be printed, and exactly what characters can be used in creating text. Also important are the number of colors that can be displayed on a color screen and the number of shading patterns available on a monochrome screen.

Today’s computer users are concerned about what a system can do for them and at what speed, price, and accuracy. What really matters is whether Computer System X can manipulate spreadsheets of 250 rows by 250 columns. Similarly, screen resolution is not as important as whether a document appears on the screen exactly as it will print. Screen size isn’t as important as how much of an 8-½”×11” page can be displayed at once.

Not that Lisa’s technical specifications aren’t impressive. Lisa’s memory capacity, for example, is more than one million bytes – much more than any other personal computer. The processor used inside Lisa is extremely powerful. Although it is difficult to describe its power accurately without using technical terms, one can use the processor’s “width” (the number of bits it can process simultaneously) as a rough measure of power. The Apple II has an 8-bit processor, the IBM PC a 16-bit processor; both Lisa and Macintosh have 32-bit processors. Another impressive specification is Lisa’s screen; it contains more than 262,000 distinct dots, each of which can be changed from white to black sixty times a second.

Back to what Lisa can do. Seven programs are now available from Apple, and many other programs are available from independent software vendors; the number of independently produced programs is growing regularly. In addition, there is the Desktop Operating System, the environment on which all seven application programs work. The Desktop Operating System is explained fully in Chapter Twelve.

The seven programs from Apple include:
LisaWrite (word processing)
LisaDraw (presentation graphics)
LisaList (list management)
LisaGraph (business graphics)
LisaCalc (spreadsheet modeling)
LisaProject (project scheduling and management)
LisaTerminal (communications and terminal emulation)

In addition, there are programming languages and programming environments available for Lisa. Combined, the applications programs listed above cover the vast majority of tasks typically performed on personal computers by professionals.

These seven programs are excellent, useful tools in and of themselves, but Lisa is based on more than just these seven programs. This is because there is a difference between computer “utility” and “usability.” The utility of a computer refers to its ability to accomplish a specific range of tasks – what the machine can do, rather than what you must do to use it. One computer might have the ability to print italic letters, for example, but to do this you might have to enter six cryptic commands in a rigid order. In contrast, usability refers to a computer’s ability to let you accomplish tasks easily and effectively with acceptable levels of effort, comfort, and satisfaction – how the machine assists you in completing the job at hand. With most computers, utility and usability don’t necessarily go hand in hand. With Lisa, they do, enabling your work to be accomplished with ease.

But Lisa’s real value comes from its program integration.

A set of programs is said to be integrated when data from one program can be used without change, or with very little change, in other programs. This transferability is, unfortunately, not yet the norm in most computer systems, large or small.

“Full integration” doesn’t mean every program is compatible with every other program. It doesn’t make sense, for example, to try to integrate graphic data from LisaDraw with the spreadsheets of LisaCalc; LisaCalc does not have (nor should it have) the ability to process drawings. It does make sense, however, to integrate LisaDraw graphics with LisaWrite documents, because text and pictures often go hand in hand; to integrate LisaList data with LisaWrite documents to add tables to text; or to integrate LisaCalc spreadsheets with LisaGraph bar charts to create an effective presentation of graphics and text. Lisa allows these types of integration as well as many others.

Being fully integrated isn’t enough, however. To be truly usable by both novices and experts, software must be easy to understand and use – a function known in computer jargon as good “user interface.” The user interface is the sum total of everything you must do or know about a software program to accomplish the task at hand. This typically includes the commands you need to know to get things done; the actual buttons you must press and in what order to enter, manipulate, and retrieve data; and the error messages you get when something isn’t quite right. The key to good user interface is consistency – all concepts, functions, and procedures must apply to all programs. A high-quality user interface lets you learn one set of commands that may be used with many different programs. In general, a high-quality interface is one that:
Does not force you to remember the name of every command.
Does not allow disastrous actions (like destruction of valuable data) to occur accidentally.
Does not require you to understand the entire system in order to accomplish tasks.
Allows you to switch back and forth between several different tasks and does not force you to finish one before beginning the next.
Provides a variety of ways to input and manipulate data.
Has a version for experts and another for beginners.
Is forgiving about mistakes.
Allows you to change your mind and “undo” an action.

A computer system with as many diverse applications as Lisa has a large user interface – large in that there is a great deal for the new Lisa user to learn. In the pages that follow, I’ll simplify that learning process by explaining how Lisa works and how to get the most out of each program.

One of the first things you’ll discover about Lisa is that the consistency of software design shortens dramatically the time it takes to learn a new program. This “sameness” maximizes the value of your intuition. (“I’ll bet this will work here in LisaGraph the same as it did in LisaCalc. Let’s try it.”) Once you learn, for example, how to delete a row in a LisaList table, you’ll know how to delete rows in LisaCalc spreadsheets and LisaGraph data tables. The “delete-row” operation works exactly the same in each program.

New application programs become easier to learn, because each time a new program is learned, the core concepts behind all applications can be practiced further. Conversely, an inconsistent user interface would doom you to an almost endless learning process, with each new program as difficult to learn as the last.

Three general principles

Three general principles apply to all Lisa programs: “selection, then operation,” “cursor shape shows expected action,” and “stationery pads provide access to programs.” By observing these principles, you can easily transfer your experiences from one program to another.

Selection, then operation. This means that for almost anything you do, you must first select, usually using the mouse, the object to be affected. In Lisa, the selection process is easy because the material you select becomes highlighted on the screen, usually by its white portions changing to black and its black portions to white – what we’ll call “reverse video.” This visual feedback enables you to verify what you’ve selected. All objects become highlighted when selected: text in LisaWrite, designs in LisaDraw, bars in LisaGraph, columns in LisaList, deadlines in LisaProject, and formulas in LisaCalc, among many other things. When you next specify a command to perform on the selected material, you’ll know precisely what material will be affected.

One advantage of this “selection, then operation” principle is that the system can protect you from requesting impossible or nonsensical operations. Lisa can deactivate any commands that do not apply. Example: The Erase Disk command isn’t active unless you have selected the icon representing one of the three types of Lisa disks: the removable micro diskette, the external Profile hard disk, or the internal Winchester hard disk. This selective command deactivation prevents many potential disasters, especially for novice users. Cursor shape shows expected action. Many computer systems have only one shape for the cursor – typically a blinking underscore or a blinking square. Lisa has nearly a dozen different cursor shapes, although only one shape is used at any given moment. The cursor shape changes automatically as you move the cursor over various portions of the screen. Each different shape indicates what you can, and cannot, do at that moment. The cursor shape used when text is being manipulated, for example, is used extensively in LisaWrite, Lisa’s word processing program. It also is used in LisaDraw, LisaCalc, LisaGraph, LisaProject, LisaList, LisaTerminal, and on the Lisa desktop, whenever text is being manipulated. Other shapes have other universal functions:

Text cursor: used whenever text can be manipulated. This cursor is used in every Lisa program.

Pointing arrow cursor: used when manipulating menu or window controls. This cursor is used in every Lisa program. It performs double duty in LisaDraw, where it is used to select, move, ore stretch a selected graphic object.

Check mark cursor: used to make choices in Dialog Boxes in all Lisa program.

Hourglass cursor: used whenever Lisa is busy finishing your last request and you must wait before doing anything else with Lisa. It is used in all Lisa programs.

Hollow cross-hair cursor: used in all Lisa programs that deal with tabular data: LisaList, LisaGraph, LisaProject, and LisaCalc.

Pointing hand cursor: use when you draw a selection box in LisaDraw.

Cross-hair cursor: used in LisaDraw when you enter a new graphic object, and in LisaTerminal when you enter tab and column stops.

The cursor moves on top of everything on the screen and changes its shape as it moves about, temporarily obscuring that small portion of the screen directly beneath, but not obscuring objects on the screen. Even this seemingly simple task of moving the cursor about unobstructed and without destroying the screen contents requires a significant amount of both memory and processing power – one of the many advantages of a powerful computer like Lisa.

Stationery pads provide access to programs. Each of the integrated programs available for Lisa is represented on the screen by an icon in the form of a stationery pad. To use any program, you must first “tear” a blank sheet of paper from the appropriate pad.

Figure 3-2: The various document icons available on Lisa. Each document type has an icon with a distinctive appearance that allows you to differentiate among them, regardless of the names you give them.
This image can be zoomedFigure 3-2: The various document icons available on Lisa. Each document type has an icon with a distinctive appearance that allows you to differentiate among them, regardless of the names you give them.
To use LisaProject, for example, you must first tear off a piece of paper from the LisaProject stationery pad, an endless supply of pieces of LisaProject paper. This tearing off operation is an easy, single-step operation; you simply move the mouse until the cursor is over the appropriate pad, then click the mouse button twice. That’s all there is to it. There are no special commands to remember (and, more important, no commands to forget). Each type of stationery is used for a specific application: LisaWrite paper for word processing, LisaCalc paper for spreadsheets, LisaGraph paper for business graphics, and so on. Each type of paper has a distinct icon (Figure 3-2), which enables you to distinguish it easily on Lisa’s desktop.

The stationery pad analogy may be taken only so far, however. A single LisaDraw piece of paper may contain an 8’×4’ drawing; a single LisaList piece of paper may contain a small data base with thousands of entries; a single LisaWrite piece of paper may contain an entire chapter of a book. In other words, each piece of paper represents an entire document. (We’ll use the terms “document” and “piece of paper” interchangably.)

All of this frees you from having to remember which documents are contained in which icons and from having to activate the specific software when you want access to that document. With Lisa, it is impossible to activate, say, the spreadsheet (LisaCalc) accidentally when working on a text document (LisaWrite).


Figure 3-3: The relationship between a document and its window. On Lisa, the window moves about on top of a document, providing a portal to the document’s contents.
This image can be zoomedFigure 3-3: The relationship between a document and its window. On Lisa, the window moves about on top of a document, providing a portal to the document’s contents.
When a document is opened on the screen, you are presented with a window – a titled, rectangular portal. You may view the contents of the document through this window. Because documents are usually bigger than the screen, you can move the window around the document, viewing different portions with each new screenful (Figure 3-3).

Opening a window. There are three methods of opening a window to a document, each of which can be used with any type of document. The first method is to use the Open command on the File/Print menu. (More about menus later in this chapter.) The second method also involves a menu, in this case, the Desk menu. This menu lists the icons on Lisa’s desktop. Selecting one of them from the Desk menu opens it on the screen. The third method is to double-click the mouse button while the cursor is on top of that document’s icon. (“Double-clicking” means to press the mouse button twice in quick succession.)

We have just seen the first instance of an action – double-clicking – that has different results in different contexts. When you double-click on a stationery pad, you tear off a piece of paper from this pad. When you double-click on an ordinary piece of paper, it opens to a window. Because most of us normally operate in such a context-dependent manner, Lisa mimics this, making Lisa all the more natural to use.

Figure 3-4: Windows used by the various Lisa application programs are slightly different in the features they provide. This composite window shows most of these features. No such universal window actually exists on Lisa, however.
This image can be zoomedFigure 3-4: Windows used by the various Lisa application programs are slightly different in the features they provide. This composite window shows most of these features. No such universal window actually exists on Lisa, however.
Window components. The components of a document window vary with the type of paper being used, but all Lisa windows have some similarity. Figure 3-4 shows a theoretical composite window that contains all the features of all types of windows. No such window actually exists on Lisa; it appears here only for explanatory purposes.

At the top of the window is its title bar, containing the document name as well as a mini-icon representing the Lisa program that “owns” this document. This icon can be used to remove a document from the screen by double-clicking the mouse while the cursor is on top of the mini-icon. (Another way is to use one of the commands of the File/Print menu, as will be explained shortly.)

Moving the window through a document. On the right edge of the window are two vertical scroll arrows, two vertical view buttons, an elevator; and a horizontal split control bar. Let’s take these one at a time.

The vertical scroll arrows – the top one pointing up and the bottom one pointing down – enable you to shift the window one unit up or down. (The actual size of a unit depends on the type of document being viewed. In a LisaWrite document, one unit equals approximately one line of text; in a LisaCalc document, one unit equals one spreadsheet row.) Because the window moves in relation to the document, shifting the window up one unit reveals the unit of information just above the top edge of the window and shifts all the units inside the window down one position; the unit at the bottom disappears from the window. To initiate this movement, click the mouse button while the cursor is on top of the appropriate scroll arrow. If you want to scroll more than one unit, simply continue to hold the button down.
The two vertical view buttons allow you to move the window up or down the length of one entire window to provide an entirely new window of information. The shape of the view buttons is intended to suggest flipping pages – they show the left-hand corner of a page being turned up or down. The view buttons are activated in the same manner as the scroll arrows; by clicking the mouse button while the cursor is on top of the desired view button.
The elevator is a white square that is always positioned in the narrow, gray column at the extreme right of the window (sometimes called the “elevator shaft”). The elevator’s position in this column reflects the position of the window in a document. If the window is near the beginning of a document, the elevator is near the top of the shaft. If the window is near the end of a document, the elevator is near the bottom. Using either the scroll arrows or the view buttons causes the elevator to change position.

Not only does the elevator indirectly reflect the position of the window in the document, it also can be used directly to position the window. The elevator allows you to move the window over great distances in a document with a single action. To do this, press the mouse button while the cursor is on top of the elevator. While the button is held, the elevator may be moved up and down in the elevator shaft by moving the mouse in the appropriate direction. When you release the button, the window jumps to the corresponding position in the document. Although this type of window positioning is not extremely accurate (it is difficult to move a window to exactly the same position every time), it allows you to move large distances quickly – from the beginning of the document to the end, for example – in one simple step. Note that when you are at the end of a document, the elevator never quite reaches the bottom of the shaft. Don’t be concerned; this is one of Lisa’s little quirks.

Most Lisa programs use a “current insertion” position – marked by a blinking vertical bar – where, for example, text entered from the keyboard will appear. Often, after using the window-positioning controls, the current insertion position will not appear in the window. Pushing the Enter key will reposition the window so that this insertion position is inside the window. The Enter key is used in this manner for all Lisa programs, although it is not mentioned in any of the manuals.

Figure 3-5: This LisaWrite window has been split into two horizontal halves, each of which is a window into the same document. Using the horizontal split control bar allows you to observe and even write into two widely separated portions of the same document without having to scroll between those areas. A similar feature allows the window to be split vertically. Both split control features may be used simultaneously, splitting a window into four sections. Each portion may be scrolled independently.
This image can be zoomedFigure 3-5: This LisaWrite window has been split into two horizontal halves, each of which is a window into the same document. Using the horizontal split control bar allows you to observe and even write into two widely separated portions of the same document without having to scroll between those areas. A similar feature allows the window to be split vertically. Both split control features may be used simultaneously, splitting a window into four sections. Each portion may be scrolled independently.
The horizontal split control bar is located near the top of the right side of the window. This enables the window to be divided horizontally into two separate windows within the same document. This can be extremely useful when you’re working simultaneously with two widely separated portions of a single document – preparing an index or table of contents, for example. To use this window-splitting feature, position the cursor on top of the horizontal split control bar and press the mouse button. Holding the button, move the split control bar down, adjusting the window size in the top and bottom sections. While the button remains pressed, these proportions may be adjusted continuously. You’ll see a gray horizontal line the entire width of the window, moving up and down in response your cursor movements. Once the button is released, the proportions are fixed. Figure 3-5 shows a LisaWrite window split horizontally into two roughly equal sub-windows. Note that each sub-window has its own set of view buttons, scroll arrows, and elevator. Each sub-window can be independently positioned using these devices. Note, too, that each sub-window has its own horizontal split control bar. The horizontal-split-control bar of the top sub-window is used to split that sub-window into even smaller parts.

Any lower split control bars are used to readjust the proportions between the two sub-windows it divides. You can split a window into many sub-windows; the limit of usefulness of sub-windows is reached long before any Lisa-imposed limit.

The bottom of Figure 3-4 contains two horizontal scroll arrows, two horizontal view buttons, a vertical split control bar, and a horizontal elevator. Each works exactly like its counterpart on the right edge of the window, except that horizontal movement replaces vertical, or vice versa.

Here is a summary of Lisa’s window controls:
Scroll Arrows: Small horizontal or vertical movements – one line at a time, for example.
View Buttons: Medium-sized horizontal or vertical movements, usually the entire height or width of a window.
Elevators: Very large and relatively imprecise horizontal or vertical movements – from the beginning of the document to about the middle, for example.

Multiple windows

As you now can see, you can have a variety of windows, each adjusted to a different size. Moreover, each can be moved about the screen, and they may even overlap each other. To open several windows, simply open the first using any of the procedures outlined above (the Open command on the File/Print menu, the Desk menu, or by double-clicking the mouse); then repeat the procedure to open subsequent windows.

Figure 3-6: You can open numerous windows on Lisa’s screen simultaneously. Each may be a window into a different type of document.
This image can be zoomedFigure 3-6: You can open numerous windows on Lisa’s screen simultaneously. Each may be a window into a different type of document.
The use of multiple windows sometimes appears confusing or difficult, especially when those screens are viewed statically (as in Figure 3-6). When you actively construct your own multiple windows, however, multiple overlaps really are natural to use and easy to understand.

Changing window size. At the bottom right-hand corner of the composite window in Figure 3-4 is a size control box. This is used to change the size of a window. To do this, press the mouse button while the cursor is inside this box. As you keep the button pressed, you can adjust the window size by moving the mouse horizontally, vertically, or diagonally.

You can change the window size in one of three ways:
Moving the mouse horizontally makes the window wider or narrower.
Moving it vertically makes the window longer or shorter.
Moving it diagonally changes both dimensions simultaneously.

As you adjust the window size, a gray-lined window border moves up and down and back and forth in response to the cursor movements. When the mouse button is released, the window size becomes fixed, at least until the next time the size control box is used. This size adjustment does not alter the relative position of the window or underlying document. You are reminded of this fact by the shape of the size control box, which shows a small rectangle being enlarged into a bigger rectangle, both of which share the upper left-hand corner.

Figure 3-7: Windows can be positioned anywhere on Lisa’s screen, even partially off the screen.
This image can be zoomedFigure 3-7: Windows can be positioned anywhere on Lisa’s screen, even partially off the screen.
Changing window position. The position of the window on the desktop (as opposed to its position within a document) can be changed with ease. To move the window, press the mouse button while the cursor is on top of the window’s title bar. Keeping the mouse button depressed, use the mouse to move the window around the screen. During this operation, the outline of the new window position appears on the screen in response to the cursor’s movements. When the button is released, the actual window moves to fill the outline. The window even can be moved partly off the screen (Figure 3-7).

The active window. Each Lisa program has menus and commands not used in other programs. LisaDraw, for example, has a Lines menu for setting line thickness. Such a menu would be inappropriate in LisaWrite, or most other Lisa programs. Accordingly, Lisa’s desktop displays the appropriate set of menus in the menu title bar based on the program currently in use. So, if two windows are on the screen, each from a different program using different menus, which set of menu titles would appear? Lisa’s solution is to display menu titles appropriate for the window in which you’re currently working – the “active” window. The active window is distinguished from the other, inactive, windows by several characteristics:
It has the set of scroll arrows, view buttons, and other controls appropriate for its type of document. (Inactive windows have space for these controls in their borders, but the controls aren’t visible.)
The document name on the title line of the active window is shown as white letters on a black background. (On inactive windows, document names appear as black letters on a white background.)
The active window is never even partly obscured by any other window. (An inactive window may be obscured partly or totally by the active window or by other inactive windows.)

There is at most one active window on Lisa’s desktop at any particular moment. It is possible, however, to have several windows on the screen, with none of them active. This situation could arise if, for example, you decided to copy a micro diskette, tear off a piece of LisaProject paper from LisaProject stationery, or perform some other desktop operation. To do such operations, you must select an icon on the screen. This icon selection turns the active window inactive.

To activate any inactive window, click the mouse button while the cursor is anywhere inside the window to be activated. This simple action has the following consequences:
The current active window, if any, is deactivated.
The window to be activated is brought to the top of the screen if it was previously obscured.
The appropriate program is loaded into Lisa’s memory.
The menu titles appropriate for the activated window are placed in the menu title bar.
The window becomes activated and its window controls (scroll arrows, view buttons, and elevator) appear.


On most personal computers, you must remember the names of commands and must actually enter them on the keyboard. This presents system designers with a difficult decision: to make the command names long and descriptive of what they do, but time-consuming to enter, or to make the names short and easy to type, but difficult to remember, or even recognize. Lisa’s designers neatly sidestepped this problem by designing an entirely new method for entering commands, a method that uses long and descriptive command names but which requires less effort and time to enter.

The method involves Lisa’s menus. Much like a restaurant menu, a computer menu is a list of choices. But a computer menu is a list of command names, each serving a different function. Consider the task of printing a document, for example. On a computer system, such a task could require entering any of a variety of commands, including PRINT, TYPE, LIST, OUTPUT, P, PR, or OPR. On Lisa, however, you are presented with the following menu:

It isn’t difficult to conclude that, to print a document, the correct choice is Print.... Even if you have a variety of computers that must be used regularly (and a variety of command names that must be remembered to print a document), you’ll never forget the print command used on Lisa.

Although no one disputes the advantages of menus, they do have one serious disadvantage: They take up space on the screen. Depending on the size of the menu, it may require as much as ten to fifteen percent of screen space. Space is always at a premium on Lisa’s desktop (just like on your own desk). No matter how much space there is, it always seems that more is needed. Lisa overcomes this disadvantage by using a special technique previously available only on the most expensive computers – menus that appear when you need them and then disappear.

Menus of this type come in two varieties, “pop-up” menus and “pull-down” menus. Pop-up menus appear at different places on the screen, depending on a variety of factors. Pull-down menus always appear on the screen at the same location. They get their name from the fact that when the menu is displayed, it appears similar to a pull-down window shade, unfolding from the top of the screen.

Lisa uses pull-down menus when you must specify command names. The available menu titles are always displayed across the top of the screen in the menu title bar. To pull one down, you need only press the mouse button while the cursor is on top of a menu title. The menu instantaneously appears beneath its title, temporarily obscuring a portion of the screen. The menu remains on the screen as long as the mouse button is pressed. This procedure is independent of the number of windows on the screen, their positions on the screen, and the types of programs in use – another example of Lisa’s uniform user interface.

Figure 3-8: A typical Lisa menu. Note the subdivision of the long list of commands into logically related subsets.
This image can be zoomedFigure 3-8: A typical Lisa menu. Note the subdivision of the long list of commands into logically related subsets.
Menu display on Lisa is not used just to remind you of the correct names of commands. The menu also is used to enter commands – or, in Lisa’s jargon, for “command activation.” While the menu is displayed, you must continue to press the mouse button. Moving the mouse (while holding the button) so the cursor lies on top of a command causes that command to appear in reverse video. When the button is released, that command becomes activated, the menu disappears, and the screen reverts to its original appearance. If the button is released with none of the command names highlighted, as would happed if the cursor were positioned in some part of the screen other than the menu, no command is activated, but the menu still disappears and the screen reverts to its original appearance.

On Lisa, menus are not merely unstructured lists of command names; commands in each menu have been carefully arranged and grouped to help you avoid errors. Figure 3-8, the Edit menu of LisaDraw, shows this substructure. The commands are grouped to make the menu less visually imposing. (A menu of fourteen single commands is harder to use than a menu of fourteen commands divided into six logical groupings.) Moreover, commands inappropriate for the current selection are deactivated, appearing as gray text on a white background. Gray commands cannot be activated from the menu.

Commands followed by an ellipsis (“...”) require additional settings before they may be executed. Activating such commands results in the display of a Dialog Box – for example, the Comfort Dialog Box used in LisaTerminal (Figure 3-9). To complete these commands, you must check the appropriate options, then click the mouse button on the box’s “OK” button.

Figure 3-9: A typical Dialog Box. These are displayed automatically when Lisa needs additional information to complete a command.
This image can be zoomedFigure 3-9: A typical Dialog Box. These are displayed automatically when Lisa needs additional information to complete a command.
Commands followed by the Apple symbol and a letter can be activated without using a menu at all. The Apple symbol plus the letter “X” following the Cut command, for example, means that instead of executing this command via the pull-down menu, you may simply type an “X” while simultaneously pressing the Apple key to the left of the Space Bar on the keyboard. Such menu items followed by Apple key commands are available for the most frequently used commands, to make them convenient. (I almost never use this method, however. Command activation via the menu is fast enough, and the Apple key commands are hard to remember. I would need to pull down the menu just to recall the abbreviation. By the time I did that, I could have simply activated the command directly from the menu.)

After you have several months of experience on Lisa, the phenomenon of “muscle memory” begins to take over – the unconscious ability to remember the position of individual commands on the various menus, enabling you to pull down a menu and activate a command in one step. The muscles of your hand “remember” how far down to move the mouse to highlight the desired command, even though you, if questioned, probably can’t consciously recall even the order of the commands. This muscle memory is partly responsible for the speed with which menu-selected commands can be activated by an experienced user. The importance of muscle memory is strengthened by Apple’s commitment never to rearrange command names on any menus. New commands may be appended to the ends of the menus, but they are never added in the middle.

Alert messages

On most computers, if you somehow stray from the precise steps needed to interact with the machine, this is treated as a “user error.” In other words, you are treated as subordinate to the machine, which is dictating the communication. Even more demeaning, user errors often prompt the computer to react with the most terse and threatening of messages:


Someone once conjectured what it might be like if such messages appeared when you dialed a wrong telephone number. Instead of the usual message (“We’re sorry, we were unable to complete your call as dialed. Please hang up, check your number, or consult the operator for assistance.”), you might get something like this:

ERROR 583-2R6.9.

Lisa’s designers took an entirely different approach. In their view, there are no errors, merely breakdowns in the user-machine dialog – breakdowns caused by an inadequacy of the machine to respond to the user’s intentions. Accordingly, there are no user errors in Lisa. The term “errors,” in fact, is reserved for internal Lisa failures – running out of memory, for example, or a power failure. Lisa does notify you that some command or recent input was not possible as you specified, but in a much more pleasant and useful way. This notification takes place in an Alert Box, an area of the upper portion of the screen that temporarily overlays everything but the cursor.

There are five different Alert Boxes, each represented by a different shape:

Figure 3-10: Examples of Alert Boxes, the manner in which Lisa warns you that there may be a problem in executing a command. These overlay the current contents of the screen.
This image can be zoomedFigure 3-10: Examples of Alert Boxes, the manner in which Lisa warns you that there may be a problem in executing a command. These overlay the current contents of the screen.

Samples of several such Alert Boxes are shown in Figure 3-10.

Common menus

Although most menus associated with Lisa programs are unique to those programs, three menus are common to all: the Desk menu, the File/Print menu, and the basic commands of the Edit menu. Because of this commonality, a brief explanation will be given here. The minor differences in the specifics of these menus for some individual programs, if any, will be discussed in the chapters devoted to those programs.

Figure 3-11: The Desk menu. It allows you to see what is on your desktop without moving windows that may be temporarily obscuring part of the screen. Selecting a line on the Desk menu opens that object and makes its window the active window. The exact contents of this menu vary from time to time, depending on what’s on your desktop.
This image can be zoomedFigure 3-11: The Desk menu. It allows you to see what is on your desktop without moving windows that may be temporarily obscuring part of the screen. Selecting a line on the Desk menu opens that object and makes its window the active window. The exact contents of this menu vary from time to time, depending on what’s on your desktop.
The Desk menu. The Desk menu enables you to open any icon on the desktop or to tear off any piece of stationery without having to touch the icon directly with the cursor. Every icon currently on the desktop will be listed in the Desk menu when it is pulled down, so the exact menu will vary from Lisa to Lisa and even from time to time on the same Lisa. My Lisa’s Desk menu is shown in Figure 3-11. The most important use of the Desk menu is to provide you with a means of opening up another icon while your screen is covered with some other work. Without this menu, you would have to re-size or move many windows, perhaps even close some windows to locate icons.

Figure 3-12: The File/Print menu. These commands are available on every program’s File/Print menu, although some programs have one or two additional commands.
This image can be zoomedFigure 3-12: The File/Print menu. These commands are available on every program’s File/Print menu, although some programs have one or two additional commands.
The File/Print menu. The typical File/Print menu (Figure 3-12) lets you control the storage, retrieval, and printing of the current document. These commands are grouped into three sets:
One concerned with closing windows and setting the document aside on the desktop.
Another concerned with the stored version of the document being worked on.
A third dealing with printing the document.

The first command of the first set, Set Aside Everything, closes all open windows and places an icon bearing the documents’ names on the The command Set Aside (document name) closes the open window to the document named and places that document’s icon on the desktop.

Whenever any open window on the desktop is selected (that is, when its scroll bars are visible and its name in the title bar is highlighted in reverse video), the Set Aside (document name) command displays the name of that document in the File/Print menu in place of (document name). Lisa “knows” you are currently manipulating that document and thus customizes the menu.

This customization often surprises new Lisa users, even those experienced with other systems. On most systems, you must manipulate files through use of a special command language that is directly executed by the machine’s operating system. (The operating system is the most basic program on the machine. All other programs are invoked through the use of the operating system.) As surprising as this may seem, that operating system typically does not appear to “know” what you are doing when an application program such as word processing or spreadsheets is being used. Because Lisa is highly integrated your job is that much easier. One result of all this magic: Commands in the pull-down menus become customized, and other commands that don’t apply to the current selection are deactivated.

This set of commands in the File/Print menu – Set Aside Everything and Set Aside (document name) – is appropriate when a document being closed will probably be opened again shortly. This command does not, however, affect the copy of the document stored on disk (either the Winchester, Profile, or a micro diskette). So, a power failure would result in a loss of some work, but you’d still have a copy stored on disk. It is for precisely this situation – the unexpected loss of power or some other calamity – that the next set of commands in the File/Print menu is designed.

Two of the commands in the next set, Save and Put Away and Save and Continue, modify the stored copy, preventing loss of work in the event of a calamity. These commands differ only in what happens after the copy is stored.

Save and Put Away closes the window and returns the document to its disk storage location. Save and Continue leaves the window open and allows you to continue working after storing the modified copy. Because these commands are similar, they will collectively be referred to as the Save commands when both would have the same effect.

If you make a catastrophic mistake on your own, the third command of this set, Revert to Previous Version, provides you with a recovery option. Suppose, for example, after deleting several lengthy paragraphs and adding a new sentence or two to a LisaWrite document, you determine this wasn’t what you really had in mind. You can activate Revert to Previous Version, and everything will be restored to the state that existed before these changes were made. Whenever you execute this command, you are returned to the state of the document after the last Save command.

The Save commands should be executed frequently, albeit with some caution, so that in the event of a major mistake or malfunction, you won’t wipe out hours of productive work. Because when you save you also wipe out the previous version of the document, however, the Save commands should be executed with some caution; there is no way to retrieve an earlier version once you have saved a subsequent version. It would be unwise, then, to attempt some far-reaching command – a global search and replace, for example – and immediately Save the document, just in case the first command was incorrectly applied.

The last set of commands in the File/Print menu enables you to specify the printing characteristics of a document, to print the document, and to monitor the status of the printer. To understand the first command in this set, Print As Is, you need to know about all the other printing commands, so the Print As Is discussion will be deferred for a moment.

The second command in this last File/Print set, Format for Printer..., provides you with a method to specify the manner in which a document will eventually be printed. It is important to specify this information using Format for Printer... before a great deal of text is entered into the document.

It may seem strange to tell Lisa how and on which type of printer a document will be printed before the document is even begun. But there are two distinct reasons why this is necessary. First, it is important for Lisa to know what size paper will be used – letter size (8½×11”), legal size (8½”×14”), or computer size (11”×14”) – and in what orientation the paper will be so the screen can reflect the printed version exactly.

Second, Lisa uses several different types of printers: some dot-matrix printers and a daisy wheel printer. Their capabilities are not equal. If you inform Lisa that the document on which you are now working is to be printed on one type of printer and later try to enter a type face or size not available on that device, you will be so informed and advised to change either the type style or the printer. (More on fonts, faces, and type sizes in Chapter Four.)

Figure 3-13: The Format for Printer... Dialog Box for the ImageWriter or Dot Matrix Printer.
This image can be zoomedFigure 3-13: The Format for Printer... Dialog Box for the ImageWriter or Dot Matrix Printer.
When Format for Printer... is activated, you are presented with a Dialog Box and asked to select from a variety of options. The operation is quite similar to checking options on a printed form with a pencil, although there are some key differences. Using the mouse, you check small boxes (the cursor shape even changes into a small check mark). Note, however, that a choice made in one part of the Dialog Box may affect everthing else in the box, even the number of other possible choices and the type of information requested.

Lisa “knows” what type of printer you have connected to it. (Exactly how it “knows” is discussed in Chapter Twelve.) If you have an ImageWriter (or the older dot-matrix printer) connected, you will see the Dialog Box shown in Figure 3-13 when you activate Format for Printer.... If you have a daisy wheel printer, you will see another Dialog Box (Figure 3-14), and so on for all the printers that work with Lisa. If you have more than one type of printer connected to Lisa, you will be asked to specify which printer you want to use.

This last choice is extremely important because the print wheel determines the type style and size of the characters you may print and, therefore, the characters Lisa will be able to print. Special characters, like the Japanese yen sign or the German diacritical umlaut, simply don’t appear on every print wheel. If you use such characters, you’ll have to find a print wheel that contains them. The dot-matrix printers (ImageWriter, dot-matrix, ink-jet) have no type-style restrictions at all and are, therefore, more versatile.

Figure 3-14: The Format for Printer... Dialog Box for the Daisy Wheel Printer.
This image can be zoomedFigure 3-14: The Format for Printer... Dialog Box for the Daisy Wheel Printer.
There’s a very frustrating bug in this process, however. If you have one of these special characters in your document and are using a daisy wheel printer, Lisa doesn’t tell you in advance that the characters are unavailable. You find out because Lisa instructs the printer to print an upside-down question mark in place of the desired character. You must proofread your document to find these marks, then take proper action to remedy them. Previous versions of Lisa software warned you in advance of such problems; this bug wasn’t created until the updated programs were released. (Proofreading cannot be overstressed, by the way. Even Apple Corporation, Lisa’s creators, apparently fall victim to this. Several documents they’ve distributed to the press and to third-party programmers have contained upside-down question marks on several pages. Perhaps this will motivate Apple to find a more suitable solution to this problem in future software releases.)

Figure 3-15: The Print... Dialog Box.
This image can be zoomedFigure 3-15: The Print... Dialog Box.
The next command, Print..., puts to use the information you stored in Format for Printer.... With Print..., you initiate printing the active document. Again, you have a variety of options (Figure 3-15). You can select either high quality for final versions or lower quality for speedy drafts. (However, the quick draft mode, though it specifies “text only,” cannot print all the characters available on Lisa, even when using the dot-matrix printer. What quick draft really uses is the character set already stored in the printer – the characters on the daisy wheel for the daisy wheel printer or those stored in the character memory for the dot-matrix printers. Neither character set includes every available character. Thus, if you frequently use the symbol for British pounds (£) or any other unusual characters, you should stay away from the quick draft printing option.)

In addition to specifying print quality and priority, the Print... Dialog Box lets you determine a page range for the printing and the number of copies of the document you want to print.

The last command in the File/Print menu is Monitor the Printer... This is used to check on a printing request. When a low-priority printing process encounters an error, such as the printer being turned off or running out of paper, Lisa generates a special attention tone. (Lisa’s developers call it the “joyful noise.”) It is then up to you to execute Monitor the Printer... to determine the problem. You can ignore the tone and finish whatever you’re doing, but the printer will not start again until Monitor the Printer... is executed and you take whatever action is necessary. Often, the tone merely indicates that you need to position the next piece of paper properly in the printer.

Monitor the Printer... also lets you see how many documents are waiting to print. On Lisa, you can request the printing of additional documents before the document currently printing is completed. Lisa places a copy of the document in the system area of the hard disk and allows you to continue to work. The only thing to be concerned about is that this system area becomes too full. Knowing how many documents are waiting to print gives you a crude measure of the space being taken up.

The Print As Is command we skipped over earlier allows you to print one copy of the entire document with the currently set format without having to fill out the Print... Dialog Box. It is a kind of quick print command.

With the single exception of the Print... command, there is little involved in executing any of the commands of the File/Print menu that is not immediately clear from a simple definition of what each command does. The only additional guidance about the Print... command is that it takes a long time to print documents on the various Lisa printers. It can take as long as ninety minutes to print a twenty-page document with high resolution on the older Dot Matrix Printer. (Apple is rumored to have a much faster laser printer under development. Such a device would produce a twenty-page document in less than three minutes and at a much higher quality. This device, however, will probably be expensive and practical only in an environment where it can be shared among a number of Lisas or Macintoshes.)

Figure 3-16: The Edit menu.
This image can be zoomedFigure 3-16: The Edit menu.
The Edit menu. The last menu all Lisa programs have in common is the Edit menu (Figure 3-16). Like the File/Print menu, this menu’s commands come in three sets, two of which contain a single command each. The first command, Undo Last Change, is one talked about by almost anyone interested in making computers less threatening and easier to use. Unfortunately, it is available on very few computers. Simply put, Undo Last Change lets you reverse the effects of almost any other command. Suppose, for example, you make a mistake that significantly alters a document on which you are working. All you need to do to recover is to execute Undo Last Change.

Such a command is not just for novices. Even experts make mistakes that can be very time-consuming to recover from manually. This command is more important even than the work it saves from time to time. The mere presence of an Undo command probably lowers the number of mistakes you make. The tension present from knowing that an entire day’s work could be instantly destroyed may cause you to make blunders. Having an Undo command removes that tension and makes your experience with Lisa more productive and enjoyable.

For any user, Undo Last Change makes experimenting possible. Although Lisa is both easy to learn and use, it is a large system. To learn everything on the system well may take several months of intensive study. Knowing you can undo something may make you more willing to try new commands, or old commands in unusual ways. The more commands you use and the more ways in which you are able to use them, the more productive your use of Lisa will become. Unfortunately, for a variety of technical reasons, it isn’t possible to have Undo Last Change work for every action you take. Those few that don’t allow an “undo” (Revert to Previous Version, for example) usually warn you with an Alert Box before processing.

The next set of Edit commands provides you with the ability to move portions of text, figures, spreadsheets, lists, and other items around within a document, between different documents of the same type (two LisaDraw documents, for example), or even between documents written by different Lisa programs. The three commands in this set all make use of the clipboard icon, the temporary storage place shared by all Lisa programs. Two of these commands, Cut and Copy, put material on the clipboard. The third, Paste, copies it from the clipboard and into the active document.

The difference between Cut and Copy is that Cut removes the current selection from the document and places it on the clipboard, while Copy places it on the clipboard without removing it from the document. Paste inserts the current contents of the clipboard into the active document. Exactly how and where these contents are added to the current document depends on the type of document; this is discussed in greater detail in the individual chapters on those programs. This slight complication isn’t a deficiency; rather, it reflects the various possibilities in different types of Lisa documents. In a LisaDraw document, for example, it makes sense to paste material right on top of the current drawing. This doesn’t make sense for LisaWrite. Regardless of what is done, Paste doesn’t remove material from the clipboard. This means you can do multiple pastes to put several copies of the clipboard’s contents into a document.

The final set of Edit commands contains the single command, Select All of Document. This is used rather frequently and is extremely useful when everything in a document must be changed or reformatted. Activating this command selects everything in the document and makes it the object of the next command. Surprisingly, this command does not take a long time to execute, even when the document is large. To select all of a fifty-page LisaWrite document, for example, takes only 1.5 seconds.

Page added on 22nd January 2005.

Copyright © 2002-2006 Marcin Wichary, unless stated otherwise.