Squeak and Blat Return: To Rap on Music Technology

February 28, 2009

Editor's note: David and Peter ran an online music technology column called "Squeak and Blat Rap on Music Technology" (a take off on Click and Clack of course) from 1996 to 1999. Due to popular requests we welcome them back as "Squeak and Blat" returns. Dave is "Squeak" the clarinet player and Peter "Blat" the trumpet player in real life.

Q: Dear Squeak and Blat, I frequently need to e-mail a score, class handout, research article, or Powerpoint presentation to a student or music colleague. I'm never sure what format to use in creating this attachment to ensure it will be opened successfully at the receiving end. What do you suggest? - Professor J.J. Fux

A: J.J., getting a copy of your Gradus Ad Parnasum into digital form to e-mail could be a daunting task (that was your work, yes?). My favorite format for lots of documents is Adobe's PDF format; that's Portable Document Format not the "Padre Does Fauxbourdon"! PDF files are about as standard as a cantus firmus and you can be 99% sure your colleague and students can read them.

Figure 1Figure 1. Selecting to print to a PDF file from Word using the built-in option in Mac OS X.

Most musicians don't realize you can save just about any document as a PDF, even Powerpoint presentations as well as Sibelius and Finale scores. You basically "print to PDF" in either Mac OS or Windows. On a Mac the capability is built into the operating system, ready to use. See the screenshot provided to illustrate how to use this print feature. For Windows users, you need to add some software. The options range from purchasing an academic copy of Acrobat Pro (to read and write PDF files), to a less expensive choice that I use, Foxit PDF Creator (about $30), or the free CutePDF Writer. A screenshot provided shows how CutePDF Writer appears in a Windows Vista print dialog window.

Figure 2Figure 2. Selecting to print a PDF file from Word in Vista using CutePDF Writer.

Notice in both cases I'm using the PDF to e-mail option as it produces the smallest PDF file possible for e-mailing. So, remember Professor Fux, any application you can print from can create a PDF version. Just one caveat: the document cannot be easily edited by the recipient, just read. Hope this helps!

- Squeak

Dear Squeak and Blat:

Q.: I am really hoping to build a simple set of webpages for myself. I see my students do this all the time and I would really like to do this myself. They use what looks like a complicated program called Dream Catcher, or some thing like that. I think it is expensive. Is there a simple solution for me to use that might be easy and will not cost much for me to get started? I know that I need graphic images, sounds, and some ideas about design. I have those, but I just need to know how to get started. - Professor I.B. Slick.

A.: Dear I. B. Your students are probably using Dreamweaver, a very nice but rather extensive application that serves the needs of advanced students and pros. You might like to use this program at some point but let's look at a few alternatives. One solution is the Mac-only program called "RapidWeaver". (about $80). It takes little time to get a nice set of webpages designed using this software. It comes with a pre-defined set of themes and a set of easy-to-use tools to create content. You can use your iPhoto collection to include graphics. It comes with a good instructions and some nice video demonstrations. It will even help you "publish" your pages to the net for public viewing and help with updating.

If you are a Windows person, you might try "PageBreeze". The basic version is free, but a $30 pro version adds more features.

Another solution is the free software from the Mozilla Foundation called "SeaMonkey." SeaMonkey is based on the old software "Netscape" but is now designed as a development suite of applications for making your own pages. It might take a bit longer to make SeaMonkey work for you but it's worth the extra effort. It is available for Mac and Windows. Hope this helps I.B. Enjoy developing!

- Blat

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