What can be considered ‘must-have’ software in the vintage Macintosh world? What are (still) the most useful programs and utilities to use with our classic Macs?
I will try to answer those questions with a new series of articles called Macintosh classics. In every post I will talk about an application for the classic Mac OS which I think is worth mentioning and keeping in your classic setup. I will also try to contact the author of the software, asking if he/she wants to give a little contribution in the form of memories, anectodes, if he/she is still using vintage Mac hardware, and so on. In addition, I’ll do my best to add a direct download link, asking permission to the author first (especially when the software is a bit difficult to find on the Web).
So, without further ado, let’s start with one of the best programs for the classic Macintosh: DOCMaker, written by Mark S. Wall / Green Mountain Software.
I remember a time in the mid-to-late 1990s when most software programs for the Macintosh that came with some form of electronic documentation (I’m not talking of plain-text readme files, but longer documents with instructions or complete manuals) used stand-alone documents generated by two applications: either eDOC or DOCMaker. eDOC was basically a printer driver residing in the Extensions folder. You could select it from the Chooser and create an eDOC document from any word-processing application, like Microsoft Word, WordPerfect, WriteNow, ClarisWorks, etc. DOCMaker is more sophisticated, since it integrates a word processor and the ability to place multimedia content such as graphics, sound files, and movies in a page. You can also navigate inside a document not only by using the classic Table of Contents, but also by adding buttons in pages or using the multimedia element as a ‘hot spot’. This way you can easily jump to relevant sections of a manual, for instance, right from the first page, or reach a related topic or section without leafing through the whole document, or have a tooltip-style note popping up near a picture.
What I always loved of DOCMaker is its versatility. No wonder it was widely used to create e-zines, self-contained publications that were very popular in the late 1990s. The Apple Easter Eggs publication I made available in this post is a nice example of what can be done with DOCMaker. An even nicer — and surely well-known — example is About This Particular Macintosh, a Mac-related e-zine first published in April 1995 and issued monthly in DOCMaker format until July 1999 (from August 1999 on, the offline Webzine was made available as HTML pages you could read with a browser, or in eDOC format, and subsequently as PDF too). As for me, I can testify to DOCMaker’s flexibility and ease of use by saying that I was creating my first ebooks with it back in 1998 — yes, more than ten years before today’s hype.
In the January 1996 issue of ATPM, there’s a nice review of DOCMaker (the current version at the time was 4.5.1) by Paul Taylor. Here are some excerpts:
You all know what I’m going to say, don’t you? DOCMaker is what I consider to be the best portable document creation application available as shareware. But don’t let my obvious bias sway you. Mark Wall’s program is used by MacSense, ATPM’s choice for Best e-Zine of 1995, and by Inside Mac Games, the most successful commercial Macintosh magazine launched since MacUser and Macworld. In fact, of the thirteen magazines mentioned in this feature’s Best of 1995 article, ten use DOCMaker. Let me tell you why.
It is simple, and it is powerful. It looks like a word processor, and it (for the most part) acts like a word processor, complete with font selection, bold, italic, underline, and all the rest. Placing graphics is as simple as copy and paste from your graphics program. As is placing sound files, movies, or buttons that do various things, from navigating the magazine to printing, quitting, or starting another program. Design is straightforward, but flexible enough to let you do what you want with a page. With an eye towards ResEdit, you can even change the colors used to color text. For example, the blue and green in my copy of DOCMaker are not the usual text colors.
Sure there are some problems with DOCMaker. Graphic placement could be better, and text wrapping doesn’t exist. […] But DOCMaker is the choice of electronic publishers worldwide, not because it has great graphic display capabilities (or not), but because it is so easy to use. […]
In the in-depth review, Taylor expands on some new improvements in the then-current version 4.5.1:
Mr. Wall also apparently cleaned up the code for DOCMaker and tossed in a few little morsels for publishers. Users now have the ability to change the background color of the pages (very cool!) and perform a few other helpful functions like display the pictures only as outlines while putting together the document. This makes scrolling through the pages while looking for where you are going to place that new paragraph a much quicker task because the pictures are not having to re-draw every time you pass them. And, the most noticeable new feature is the refined reader interface, which is geared toward pleasing you, the reader. The new reader interface is a beauty to behold in and of itself.
The bars surrounding the document have been refined, the navigation arrows are polished and the contents text is easier on the eyes to read. The documents are also more intuitive. All the navigational arrows are located together in the bottom left corner of the document, within quick reach of each other. Two new buttons, the “All the way to the back” and the “All the way to the front” button have been added for times when you are in a hurry to get somewhere. A table of contents is also placed right next to the navigational buttons and is accessed by clicking and dragging to the chapter name you wish to view.
Before publishing this article, I contacted Mark Wall asking him if he wanted to share some memories about DOCMaker and what Mac hardware he was using at the time. I also asked for permission to offer a direct download for the latest version of DOCMaker (4.8.4), now freeware, right here in my blog. He replied: I too try to utilize some of the old Macs in useful ways. I’ll try to sit down sometime and write about the days when DOCMaker was a big part of my life – it almost got really big, but that’s another story… It is ok to upload DOCMaker v4.8.4 for general distribution, no problem. Thanks!
No, thank you Mark for a very nice software that shouldn’t be forgotten.
- DOCMaker and the documents that you create with it will run on all MacOS computers with System 7 or greater and 4MB RAM or greater. Some features depend on additional System software services such as QuickTime and AppleScript. (From Green Mountain Software’s original website)
- DOCMaker 4.8.4 (BinHex format) — Contains the application, the Revision notes for version 4.8.4 and a ‘DOCMaker Licensing Information’ document (in DOCMaker format, of course).
- DOCMaker Doc Patch for Mac OS 8.5 (BinHex format) — Be sure to read the instructions attached. Quoting from the Read Me First document: The DOCMaker Document Patch for Mac OS 8.5 will quickly update existing DOCMaker documents for use under Mac OS 8.5. After patching, the documents will still work under older Mac OS versions. The patcher replaces the horizontal navigation scrollbar in those documents that have more than one chapter. This scrollbar needs updating for use under Mac OS 8.5. The symptoms that are fixed by this patch are long pauses in the Macintosh after using the popup menu in the navigation scrollbar. This patch is only needed for DOCMaker documents whose version number is 4.8.3 or earlier.
3 thoughts on “Macintosh classics: DOCMaker”
I fondly remember both eDoc and DOCMaker — and, yes, they were useful not only for manuals and such that accompanied software, but as the first eBooks (APTM — et al).
I have wondered why there is no equivalent process available under Mac OS X — either as a printer element (yeah, I that there’s print to PDF) like eDoc or as the ability to create stand alone documents like DOCMaker did.
I’d like to see Apple latch onto this and enable iWork to create stand alone documents in all 3 apps. That way you could do a presentation or sell a work without the purchaser having to own iWork.
Of course, if we’re going to go back that far, how about if Apple were to resurrect HyperCard — now that would really be pretty great.
Just found this page when trawling Google, to see if there was a way of opening/converting DocMaker files in OS X, without dragging out an old Mac and resurrecting it. Sadly not 😦 I made a guide to the Internet in DocMaker with a friend, that was then put on the MacFormat cover CD. Great article, by the way – thoroughly enjoyed it!
Riccardo, it brings me so much joy to see this well-written article on DocMaker. A kind person recently helped me remember it was called after my searches had failed. Years later (almost a decade) your article is still out in the open, and I very much appreciate your classic/vintage Mac blog posts!