Aladdin Transporter 1.0
Monday 14th May, 2001
You probably already use Aladdin’s DropStuff or StuffIt Expander tools for compressing email attachments and decompressing downloaded files. Both are great little applications - simply drag the files on to the appropriate icon and they go to work.
With Transporter, Aladdin has gone a stage further in the communications cycle. You can create your own ‘droplet’ applications which can compress, encode, or decompress files, upload or download files via FTP, email files, or complete an email form that you’ve designed. You can display an alert, a text box or a picture, ask for a password, play a movie or sound, mount a disk image (that you may have just downloaded), open a URL, create folders, launch items, or even run an AppleScript.
You can do all these things in any order you want. So, for example, you can create a droplet application that takes the files you drop on it, puts up a dialog box for you to complete, compresses and encodes the files, uploads them to an FTP site, and then emails you the form details.
Spread the word
The really useful aspect of Aladdin Transporter is having created an application, you can distribute it to your friends or customers so that they can use it, too.
So if you were a bureau, say, you could use the example application above as a method of simplifying the upload process for your customers. All they would have to do is drag the files they want printed on the application you sent them; they could then answer the questions in the email form it puts up (How many copies? Spot or Process? Timescale?). It could then upload it to your FTP site and email you the details. And, since the application is pre-programmed, you can ensure that the details of your Web site (address, login, and password) are all kept secret from your customers, removing any worries about people putting the file in the wrong place, or hacking into your site.
If you’re not a massive fan of programming, fear not. Transporter is based around a simple list of steps that you can assemble by clicking buttons on the Steps palette, selecting from the Steps menu, or using one of the built-in Wizards. There are 26 steps to choose from, and any one of them puts up an intelligent dialog box - that is, it knows about the contents of the rest of your script, simplifying menu choices as you go along. For instance, there’s a step that lets you jump to another step - the dialog box lists the possible choices for you, so you don’t have your script jumping off into hyperspace.
Out of control
One criticism is that there are no explicit program control steps (if, case, or repeat statements). You can, however, achieve some simple ‘If, then…’ type programming, using the display alert, which offers you a choice of up to three buttons; you can specify an action (another step) as the result of the user pushing each button.
Each script keeps track of the last result before the current step, which means you can use multiple steps to process the files that are dropped onto your application. As well as the previous result, the intelligent pop-up menus let you choose to use the result from a previously executed step. You can also make use of this result tracking to add lists of the files compressed, or the names of any of the resulting files to any emails you create, using a sort of mail-merge facility built into the email step.
As with almost all other Aladdin products, Transporter makes good use of the StuffIt engine. You can create steps to compress, expand, decode or encode in most standard formats (StuffIt, Zip, Unix Compress, tar, base64, UUEncode, BinHex, and so on). For this to happen, you’ll need the StuffIt Engine installed in your System Folder. If your customers don’t have the latest version of the StuffIt engine installed when they try to use one of your Transport applications, the Transporter application will attempt to download a demo version of it for them from the Aladdin site. It’s a very nice touch.
Aladdin can be applauded for its attention to detail. The company has obviously spent a lot of time thinking about not just what Transporter can do, but also how you might want to use it. For instance, the company borrowed from its InstallerMaker application and added a facility for time-limiting your applications, or limiting the number of times the application can be run successfully.
If you have anything to do with organising how people communicate within your company, then Transporter is the tool you’re looking for. And, above all, using Transporter is great fun.
NEEDS: PowerPC, Mac OS 8.6 or higher, 8Mb RAM, 22Mb hard disk space
Transporter makes good use of the Stuffit Engine to enable compression and encoding in a range of formats.
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|Pros||Simple, easy-to-use interface + Useful functionality + Distributable|
|Cons||No explicit control statements|
|Originally Published||MacUser, Volume: 17, Issue: 09, p30|