APS Technologies, a leading vendor of data storage devices for the Mac [and a sponsor of TidBITS -Adam] has recently released version 4.0 of its disk management utility, APS PowerTools, which is bundled with every APS drive.
ProSoft Engineering wrote version 3 of APS PowerTools for APS, but after the release of version 3.6 the contract with ProSoft was discontinued, and APS licensed PowerTools 4.0.x from CharisMac Engineering. Version 3.6 has several small bugs, which ProSoft - though no longer bound by contract to support it - fixed in version 3.8. APS, though it no longer supports PowerTools 3, has placed upgrades to version 3.8 on its FTP site. These actions are both remarkable and commendable.
PowerTools 4 -- With version 4.0, PowerTools now supports a wide range of disk drives, including IDE drives and the new low-cost removable Zip drive. In other respects, though, version 4 offers the same capabilities as version 3, albeit with a different interface. I'm not as fond of version 4's interface; it feels more sluggish than 3.8 on my LC 475 and Power Mac 7100/80, and there are a few confusing items. For instance, in version 4, SCSI ID 7 (which 3.8 doesn't show because it's always assigned to the Mac CPU) is identified only as "INITIATOR" - a term familiar to SCSI propeller-heads that may confuse users unfamiliar with SCSI terminology. (There's no entry in the manual index for initiator.) One good thing about version 4.0, though, is the Help menu, which concisely describes every command.
The Drive Controls control panel from version 3 has been replaced by the APT Extension/APT Mounter application tandem. The APT Extension loads device drivers at startup and displays a SCSI bus status window, showing the SCSI devices as they mount; the APT Mounter is used to configure the extension and to mount devices after startup. An optional performance-enhancing utility that lets users change internal drive settings, APS PowerControl, comes with PowerTools as the APS PowerTools Professional Package.
APS PowerTools 3 and 4 are intended to support only APS drives and although APS PowerTools 4's end-user license is for APS drives only, it supports a wider range of drives than version 3, many of which were never sold by APS.
Should you upgrade to APS PowerTools 4? If you're happy with version 3, sticking with or upgrading to version 3.8 may be your easiest option. If you have drives from other manufacturers - especially something like a Zip drive - and you don't mind the backup/reformat/restore process involved, you can't beat the cost of upgrading.
Upgrades -- If you already have PowerTools 4, note that the program is currently at version 4.0.4. Version 4.0.4 contains numerous bug fixes and enhancements (check the PowerTools Updates directory on the APS FTP site for a complete list of changes). Updates from older versions of PowerTools 3.x to version 3.8 are also available.
Users of PowerTools version 3 who wish to upgrade to version 4 should contact APS Technologies Sales at 800/233-7550 or <email@example.com>. The update costs $4.95 and is delivered by regular mail. If you decide to upgrade, note that - as is usual when switching from one disk formatting package to another - installing a new driver requires reinitializing (and thus a full backup and restore) the disk, because partition maps are different.
APS also has a separate CD-ROM support package called APS CD Autocache 1.1.2. It too is available as an inexpensive update for APS PowerTools 3 users, and updates from previous versions are available at the URLs below.