When I visit my parents, my father and I always sit down at their Macintosh and look at what's ended up in its System Folder since my last visit. I have a decent idea what many files are, but over the years, the possibilities have begun to overwhelm me. Luckily, even when I'm not positive, I can generally guess whether an extension or control panel is necessary, since my father is ruthless during these sessions. "What's that?" he'll ask, pointing at an oddly named extension. "I'm not sure," I'll reply, "but I think it's related to synchronizing the colors on your monitor with your printer." "Do I need it?" he'll demand. "No, I don't think so." "Then trash it."
Next time, I'm bringing a copy of Dan Frakes's $15 shareware InformINIT 8.1, the latest release of his huge compendium of descriptions, notes, and information about extensions, control panels, shared libraries, and other denizens of your System Folder from both Apple and other companies. Dan has produced InformINIT for several years, and the latest version includes information about Mac OS 8.1, Microsoft Office 98, and so on.
Be sure to read the "How to use InformINIT" section in InformINIT, or some of the color coding and shorthand notations will befuddle you. Dan has helpfully marked items specific to Mac OS 8 and Mac OS 8.1, items that are compatible with either release, 68K-specific items, and so on. In addition, he has sprinkled URLs throughout InformINIT; clicking the tiny NN or IE buttons next to a URL opens the associated Web site in either Netscape Navigator or Internet Explorer.
I'm impressed with the work Dan must have put in to research, compile, and categorize this information. It's a herculean undertaking, and reportedly, even Apple's technical support folks use InformINIT (as should anyone who supports Macs). Dan also has extensive information on versions of system software since 7.5.3, including the Mac models that each version supports, plus lists of known problems and incompatibilities. If you're considering switching system software, a quick read through appropriate sections in InformINIT might reveal important information.
My main complaints with InformINIT relate to the fact that it's a stand-alone document in Green Mountain Software's DOCMaker. Although DOCMaker offers features necessary for such a large work as InformINIT, such as Find, multiple methods of navigation, styled text, graphics, and URL launching, many of those features don't go far enough. For instance, the Find dialog box is system modal, which means not only can't you do anything else in InformINIT with the Find dialog open, you can't even switch to another application and work there. URL launching is nice, but if DOCMaker supported Internet Config, InformINIT wouldn't have to include buttons for both Netscape Navigator and Internet Explorer. And finally, I'd appreciate being allowed to change the font size - InformINIT's Geneva 9-point default is too small for me; but DOCMaker offers no zooming or font modification capabilities. Dan said that he's planning on releasing a larger-type version of InformINIT.
So, next time you're wondering what "jgdw.ppc" is (and if you can delete it), download InformINIT and do a search. Make sure to register your copy - although InformINIT is content, rather than code, it's still $15 shareware and Dan deserves support for the service he's done for the Macintosh community in compiling InformINIT. InformINIT is a 467K download from the mirror sites listed at the InformINIT Web page below.