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Now Utilities 2.03
Now Software, Inc.
520 SW Harrison, Suite 435
Portland, OR 97201
CPBaker on America Online
8 Penguins out of a possible 10
Summary: -- Now Utilities combines a number of former shareware and freeware INITs, cdevs, and applications into a single coherent package of system enhancing utilities. About half of the utilities included are excellent - and Super Boomerang alone is worth the purchase price - while the other half may or may not be useful to you but do not decrease the value or utility of the set. The package has a few rough spots and a few limitations, but on the whole has been well done.
User Evaluation: (on a scale of 0 to 10)
Number of responses: 7
Ease of installation: 8
Ease of learning: 7
Ease of use: 8
Power & usefulness: 9
Technical support: 8
Overall evaluation: 9
Price and Availability: -- The Now Utilities is widely available from dealers and mail order firms. It has a list price of $129 and the MacConnection price is $75 (we quote the MacConnection price in recognition of its industry-leading efforts to use ecologically-conscious packaging and its overall excellent service).
Adam C. Engst, TidBITS Editor
The latest software to show up at TidBITS for review is Now Software's upgrade to the Now Utilities. This set of INITs and cdevs is unique in that it is comprised primarily of previously shareware and public domain programs, which have been cleaned up and given consistent interfaces.
I talked to a couple of the authors whose programs moved from shareware to commercial in the Now Utilities. Clay Maeckel wrote DeskPICT, the freeware predecessor to DeskPicture, in early 1987. The DeskPICT INIT simply displayed on the desktop a picture stored in a file called DeskPicture. Clay had planned a shareware upgrade to DeskPICT that would give it a Control Panel interface and a number of other features. But, at about the same time Claris Legal gave him permission to release DeskPICT as shareware (gotta run everything through legal these days it seems), he heard about Now Software and its planned collection of utilities. The concept interested him, and since non-essential shareware often does poorly in terms of financial earnings, he decided to go with Now rather than market DeskPICT as shareware. Clay said that he had received quite a bit of email from people who understood and encouraged the move and only one letter flaming him for the decision. Clay said that taking DeskPicture commercial made him feel a bit guilty, but it also gave him a good excuse for his wife when he uses the computer at home. Thank you, Mrs. Maeckel.
Michael Peirce had a program, MemorySetter, in the earlier version of the Now Utilities. MemorySetter was dropped primarily, Michael said, because of lack of disk space (the Now Utilities comes on one disk and they wanted to avoid moving to two disks) and because it was relatively minor in comparison with other utilities like Super Boomerang. MemorySetter intercepts an application launch when you hold down the control key and displays the memory available and allows you to reset it on the fly. Another reason for dropping it may have been the fact that MultiMaster can resize memory requirements easily, though not at launch. Ironically enough, Michael has just released MemorySetter as shareware under the name AppSizer. Look for an upcoming review issue on AppSizer - we treat shareware in the same way we treat commercial software. Michael feels that most shareware is of too poor quality to generate money. Some scrupulously honest people pay shareware fees for everything they use without exception, but most people take the "I don't really use it all that much" approach. The shareware that he's seen do well is treated as a serious product and comes with quality support, quick bug fixes, and frequent upgrades. An excellent example of this sort of shareware is Dave Warker's Remember?, which has had several minor upgrades in the several months that I've been registered. Dave's also looked into a few problems I had and responded with help immediately. Because of that support, I don't feel at all bad about paying his $25 shareware fee. Remember? is high-profile shareware in that I see and depend on it all the time. Michael thinks, quite rightly, that shareware that works quietly behind the scenes will never be successful financially, simply because it's easy to overlook. So if you're planning on releasing something as shareware, keep some of this in mind (and if your program is really good, maybe think about giving Now a call :-))
The installation went smoothly - simply a matter of copying the appropriate files to the system folder. That's when the fun began, in part because the manual never talks about disabling shareware versions of the various utilities, a number of which I used. I realized that I only had 85K free on my System partition, so I went searching for files to compress with DiskDoubler before I went further. Luckily I found a folder of fonts and desk accessories I seldom use, so they were the prime candidates for compression. OK, good, there's about 500K free. Time to restart. One somewhat irritating but reasonable feature of the Now Utilities is that each one must be personalized separately. You'll get good at typing your name after the third or fourth time.
All of my INITs loaded fine (no small accomplishment!) and Now's Startup Manager did an excellent job of keeping QuickMail's QMServer from erasing everything with its dialogs. Startup Manager made the SUM Shield line up properly instead of forcing itself into the first position on the second row. That's been bothering me for years. I decided to check out all the cdev-based interfaces alphabetically which made the Startup Manager first because of the spaces at the start of its name. Creating a group of just the Now Utilities went fine and I assigned the control key to allow me to invoke the Startup Manager at startup, and then I rebooted, holding down the control key. Boom, dropped in MacsBug with a User break message. Oops, that's a feature of MacsBug, not a Startup Manager bug. Rebooted again and when everything came up, I switched the Startup Manager from the control key to the space bar.
After using the Startup Manager for some time, I've decided that I like it. It's a little cleaner than init cdev and IconWrap (the main HappiWare/freeware competition) and a bit more powerful, what with the ability to force INITs into nice rows and prevent them from erasing each other. Startup Manager has identified an INIT as causing my machine to crash (and shut it off for me) a few times, which is helpful. The grouping abilities are nice, though not unique, and I've used them on occasion to make groups for programs that hog memory or have specific conflicts. The only problem I've heard is that Startup Manager sometimes triggers virus alarms from programs like Gatekeeper and SAM if it runs before them. I don't use either of them (and the Disinfectant INIT doesn't have these problems), but you might want to keep this in mind if you do use them.
The next cdev was AlarmsClock. I use Remember?, so I didn't think I would use this one much. Then, when I looked up where SuperClock normally lives, SuperClock and AlarmsClock were alternating ticks, flashing back and forth. I rebooted again, this time choosing the Now Utilities group that I had originally made in the Startup Manager to shut off SuperClock. This meant that none of my necessary INITs like Suitcase II or DiskDoubler loaded, making it easier to work on the Now Utilities alone. Back to AlarmsClock. It flashed a message at me to send in my registration card. Cute. I told it to delete the message and configured the clock to look like I wanted, Geneva 9 point text and no flashing colons. I defined an alarm to remind me to pick up Tonya at work at - she hates it when I'm late. Time flies when you're having this kind of fun.
The main confusion with the alarms is that it's not quite clear if you are supposed to set the time and recurrence before or after from the controls. The manual makes it clear that you set the time after naming the alarm, but it would be better if it were obvious. Unfortunately, you have to go into the Control Panel to get it to stop playing the alarm (clicking on the clock merely puts it into Snooze mode). That bothered me until I read about the shortcut Now provided - option-click on the clock and AlarmsClock Control Panel screen comes up. Nice touch, but it would still be convenient to have a shortcut to shut off and disable an alarm without using the Control Panel (though that may not be the point of an alarm). Perhaps command-click on the clock?
SuperClock also provides a timer and some other display features which AlarmsClock doesn't have. AlarmsClock is a slightly better program, but SuperClock is absolutely free and you can't beat it for the money. If Now updates AlarmsClock so that the alarms can be easily disabled for the day and clarifies the interface, AlarmsClock will be very nice.
This program is obviously a take-off on Mike O'Conner's freeware Layout, not that that's a problem. The latest version I have of Layout is 1.9, and it suffers from not working on a Finder that is active under MultiFinder. Customizer doesn't suffer from that limitation, but is otherwise similar. Another program, Layout+, is included in the Norton Utilities and does most, but not all, that Customizer does. To give credit where credit is due, both Customizer and Layout+ freely admit their origins and credit Mike O'Conner.
Customizer is for picky Macintosh users who love to mess with everything in their Macintosh environments. You know, the sort of ResEdit hackers who modify all the system alerts to include the word "Sir" at the beginning. Customizer isn't nearly so overt, but does let you change a number of the basic items in the Finder. You can change the icon spacing, which is often handy to do, the column sizes in the text views, the Finder's default font, and the colors in the Color menu, should you be working on a color monitor. Additional treats include suppressing trash warnings ("Yes, I'm sure I want throw out that program, you stupid computer!"), automatically aligning icons, opening the parent window by double-clicking in the title bar of a window, and using a literal disk icon that looks like a Mac with an arrow pointing to the appropriate disk drive. For even pickier users, Customizer can change the amount of time the Mac waits before switching to the watch cursor and increase or decrease the number of windows that can be open at once.
I won't say that Customizer is necessary, but the changes it makes can be welcome in certain instances. I find it's nice to switch my Finder font to a serif font every now and then because I find that serif fonts are a little easier to read. I also won't say that Customizer is a lot better than Layout, because it's not, other than being MultiFinder-friendly. You won't buy the Now Utilities for Customizer, but if you do purchase the package, Customizer is a pleasant addition.
Next up was DeskPicture. I had looked forward this because all I've found that randomizes the desktop picture is a shareware program, Backdrop, and Backdrop doesn't work quite right on the SE/30. Under MultiFinder it's not too bad, but under the Finder the desktop picture is overwritten by every window or icon. DeskPicture hadn't been advertised as having desktop picture randomizing abilities, but hoped it would have them.
DeskPicture supports multiple monitors, which is good, because we've added a color monitor to the SE/30 (the Micron Xceed card and the Apple 13" color monitor). It does randomize pictures, which pleases me to no end, and it even tells you how much precious RAM you waste by putting a picture on your desktop. If you have one of the monster 19" monitors and wish to have a desktop picture, DeskPicture has a virtual screen function which uses little memory in favor of using some disk space. DeskPicture's virtual memory abilities work well, but are a tad slow at redrawing the screen because of reading everything in from disk. I would only use it if I had to have a certain huge picture on a 19" color monitor, and even then, it's ridiculous to waste so much memory and disk space on decoration.
DeskPicture has a few quirks. It loads pictures from other volumes automatically, but only if the formatting and partitioning software uses the same technique as Apple. Apparently Silverlining doesn't because that's what I've used to partition my hard disk. DeskPicture would load and reserve memory, but wouldn't display the picture. Putting the pictures on the boot volume solved the problem. DeskPicture displays StartupScreen files and PICT files, but not MacPaint files, which meant that I had to convert a number of the old files I used with Backdrop to work with DeskPicture. Unfortunately, I chose to convert them to PICTs, assuming that PICT was a better format to keep the images in if I had a choice. This is unfortunate because although DeskPicture can move a PICT around the screen and scale it to the screen, it doesn't remember those settings if you ask it to choose a random picture later on. A preferences file could be used to store those settings, I would think. Luckily, I understand from Clay Maeckel that the next version of DeskPicture will address some of my criticisms.
Considering the shareware alternatives, DeskPicture is worlds better. Backdrop is showing its age, and Clay's own DeskPICT isn't nearly as friendly or powerful. I've heard of other programs that do this sort of thing, but none has been popular enough that I've found a copy. Highly recommended.
Nice idea, mediocre implementation (though one user considers FinderKeys the second best utility in the entire package, which proves that the Now Utilities meets different needs for different people). FinderKeys selects the file in the frontmost window that matches the keys you type. For instance, if I type the letter M with my System Folder window in front, it selects all files starting with M. If I continue to type the word "MultiFinder," FinderKeys narrows down the number of files selected until it is down to one. Then, if it's executable (like most residents of banana republics) or openable, FinderKeys will do its best to open it if you hit the Return key. I like that part of it and do use it on occasion. However, the main limitation that FinderKeys has is that it can't scroll the window to bring the selected file into view. If it could do that (as Finder 7.0 can, for those of you anxiously waiting), I'd use it a lot more. FinderKeys also allows you to work with files in inactive windows. If you hold down the command key when you click on a file in an inactive window, you will be able to pick it up without making that window active. The usual Finder shortcuts work with FinderKeys, so Command-Shift click on several files in an inactive window selects all of them, and Command-Option drag copies a file from an inactive window, and (all together, now) Command-Shift-Option drag copies several files from an inactive window. I'd like to say that I used this all the time, but I don't. It's not that difficult to make the source window active and then perform whatever action I wanted. I have trouble remembering the key combinations, which merely means that the functions weren't useful enough to me for me to learn them.
I've heard that MultiMaster was designed to compete with OnCue, but I've never seen OnCue. MultiMaster has two basic components - a pop-up window attached to a hot key and a drop-down menu that can be installed in either (or both) the upper right hand corner (on the right of the MultiFinder icons) or the upper left hand corner (on the left of the Apple icon). For some reason, Now decided to make the right hand menu icon (if that's the term for an icon in the menu bar) a poof, a little thing that looks like a plus sign with rays coming out of it (also the sound made by the result of a mating between Winnie the Pooh and a dogcow). The look is unfortunate because it doesn't look like much of anything and its function is far from obvious. The menu icon that is installed in the left hand corner of the menu bar is a downward pointing triangle, which is a more obvious as to what you do with it, but no better in regards to what it does. Now should definitely come up with a more striking icons for the menu bar - perhaps a stylized double M - and they should be the same. The final interface problem would be a simple one to fix. MultiMaster's window is actually a movable modal dialog box that looks like a window. You can't do anything else without closing it, and if you move it, whatever was under it will be erased temporarily. This doesn't affect its functionality, but is disconcerting.
Enough griping about interface, creating good ones is hard work. Functionally, MultiMaster's window and menu do about the same thing. If you are a keyboard person you'll use the window and if you're a mouse person you'll use the menu. I like the menu better, though it's not truly a menu, but a modal dialog that looks a lot like a menu (the top doesn't quite touch the bottom of the menu bar area) and one which disappears on mouseUp (now there's a reason to know how to do a little programming in HyperCard, though I suppose mouseUp is self-explanatory). Both the window and the menu offer the ability to launch a program or switch between the running ones. This is useful, though I don't find it as easy as using the QuicKeys macros I've set up for my standard programs. For the programs I use less frequently, I do like having them all lined up nicely and awaiting only a click to launch. Both the window and the menu allow you to attach documents to the programs as well. The menu creates a hierarchical menu item for the documents attached to each program. (One problem with the menu is that it can easily get too long to be workable, so Richard Ragan came up with the freeware hierLauncher to address the problem. Basically, hierLauncher is a program that can launch other programs when you install it in the MultiMaster menu and install other programs as its documents. You can create multiple hierLaunchers with different names, one for "Low Use," one for "Games," etc.) To achieve the document launching in MultiMaster's window, Now provided a split window view in which the top half lists your applications and the bottom half the associated documents. One added feature of the window is that it tells you how much memory you have free and how much the selected program wants. It's not completely bug-free, since it claimed that UnStuffIt Deluxe wanted 0K of memory when it actually needed 150K.
MultiMaster has a couple of other nice features. A Memory View item graphically shows how your memory is used and within each program block how memory has been allocated. I'm not sure how useful this is to anyone other than a programmer, but hey, why not. The Memory Sizer item allows you to change the memory requirements of any application you select in the standard dialog box. Coupled with Super Boomerang's excellent Find feature, this could be easier than finding the file in the Finder and changing the memory requirements in Get Info... A final useful feature is that you can configure the menu to pop-up when you hold down a modifier key and click on the desktop. There's a couple of options here, in that you can set different keys to pop up the active applications, your custom list of inactive applications, and the active applications with the Set Aside effect enabled. For those of you who haven't seen or used MultiFinder 6.1b9, Set Aside allows you to "disappear" a program's windows while leaving it active. In my opinion, Set Aside is the only thing that makes MultiFinder usable. If I wasn't running MultiFinder 6.1b9 (and I hope the Apple Thought Police don't make me stop), I'd use the MultiMaster Set Aside feature constantly. Someone did say that OnCue includes one feature missing from MultiMaster - the ability to cycle through running applications with a command key. I've simulated that by defining a click on the MultiFinder icon as a QuicKeys2 macro - the same thing might be possible with MacroMaker.
Overall I like MultiMaster. I think it could be quite a bit smoother and more intuitive, but it performs its primary functions, application and document launching, very well. It just goes to show that a little interface goes a long way. If MultiMaster had a wonderful interface, I'd probably be raving about it now.
Now Menus is another one of those programs that you wonder how you lived without. Its primary function is simple, yet elegant. It provides hierarchical submenus from the DAs in the Apple menu. This in itself would not be so wonderful, but for its two special submenus. For the Chooser, you can have a submenu that lists your available Chooser devices, and if you hold down the command key while selecting one, it bypasses the Page Setup dialog and closes the Chooser for you automatically. Ah, joy and rapture (I hate waiting for the Chooser to open)! Used in conjunction with Print Previewer, this feature is amazingly useful. The other special submenu provides a list of the available Control Panel devices, which is also incredibly useful for people like me, with some 35 cdevs (no rude comments - I subscribe to the "he who dies with most wins" theory). I hate using the Control Panel on someone else's machine when they don't have Now Menus (or one of the previous shareware versions) installed. It seems so awkward to open the Control Panel and scroll down the list of cdevs, looking for the one you want. Along with Super Boomerang, this utility earns its keep every day with the submenus alone.
Now Menus has a couple of other helpful features which I use less. It can pop up a hierarchical menu that duplicates the standard menu bar anywhere on the screen, and there's even a way to assign command keys to DAs and cdevs. If you have a mammoth 19" screen, the pop-up menu function would be more useful than I find it on my 9" and 13" monitors. But the Control Panel and Chooser submenus make the Mac so much less frustrating to use that Now Menus is an extremely welcome addition to my INIT lineup.
This is an odd one. It's a Chooser device that allows you to print to screen and see your document reduced to fit in the window or full size when you zoom in. That's not odd though, but very useful. What's odd is that I believe there is a freeware version of Preview (perhaps an earlier version) that has almost the same functionality, and even stranger is that the exact same Chooser device comes with Full Impact 2.0. Sounds like someone's doing well with the non-exclusive licenses. I can't say too much about Print Previewer because it is so transparent. You simply switch to Print Previewer in the Chooser (or use the included FKEY to switch and then switch back to whatever you were printing to before) and then print normally. You get a graphical representation of your document in reduced form and you can zoom in by clicking on an area. A second click zooms back out.
Print Previewer isn't usually as good as the Preview feature built into programs like FileMaker Pro and Nisus, but it certainly beats wasting paper for the rest of the programs. It's a good thing Nisus has its own Preview mode, though, since it doesn't seem to like the Print Previewer Chooser device, and keeps telling me that I have to do a Page Setup, which I've done several times since I selected Print Previewer. So it's not perfect. Minor incompatibilities aside, I highly recommend Print Previewer because it can save paper when you're printing from a program like WriteNow, which has no Preview function.
This is a separate application, and to be honest, I'm not really sure why Now included it as such. I say this because the Startup Manager has a "Profile" button that does exactly the same thing, producing an extremely detailed report on your system configuration. Profiler reports on a number of basic areas, but I'm not going to talk about all of the items in those areas, because there's so many. Profiler provides General CPU Information, System Version information (including attributes like ROM version and Script Manager version), Memory Status and Attributes, Hardware Attributes, a list of INITs and cdevs, a list of DAs, a list of drivers, and optionally, a list of applications. Some of the features are not present if you are running System 6.0.3 or lower, so if you don't see all of these, upgrade your system and don't complain to Now.
What I like most about Profiler is that it didn't make any blatant mistakes, like telling me I had a NuBus card in my SE/30. It's certainly possible system information isn't included in Profiler, but if so, I don't know about it. Overall, I am impressed with the detail Profiler went into, particularly with things like ROM version, which can be useful information. People who have fought with the various versions of the ROMs on the Mac Plus know about this, since the Mac Plus ROMs went through several versions. If you are interested in using the Profiler technology, Now just announced that they will be making it available to developers, publishers, and corporations in either application or programming library form. Contact Now Software for the details.
This part of the Now Utilities suffers from the Claris syndrome, having been spun back into the Now Utilities, though Now still sells it as a separate product for $79 or so. I used it for a short time as a screensaver, but all it does (yes, we're now talking about what screensavers can do, other than just blank the screen, of course) is show a message or a picture to protect your screen from burn in. Boring. Its main function, however, is to prevent your spouse or mean, nasty, ugly industrial spies from looking at what's on your Mac. Screen Locker achieves this by password protection (we'll have to wait a while before voice or handwriting recognition become part of standard security measures).
Unlike most password protection systems, though, Screen Locker's is carefully thought out. The dialog box that lets you define your password has six text entry fields, one for the old password, one for the new password, one for confirming the new password (you only see bullets, not the letters you're typing), and three more for "backdoors." The backdoors are a unique part of the password protection that will help forgetful users. You can set the backdoor field types, so they can be the names of your three children or your three favorite Beatles songs, or whatever you're guaranteed to remember. Now actually suggests the names of your last three girlfriends or boyfriends - I wonder what that says about who they see as their potential users :-). The trick is that if you forget your password, you can enter all three backdoors and get back into the system. Another way of using them in a more corporate setting would be to let the system administrator set the backdoors in case you forgot your password.
Screen Locker alone is not the end all to security, if only because someone can always reboot your machine with a floppy. If you don't have the programmer's switch or MacsBug installed, and you lock the floppy drive (there are a couple of hardware devices that do this), then Screen Locker could be effective since it has an option to run at startup. Simply make it the first INIT to run by renaming it and it will become difficult to break in. Screen Locker protects itself, so even if someone can get to the Finder, they can't throw out or disable Screen Locker if they don't know the password. Finally, I was pleased to discover that Screen Locker and After Dark (a screensaver that does a lot, entertainment-wise :-)) coexist happily. After Dark has a password feature as well, but it's not nearly so complete as Screen Locker's. When the two of them are running, Screen Locker first blanks the screen, then After Dark draws on top of Screen Locker. If you need a small level of security, Screen Locker will provide it quickly, easily, and cheaply. If you need more security than Screen Locker provides, go all the way up to one of the serious security packages.
Crashed when I tried to configure it. Of course, you idiot, you forgot to remove the original files from Boomerang 2.0 from your System Folder. After I removed those (and reinstalled, just for the fun of it) Super Boomerang worked fine. The new interface (up from Boomerang 2.0) is indeed far better. Super Boomerang makes any application's Open... menu into a hierarchical menu with the appropriate documents listed, and has abandoned the pop-up boomerang button in favor of a menu bar at the top of its dialog box.
Despite the interface change, the menus remain basically the same. The first looks like a boomerang and holds the About Super Boomerang... information and the Help. The next five menus are Folder, File, Disk, Options, and Group. Folder, File, and Disk hold the names of the most recent folders, files, and disks that you've visited. The choices in Options haven't changed much, which means that you can still create new folders, make files and folders permanent in the menu (this is extremely handy if you find yourself wanting to use a file or folder regularly, but not regularly enough for it to always be one of the last thirty used). My only irritation with Super Boomerang's interface is the Edit... item in the Options menu. It allows you delete, rename, and duplicate the files in the current folder. One person who responded to the survey agrees with me - those three items should be moved out to exist as items in the Options menu, rather than be buried in the Edit choice. I'm still unsure of the utility of Super Boomerang's Group feature, which allows you to define groups of applications that will have their own set of temporary and permanent files and folders. I think the rationale behind it is that you might have a number of graphics applications, say, that all open the same sort of files and which you use in the same set of folders. By creating a group of graphics applications, you are unlikely to have spreadsheet files cluttering up your temporary files menu. One positive part of the Groups feature, though, is that you can set up an Exclude group of applications, which Super Boomerang won't load. I haven't run across any applications that dislike Super Boomerang, but it's nice to know that zeta soft and Now Software are being realistic about the possibility of a conflict. If only more INITs did this.
I like Super Boomerang, and I like it even more than Boomerang 2.0. The main change other than the interface is the incredible Find feature that Hirokai Yamamoto added to Super Boomerang. Boomerang 2.0 could find files but wasn't all that fast. Super Boomerang can indeed search an entire CD-ROM in under 15 seconds (yes, we tried it), and for many actions, it's easier to have Super Boomerang find the file than it is to search for it yourself. It found all the instances of the word "sun" in filenames on my 60 meg partition in about 4 seconds, and it's even faster when it can eliminate files that aren't appropriate to whatever application you're in. If you don't already own Boomerang ($30 shareware), then it's worth buying the Now Utilities solely for Super Boomerang. Several people commented that Super Boomerang's presence alone caused them to rate the Now Utilities highly.
The next version of Boomerang is likely to be even nicer, as it will have the ability to rename and delete files from the dialog box (rather than from the Edit item in the Options menu) and the ability to sort the file list by date or kind, which only the Norton Utilities' Directory Assistance can do currently. Stay tuned - Hiro Yamamoto has already produced two updaters for Super Boomerang to correct small bugs (none of which I've run into) so he's certainly working on Boomerang and version 3.0 promises to be even more impressive. My only suggestion would be to include the ability to search for text within files as well, since I've started to use that more frequently and haven't found anything that is both quick and easy to use (GOfer and Locate both lost points on ease of use).
This is another simple, but useful member of the Now Utilize. Its purpose in life (don't you wish your life was this simple sometimes?) is to display the font menu of your current application in the correct fonts. WYSIWYG Menus displays the sizes appropriately, which is a little less useful, and groups faces in the same family to a certain extent. It does not go as far as Adobe's Type Reunion, which groups faces from the same family into a hierarchical menu (so you get a menu listing for Helvetica, and from that is a hierarchical menu for Bold, Oblique, Tastes Great, etc.) Nor does WYSIWYG Menus show you any more fonts on the screen at once, as does Eastgate's Fontina. Not being a graphics person, I don't own any fonts that come in Oblique or Light or Less Filling, so I haven't tested much of this. I can get Suitcase II to do the same thing, though I usually don't because Suitcase II is a little slow on the draw, at least the first time. Actually, I don't use WYSIWYG Menus at all, because there's an obscure bug that causes Nisus to crash when WYSIWYG Menus and Now Menus are installed and you click on the desktop without any modifier keys pressed and Now Menus is set to pop-up the menu bar, and well, I said it was obscure, didn't I? Suffice it to say that I've reported the bug to both Now and Paragon, and hopefully someone is fixing it as I write. Nisus does use the Font menu a little strangely, because it includes the entry for Any Font, which is used to tell the Find/Replace that you don't care what font it finds.
The documentation for the Now Utilities is decent, with a few typographical errors, including one mistake on page 1-1 (the punctuation gods will be unhappy with Now Software). Now laid out the manual strangely - there is no title page; the publishing information is where the title page should be; and the conventions, introduction, and installation procedures come before the table of contents (thanks to Lorie Call for pointing this out - I had been unable to lay my finger on the problem). The glossary and index are present, but the glossary is short and not terribly consistent (they define "Extension" as the new name for INITs, but continue to use the term INIT throughout the glossary) and the index appears to have been created by indexing a certain level of heading titles. Few people will be forced to turn to the index because each section is so short. None of this poses much problem though, because with the exception of Super Boomerang's more advanced features, all of the parts of the Now Utilities are easy to use and seldom require the manual.
I found the manual sparse at times, though the information I needed was always present. The impression of sparseness may stem from the jovial notes that accompany much shareware, whereas this manual is polished and less personal. One addition I would like to see is a short note from each author at the beginning of each utility's section, talking briefly about why and how this utility came about, and perhaps a little about its history. That would warm up the manual a good deal and add to the sense that most of these utilities are long-standing labors of love that are finally giving something back to their programmers.
The Now Utilities needs more work, and I suspect it will continue to evolve, especially when System 7.0 makes FinderKeys and MultiMaster less useful by including some of their abilities. Something which Now might think about is the problem of too many shortcuts. I use new INITs in a sink or swim method. If I notice them enough and consider them useful enough to memorize the shortcuts, fine, otherwise they sink into the depths of my hard disk. I had trouble with a lot of the functions in the Now Utilities because each separate module had its own shortcuts and modifier keys to hold down. The only one I remembered all that well, even though I don't use it much, is the option-click on AlarmsClock to bring up its Control Panel. That's easy to remember and intuitive, but I seldom remember to use the FinderKeys shortcut of command-clicking on files in inactive windows because there's no real way that it sticks out as a reasonable command specifically for FinderKeys.
This review all comes down to a very simple question, I guess. Unless you are the sort who likes to know stuff because it's fun (as I am), you want to know if you should buy this package. It's a difficult question to answer, because my feeling is that you want to have Super Boomerang and MultiMaster and Now Menus and Startup Manager and DeskPicture and Print Previewer anyway, and there's certainly nothing seriously wrong with AlarmsClock, Finder Keys, Customizer, Profiler, Screen Locker and WYSIWYG Menus. To be honest, (and I hope you are) you would have to pay $30 for Boomerang's shareware fee. The free DeskPICT, Preview, DA menuz, init cdev, SuperClock, Layout, MacEnvy, and your choice of various screen savers are the way to get much of the rest of the Now Utilities. But there's no shareware alternatives that I know of for MultiMaster or FinderKeys or WYSIWYG Menus. If you bought OnCue and Type Reunion, you might get more functionality, but at a much higher price. So my recommendation is to buy the package for $75 (that's the real world price) if you plan on using more than one or two of the utilities. Sure, the free versions are free, but they aren't as cleanly done and often have more bugs and incompatibilities than the Now Utilities.
Ignoring the shareware or freeware counterparts to the Now Utilities, I think that the collection fills a need in the Macintosh world for system enhancing utilities. There are at least four packages of disk utilities, and at least two frivolous (but fun) environment enhancing utilities, but little else that provide better methods of working with your Mac. I applaud Now's commitment to this niche. They have committed to changing and enhancing the Now Utilities for System 7.0 and have demonstrated similar commitment to support with the free (though not terribly small at around 230K) updater program. The program should be available on all commercial services and many other non-commercial ones as well. The software industry and software users should not be happy with the system enhancements that come from Apple, since they are simply too few and far between. My best wishes to Now and my hopes for the continued evolution of the Now Utilities into the darkness of System 7.0.
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