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MultiMaster

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.

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