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Super Boomerang 3.0

As I said earlier, the beauty of Super Boomerang is the way it works behind your back to make your life easier. Hiro Yamamoto, the author, has done an excellent job of thinking about how people use files and ways that the most commonly used files can be brought to the forefront easily. Initially Boomerang used a pop-up menu from a little boomerang button next to the disk name, but installing that button occasionally caused problems for some programs that wanted to mess around with the SFDialog. In Super Boomerang 2.0, Hiro retained all of the features of Boomerang and added some significant new ones. Now, in Super Boomerang 3.0, the extension has become even more powerful without becoming harder to use.

Primary among Super Boomerang 2.0’s features was the hierarchical Open… menu, called DirectOpen, in each application’s File menu. The DirectOpen menu contains a list of recently opened files that that particular application can open (so TEXT files of all types show up in Nisus’s Open… menu no matter what the creator). I’m generally not all that fond of hierarchical menus because I find them more difficult to navigate than I’d like, but Super Boomerang’s DirectOpen menu is the program’s main advantage over ShortCut because it allows me to avoid the SFDialog box entirely. The main new feature in Super Boomerang 3.0 (aside from the much improved find file function, more later) is the installation of a hierarchical Super Boomerang menu item in the Apple menu. This long hierarchical menu is quite clumsy, since it alphabetically lists all your recently visited folders and files (you can choose which come first) with the accessible ones differentiated by larger icons. You can select files directly from the list, but folders have an additional level of hierarchy, listing the files and folders one level down. You can open files inside those folders, but if you select a folder, Super Boomerang will switch to the Finder and open that folder. I like this new feature and I find it useful on occasion since it allows me to avoid searching around in the Finder even more, but it really shows the limitations of the slow and clumsy hierarchical menu system. Someone has to come up with a better idea.

The other enhancement that has appeared in Super Boomerang 2.0 and stuck around in 3.0 is an improved interface. Instead of the little boomerang button, Hiro now installs a menu bar at the top of the SFDialog box. The first item (at the left) is the little boomerang, and much like the Apple menu, it contains the About… and Help… items. The next two menus, Folder and File, hold up to 30 of the folders and files most recently used. The Drive menu simply lists the mounted drives, and selecting a drive changes the SFDialog box so that you can see the contents of the last accessed folder on that drive. The next menu, Options, holds most of Super Boomerang’s ancillary features, so I’ll hold off on that for a minute while I discuss the last menu, Group. Super Boomerang allows you to create up to five groups of applications. When a given group is selected, only the files and folders belonging to programs in that group show in the File and Folder menus. The idea behind this is that you could create a group of graphics programs, and all of their recent files and folders would be the same and would be unsullied by spreadsheet files.

The Options menu has three sections, the first devoted to utility functions, the second to managing the folder and file lists, and the last to configuring Super Boomerang. The first four items, the utility functions, are Find…, Edit…, New Folder…, and Show Info. Find is relatively self-explanatory, but it is among the faster Find functions available on the Mac. Until I saw other recent utilities such as MasterFinder and ShortCut 1.5, I thought that Super Boomerang was unique in its speed. In addition, Super Boomerang 3.0 can now search for files inside StuffIt, DiskDoubler, and Compact Pro archives, and can search for text strings inside uncompressed files. I haven’t done any rigorous testing, but it appears that Super Boomerang’s text searching is the fastest around. Along with the hierarchical Open… menu, Super Boomerang’s ability to search for text within files is another the reason why I like it slightly more than ShortCut.

Back in the Options menu, Edit provides a Finder-like list of the files in the current folder, and allows you to duplicate, rename, or delete any file, and, if possible, you can open a file as well. This feature is especially helpful for non-MultiFinder users running System 6. New Folder… creates a new folder and allows you to name it. Show Info, the final option, is a toggle that can display information about the selected file at the bottom of the SFDialog box. For files, it shows modified date, creator and type, as well as the data and resource fork sizes. Folders merely get modification date and number of enclosed files and folders. I suspect keeping Show Info turned on slows down the opening of the SFDialog slightly, but I like the information enough that it’s worth it. The second section of the Options menu allows you add a file or folder to the appropriate menu permanently (at which point it is underlined in the menu) or clear either the file or folder menu completely to start over. Adding files and folders permanently is a nice shortcut when combined with the Transfer QuicKey in QuicKeys2. Just make a file permanent with Super Boomerang, pop up the SFDialog box and select the file. QuicKeys will then find the application and open the file. The last set of three items in the Options menu contains Configure…, Hot Keys…, and Preferences…, all of which combine to let you customize how you use Super Boomerang.

There are also a few little features that work well behind the scenes and are easily forgotten, though extremely useful. Super Boomerang can use what it calls Rebound, where it goes back to the file or folder you last accessed in the SFDialog box. Rebound prevents you from tearing out your hair scrolling down to the files that start with "t" each time because if a file starting with "t" is the last file opened, that’s where the list will start the next time. If you want, Super Boomerang can alphabetize the recent files and folders, but I find that confusing and prefer the chronological sorting (recent ones at the top). If you have a file with a very long name, Super Boomerang can shrink it so that you can read more of it, and finally, if you have a number of drives or partitions, Super Boomerang can identify which disk a file lives on in the hierarchical menu, a feature which can be useful if you work with similarly named files on different volumes.

Super Boomerang has good online help, and although it is context sensitive to the dialog box open at the time, it’s not as graphical or as nice-looking as ShortCut’s online help system. When you have a question, though, it does the job. The documentation doesn’t do justice to all that Super Boomerang can do, but that didn’t bother most people as much as Now’s apparently mediocre technical support. Now does have several email addresses, but several people expressed dissatisfaction with them, and Now’s phone support also got mixed reactions.

So that’s Super Boomerang. Perhaps the most telling fact about it is the number of survey respondents who used a phrase something along the lines of "I can’t live with Super Boomerang on any Mac I use." I’ll admit freely that I mostly use the recent files from the DirectOpen menu along with the recent folders in the SFDialog box itself, but I do appreciate the other features, most notably Find…, New Folder…, and Show Info. One thing I appreciate, although I don’t know how Hiro does it, is Super Boomerang’s ability to add just about anything to its Open… menu. If you double-click on a file in the Finder, even that gets added. The only way of opening a file that doesn’t add it to the menu that I’ve found is using Nisus’s Catalog, which completely bypasses the SFDialog (and which I don’t use as much as I would if it had a boomerang feature). The only negatives in Super Boomerang are that it does slow down the SFDialog opening up and that it can conflict with other extensions. Some people have reported problems with it, although others (including me) have found it extremely solid. Lots of people also expressed interest in being able to buy just Super Boomerang without the accompanying Now Utilities.

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