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More Context on Contextual Menus

In TidBITS-398, I wrote about how to use and customize contextual menus under Mac OS 8. This week, I want to follow up on that article by noting a utility that offers contextual menus under System 7 (and acts as a CM plug-in for Mac OS 8), look at a few additional CM plug-ins, and agree with readers who noted that one-handed use of CM menus is also possible with a multi-button mouse.


Most people writing in about multi-button mice noted their standard use under other operating systems (such as Windows) and their utility when running PC emulation software. Based on the email, many TidBITS readers are enamored with Kensington’s input devices. For instance, Ross Yahnke <[email protected]> wrote:

One thing I’d like to mention about contextual menus is that – along with Virtual PC – they provide a good excuse to buy a multi-button mouse. I just got Kensington’s Thinking Mouse, a four-button mouse, and as in Windows, have assigned the right button to do contextual menus. It makes using contextual menus much more transparent; I’m figuring it won’t be long before Apple ships two-button mice.


Adding Menus to 68K Macs, System 7 — Covering a collection of utilities in TidBITS usually prompts readers to write in about a wide-ranging collection of other programs that we left out. In this case, almost all comments noted only a few favorites. In particular, I left out Mark Aiken’s $15 shareware PowerMenu 2.0.1, which provides menu commands to PowerPC-based Macs using Mac OS 8’s Contextual Menus, and – using a different technique than Mac OS 8 – provides its own contextual menus (which only display PowerMenu commands) on Macs running System 7.1 or later and to 68040-based machines running Mac OS 8.

PowerMenu primarily speeds up opening files, launching applications, and organizing the desktop. For instance, it enables you to open selected items in any running application or any application you’ve added to its Quick Launch option (for example, I added Word 5 so I can consistently use it in favor of Word 6, which I use only occasionally). Another set of commands makes it easy to copy or alias items into appropriate Finder folders (though there’s no move option). The Read Me file has useful directions, and the download is 333K.


Another Wonderful Utility — The vast majority of the comments concerned Eric de la Musse’s freeware CMTools 3.0. This utility adds many optional commands to Mac OS 8’s Contextual Menus that (like PowerMenu) genuinely ease working in the Finder. For example, if you’re like me, active documents accumulate on the desktop and are eventually filed in folders nested down several levels. Though Mac OS 8’s spring-loaded folders simplify moving items into folders, CMTools’s customizable Copy to and Move to commands seem even simpler.

CMTools has other goodies as well, including Compress and Decompress options, though these require you to make aliases to your compression software and place them in the CMTools Configuration folder; whereas Chris DeSalvo’s $5 Compression plug-in (which I noted last week) just works with no special attention. Similar to PowerMenu, an Open Using command enables you to open files in a desired application. There’s also a Lock/Unlock option, and commands for setting a file’s creator and type attributes. Also like PowerMenu, CMTools requires more setup than most CM plug-ins, but the setup gives you a great deal of flexibility, and Eric has provided clear directions (translated from French to English by Turagd Aleahmad). According to the ReadMe, CMTools doesn’t work with QuicKeys Toolbox; however, users of the PowerPC version of QuicKeys 3.5.2 no longer require QuicKeys Toolbox, a fine point that seems to be often missed.


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One More to Download — Last week, I praised Look Mom, No Hands! for its wonderful ability to pop up a contextual menu without a keyboard shortcut. In so distinguishing Look Mom, No Hands!, I left out FinderPop, an optional $7 "pintware" from Turlough O’Connor, which offers the same feature. FinderPop (a 120K download) is a nicely designed control panel that enables you to customize contextual menu appearance (font, size, and more) and adds commands that quickly bring to the front any window open on the desktop, open any mounted volume, or switch to any active application.

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Late Breaking News — Finally, in recent contextual menu news, John Moe has released the freeware IADD, which enables you to turn off Apple’s Internet Address Detectors (IAD) in any application that you like, thus avoiding conflicts between those applications and IAD.


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