This week’s focus falls squarely on utilities, with Adam’s follow-up about Aladdin Desktop Tools; the second part of Tonya’s look at desktop launching programs, this time focusing on Square One; and Patrick Pruyne’s detailed review of Conflict Catcher 3. Also check out announcements of a new version of the Apple QuickTake digital camera and of updates to two essential Internet utilities for Mac users, Anarchie 1.5 and Internet Config 1.1.
InfoSeek has made a number of changes recently that might be of interest. They’ve added a 20 cent per search "pay as you go" plan and a $1.95 per month for 10 free searches plan for less frequent users, brought online several new databases of information (including a database of 200,000 Web pages), made the full text of InfoWorld part of the Computer Periodicals standard collection rather than a premium collection, and created a Personal Newswire service that enables you to record and replay frequent searches. Most interesting though, is an additional $5 credit for the free trial period for TidBITS readers if you enter "*tidbits" in the "referred by" field while signing up for your free trial. Email <[email protected]> for more information. [ACE]
New Heights of Anarchie — Peter Lewis <[email protected]> has released version 1.5 of Anarchie, his highly-regarded Macintosh FTP and Archie client. Version 1.5 now includes Internet Config support, the ability to send raw FTP commands (such as the ever-useful SITE INDEX), improved Finder-like behavior in its directory windows, more complete URL support, and improved file uploading (including handling of MacBinary mode). For those of us who frequently find ourselves locked out of busy servers, there’s also a convenient Retry button for failed FTP connections.
Of course, key Anarchie features are still present and, in some cases, improved. Anarchie continues to support the Drag Manager (allowing you to drag files back and forth from the Finder) and continues to be Apple Scriptable and Recordable. Anarchie includes a complete list of Archie servers, an extensive bookmarks file of Mac-related FTP sites, a comprehensive Apple Guide (thanks, Quinn!) and a copy of Internet Config 1.1. If you have a TCP-based connection to the Internet and you don’t have Anarchie, well, you probably want it. [GD]
Internet Config 1.1 — Peter Lewis and Quinn have also released Internet Config 1.1. As originally reported in TidBITS-255, Internet Config stores a central set of global Internet settings for use by Internet Config-savvy applications, such as Anarchie, NewsWatcher, and NewsHopper. Internet Config handles settings and preferences for email and news, file suffix mapping, news and file transfer preferences, helper applications, and personal information like signatures and plan files. Version 1.1 is more reliable under System 6 and on Power Macs, and includes new features for developers working on Internet Config-savvy applications.
Why get this package if Internet Config is bundled in with the latest version of Anarchie? Simple: the package contains valuable goodies such as ICeTEe, an extension that enables you to Command-click URLs in any application that uses TextEdit (such as Eudora, SimpleText, and NotePad, but not most word processors), and Internet Config RandomSignature, an extension that allows Internet Config to provide random signatures in Internet Config-aware applications. Peter and Quinn have also released source code and a developer’s kit for Internet Config. [GD]
Apple QuickTake 150 — Following on the mixed success of the QuickTake 100, Apple has introduced an improved version of the QuickTake in an effort to show that it’s still serious about the digital camera market. The QuickTake 150 features 1 MB of flash EPROM that can store 16 high-resolution images (24-bit, 640 by 480) or 32 standard resolution images (24-bit, 320 by 240), a close-up lens, plus a serial cable and Apple’s QuickTake software to transfer your images over to any Mac with a 68020 or better processor. The QuickTake 150 should be available now and pricing is estimated to be about $700. [GD]
My review of Aladdin Desktop Tools in TidBITS-275 prompted a number of email messages last week, a few due to an oversight about SpeedyFinder7, and a few due to points I missed or cut for space reasons.
First, I must clarify that SpeedyFinder7 has been removed from distribution. I checked to make sure it was still available while writing that article, but since I wasn’t reviewing it, I didn’t read its documentation. As its documentation states, unregistered copies of SpeedyFinder7, including the copies stored on the various FTP sites, expired in March. Unfortunately, since the moderators of the mirror networks had no way of knowing this, the file remained available even after it had disabled itself. It’s now gone, but has been replaced by an update that fixes an incompatibility with System 7.5.1. Of course, only currently registered users of SpeedyFinder7 need bother to download it.
This will be the last SpeedyFinder7 update. All future development will take place in Aladdin Desktop Tools, and, in fact, the features of SpeedyFinder7 in ADT are much improved over the SpeedyFinder7 originals.
Second, Jonathan Rynd <[email protected]> commented that Desktop Viewer isn’t unique in its capability to look inside many different file types. Perhaps the ultimate utility in that respect is the long-standing CanOpener, a $65 commercial program from Abbott Systems.
With that out of the way, Leonard Rosenthol, Director of Advanced Technology at Aladdin, mentions some additional and important features of Aladdin Desktop Tools.
Leonard Rosenthol <[email protected]> writes:
The basic feature you attribute to Desktop SpeedBoost (accelerating copying and trashing files) is accurate, but it is just one part of what the program does. It also extends a number of common features in the Finder which are part of working with files.
For example, we extend the auto-routing features of the System folder so that in addition to being able to have extensions and control panels dropped on the System Folder go into the right sub-folders, you can also drop BBEdit Extensions, KeyQuencer Extensions, Scripting Additions, After Dark modules, and more.
One of my favorite features in Desktop SpeedBoost is the extension of the copy or trash operations by using the Command key as a modifier. In the case of copying, a Command-drag between volumes moves the file instead of just copying it, so that you don’t need to then throw the original in the Trash. For trashing, Command-drag causes the file to be immediately trashed, giving back the disk space immediately, which is useful if you trash a large file and want the space back right away.
Also, like all other Aladdin products (and unlike our competitors), Desktop SpeedBoost takes advantage of (and integrates into) a number of Apple technologies and system software components. For example, Desktop SpeedBoost is Macintosh Easy Open-savvy and properly updates the desktop when used with Macintosh Easy Open. We also work with PowerTalk allowing your enclosures to copy in the background, and, of course, we integrate into the Scriptable Finder for full automation.
I will also point out that even in just the aspect of copying, Desktop SpeedBoost is more intelligent than the other products of this genre. It uses optimal techniques when writing to different types of volumes in order to optimize for every type of media. For example, the amount of data we read and write from an ARA server is very different from the amount that we read and write from a local hard disk.
Finally, you glossed over the "archive walking" feature of Desktop Shortcut that enables you to dip into StuffIt archives just as though they were folders. We believe this is the most compelling reason for StuffIt users to use Desktop Shortcut. In addition, Desktop Shortcut is fully compatible with Super Boomerang so you can run the two together, reaping the best features of both.
It’s time for Part II of our three-part series on desktop launcher programs, those programs that supplement the way your Finder works by giving you tiles that represent your files, folders, and disks. Today’s installment takes a look at Square One 2.0, a $74 (list) utility from Binary Software. (I’m not sure to whom you would pay even close to list price – Square One sells mail order for about $45 and is normally available from Binary Software directly for $29.95, though if you place a direct order with Binary Software, they are offering Square One to TidBITS readers for only $19.95.) Next week I’ll attempt to wrap things up with a look at the many shareware/freeware utilities available, and thanks to everyone who has written in mentioning their favorites.
Square One requires System 7, about 550K of hard disk space, and about 50K of RAM for its extension, plus another 400K of RAM for the Square One application. It runs on any Mac that runs some version of System 7. I’ve used Square One, on and off, for a few weeks now – the first time without the manual and the second time (with a completely fresh start) with the manual. Square One and I didn’t get along well at first, mostly because I had to figure out how to incorporate Square One’s options into my working style, and I had to explore the menus and browse the manual before I felt comfortable.
Starting at Square One — When you install Square One, you get the Square One application, a Square One extension, and an empty palette, to which you add items by dragging them on or by using the Find Applications or Add Files to Palette dialog boxes, which help you rapidly add applications and files. Square One does work as a stand-alone application, but the extension adds a number of key features.
A Square One palette has tiles on one side and a file list on the other. Square One offers several options for customizing the palette, including tile size. The palette can be made smaller than the list of tiles and if you shorten it, you can use a vertical scroll bar to scroll the tile list. Drag a file, folder, or disk icon over a tile, and the tile takes on the dragged item’s icon and (optionally) its name.
Using a Tile — You use a tile in three basic ways. The first – and perhaps most unique – way involves the file list. Click a disk or folder icon and its contents show in the file list, along with keyboard shortcuts for opening any displayed files. (The top file in the list gets Command-1, the second file Command-2, and so on.) To open a folder, you must double-click its name; Square One does not offer a keyboard shortcut. If you double-click a folder in the file list, it opens as a separate window. It took me a week or so to train myself away from expecting to double-click a folder in the list and have that folder also open in the list.
Because I dislike waiting for folders to open and then having them cluttering my desktop, what I should have done was to use the second technique. The second way to use a tile is to click and hold on a tile, which brings up a menu of choices for that tile, including a hierarchical way to navigate its nested contents. Clicking and holding on an application tile brings up a menu listing the last ten (or fewer) documents opened with that application. If you don’t want to click directly on a tile, you can also choose the tile’s name from the hierarchical menu that pops down from the Square One menu (just left of the Help menu on the menu bar). After you choose a tile’s name, you slide over in the hierarchical menu to see approximately the same menu that you would see if you click directly on the tile.
As a third technique for using a tile, you can double-click a tile to launch an application or open a window for a disk or folder. You can also drop document icons on application tiles to attempt to open those documents. You cannot drop an icon on a folder or disk tile and move the icon into the folder or disk.
Additional Features — Square One offers an Active Applications palette, a row or column of tiles representing launched applications. You can show the Active Applications palette in Memory View, which makes it show memory use bars similar to those in the About This Macintosh dialog box.
Square One also offers a Groups feature, whereby you can set up a tile that represents a group of either control panels, desk accessories, folder, projects (a collection of files and folders related to a project), QuicKeys, or sound files.
Perhaps my favorite feature is a preference you can set whereby when you click a palette, all other windows (except for other Square One palettes) become hidden. This feature isn’t useful all the time, but some days it helps keep the clutter down.
Unlike DragStrip, which comes with additional special modules that you can put on tiles and use to control your Mac’s operations, Square One comes with no special add-ons. Also unlike DragStrip, Square One does not work with Control Strip modules.
Making More Palettes — To start a new Square One palette, you choose New from Square One’s File menu. Square One then gives you choices for the System Folder and its standard sub-folders to add to tiles on your new palette, a curious choice, since Square One doesn’t let you move things about in the Finder. For example, if I put my Extensions folder on a palette tile, I can more quickly see what’s inside, but I can’t more quickly move things in and out. With the exception of the Control Panels folder, I don’t see why I’d want any of my System Folder sub-folders on a palette.
After being given options for putting specific folders on your new palette, you then can click a button to add applications to your palette. Square One responds by displaying the Find Applications dialog box, which offers a list of all your applications. I somehow missed the easy way to add lots of programs quickly from the list. I thought I could Shift-click on items in the list to select a bunch of them and then click the OK button, but – in fact – I needed to click to each application’s left (not on it, but to its left), which adds a checkmark to the left. The hand-holding for setting up a new palette does not include the Add Files to Palette dialog box, which seems odd.
Where’s the Pat Conclusion? Frankly, I’m having trouble drawing a pat conclusion about Square One. The more I use it, the more I like it, but it also feels like a grab bag of related features, with a neither astonishingly bad nor amazingly good overall coherence. I particularly like the hierarchical menus and the ability to open recent documents – it seems a touch more convenient then using Super Boomerang, but I’m disappointed that the file list can’t display more than one level of items and that I can’t move items in the Finder through the controls of Square One.
If I’m not a typical Square One user, who is? Square One offers a lot of functionality in a single extension/application combination, so it might prove a useful way to consolidate a bunch of features into one product, thus enabling you to discard several others. Square One might also be a good choice for a company that has to buy a commercial product for a group of users and wants a launching utility that will have something for most anyone.
Binary Software — 800/824-6279 — 310/449-1481
310/449-1473 (fax) — <[email protected]>
Casady & Greene’s major upgrade of Conflict Catcher moves the previously shadowy task of system extension management to front and center. No longer content with being just an indispensable aid in ferreting out incompatible system components, Conflict Catcher 3 offers enhanced features, easy control via the menubar, and much more.
Duct Tape and Baling Wire — In earlier days, system extensions were the exception rather than the rule. Many Macintosh owners didn’t use any at all, and a power user might have had half a dozen icons appearing at startup. Many extensions (or INITs, as they were called before System 7) offered quaint functionality like the Talking Moose, a Moire-patterned screensaver, or giving the Eject Disk command a sound best not described. Other extensions were more serious in scope, offering utilities or enhancements to the Mac’s interface. However, the precedent was clear: to add a capability to a Macintosh, you patch the system.
Today, Apple’s own System 7.5 can pile on dozens of startup files to enhance its core System and Finder. Fax modem and CD-ROM drivers, networking software, applications (like Microsoft’s Office suite) and a high percentage of shareware utilities add patches to the System. These days it is not unusual to watch a Mac’s startup screen fill with icons until it looks like a Pinto with too many Garfield dolls on the back window.
Hanging so many baubles on the System and Finder tree raises the risk of apparently unrelated system tweaks colliding in a grinding crash. For Power Mac users, system patches can be obstacles to realizing the full speed potential of their new hardware since many do not include PowerPC native code.
At their most basic level of functionality, extension managers like Conflict Catcher, Apple’s Extension Manager, and Now Utilities’ Now Startup Manager allow the user to selectively activate subsets of their system additions. By doing so, savvy users can tailor their working environment to a specific task, thus saving precious RAM and gaining speed.
Perhaps the greatest value of this type of control is when things go wrong. When repeatable crashes occur, the ability to selectively disable subsets of system additions is the most direct way of determining which (if any) startup files are responsible.
Cagey Conflict Catching — As in previous versions, Conflict Catcher handles the simple but extremely tedious task of testing all possible combinations of startup files until an offender (or an offending combination) is identified. It does this by restarting your Mac with half of the previous startup file set disabled, and then asking you if the problem still exists. This process is repeated until the offending startup files are isolated or startup file conflicts are ruled out.
Conflict Catcher 3 (CC3) adds three new features to slash this potentially arduous "restart and check" chore. The Intuition feature allows you to tell CC3 what you suspect is causing the problem and have it tested first. Should your intuition fail, CC3 can then begin a general test by targeting the most recently added startup files (which CC3 automatically tracks). For users with critical time constraints, these two enhancements can be priceless. CC3 has also gained the ability to scan startup files for damaged resources, and the capability to save an in-progress conflict testing session is a welcome option. Conflict detection is almost always a time-intensive process; this feature improves the possibility of detecting the source of intermittent startup conflicts.
Sometimes a crash occurs because several startup files require loading in a specific order relative to each other. This version of Conflict Catcher improves its ability to explore and exploit the reordering effect by automatically creating a link between two picky startup files to guarantee the desired loading sequence.
Past versions of Conflict Catcher relied exclusively on its ability to discover conflicts through the process of partial-set testing. Though that capability is still present, CC3 now ships with four pre-defined sets describing known incompatibilities. Files listed in these Incompatible Linked sets are not allowed to load in tandem. The sets describe competing Apple Menu and font utilities, as well as mutually-redundant screensavers and sound utilities. For example, the standard installation of CC3 disabled several components of the Now Utilities 5.0 suite on a Mac running System 7.5.1 because they duplicated user interface features (such as an hierarchical Apple Menu). Like all Linked Sets, these factory presets can be altered by the user (do so at your own risk – better to work on a copy). Other factory preset Linked Groups automatically manage Grouped sets (which can be either all on or all off, such as the GX suite) and Forced Order (e.g. RAM Doubler and its debugger-level patch).
In Your Face — In the past, extension managers were added to the system and forgotten until their ability to control sets was needed. Conflict Catcher 3 boldly (and optionally) tucks a new icon for itself on the menubar to the left of the Help menu. From this drop-down menu you can open an About box, the Conflict Catcher 3 Control Panel, or directly select a startup file set to be used when you next restart. Such convenient access makes for increased and consistent use of Conflict Catcher. As in previous versions, a hot key can be assigned to any set so that holding it during startup loads that set: multiple users of the same machine can easily start up with the "personality" of their choosing. Finally, CC3 now displays the name of the active set in a small tag at the top of the Mac’s startup screen.
Preferences — The preferences interface has undergone a major overhaul in an attempt to accommodate a sea of choices and new features in a clean and logical manner.
General Preferences controls CC3’s own System patching, Startup Disk volume selection, system heap protection, crash response, and level of detail in system resource reports. Power Macintosh users will find the report option useful for identifying system resources using non-native code. (Non-native system extensions can drastically slow down aspects of a Power Macintosh’s performance.)
File Preferences permits control of other types of system extensions such as Chooser devices, dynamically loaded library files, and components. Network managers and RAM disk users will benefit from CC3’s ability to load extensions via aliases to the actual startup files. This permits the distribution of small collections of aliases to networked users which point to a server-based set of extensions; it also reduces the portion of the RAM Disk allocated to system enhancements.
Folders Preferences lets Conflict Catcher examine the contents of various folders within the System Folder for startup files. These can include the Fonts, Startup Items, Shutdown Items, Apple Menu Items, and Control Strip Modules folders.
Several Preference panels deal with cosmetic features. Users can now assign colors to the various flavors of startup files in a manner similar to the System 7 Labels feature. Startup icon control offers some innovative and useful possibilities, including displaying the names of startup files as they load and using small icons.
Finally, a Security Panel permits password protection of any of the Preference settings, a potential boon to network or lab administrators.
Portable Smarts — Previously Conflict Catcher offered PowerBook users the advantage of loading system extensions into RAM Disk from an alias. This limits the frequency of hard disk spin-ups when running on battery. CC3 improves upon this feature by automatically sensing four PowerBook conditions (battery powered, AC powered, docked, not docked) and loading user-specified custom sets accordingly. For Duo users, CC3 can distinguish between different docks and respond with a set tailored for that configuration.
The Proof’s in the Pudding — After living with Conflict Catcher 3 for a month of daily, intensive Mac use, no adverse consequences have emerged. With the noted exception of the Now Utilities suite, startup sets carried over from a previous version of Conflict Catcher perfectly. Adapting to CC3’s disabling of those Now Utilities 5.0 modules was easy with System 7.5.1, and (for those with a taste for reckless reinstallation) re-installing the disenfranchised Now Utilities components produced no reproducible problems.
The presence of the Conflict Catcher menu feels like a real advantage. The ease with which sets can be toggled makes transitions between working sets a fearless effort. The net effect is the feeling of having more Mac with less hassle.
The User’s Manual has evolved to an attractive, ring-bound, 138-page document full of screenshots and practical suggestions. The manual includes a candid overview of non-startup file software problems which Conflict Catcher does not handle, including problems involving virtual memory, 32-bit addressing, and the Modern Memory Manager. There is also a reference section dealing with corrupted application preferences, replacing the System and Finder, virus myths, and basic hardware problems. Online help is available via Balloon Help for every component of the interface, although no Apple Guide is included.
A time-limited, fully-functional demo version is available on most commercial online services and from:
Special Offer — Conflict Catcher has earned a place as part of special offer from Apple. Users purchasing the floppy version of System 7.5 between 01-May-95 and 31-Jul-95 will receive a coupon redeemable for either a watch or Conflict Catcher 3. Given that System 7.5 now includes a menubar clock, in my opinion CC3 is a far more useful choice.
Conflict Catcher 3 requires System 7.0 or later on a Mac Plus or greater and is System 7.5 savvy. Conflict Catcher 3 has a suggested retail price of U.S. $99.95, and site licenses are available. Conflict Catcher II will continue to be sold for the benefit of users of System 6.0.5 or later.
Casady & Greene — 800/359-4920 — 408/484-9228
408/484-9218 (fax) — <[email protected]>