My favorite Utilities and techniques or
(How I Use My System).
Many of you have inquired about how I use my system, so I thought I'd outline a little bit of how I have my system set-up and what third party utilities I use on a regular basis. I have only listed ones that I feel increase my productivity, there are many others that do cool things but these are the ones I use every time I turn on my system.
When it comes to adding utilities to my system I am somewhat of a purist. I think part of it comes from so many years of RAM being so expensive and from the need to get work done instead of dealing with extension conflicts. Below I mention a few utilities and a few organization methods that might be of help to you. What I am sharing are the basics, there are other things I use off and on but these are the things I wouldn't want to live without and feel like I'm missing something when they aren't around.
Drop Me? One useful thing that I have been doing for just the past six months or so is creating a folder on my desktop that I set to 'by Small Icon' under the View menu and place it on the bottom of my screen to the left of the trash with aliases of anything which I require easy drag and drop access. When you drag a file onto an application, that application tries to open the file regardless of what the file was created with. So for example when I take a snapshot of my screen (command-shift-3) so I can show you what I'm writing about, if I double clicked that file it would open in SimpleText, but I can drag it onto an alias of Photoshop and the file opens in Photoshop.
The key drag and drop utilities are DropStuff and Stuffit Expander from Aladdin System's which will compress, encode and decompress almost anything you can find on the net. And of course ShrinkWrap. (Check out last weeks tip if you want to know about it.) I fill up the rest of the space with my most frequently used applications and utilities, kind of like a mini Apple Menu.
What about utilities? There are a few utilities that I use that have become as much a part of my Mac experience as those things that come straight from Apple. These a few different types but all of them share the fact that they boost my productivity and don't waste lots of memory.
The FREE ones... (well, free or shareware)
The first is my all time favorite utility Click, There It Is!" by Richard C. Cardona Utilities Group which is available from. What this little wonder does in only 8.5k is similar to a feature in Now Utilities which lets you click on visible folders when you are in a save, or open dialog and it will take you there. Have you ever been in the situation where you have just found a folder in the Finder but then need to save a file to it from an application? With CTII you can just click and you are there. I have run this extension on everything from a Classic to a 8500 and never had a bit of trouble, try it out!
This next utility is one that I have only recently found and fell in love with right away. PowerPeek is available through MacUser and has the sole purpose of keeping an eye out for whether the software you are running is Power Mac native or not. If that last sentence doesn't make sense to you then this is not the utility for you. (I'll have to cover that in a future tip) If it does, PowerPeek will display a little "light" in the upper left hand corner of your screen that will be green if your Power Mac is running native and red if it is emulating a 68k machine. Green is good! PowerPeek also keeps track of what you run and can give you a report as to what might be slowing down your machine. This is more for the power users and only for Power Mac users, but is certainly worth checking out.
This is Secret Finder Features. It doesn't actually do anything except give you access to some features that are already built into the Apple system software if you are using 7.5.3 or later. It uses no memory to run. what it gives you is key commands for commonly used functions. Control-dragging will make an alias of the original. Command-Delete puts the selected item in the trash. Command-R will reveal the original item from an alias (just like the find original button when you get info on an alias.) Supposedly the only reason for Apple not enabling these features is that they haven't had time to test them. The only problem I've found is in trying to use Command-Delete in Users and Groups, my Mac wasn't happy.
This one is mostly useless but I've found it to be handy and it only takes 1k of memory when loaded. What it does is makes your lights on your keyboard flash back and forth. I've found that this can at times be the only indication that my computer isn't frozen and that it is just taking it's time to complete whatever I asked it to do. Try it for what it's worth. Wacky Lights is made by Ambrosia Software but I couldn't find a direct link.
These video drivers are for users of first generation PCI Macs, 7200s, 7500s and 8500s. It also works on other PCI Macs but check out the page to see which ones. What this does is accelerates the video on these machines. I have noticed some difference on my 7200. These are supposedly like the drivers that will come with System 7.6. If you try them let me know what you think! (Note: The link to these died, If you have the current one please let me know!)
I use FreePPP 2.5v2 to connect to my internet service provider. I still think it is the best available.
Gotta shell out some CASH for these...
Conflict Catcher 3 has a few features that I really like. I'm afraid that none of them are the conflict catching part though. Of course Conflict catcher allows you to enable and disable control panels, extensions, fonts, and basically anything in the system folder. You can save sets of all those and boot with different sets easily. Of the four features of Conflict Catcher I like the most, three of them have to do with the information it provides and the fourth is a little menu item.
The information that Conflict Catcher provides that I appreciate are date installed, memory use, and the name of each extension as they load. After I install a new piece of software I always want to know what was installed. With Conflict Catcher you can sort you system items by date installed so the things on the top of the list are the ones you just installed. You can also sort by memory use. This can help you to know what items you can disable that will free up the most memory. The other informational feature is that as your extensions load across the bottom of your screen when you startup, Conflict Catcher will not only show you all the ones that load, it will give you the name of each one.
The menu item I appreciate most is one titled "Close and Restart". Enabling and disabling system items almost always is followed with a restart, how convenient that they gave us a one step way of doing so.
As far as finding conflicts between extensions? I generally prefer to turn them on and off by my self to try to find the offending one but there are certainly people who love Conflict Catcher's conflict finding features.
In tip #4 Virtual Memory and You, I shared some concerns with Ram Doubler from Connectix and utilities like it. Although I still feel that real RAM is always better than any sort of virtual memory including Ram Doubler. Ram continues to get cheaper, you can pick up 16 megs for well less than $100. Check out RamWatch for weekly prices or The Chip Merchant is usually competitive and publishes their prices on the web. The feature that Ram Doubler2 has that has convinced me to use it is the ability to only enable file mapping. (Check out Tip #4 Virtual Memory and You for an explanation of file mapping.) This allows me on my 32 meg 7200 to run PageMill, Photoshop, and Internet Explorer 3.0 (Sorry, I don' generally like running Microsoft products but Netscape 3.0 is just too big!) at the same time. I appreciate the fact that with Ram Doubler2 I can have some of the benefits of virtual memory but don't loose any performance or disk space.
Speed Access is a part of Speed Doubler from Connectix. Speed access is a smarter Disk Cache than Apple's but it still functions in the same way. In Tip#3, Your Disk Cache, I talk about what a disk cache is and how it works. Everything mentioned in that tip is all true still with Speed Doubler's Speed Access.
Speed Emulator is also a part of Speed Doubler from Connectix. Speed Emulator is a better and faster 68k emulator for Power Macs. If you run only Power Mac native applications Speed Emulator will only help you a little by speeding up some functions of the finder but with older, non-native applications you may notice significant speed improvements with it.
You may have noticed that I have not included Speed Copy with Speed Access and Speed Emulator. At this point the ability to copy faster, and to copy multiple items at once while still having access to the Finder is not worth the risk of using Speed Copy to move my data. Connectix is one of the best companies for getting updates to its customers. I bet they have sent out more free disks than most software companies (excluding AOL of course). However there is always a problem that those updates fix. For instance one of my clients was having problems with every time he copied some files they would get corrupted, he had an old version of Speed Copy that was the cause. Connectix was great about getting us the update and it was free but there was still the time of figuring out what the problem was. For me the possible problems out weigh the benefits.
If you try any of the techniques or utilities mentioned, if you have any thoughts about this weeks tip, or if there is a utility that you think I wouldn't be able to live without, I'd love to hear about it. Send a message to let me know.