Classic Computer Magazine Archive COMPUTE! ISSUE 125 / JANUARY 1991 / PAGE A26

Download. (Amiga Resource) (evaluation)
by Sheldon Leemon

When it comes to making everyday computer operations a little faster and a little easier, almost everybody has an opinion on how it should be done. That's one reason so much shareware programming effort is expended on certain categories of utilities. A good example is the category I like to refer to as mouse thingies. These catchall programs usually incorporate a mouse accelerator, a clock, a screen blanker, and about a dozen other mouse- and window-manipulation tools. While programs like DMouse and Qmouse have their supporters, my personal favorite is Mach III, which you'll find in the Download drawer of this month's Amiga Resource Disk. Mach III combines loads of useful functions into a single program. Best of all, it lets you tailor these functions to suit your exact needs.

Mach III disproves the adage that you can't teach an old mouse new tricks. Its first lesson is mouse-pointer acceleration. Acceleration is better than just making the pointer faster, because when you increase the distance the mouse pointer travels for each inch you roll the mouse, you lose accuracy. An accelerator makes the mouse move faster the farther you roll it, so that it zips along if you move from one side of the screen to the other, but it travels at the normal speed if you just move it a little bit. Mach III's accelerator gives you the choice of multiple rates and threshold settings.

The program provides plenty of other mouse-related features, too. The mouse-to-menu feature automatically moves the mouse pointer to the top of the screen when you press the right mouse button. Mach III also lets you use the mouse to depth-arrange windows and screen. If you hold down the left button and click the right button over the topmost window, it will move to the back of the stack. If you triple-click on a window in the back, it will move to the front. If you perform these tricks outside of a window, the whole screen moves to the front or back. Mach III lets you activate a window just by moving the mouse pointer over it( a feature known as SunMouse, because it imitates the way mice behave on Sun workstations). Finally, Mach III turns off the mouse pointer when you start typing (so that it doesn't cover up your text) or after a period of inactivity. (Note that when it blanks the pointer, it shuts off all other sprites, too.) The program also lets you dim or black out the whole screen after a period of inactivity. All of these features may be disabled or adjusted.

Mach III's clock has everything but the kitchen sink. It can display the time and date, the time and amount of free memory, time only, or memory only. When time is money (like when you're using an online service that charges by the minute), it can display the accumulated charges in dollars and cents, instead of in minutes. The clock display changes color to warn you if free memory falls below a certain level. The clock also has an alarm that can play a sampled sound file. You can easily set the position of the clock display, and you can also specify whether you want the clock to always pop in front of any window or even to the topmost screen.

As if all that weren't enough, Mach III has outstanding macro capabilities as well. Macros are recorded keyboard and mouse events that you can play back by pressing a hot-key combination. A simple example of a keyboard macro would be assigning the string "diskcopy df0: to df1:" to the F1 function key. Mach III doesn't restrict you to replacing the function keys with strings of alphabetic keystrokes, however. You can use any exotic hot-key combination you can think of (such as Alt-Shift-Q), and macros can include commands as well as keystrokes. You can also turn any of Mach III's functions on or off by using macros. You can even execute a program from a macro (train your Amiga to run DeluxePaint, for example, whenever you press the Alt-P combination).

A macro can call another macro or itself. Creating a macro is a snap. You can either enter the text and escape commands manually with the SetMachIII configuration program, or you can have SetMachIII record your keystrokes and mouse movements as you go.

Mach III's macros have some unique features. For example, the program allows you to link a set of configuration options to a particular window. That means you can have one set of macro keys in effect for your shell window, and automatically switch to another set of keys (or no macros at all) when you activate a program window. There's also an auto-execution feature that allows you to automatically execute a particular macro when you start the Mach III program, at a certain time of day, or even every few minutes. Finally, Mach III has an ARexx port that allows you to execute a Mach III macro under the control of another program.

Although Mach III started out as a mouse accelerator, it has branched out to give excellent control over the entire stream of input events (mouse movement, button clicks, and keystrokes). While Workbench 2.0 makes a start at providing these kinds of facilities with its mouse acceleration, window click-to-font options, and Commodities Exchange (which provides screen blanking, window sizing with hot keys, and keyboard macros), it still can't match Mach III's wide range of custom settings and versatile programmability.