Classic Computer Magazine Archive COMPUTE! ISSUE 126 / FEBRUARY 1991 / PAGE M3

The Mac mechanic. (Apple Macintosh computers) (evaluation)
by Gregg Keizer

I'm afraid of power tools. I'm afraid that one day they'll turn on me, probably because they resent my neglect, and chew off a body part I'd rather keep. I trust my hand saw completely, but I won't turn my back on my chain saw. My electric screwdriver? It's tried to pin my wrist to wood more than once.

The only power tools I can abide are the ones I pull from my Mac Mechanic's toolbox. These utilities are safe - they're not likely to gnaw at my limbs - and they make my life easier and simpler. Without them , I'd be fumbling for files, glutted with desk accessories, held up in the Finder, and crowded out of my hard disk.

Assembling the perfect utility tool set is easy. Keeping costs in line isn't. You've already spend thousands on your Macintosh and hundreds more on your workaday applications, so you don't need another big software bill. For about $450, less than the cost of PageMaker, you can have the COMPUTE Mac Mechanic tool set, guaranteed to make your computer work harder and smarter.

Forget the Finder

Eliminating the middleman is a good idea in business and an even better idea when you're using your Macintosh. The Mac's middleman is the Finder. You start your day digging through its folders for an application or document to launch. Later you spend too much time getting back to it for simple file chores. Two utilities trim back Finder time or cure you of your finder dependency altogether. It's a tossup which works best for you; you won't need both, but the one you choose is your first Mac Mechanic tool.

File Director. Combine Fifth Generation's PowerStation with Disk-Tools, and you get a nifty package called File Director. PowerStation is still the best Finder replacement around. This INIT puts up to 27 buttons on each of 16 control screens. You slap an application's name on a button and list documents under it. Even better, you can dedicate a button to a single document or several documents you often use at the same time. Click on a button, and the program or document opens. You can put your desk accessories on buttons, too (no more scrolling down those long DA lists).

An enhanced version of the veteran DiskTools completes the package. DiskTools crams the Finder's file-maintenance tools into a desk accessory. You can copy, rename, move, and delete files and folders; search the disk for a file using any of several criteria, including the date it was modified or the application that created it; and even get the traditional file information - all without leaving an application.

Disk Top. The alterntive to File Director is DiskTop, an all-DA Finder replacement and program launcher. DiskTop handles the traditional Finder functions just as ably as DiskTools but with a faster file finder. A plus for network users is the program's Get Privileges access; you can get the privileges on AppleShare servers without retreating to the Finder.

But it's DiskTop's DTLaunch that really makes the difference. DTLaunch lists applications for launching in a hierarchical menu - to launch documents directly, though, you've got to go to another screen. PowerStation handles documents launching better, but DiskTop's big advantage is that it's a single DA rather than a combo like File Director.

DiskTop also includes GOfer, a superb text finder. Can't remember where you stuck the memo about your raise, but you know it's on your hard disk somewhere? Just type in the word raise, and watch GOfers find all the files that include that word. GOfer even shows you a bit of test around each find to help you locate exactly the right file.

See Anything

You've got a file, but you don't have the application that created it. Maybe a co-worker created a snappy proposal, and you took it home to read on your househol Mac. Not until then did you realize the proposal was created with PageMaker, a program you don't have.

CanOpener. The best of the bunch is CanOpener, an eye-popping utility that comes in either desk accessory or application form. CanOpener opens almost any document, even when you're missing the application that created it. Firts, a text search gets you to the rigth file fast. From there, it's a simple matter to open the document and take a peek. Once in CanOpener's display window, you can print, cut, or copy the text or graphic (CanOpener separates the text and graphic elements of a document). CanOpener can open and view graphics in TIFF, RIFF, MacDraw II, EPS, PICT, and PICT II formats and can even play sound files.

I tossed Springboard Publisher II in the trash, then asked CanOpener to show me the text from a Springboard newsletter. No problem.

Pack Your System

You're forever butting up against the limitations of your computer. You can only pack 15 desk accessories under the Apple menu, you can only install so many screen fonts before your System file grows to behemoth size, and you can only squeeze so much onto your hard disk drive. You need power tools to stretch the Macintosh's resources to the limit.

Suitcase II. A DA itself, Suitcase II circumvents the rule of 15 to place an unlimited number of desk accessories under the Apple menu. Suitcase II makes it seem as if desk accessories (and fonts, FKEYs, and beep sounds) are part of the System file, when actually they're still bound in their suitcase-icon files. Everything works just as if those DAs were in the System file - Suitcase II just grabs them for you from elsewhere on the disk. You can also create suitcase files of screen fonts, breathing some new life into your desktop publishing work. It's much easier to let Suitcase II manage multitudes of screen fonts and styles than to install them to your System file and watch it swell obscenely. A nice bonus is that Suitcase II displays fonts on the menu in their actual typefaces.

Stuffit Deluxe. Take a tour of your hard disk and you'll find dozen of applications and a lot of files you rarely use. Rather than move them to floppies, where they'd be hard to get, use Stuffit Deluxe to squeeze your applications and files up to 50 percent or more. Simply stash them away until they're needed; then you can expand them back to their natural size. Stuffit Deluxe doesn't decompress files on the fly (though another Aladdin utility called ShortCut can), but it's fast and foolproof. In fact, it's a good alternative to a hard disk backup program, especially when you put in the time to automate the archiving with the program's scripting language. Stuffit Deluxe also ofers file encryption to deter spying eyes and can decompress DOS files that are archived in ARC or ZIP format.

Save Yourself

The only thing between you and electronic disaster is luck. Sooner or later, your luck runs out - the power blinks, you trash a file without thinking, or your Macintosh catches a fatal viral infection. Keeping your computer and its precious data safe isn't easy. It's a good thing there are plenty of Mac Mechanic tools that can save you and your files.

Autosave II. This cdev does just what its name implies - it automatically saves files. You tell Autosave II the timed interval between saves, and it sends a Command-S, the save-file key combination used by almost every Macintosh program. If you're in the middle of something - updating the screen, for instance - Autosave II waits until the program has finished running before it saves your file. You can even tell Autosave which programs to include or exclude from its saving graces.

Think of Autosave II as data insurance. When the power goes out or a program crashes, the most you'll lose is a few minutes of work.

Complete Undelete. Raising data from the dead or, in the case of the Macintosh, files from the trash is possible with Complete Undelete, a dedicated cdev that undeletes deleted files. Complete Undelete keeps a running log of all the file you've trashed and lets you bring them back to life. It's not a miracle worker - if you deleted a file some time ago, its sectors may have already been overwritten, leaving the file full of holes or, worse, unreadable. Complete Undelete tries its best to bring back the file; you can also preview a damaged file on the screen to see if any further effort is justified.

Virex. Safe computing isn't easy with viruses slinking in the software shadows. Every time you put an unknown disk in your Mac's drive, you're taking a chance. Scores, nFLU, Mosaic, Peace, INIT29 - they're just some of the viruses your system can catch. Play it safe and install Virex, an INIT that both detects viruses and repairs the files they've infected.

Virex inspects every disk you insert in the drive and every file you open. If it finds something suspicious, you can try to repair the file later with Virex's Repair. The newest version can spot any of 16 viruses and Trojan Horses. As new viruses surface, Virex is updated (you can subscribe to a year-long update service for $75).

Mac Does It for You

Someday your Macintosh will do everything for you: brew coffee, fetch the paper, and call your boss with a believable excuse. Until then, though, you can make your Mac work harder with a macro program. Press a key to launch a macro, and a whole chain of keystrokes, mouse movements, and mouse clicks are played back. The Mac thinks you're doing it all, when it's really doing it itself.

Tempo II. Even though Apple's MacroMaker works, do yourself a big favor and add Tempo II to your Mac Mechanic toolbox. This INIT is the most powerful and flexible macro maker on the market. It lets you set up complicated command series, including macros that play other macros, and even lets you record and play back macros that span different applications. Best of all, you can insert time delays between macro steps. You could have your Mac wait until dark to download data from a telecommunications service, or it could compile and print reams of reports from your database while you're at lunch.

The Right Tool for the Right Job

Nothing makes work easier than having the right tools around. Ever tighten a screw with a butter knife?

The same is true for your Macintosh. A good word processor, a handful of games, a dynamite spreadsheet, a killer database, and HyperCard - they're just not enough to handle all the things you'll ask your Mac to do for you.

Some of the Mac Mechanic power tools merely save time; others save files. Some just save your peace of mind. But all are topnotch utilities that you'll need sooner or later.

The COMPUTE Mac Mechanic Power Tools

Autosave II Magic Software 2239 Franklin St. Bellevue, NE 68005 (800) 342-6243 (402) 291-0670 $49.95

CanOpener Abbott Systems 62 Mountain Rd. Pleasantville, NY 10570 (800) 552-9157 (914) 747-4171 $125.00

Complete Undelete Microcom P.O. Box 51489 Durham, NC 27717 (919) 490-1277 $79.95

DiskTop CE Software P.O Box 65580 West Des Moines, IA 50265 (800) 523-7638 (515) 224-1995 $99.95

File Director Fifth Generation Software 10049 N. Reiger Rd. Baton Rouge, LA 70809 (800) 873-4384 (504) 291-7221 $129.00

Stuffit Deluxe Aladdin Systems Deer Park Center Suites 23A-171 Aptos, CA 95003 (408) 685-9175 $99.95

Suitcase II Fifth Generation Software 10049 N. Reiger Rd. Baton Rouge, LA 70809 (800) 873-4384 (504) 291-7221 $79.00

Tempo II Affinity Microsystems 1050 Walnut St. Suite 425 Boulder, CO 80302 (800) 367-6771 (303) 442-4840 $149.95

Virex Microcom P.O. Box 51489 Durham, NC 27717 (919) 490-1277 $99.95