Third Dimension. (file management software for Microsoft Windows) (Software Review) (Evaluation)
by Scott May
Properly equipped and finely tuned, Windows has the power and grace of a Ferrari. Too bad Microsoft chose to give it an Edsel front end: Program Manager. Clunky and awkward, Program Manager is so widely disliked that it's spawned a virtual cottage industry for replacement shells. One such product is Lucid's Third Dimension, boasting "the power of Windows" but "as easy as a Mac" to use.
Interestingly, the program beats Microsoft to the punch with many of the new features implemented in Windows 4.0. Gone are Program Manager's rigidly structured program groupings, replaced with more flexible desktop organizers. Fashioned much like the Mac's front-end system, these organizers are like customized filing cabinets, each able to hold multiple sets of drawers, folders, and data files. Such nested windows are a great boon to both productivity and desktop organization.
Third Dimension's object-oriented approach also replaces another source of Windows frustration: File Manager. Instead of navigating convoluted directory trees and dealing with cryptic DOS commands, most mundane disk activity--moving, copying, deleting, and even printing--can be handled with the simple drag and drop of desktop icons. These and other DOS functions can also be performed in the more traditional File and Folder Manager. This feture is limited, however, lacking such standard conventions as dual directory windows--source and destination--or interactive dialogue boxes. On the bright side, the program breaks the eight-character filename barrier, allowing descriptive labels of up to 127 characters.
The product contains a host of integrated tools and accessories, including a utility that backs up, restores, and compresses data for selected files or entire drives. A task scheduler lets you run programs automatically at startup or at present intervals. Other standard features include a disk manager (which formats, copies, and labels), a memory and system resource monitor, password protection, a Macstyle garbage manager (deferred deletion), and extensive online help. Unique tools include a rudimentary icon animator and multiple desktop switcher. The program allows substantial user modifications of pull-down menus, pop-up dialogue boxes, display fonts, desktop colors, and file associations.
Remarkably, the product makes almost no attempt to improve the aesthetics of Program Manager. In this regard, Lucid's efforts lack the visual innovation of such replacement shells as Hewlett-Packard's Dashboard.
Although not a radical departure from the status quo, Third Dimension is ideal for anyone making the jump from Mac to Windows. Experienced users, frustrated by Program Manager but not particularly concerned with a flashy front end, should also give it a close look.