Action Utilities

Mac veterans who remember Now Software’s Now Utilities are likely to have bittersweet recollections of this set of system enhancements. Early adopters may retain fond memories of Super Boomerang – the tool that let you easily navigate through volumes and folders from within the Open and Save dialogue boxes – and Now Menus, a control panel that extended these navigation powers to the desktop. Alas, these same users were surely disenchanted when elements of Now Utilities ceased to function with newer versions of the Mac OS – or became so unstable that they were more hindrance than help. Thankfully, Power On Software resurrected and enhanced the best parts of Now Utilities; made them compatible with the latest Mac OS updates; and released, in single form, Action Files, Action Menus, and Action WYSIWYG. Now Power On has bundled these three utilities with Action GoMac – a utility that places a Windows-like Start menu and Task Bar on your Mac’s desktop – slapped a £62 price tag on the suite, and dubbed it Action Utilities. Considering its reasonable price, and the fact that at least three of the utilities are extremely useful, it’s a compelling product. The initial release of Action Utilities isn’t quite an integrated whole – there’s no single installer, serial number, or manual. You must install each utility separately, enter a discrete serial number for each one, and sift through four separate manuals. Power On said it will resolve these issues in an update that should be available by the time you read this. Fortunately, the utilities aren’t as dissociated once they’re installed on your hard drive. You can control the settings for each utility from a single control panel. To modify a utility’s settings, simply click on its icon, and then click on one of the settings tabs. When we last reviewed Action Files, we mentioned that it added new functionality to the File menu’s Open and Save As commands. It added hierarchical menus that listed favourite and recently accessed files and folders. It also made the Open-&-Save dialogue boxes resizable, and within those same dialogue boxes it added a Find command and provided Finder-like functions. For example, Action Files lets you create folders and aliases, rename and duplicate files, and view files by name, date, size, and type. Power On has introduced a few changes since then. The utility now supports Apple’s Navigation Services – the new Open and Save dialogue boxes introduced with Mac OS 8.5. Regrettably, the design of these new dialogue boxes is at odds with Action Files – if you invoke the Find command in a new Open or Save dialogue box, Sherlock appears rather than Action Files’ own Find dialogue box – and the Open or Save dialogue box closes. Despite this annoyance, we’re relieved that Power On made Action Files compatible with Navigation Services, and we believe Apple should fold Action Files’ features into the next Mac OS. More good stuff Action GoMac 2.0.3 is almost unchanged from the version we reviewed last year. This utility mimics and improves on Windows’ Start-menu, Task Bar, and Clock Tray features. It gives you quick access to recently accessed items, currently running programs, and your favourite applications. A powerful substitute for Apple’s Launcher and Application menu, Action GoMac is well worth having. Action Menus is the third useful component of Action Utilities. It lets you create custom menus for quick access to recently used applications, files, and folders, currently running applications, and local and networked volumes. Granted, Action GoMac makes some of this functionality redundant. But, Action Menus offers some other goodies. You can add items to the Apple menu by dragging them from the desktop, or an open window, into the Apple menu. And, you can easily assign custom key commands in applications – assign -T to the Empty Trash/Wastebasket command in the Finder, for example – by selecting a command with the mouse and pressing the desired key combination. Note, however, that the assignable Function Key option within Mac OS 9’s Keyboard control panel takes precedence over Action Menus’ key commands. Action WYSIWYG replaces the font menu within each application with its own font menu. While viewing font names in multiple columns, in their true typefaces, and in family groups may be a godsend to graphic designers and desktop-publishers , users without a wealth of fonts may find Action WYSIWYG less useful than the suite’s other three utilities. Although we like being able to view fonts in different colours and sizes, Action WYSIWYG is more of a bonus than a necessity.

OUR VERDICT

or those who mourned the passing of Now Utilities, we’re pleased to announce that an enhanced, stable, and affordable version of these venerable tools is now available in a single package. If you missed Now Utilities and wondered what all the fuss was about, perhaps it’s time to leap into Action.

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