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ATPM 2.11
November 1996






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Review: PowerMenu

by Michael Tsai,


Requirements: System 7.5.x or System 7.1.x with the Scriptable Finder installed
Author: Mark Aiken
Shareware Fee:$10

It's been a while since I've seen a new productivity enhancing utility, and PowerMenu is one of the best ever. It was inspired by the contextual menus that Mac OS 8 will have. With PowerMenu installed, you can select on an icon in the Finder, and then click the mouse while holding down a combination of modifier keys to bring up PowerMenu's pop-up menu. It is not contextual, but it offers many useful commands. You can open, print, and delete the selected items, and using PowerMenu to do this is often faster than going up to the file menu, or dragging the icons across the screen to the trash can. You an also instantly add the select items to the Apple Menu without having to go into the System Folder.

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However, what really make PowerMenu useful are the three submenus at the bottom of its pop-up menu . The first two items let you control which application to open the selected documents in. Suppose for instance that you select a text document. There are probably a handful of programs on your Mac which can read or import the text, and you might prefer different programs for different kinds of text files. ReadMe files that come with software will open with SimpleText if you double-click them, but many people prefer to view them with the shareware TextEdit Plus. Other text files, for instance from the internet, will open with SimpleText by default, but may be too large to be viewed with it. You might want to view these types of files with an industrial strength text editor such as BBEdit, or a word processor such as WordPerfect.

I used to have a collection of icons on my desktop so that I could drag and drop documents onto the program I wanted to open them with. Now, I use PowerMenu's "Open with" command, which offers the same functionality as drag and drop, without the desktop clutter. Using PowerMenu, you can add applications to the "Application list." These applications will now automatically appear in the "Open with" submenu. Applications that are currently running appear in the "Open with running app" submenu. Using these two menus, you can have full control over what applications open your documents.

The Quick Access list is available in any application when you click the mouse with the appropriate modifier keys. It allows you to quickly launch applications and to switch between them. The contents of the Applications list and Quick Access list are controlled by folders that PowerMenu creates in your preferences folder, and behave much the way the Apple Menu Items folder does. For instance, you can add folders inside these folders to group the Applications list and Quick Access list into submenus.

PowerMenu is one of the most useful utilities I have used, but there are two things I don't like about it. These are most likely a result of the control panel relying on the Scriptable Finder, rather than the author's programming, but they are annoying nonetheless. First, it takes two clicks on an icon to open the PowerMenu for it. The first click selects it, and the second click (with modifier keys held down) activates the menu. This feels somewhat unintuitive, especially compared to Windows and OS/2 in which you can right-click to select an icon and bring up its contextual menu at the same time. The second problem is that there is a slight but noticeable delay between when you click to summon the PowerMenu and when it actually appears. However, even with these two slowdowns, PowerMenu is a very useful utility that speeds up common tasks without overwhelming the user with complexity or taking up screen space. I highly recommend that you try it.

This review is © 1996 Michael Tsai,
If you are interested in writing a review for ATPM, e-mail
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