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ATPM 3.08
August 1997



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Review: System Sculptor 2.0.1

by Michael Tsai,


Product Information
Published by: ColourFull Creations
5398 Americana
Casco, MI 48064
Phone: (810) 749-3013
Fax: (810) 749-3475
List Price: $29.95

System Sculptor is an application from ColourFull Creations for managing startup items. This market is already dominated by Casady & Greene’s excellent Conflict Catcher and Apple’s Extensions Manager, which comes as a standard part of the Mac OS. The latest versions of these two products feel unnecessarily slow, and I think there’s room in the market for a low-end, minimalist startup-file-management program that’s lightning fast and simple to use. Unfortunately, System Sculptor is not this product, and frankly doesn’t stand up very well to Apple’s basic, but free solution or C&G’s more powerful and expensive one.

[block graphic]

All of System Sculptor’s commands are available only from its main window. There are no menu commands, except “Quit” and “About.” System Sculptor can manage the Apple Menu Items, Control Panels, Extensions, Fonts, and System folders. The row of buttons at the top left allows you to change which folder’s contents are displayed in the two columns below. Active components appear on the left, inactive ones on the right. The two arrow buttons allow you to move files from one list to the other. The red and blue disk buttons let you save lists of active and inactive components and switch between sets of installed software. The trash can button lets you delete unwanted files in any of the folders System Sculptor manages.

[info graphic]

The magnifying glass button shows information about the selected startup file. Unlike Conflict Catcher, System Sculptor does not tell you the file's installation date, memory usage, package information, or manufacturer and gives little more information than the Finder's Get Info window. Unfortunately, this is a telling example of how a competent product such as System Sculptor fails to offer a compelling reason for its use.

Most lacking in System Sculptor is some means of conflict testing. In fact, the active and inactive lists are not significant improvements over moving files between active and disabled folders manually with the Finder.

System Sculptor requires that it be installed in the Apple Menu Items folder. It is an application, not an extension or control panel, meaning that it doesn't cause extension conflicts. But this also means that it is unavailable during the startup process; it's only useful once your Mac has started up.

System Sculptor does not permit saving of entire sets of startup files. Apple Menu Items, Control Panels, Extensions, Fonts, and System folder settings must be saved individually. This limitation requires you to save five separate files for each complete System "Sculpture." Managing and remembering which file goes with which folder is not something I should have to spend time doing.

[help graphic]

The help file suggests that this feature saves disk space—a ludicrous assertion. The System Sculptor application takes upwards of 800k on disk and 2000k of RAM. The latest release of Conflict Catcher takes only slightly more disk space than System Scultpro, mainly because it stores lots extension information in a database. Conflict Catcher uses less than 1MB of RAM. Apple's Extensions Manager uses even less hard drive space and RAM.

You can't create links between files, so managing groups of related or incompatible extensions is tedious and error-prone. System Sculptor does allow you to manage more files than either Conflict Catcher or Extensions Manager, including ones that do not contain startup code. However, it also allows you to disable or delete files that shouldn't be touched, such as the Clipboard, System, and Finder.

Despite the company's ColourFull name, System Sculptor's interface is black and gray, ugly, and un-Mac-like. While the program didn't crash or otherwise harm my Mac, it wasn't beneficial, either. At $29.95, the quirky System Sculptor offers many fewer features and far less polish than Apple's free Extensions Manager and Casady & Greene's $99 Conflict Catcher.

[apple graphic] Copyright © 1997 Michael Tsai,

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