Review: Extension Overload 4.5.1
Written by: Teng Chou Ming
Requirements: 68020 or higher, 2 MB of free RAM, System 7 or higher
Price: $20.00 shareware fee
The Mac OS is a very user-friendly operating system, but there is one place that is not friendly at all: the Extensions folder. Last time I checked, mine was filled with 189 items with names ranging from a clear “Control Strip Extension” to the dubious “pfpick” or the empowering “XTND Power Enabler.” Most beginners and even many “experts” have no clue what those files are and whether they are really needed. Usually, it’s a good idea to remove unneeded extensions from your system, as they can cause crashes or simply waste system resources. But which ones are unneeded? Will removing this extension cause your computer to stop working? Naively, you might be tempted to use the “Get Info” command. Try it on “XTND Power Enabler” and you will be enlightened that it is a “library” and © by Apple Computer. It will even tell you that it is part of the “Mac On RISC Beta SDK.” Wow.
Enter Extension Overload. It is basically a database of information about extensions and control panels with some organizing tools and various other information. Looking up our “XTND Power Enabler” there will tell us that it is:
“Part of the XTND file translation system used by ClarisWorks, MacWrite, FileMaker Pro, and some other applications.” While that might not answer all your questions, it at least takes you a step closer to knowing what you are dealing with. Extensions and control panels from System 7, 7.5, 7.6, Mac OS 8, 8.1, 8.5, 8.6, as well as iMacs and G3s are covered—a total of over 2000 such files from Apple and other companies.
In addition to providing this precious information, Extension Overload acts as an extension manager, allowing you to enable or disable extensions and control panels. Or you can search EO’s database for files by either name or description. It also enables you to save reports on the status of your extensions and control panels. Two reports are available. The “user report” creates an excellent and detailed HTML summary of the extensions and control panels in your system. The “feedback report” allows you to collect information about items not in EO’s database and e-mail that text file to EO’s creators so they can add those items in future versions.
The program is very well organized. The Tidbits menu contains some interesting tidbits for curious users, such as explanations of what an extension or a shared library is, descriptions of system errors, Easter eggs, and various other tips.
The Extension Overload Web site (see above) provides a lot of the extension/control panel information in an online format. The Web site also offers additional information, such as “Ways To Make Your Mac Go Faster.”
Extension Overload includes a “Simple Internet Version Control” engine (SIVC) that will notify you of a new version and let you download it over the Internet at the touch of a button. The software is well written, easy to use, and comes with a comprehensive manual explaining all functions in detail. The extension/control panel manager is closely modeled after Apple’s Extensions Manager—with the addition of displaying more information. However, there are a few things it leaves to desire: it would be very nice if it were possible to make the window wider, not just taller. It does display most information at the current size, but it feels very cramped. The ability to save and recall multiple sets is an absolute necessity for future versions! The columns in the manager can be selected to change the ordering, but resizing would also be a nice touch here.
Extension Overload contains a wealth of useful information and deserves a place among the tools of every serious Mac user. What keeps me from giving it an excellent rating is the lack of sets in the manager and the fact that it often fails to include the very latest of extensions and several exotic but not uncommon ones. However, it will cover most of the extensions/control panels that a regular Mac user will encounter. It would be great if its database could be continually updated as new information is added, not just in discrete upgrade steps. Be sure to report the missing information, as it will benefit you and all others in the future!