Review: iControl 1.0.1
Company: The Iconfactory
Requirements: Power Macintosh with OS 8.5 or greater
In my mind, one of the coolest things about the Mac OS is the ability to simply customize your icons. After finding the perfect icon, a few clicks would have it pasted on to a folder. Of course, you would eventually want all of your folders to look this nice. But even if you changed every folder on your hard drive, any new one you created would have the default folder icon. If you really wanted to, you could play around with the System File in ResEdit, but that’s not really for the faint of heart. Furthermore, with the advent of 32-bit icons, you’d also need to edit the System Resources File to change the default 32-bit icons. Throw in the fact that this is the only way to change certain icons, like the Trash, and you can see how things might get a bit messy.
In an effort to avoid the mess, The Iconfactory created iControl, which makes changing almost every icon in your system as simple as a few clicks. When you launch the application, you’re presented with a window that contains three buttons and a list of 74 icons showing the original system icon and the current icon. The three buttons are: Restore Icon, which resets the selected icon to its default; Open Pack, which launches IconDragger (more on that later); and a button that links you to The Iconfactory’s homepage. Normally, I’m not a huge fan of an application having a link to its homepage in the main portion of the interface, but in iControl’s case it makes sense, because it gives you direct access to new iPacks that are available.
There are five ways to change icons using iControl. At first glance, it may seem like this could get confusing for novice users, but it actually makes sense. The first way is to double click on an iPack. This will open iControl and change the system icons to the contents of that iPack. To get you started, iControl includes 14 iPacks—Photonica by Dave Brasgalla, Yosemite (in four colors) by Talos Tsui, ExtraVirgin by Albie Wong, and Perfect Yosemite (in eight colors) by John Marstall.
The second method is to select Open iPack... from the File menu. It’s very similar to the double-click method, but it has a minor advantage—unlike all the other “total conversion” techniques, this doesn’t give you a modalless dialog box asking if you’re sure you want to change all the icons in the system. Yes, it’s a minor thing, but I’d love a preference to turn the warning off.
The third method gives control over each individual icon. Just drag any icon from the Finder onto any icon in the iControl window to change the setting. Then after you customize to your heart’s content, choose Save iPack... from the File menu to preserve your creation and pass it along to others. One nice touch—when you go to save your iPack, iControl always brings up a Save dialog box asking for a file name. This way, if you start by modifying an existing set (for personal use only), you won’t accidentally overwrite the original file when you go to save.
The last two methods involve both iControl and IconDragger (another product from The Iconfactory). Personally, I think the integration of the two products is both iControl’s greatest feature and its biggest weakness. IconDragger provides the one thing iControl lacks—a viewer to see what different sets of icons contain. In iControl, you can only see a single iPack at a time, and that’s only after you’ve applied it to your system. Using IconDragger, you can quickly flip between iPacks before choosing the one you want. This definitely beats applying an iPack, then applying another, and another...well, you get the point.
Okay, so I basically described the fourth way to pick an iPack—click the Open Packs button and choose your desired iPack from the Icon Dragger application. Similarly, the fifth way is to change individual icons. Just drag an icon from IconDragger to an icon in the iControl window and the change is made. The icon dragged from IconDragger can come from either an iPack or an IconDropper Pack.
I said that IconDropper integration was also iControl’s greatest weakness. IconDragger is available for $20 as part of the IconDropper package. Granted, the registration fee gets you five programs (IconDropper, IconDragger, IconLocker, Icon Expander, and IconPacker), but if all you’re interested in is a way to look through iPacks before applying them, then $20 seems a bit steep. Personally, I’d love to see an iPack preview option that showed a few icons, such as a blank folder, a hard drive icon, or an Apple menu icon, just to get a feel for what the icons look like before applying them to my system.
If you like to customize the look of your computer, iControl would make a great addition to your collection. If time is money, the $19 registration fee is well worth the time you’ll save not hacking away with ResEdit (and that’s assuming you don’t edit the wrong resource). The lack of any type of preview option is a negative, but it shouldn’t be enough to keep you away from this wonderful program. Moreover, if you already own the IconDropper package, iControl is the next natural addition to your collection.