Beyond the Blue Finder!
Author: Steve Bonaduce, M.U.D. slinger
Date: December, 1992
Keywords: HAND-Off II software utility program review
Text: Whenever I see new software demonstrated, I usually have one of two reactions -- either a kid-like, ''Gee-whiz-that's -way-cool-I-gotta-have-it!'' response, or a jaded opinion that some programmers just have way too much time on their hands. I guess it's the difference between something like Gryphon Software's MORPH program, with which you can create effects similar to those in Michael Jackson's ''Black or White'' video, and any personal time manager software you care to name (if you spent the time being organized that you spent getting organized with those applications, you wouldn't need them in the first place!). HAND-Off II falls into neither of these categories, though. I wasn't that excited about it when I received it at July's meeting, probably because its purpose sounded so esoteric: ''a complete Finder enhancement solution to simplify launching applications and opening documents.'' My reaction was, ''So what? I launch applications and open documents just fine, thank you. What do I need this for?'' Well, I don't need it -- and probably you don't, either. But I sure do like it, now that I've got it. HAND-Off II offers three major benefits: a customizable, pop-up Launch Menu; ''on-the-fly'' application substitution; and, under System 7, a Supermenu enhancement to the Apple menu. I'll detail each of these in turn. The PopUp Launch Menu is the only obvious change HAND-Off II makes to your desktop after you launch its idiot-proof Installer. By default, a small icon representing (what else?) a pop-up menu appears in both the upper-right and upper-left corners of your screen. These icons give you access to the Launch Menu itself, as well as its dialog box (see screen shot above). It seems to me that the Launch Menu allows you to create what is, in essence, your own Apple Items menu -- without actually creating aliases and putting them in the Apple folder. And unlike the Apple menu line-up, HAND-Off II allows you to set your own preferences and hot keys to control various features and functions of your Launch Menu. In setting up the Launch Menu, you can add applications, folders, documents, and (of course) aliases to a pull-down menu that you can further customize by grouping these items according to your own preferences. You can assign color depths and sound levels to items in your Launch Menu, so that when you switch on that item, your Mac's set-up switches too -- automatically. In the screen shot , for example, I have added all the applications I am most likely to use in the course of a typical day, and specified 32-bit color for my screen when-ever I'm in Adobe Photoshop. And since I have a folder titled ''Current Projects'' that contains all my ongoing work, I added that to the launch menu as well. Other settings enable you to specify which files and applications -- if any -- you want opened or launched upon start-up. We're probably all familiar with the warning that a file couldn't be opened because its application is missing (it's almost guaranteed to appear during M.U.G. demos). Rather than display the familiar hand/stop-sign dialog box, HAND-Off II lets you specify a substitute application you'd like to use to open the recalcitrant file. You can make it ''remember'' what it did too, so that in the future, when you double-click on the documents created by the same ''missing application,'' HAND-Off II launches your preferred substitute immediately. And get this: if you later add the missing application to your system, HAND-Off II automatically bypasses its substitution routine in favor of launching the correct creator application! Supermenu, HAND-Off II's Apple menu enhancement, speeds access to control panels, files, applications, aliases, and folders in your Apple menu by creating hierarchical sub-menus across your screen. You launch an application in your Apple menu by moving the cursor across the hier-archical menus and clicking once! I must admit I really like this feature, as well as the Auto Drop setting that activates menus as your mouse passes over them -- you don't have to click and hold to keep them on the screen anymore. HAND-Off II comes with an easy-to-read, intelligently organized User Manual. It supports Balloon Help, but System 6.x users aren't left out in the cold, since it also features dynamic ''help'' dialogs that ap-pear as you move the mouse over various items. This article by no means exhausts the list of features and benefits you get from HAND-Off II, but I think it gives you an idea of what you can expect. But now the real question: is this application worth buying, and if so, who should buy it? First of all, if you use your Mac for just one function (such as word processing or games) or if you don't do much file sharing, then I think HAND-Off II would be gilding the lily. You probably know where all your files are and it's no trouble to launch them by double-clicking. I use my Mac for heavy-duty graphics, desktop publishing, and creating multimedia presentations. This necessarily involves a lot of file sharing and I may have files I need spread all over my hard drives. It is very handy to have a menu to access everything I need, no mater where it may actually reside. But as useful and helpful as HAND-Off II is (and I'm sure I will come to rely on it more and more as time goes by), I could never recommend it for the suggested retail price of $99. For that kind of money I'd expect it to bring me my morning coffee (and maybe the paper and a doughnut, too). But MacWarehouse lists it for $55; now you're talking (although I'd be more comfortable with a $35-$45 price range). If you have the need for what this application does, I doubt that you'll find another application as well thought-out and easy to use as HAND-Off II.
Copyright © december, 1992 by Steve Bonaduce, M.U.D. slinger