Mac Daniel's Advice

Three Mac OS Enhancements

Evan Kleiman - 2001.10.19

Q. I've heard of many of the possible replacement extensions for my computer, such as SmoothType, BeHierarchic, and others. Are these really better for my computer?

A. Yes, there are many applications out there for your Mac that let you add or have more control over features that are included with the operating system. Usually these applications, control panels, or extensions are designed to add more features than Apple's included extensions. But which ones are really worth the price or system resources?

They all are if you need them, but some people don't. Today I'll tell you which ones are the best for your system and your needs.

BeHierarchic (vs. Apple Menu Options)

Pros: BeHierarchic adds expanded abilities over Apple Menu Options, such as the ability to put the desktop in the Apple Menu (which you could do yourself with a little bit of effort, but this is easier). Also allows you to put divider lines in the Apple Menu. My favorite option: It adds more expandability to other applications, such as AliasMenu, KeyQuencer, and Default Folder.

The best and obvious most important feature of this little wonder is its ability to make heretic menus many levels deep, which is a plus on any system, since pre-7.5 systems don't even have any hierarchy (submenus, like in the control panels, so you can view it all on one menu, instead of having to click it and have a window open) and all others can only go one level deep without it.

Cons: None really, besides the fact it can kind of slow your system down, a little, but with all of today's super fast computers, you should be fine, especially since this program's been around since 1991.

Do I Use It?: Yes, of course, I love this program. Since it can add submenus to AliasMenu's long list of capabilities, I really love it. It allows me to have submenu's in my music list menu, where I store all of my MP3s by genre and artist, it makes things very organized when you don't want to use tunes, but still want it's capabilities of organizing your music catalog.

The Bottom Line: Use it, especially if you use Alias Menu, etc. like I do. The memory or other system resources is negligible, and so is the US$10 price tag.

Editor's note: I'm a huge fan of MenuChoice 2.1, which I reviewed about a year ago. This $15 shareware program doesn't suffer the speed penalty of Apple's menus or BeHierarchic. It also works nicely with everything from System 7.x through 9.2.1. Try both and see which you prefer. dk

SmoothType (vs. Apple's Font Smoothing Software)

Pros: Adds much better font smoothing capabilities to your system. Using a system called anti-aliasing, which smoothes the onscreen type to resemble a printed page. The functions of this are similar to ATM (Adobe type Manager) and Apple's built-in font smoothing, except for the fact it is much, much better.

Cons: Other than the fact that it slows down your system considerably at times, there are many reported cases of nasty crashes on system 9.0 and up. (It is not necessary on OS X machines.) However, I've had no problems with my 7 and 8 machines, but since I have just made the upgrade to 9.x here, I am not sure what it's capabilities are, since I have not tried the software yet.

Editor's note: I'm also a huge fan of SmoothType, which I reviewed earlier this year. I'm using v2.2.3 with Mac OS 9.2.1 and experiencing no problems at all. dk

Do I Use It: Nope, well not right now, at least. I have yet to install it on my new system using Mac OS 9.x because of all of the rumored crashes. I've never used it frequently on my system while it was pre-OS 9. I also found it slow on my system running any OS. But, remember, your actual mileage may as always vary.

Bottom Line: Use it, unless you want bad fonts, or like me have a very small resolution setting on your system, or just don't want to risk high crash rates.

Kaleidoscope (vs. Apple Appearance Control Panel)

Pros: Way too many to list. Apple's Appearance Control Panel used to offer many of the same features as Kaleidoscope. However, with the discontinuation of themes on Mac OS computers, Apple is unable to offer a suitable opponent for Kaleidoscope. Kaleidoscope allows you to chose from a variety of schemes (3,000 or more!) to implement on your computer, which will allow it to look completely different than that boring old "Platinum" look developed for Mac OS 8! In fact, you can even make your computer look as if it is running some other operating system.

Cons: None really, except for the occasional system crash and the oblivious large drains it puts on your system's resources.

Do I Use It?: You bet! It's great. It looks like support for OS X and higher will never happen, but definitely try it.

The Bottom Line: Definitely use it, unless you like the extra speed and lack of individuality.

In the end, you have a rather nice list of programs you can use to enhance your computing experience. Get out there and have some fun! LEM

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