Miscellaneous Ramblings

Some Little Programs that Keep Me Using OS 9.x

Charles Moore - 2001.10.09 - Tip Jar

One of the biggest obstacles to switching to OS X right away is the unavailability of several "little programs" that I've become addicted to over the years and which are not yet available for OS X.

For example, I love SpellTools and use it dozens of times a day. No word on an OS X version, and it only works with OS 9 courtesy of a patch. I've already reviewed SpellTools here in the not too distant past, but there are several other "little programs" that I would find it very inconvenient to do without. Two notable examples are TypeIt4Me and Scrollability.

TypeIt4Me 4.8.2

TypeIt4Me 4.8.2 is a Control Panel that allows you to define a set of abbreviations for specified words or phrases that they represent by copying them to the Clipboard and then choosing "Add An Entry" from the TypeIt4Me menu on the Finder's menu bar (you can also create entries directly in the "Edit Entry" dialog box). When you type the abbreviation (or select it from TypeIt4Me's pop up menu) and hit the assigned trigger key or key combination, the Mac expands the entry as you continue typing.

TypeIt4Me is quick, easy, and intuitive to configure. Rather than getting in the way, it streamlines operations remarkably, especially for folks who suffer from typing pain. If you know anyone like that who doesn't already have TypeIt4Me, I know it would be a much-appreciated gift.

For example, I frequently type my name, so with TypeIt4Me I have assigned it the abbreviation "ch." Now when I type "ch" and stroke the spacebar, the two letters change to "Charles W. Moore.

To enter the heading of this column, I can just type "misc," and the Mac will type: Miscellaneous Ramblings

And so on. TypeIt4Me entries can be as short as a single character (they can be even be shorter than the abbreviation) or as long as a boilerplate paragraph or more. Once you define an abbreviation, it is available anywhere text can be typed - in word processors, Web browsers, paint programs, the Finder, address books, email clients, or any application.

The font and style of the text will be those that would appear in text you would have typed manually, not the font and style that the entry text was in when you defined the entry.

TypeIt4Me looks for the abbreviation letters as a separate word, preceded and followed by spaces or by the punctuation marks of your choice. You make up your own abbreviations with TypeIt4Me rather than using someone else's, which I find makes them a lot easier to remember.

When you install TypeIt4Me, a tiny menu icon appears in the Finder menu bar which you use to access the program's functions. The icon can be positioned anywhere along the menu bar by holding down the Control key and dragging. I found that it fits nicely to the extreme right of the Applications Menu. If you wish, you can disable the menu icon entirely. There are also pop up submenus (you can also use pre-assigned abbreviations or assign your own) for inserting the current date and time (several formats), and to type the keyboard contents.

I haven't tried this yet, but TypeIt4Me's author Riccardo Ettore says that by defining a set of mnemonic abbreviations for the most frequently used words, you can type faster and more accurately with less effort. For example, "u r rh ab teh" could type out "you are right about the changes."

TypeIt4Me is also capable of more advanced functions, such as text attributes such as bold and italics. You can also embed style activation keystrokes in your TypeIt4Me entry text and get TypeIt4Me to type special characters such as left, right, up and down cursor commands, backspace, etc.

TypeIt4Me has worked flawlessly for me for a couple of years now and probably saved me hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of keystrokes.

The latest TypeIt4Me version 4.8.2 supports MacOS versions from 7.0 and seems to work fine with OS 9.2.1, and is now fully compatible with AppleWorks 6 and Script Editor. Also works fine under Classic environment of Mac OS X.

Mr. Ettore says a native Version X of TypeIt4Me is coming soon, removing one obstacle from my upgrade path.

TypeIt4Me is shareware/demoware and sells for $27.

Scrollability 1.0.5

Eden Sherry's Scrollability gives you alternate, faster, more intuitive ways to scroll through documents than the scroll bar and keyboard do.

Scrollability has two modes, the more useful of which is arguably the Hover Scroll mode. With Hover Scroll enabled, you simply "hover" the cursor over the edge of a window in order to scroll it. An "edge," for Scrollability's default purposes, is defined as the top 10% or bottom 10% of a window, although this definition can be changed by clicking on the "Options..." button in the control panel.

This may sound like a small innovation, but believe me, it is addictive. I almost instantly miss it when I'm using someone else's computer. While TypeIt4Me saves keystrokes, Scrollability save mouse clicks, which anyone who suffers typing pain can tell you are one of the worst pain aggravators. With Scrollability, I can scroll up and down in (almost) any document or window to my heart's content without ever touching the mouse button or a keyboard key. I just push the mouse around.

If you move the cursor into the top edge of the window, the window scrolls upwards. Likewise, if you move the cursor into the bottom edge, it scrolls down. The further you move the cursor into a scroll region, the faster the window scrolls. For example, if the cursor is in the bottom portion of the top scroll region, the window will scroll slowly, and if the cursor is in the top part of the same scroll region, the window will scroll more quickly.

When Scrollability is scrolling the window in this way, the cursor changes into an arrow pointing in the direction that the window is scrolling.

I said "almost" any window. A few applications, in my case notably the Mozilla and Opera beta browsers, do not support Scrollability (yet?).

Scrollability's other mode, Grab Scroll, lets you "grab" the contents of windows and drag them up and down. The trickiest part of using Grab Scroll is determining when to have it activate. Grab Scroll can activate either when the cursor is in the window edges (as above) or when you hold down a certain set of modifier keys. (Command, Option, etc.) To configure this, click on the "Options..." button in the Scrollability control panel.

I don't use Grab Scroll much. However, Eden Sherry says that it works particularly well with a programmable multi-button mouse or trackball, because you can make Grab Scroll activate with one of your extra buttons. Simply set Scrollability to activate Grab Scroll with a combination of modifier keys, (all of the keys together works best for this purpose) and then set your mouse to emulate a click with these keys on the button that you wish to use for Grab Scroll.

I should mention that not everybody likes Scrollability. My son hates it, although I wonder if he would if he gave himself a chance to get used to it. Scrollability can also be a pain in graphics programs, where "automatic" scrolling as you move the cursor to the edge of a picture can be highly annoying. Happily, you can prevent this from happening by adding the specified applications to the exclusion list in the Scrollability control panel.

There has not been an update of Scrollability for some time. It officially supports System 7.0 or later, and I find that it works fine with all of the OS 9.x versions, including OS 9.2.1. I'm not optimistic about an OS X version, though, which, as with SpellTools, creates a dilemma for me, as I would find it very hard to get along without either of these programs.

Scrollability is $10 shareware.

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Charles Moore has been a freelance journalist since 1987 and began writing for Mac websites in May 1998. His The Road Warrior column was a regular feature on MacOpinion, he is news editor at Applelinks.com and a columnist at MacPrices.net. If you find his articles helpful, please consider making a donation to his tip jar.

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