The Bare Bones Launcher Review

Written and published March 9, 1999

You may have noticed I finally found a name for my column. I hope you like it. It is also, by the way, the name of the seminar I will be presenting at Macworld Expo in NYC this summer. I was born in NYC and I'm proud to once again be part of the greatest trade show on earth, right there in my home-town. If you make it to the show I hope you'll find me and say hello.

By now, if you've been following along, your Apple menu is a picture of organized bliss. (After all, three of the last four columns have been about nothing but that menu.) Your hard drive window is also fairly organized, too, with all of your programs neatly in organizational folders by type of program, and your files inside project folders you create for each of your own projects. This is good.

With this organization, you can find whatever you need - quickly, when you need it, not after wasting time searching or after opening folder upon folder. And the best part is that you can do so even when starting without your regular set of extensions to do an extended conflict test. From now on, whatever utilities you add to your Mac can help you work faster or stronger. But this week I want to make sure you're clear on why we've done what we did.

The Apple Menu

The Apple menu is one of the most powerful features of the MacOS. This is the menu that remains constant and unchanging no matter what application you are using. For this reason, if you put something in the Apple menu, you'll always be able to find it. We have set up our Apple menus without the use of extra utilities. By doing so, we've ensured that the items there will always be there, even with extensions off. By relying on alphabetical order, instead of an extra extension to set the order of our files, we know their order is set, even with extensions off. By using an empty folder instead of a line placed by an extension, we know the line will remain, even with extensions off.

So what will happen to our Apple menu when we start with extensions off? Not much. The only thing you'll lose is the hierarchical menu function: the arrow that appears on folders to lead toward those folder's contents. With extensions on, you go to your Apple menu, moving your mouse down to the Apps folder, then slide over to the specific application to launch it. With extensions off, you go to your Apple menu, moving your mouse down to the Apps folder, but there will be no arrow allowing you to slide over to your app. Instead, click (or in older systems release your mouse button) while you're on the Apps folder. That, as always, will open the Apps folder. Once it's open, click on the alias of your program to launch it. Granted, it's an extra step, but given the alternative of not being able to find your program at all, it's minor. If you have placed aliases of your project folders in the Apple menu, you can launch your files the same way you launch a program. The same differences will hold with extensions off.

(If you use only a few programs and therefore, place the aliases of your programs directly in the Apple menu instead of inside an Apps folder, you don't have any extra step. The reason I don't recommend everyone not use an Apps folder is that with several programs lose in the menu it can get unwieldy.)

The Tabbed Folders

If you've had tabbed folders hanging out at the bottom of your screen, you may have found them useful and addictive by now. But what will happen when you start with extensions off? Since tabbed folders are a function of an extension, the folders will just appear as open folders on your desktop. Your reflex may be to close all those windows - as is mine. But don't! Believe me, it can be a pain to have to find the folders and open them again. Instead, window shade each of the open windows. (Click the collapse box, or double/triple-click on the title bar per your control panel setting.) This will fold the windows up and keep them somewhat out of your way. After you restart with extensions back on, you need to place each folder back into tabbed position.

What Next?

Now that you have the basics to be able to find your files, you can begin to use utilities to enhance your Mac experience. As time goes on I'll discuss several more great utilities that can help you launch applications or open files quickly. Just remember that each of these utilities will rely on system extensions, and therefore not always be there for you. Don't forget that, as you install new programs, you should always add an alias of that programs to the Apps folder in the Apple menu. It's easy to do so: just select the Apps folder in the Apple menu so it opens as a window, then drag the alias right in.

I won't only be talking about filing efficiency as time goes on. I will also cover fonts, other MacOS tips, and well... we'll see...

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