Utility software

Reviews In Brief

24U Email OSAX 2.2

  ; 24U, info@24usoftware.com, www.24usoftware.com; $17

Every so often, we run across a widget that makes us fall in love with our Macs all over again. A good example of this is 24U Email OSAX 2.2, a simple AppleScript tool that adds a new statement -- send email -- to your library. It lets you create e-mail messages without an e-mail client.

Aside from being a neat trick by itself, 24U Email integrates smoothly with other applications. For example, imagine sending e-mail directly from inside a database without having to manage its interaction with disparate mail clients across an organization.

You'll need an SMTP host for 24U Email to send through -- that's true for any e-mail client -- and the statement lets you send data via all the standard e-mail headers (To, Cc, Bcc, From, and Reply-To). 24U Email OSAX 2.2 is a great help. Best of all, it won't break your bank. -- scott love

Cookie Muncher 1.0.6

  ; dot software, www.dotsw.com; $8

If you delete all Web-browser cookies from your work machine to protect your privacy (or to cover your tracks at the office), Cookie Muncher is a handy tool. It generates a list of all the cookies loaded in Internet Explorer, Mozilla, OmniWeb, or Chimera. You save the cookies you want to keep -- in the program's My Cookies pane -- Cookie Muncher deletes everything else.

Cookie Muncher does its job well, but it doesn't tell you which browser a cookie is installed in; this can get confusing if you use separate browsers to manage multiple logins to the same site. And navigating the My Cookies pane can be awkward -- after you delete a cookie, the selection area doesn't automatically drop down and highlight the next cookie in the list, so you have to reach for the mouse and click to select your next target. You can, however, shift-click to select more than one cookie at a time.

Despite these minor inconveniences, Cookie Muncher is a tasty solution for Web surfers who prefer to keep their browsers cookie-free. -- sara astruc

JumpDrive Secure

  ; Lexar Media, 510/413-1200, www.lexarmedia .com; 128MB, $60; 256MB, $90; 512MB, $180

No matter how perilous the situation, James Bond never compromises the secret files by losing his lighter-sized drive. Less-debonair folks might welcome the JumpDrive Secure.

The JumpDrive Secure is a portable USB flash memory device that comes with Lexar Safe Guard software, which lets you create public and private partitions so you can password-protect private files. After it alerts you, Safe Guard erases all existing data when you partition the drive, but it puts a copy of itself back on the public partition.

The public partition mounts automatically on PCs and Macs. To get to the private space, you just install Safe Guard from the JumpDrive and enter your password. However, Safe Guard for Macs runs only on OS X 10.1.5 or later.

Occasionally, Safe Guard failed to recognize the drive or gave us an error message when we tried to switch partitions. Unmounting and reconnecting the drive fixed the problem, and we didn't lose any data.

The JumpDrive is cross-platform, but it has a few nice Mac-specific features. You can add the password to the Keychain or format the drive so it works only on a Mac.

Flash drives are perhaps the cheapest, most convenient way to transfer data between USB-equipped computers. And since its prices are in line with those of other flash memory drives, the JumpDrive Secure makes sense for your top-secret data. -- kristina de nike

KidzMail 1.1.2

  ; KidzCan, www.kidzcan.net; $10

For kids who are just getting started with the Internet, or even just getting started reading, e-mail programs such as Mail, Eudora, or Outlook can be overwhelming and confusing. KidzMail provides a simplified e-mail interface that's designed for a younger audience.

KidzMail can send and receive standard e-mail messages, and it includes a nifty feature that reads letters to kids who need a little bit of help. The program also has an integrated paint program -- similar to MacPaint -- that lets kids create art and send it as part of an e-mail message. Unfortunately, KidzMail can't send or receive images that weren't created in KidzMail, so you can't send school pictures to Grandma, for example.

Beyond basic e-mail functionality, KidzMail also provides simple but effective security features that let parents monitor correspondence, filter illicit messages, and determine whom their kids can exchange e-mail with.

If you have a child who's just learning to use the Internet, KidzMail is an ideal program. It meets the interface needs of young users for whom reading is not yet a lifelong habit. Although it lacks some features, such as a spelling checker, its overall functionality and security provide an excellent introduction to the world of electronic mail. -- jason cranford teague and jocelyn cranford teague

MacAstronomica 2.0.2

  ; EasySoft Creations, alexandre.trottier@ videotron.ca, http://pages.infinit.net/trottier; $25

Need a map to the stars? MacAstronomica 2.0.2 is a simple but powerful tool that can turn any iBook or PowerBook into a portable guide to the nighttime sky.

MacAstronomica 2.0.2 (there's an earlier version for OS 9) comes with presets for hundreds of cities, because the night sky looks different from every place on Earth. If your city isn't listed, just specify your latitude and longitude, and the software instantly generates a map of the overhead view. Move your mouse onto any object and a pop-up box shows its name and astronomical coordinates. A find function lets you search for celestial objects by name, and the map updates in real time. You can change the display to red, to minimize its effect on your night vision, and shift the view direction to north, south, east, or west.

MacAstronomica's object database isn't as comprehensive as that of dedicated astronomy programs such as Space Holdings' Starry Night, but the program's ease of use makes it an excellent tool for neophyte stargazers. -- franklin n. tessler

MacResponder 1.02

  ; Bruno Blondeau, contact@brunoblondeau.com, www.brunoblondeau.com; $20

If setting up your e-mail program to send an automated reply while you're out is the one task standing between you and your next vacation, you can give yourself an early check-out by using MacResponder 1.02.

This handy utility is a breeze to set up and customize. You use the setup window to fill in your account information and change the sample response; you have ample space for a lengthy missive. Just be sure you've quit your e-mail client -- MacResponder doesn't work with it running.

MacResponder's real strength is in how customizable it is. You can set up e-mail rules so that some of your e-mail correspondents get autoreplies while others -- such as likely spammers -- don't get any confirmation from your e-mail address. You can also set up MacResponder to handle multiple e-mail accounts and send out varying autoresponse messages to different recipient domains, so your friends don't get the same scrupulously professional autoresponse that MacResponder sends to your coworkers. -- lisa schmeiser

Mystical Lighting

  ; Auto FX Software, 800/839-2008, www.autofx.com; $179

The photo-editing tool Mystical Lighting comes with 16 creative lighting and shading effects and hundreds of preset variations, all designed to impart a dramatic flair to your photographs. Some of the effects are subtle; others, such as Rainbow and Fairy Dust, give your photos otherworldly hues.

The practical, down-to-earth program works as a stand-alone app or as a plug-in to Adobe Photoshop (or Photoshop Elements) and Corel Photo-Paint. The flexible interface lets you toggle your original image on and off, and the Undo option lets you reverse any visual effects you apply. Both the plug-in and the application options are a snap to operate, and they function identically. However, certain effects render more slowly than others.

This program will dominate your monitor, blocking access to the desktop and other programs; some users may find this inconvenient. -- jackie dove

PodQuest 1.0.1

  ; MibaSoft, www.mibasoft.dk; $10

I rarely get lost -- thanks to online driving directions. However, it isn't always practical to read directions from a printout perched on the dashboard while you're driving. Enter PodQuest, a handy little application that downloads MapQuest directions to your iPod. PodQuest is quite helpful at times when reading printed directions is inconvenient; I found it very useful while bicycling.

PodQuest adds a car-shaped icon to OS X's menu bar. Click on it, and a menu appears with options for looking up directions on MapQuest. Once MapQuest displays your directions, clicking on the car again lets you choose to download them to an iPod. Once downloaded, driving directions show up on your iPod as contact files; you follow them by scrolling the jog dial. Since each set of directions can have a unique name, such as "Home to Half Moon Bay," they're easy to find at a glance. -- mathew honan

TimeCache 5.1.5

  ; PandaWare, www.pandaware.com; $50

PandaWare's TimeCache 5.1.5 is a program designed for consultants and other professionals who need to account and bill for time spent on specific projects; this makes it similar to Modesitt Software's TimeSlice. TimeCache includes several useful features, including an extensive set of reporting options that detail time spent and expenses incurred during the course of a project.

TimeCache has a few quirks. You start timing a new project by clicking in any blank area beneath the Client or Project columns of the program's main window. But unless there's activity on your computer -- such as cursor movement or typing -- TimeCache stops the timer after a couple of minutes. You can turn this option off by setting the timer to zero, but information on how to change it wasn't obvious anywhere in the application or documentation. TimeCache is also confusing when you click on a project entry after the timer has stopped, because TimeCache doesn't open the original project-entry window. Instead, it opens a window displaying data from whatever column -- be it Notes, Category, Charges, or Hours -- you happened to click. This is apparently by design, but it's fairly unintuitive for what should be a simple process. -- jeffery battersby

WorkStrip 3.0

  ; Softchaos; www.softchaos.com; $38

When we last reviewed WorkStrip (   ; November 2002 ), we felt that the program's excellent features weren't well organized and that it had too onerous a learning curve. Version 3 brings a happy change. While the previous version required that you keep one hand on the manual when you began using the program, this version is much easier to learn. Creating Workspaces -- collections of applications, documents, and folders that WorkStrip makes available at a single click -- is much easier, and you can now assign each Workspace a unique desktop picture, so you have a visual cue as to which Workspace you're currently using.

WorkStrip's one shortcoming is that, while you can hide the majority of the Dock and leave a Workspace icon peeking over the edge of your screen, you can't move the icon to a more convenient location on the desktop. (You can choose to hide the Dock completely.) Aside from that, WorkStrip 3.0 is a stellar program. -- jeffery battersby

Zoom & Pan 3.0

  ; Virtix, support@virtix.com, www.virtix.com; $30

The Ken Burns Effect, a signature feature of iMovie 3, lets you add movement to still photographs by simulating the pan and zoom of a motion picture camera. As great as that is, you'll want more control over iMovie's virtual camera. Virtix's Zoom & Pan 3.0 plug-in collection offers more control, but only if you can decipher a confusing and awkward interface (which Virtix says was prompted by a bug in iMovie 3).

Unlike the Ken Burns Effect, Zoom & Pan 3.0 isn't limited to stills -- you can create effects on existing video clips, including rotating the screen or cropping. After you choose your image or clip, the plug-in's main control window appears. Applying pan, zoom, and rotation settings is straightforward, but you must exit the window to preview the effect. If you're using a high-resolution image, the effect is stored in the plug-in's memory, and you must then apply it to an existing clip in your iMovie timeline. Unfortunately, once you apply any effects, you can't tweak the settings. -- jeff carlson

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