Updates, Updates

All of the products we cover in Mac Gems are great; that’s the point of Mac Gems, after all. But while we cover a “snapshot” of each product—what we think of a particular version at a particular point in time—most products are continually evolving as the developers add features or refine existing ones. Occasionally we’ll revisit some of our favorite products to tell you about significant new features and functionality; today is one of those days.

 

SideTrack 1.0

Way back in December 2003 I told you about an early beta of Raging Menace’s SideTrack ( www.ragingmenace.com ). At the time, I wrote the following:

In the keep-an-eye-out-for-this department, Raging Menace recently released a beta of SideTrack, its replacement for OS X’s trackpad driver. SideTrack lets you designate a portion of your PowerBook or iBook trackpad as a “scrollpad”—simply drag your finger up and down (or left and right) to scroll through windows. In addition, pressing the trackpad button and tapping on the trackpad can do two different things; for example, one can be a standard click and the other a control-click. Once you’ve tried it, doing without the ability to easily scroll and control-click with the trackpad will be difficult. (SideTrack is currently a beta version of a kernel extension; make sure to read the documentation provided before you install it.)

Earlier today, Raging Menace officially released SideTrack 1.0 (   ). The first non-beta version of this excellent utility is reasonably priced ($15) and supports the following trackpad features:

  • Using the left or right edge of the trackpad for scrolling up/down.
  • Using the top or bottom edge of the trackpad for scrolling left/right.
  • Using the trackpad button as a standard mouse click or a control/right-click.
  • Mapping a “tap” on the trackpad as a standard mouse click, a click-drag, or a control/right-click.
  • Mapping the corners of the trackpad to either particular mouse buttons or keyboard shortcuts—tap the corner to execute the action.
  • The standard trackpad preferences: tracking speed, double-click speed, etc.
  • Impressive trackpad calibration and input “filtering” options that help prevent accidental actions.

I’ve been using the betas of SideTrack for the past year and, as I predicted a year ago, using a laptop without it feels limiting. I’ve personally got SideTrack set to scroll up/down using the right side of the trackpad and scroll left/right using the top edge. I’ve also got the lower-right corner of the trackpad set to control/right-click, the upper left set to command-click (great for opening links in Safari in new tabs), the lower left set to shift-command-click (for switching between tabs in Safari), and the upper right set to command-W (for closing windows).

Even if you don’t use SideTrack’s button/scrolling functionality, its features for customizing the speed and sensitivity of your PowerBook or iBook trackpad are significant improvements over the options available in Mac OS X. It even offers a “Redmond switcher” trackpad acceleration setting that emulates the trackpad profile of many Windows laptops—helpful for new Mac users switching from Windows laptops.

 

Fob 1.0.4

I covered Leaky Puppy’s free timer application, Fob 1.0.1 (   ; homepage.mac.com/tfinley/LeakyPuppy> ), back in July of this year. In that review, I wrote:

If you work at your computer all day (or night), at some point you’ve surely started something—cooking dinner or doing a load of laundry, for example—and then gotten sucked into your work, completely forgetting about your noncomputer task. It’s happened to me many times, so I like to have a timer program on my computer that reminds me when my other activity is done. I’ve tried a bunch of these little helpers, but my favorite is Leaky Puppy Software’s free Fob 1.0.1.

As with most kitchen-timer utilities, you tell Fob how many minutes to count down, and when time is up, the program lets you know—via an alert, a bouncing Dock icon, or by opening a selected file. But what makes Fob great is that it lets you create alarm presets for frequent timers. For example, I have timers for tea and microwave popcorn, among others. To activate a preset, simply double-click on it in the Fob window (you can also set one-time timers). The Fob icon in the Dock shows you how much time is left before the timer is up. Fob is one of those apps I find myself using more than I expected—sometimes I even use it to remind myself to take a break!

Since that time, Leaky Puppy has updated Fob several times. The latest version features some great new features such as a menu bar display, an improved dock menu display, repeatable alarms (so you can be alerted every hour, for example), timer pausing, the ability to open any file or script as an “alarm,” and the ability to “rewind” alarms—to start them over from the current time. And Fob’s alarm presets and flexibility still help it stand out from the crowd.

 

Swordfish Express/Endicia 2.0.1

In the December issue of Macworld, I reviewed Envelope Manager Software’s handy and free Swordfish Express 2 (   ), which lets you print and track US Postal Service mailing labels and—when you open an Endicia account—even include pre-paid postage on those labels. My two criticisms of the service were that it didn’t support International and Express Mail and that the service fee ($20/month plus postage costs) was pricey for low-volume users.

With the latest version (2.0.1) of the software—now itself called Endicia —the company has addressed the first complaint: Endicia now supports postage-paid International and Express Mail labels on the Mac. In addition, the monthly service fee has been lowered to $15.95/month to match the Windows version. Whether or not the service is worth paying for still depends largely on how much you ship, but the lower price is a welcome improvement.

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