Promising Prospect: Rawr-jour

Thanks to Mac OS X’s Bonjour technology (formerly called Rendezvous), it’s easy to find Bonjour-enabled devices and services on your local network. For example, if two computers are running Mac OS X with Personal File Sharing enabled, a user of one Mac should be able to connect to the other Mac by simply opening the Network view in the Finder and double-clicking the other computer’s icon. But Bonjour isn’t just for Personal File Sharing; it also helps you connect to local Web servers, locates shared iTunes and iPhoto Libraries, and much more.

There are just two problems. The first is that, as anyone who regularly uses the Network view in the Finder can attest, it doesn’t always work perfectly—sometimes computers that you know should be available don’t show up. The second is that although Bonjour helps you access many different types of services, you generally do so using a different interface for each service: local Web servers via Safari’s Bonjour item; File Sharing via the Finder; SSH via Terminal; shared iTunes Libraries via iTunes; and so on.

Although I can’t help you with the first problem, the second—which, admittedly, is more an inconvenience than an actual problem —can be avoided using Jeremy Knope’s free Rawr-jour 0.6b5 . (Don’t ask me where the name came from; before Apple changed the name of the technology from Rendezvous to Bonjour, this software was called Rawr-endezvous, but even that doesn’t fully explain it.) Quite simply, Rawr-jour is a Bonjour browser. When Rawr-jour is running, its Dock menu provides you with a list of Bonjour-enabled services on your local network, along with all the devices/computer/users offering those services; to connect to a service, you simply choose it from the appropriate submenu.

For example, in the following screenshot, if I wanted to connect to the PowerBook called BigBoy15 via File Sharing, I would just choose its name from the Apple File Sharing menu; I would then see the familiar name/password connection dialog.

Rawr-jour Dock menu

Similarly, choosing a computer via the SSH submenu launches Terminal and connects to that computer via SSH using your current username as the login name. Choosing a Web service launches Safari and opens the “home page” for that computer or device. However, there are a couple exceptions: The iTunes and iPhoto items show you shared iTunes and iPhoto Libraries, respectively, but choosing one doesn’t open the Library in your copy of iTunes or iPhoto. (Nothing happens in the case of iPhoto Libraries; for iTunes Libraries, you get a streaming audio bookmark.) But the iTunes and iPhoto submenus are still useful; for example, I like the fact that I can quickly see if I’ll be able to access my wife’s iTunes collection without having to launch iTunes.

Which services appear in the menu depend on two things: Which services you’ve enabled in the Rawr-jour preferences dialog and, of those, which services are actually present on your local network. In other words, even if you’ve enabled Apple File Sharing in Rawr-jour’s preferences, if there are no computers on your local network with File Sharing enabled, it won’t appear in the menu. This means the menu won’t be cluttered with unavailable services.

Although you can manually add services protocols via Rawr-jour’s preferences, the preferences dialog includes a pop-up menu of the most common Bonjour-enabled services; choosing one adds it to the list:

Rawr-jour preferences

You can also enable a menu bar menu that provides the same options as Rawr-jour’s Dock menu.

Rawr-jour menu bar menu

Rawr-jour also includes Growl support, so you can be notified by a Growl overlay when services become available or unavailable.

Rawr-jour is still in beta, so it’s got a few quirks; for example, the aforementioned iTunes issue. I’d also like to see an option to hide your own computer’s services from the menu, an option to disable the Rawr-jour Dock icon if the menu bar menu is enabled, and the ability to grab the IP address of a service/computer. But I’ve been using it for a while now with few problems. And the developer has plans for additional features before the final release. I’m looking forward to it.

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