capsule review

Action Utilities

At a Glance
  • Power On Software Action Utilities

Mac veterans who remember Now Software's Now Utilities are likely to have bittersweet recollections of this fabled set of system enhancements. Early adopters may retain fond memories of Super Boomerang–the tool that let you easily navigate through volumes and folders from within the Open and Save dialog boxes–and Now Menus, a control panel that extended these navigation powers to the desktop through the addition of user-configurable menus.

Alas, these same users were surely disenchanted when elements of Now Utilities ceased to function with newer versions of the Mac OS–or became so unstable that they were more hindrance than help.

Taking Action Configure all your Action Utilities from a single control panel.

Thankfully, Power On Software resurrected and enhanced the best parts of Now Utilities; made them compatible with the latest Mac OS updates; and released, in single form, Action Files, Action Menus, and Action WYSIWYG. Now Power On has bundled these three utilities with Action GoMac (a utility that places a Windows-like Start menu and Task Bar on your Mac's desktop), slapped a $90 price tag on the suite, and dubbed it Action Utilities. Considering its reasonable price–$110 less than the four utilities sold separately–and the fact that at least three of the utilities are extremely useful, it's a compelling product.

The initial release of Action Utilities isn't quite an integrated whole–there's no single installer, serial number, or manual. You must install each utility separately, enter a discrete serial number for each one, and sift through four separate manuals. Power On said it will resolve these issues in an update that should be available by the time you read this.

Fortunately, the utilities aren't as dissociated once they're installed on your hard drive. You can control the settings for each utility from within a single control panel. To modify a utility's settings, simply click on its icon and then click on one of the settings tabs.


When we last reviewed Action Files (see Reviews , July 1998), we mentioned that it added new functionality to the File menu's Open and Save As commands. It added hierarchical menus that listed favorite and recently accessed files and folders. It also made the Open and Save dialog boxes resizable, and within those same dialog boxes it added a Find command and provided Finder-like functions. For example, Action Files lets you create folders and aliases; rename and duplicate files; and view files by name, date, size, and type.

Power On has introduced a few changes since then. The utility now supports Apple's Navigation Services–the new Open and Save dialog boxes introduced with Mac OS 8.5. Regrettably, the design of these new dialog boxes is at odds with Action Files: if you invoke the Find command in a new Open or Save dialog box, Sherlock appears rather than Action Files' own Find dialog box–and the Open or Save dialog box closes. Despite this annoyance, we're relieved that Power On made Action Files compatible with Navigation Services, and we believe Apple should fold Action Files' features into a future version of the Mac OS.


Action GoMac 2.0.3 is almost unchanged from the version we reviewed last year (see Reviews , June 1999). This utility mimics and improves on Windows' Start-menu, Task Bar, and Clock Tray features, giving you quick access to recently accessed items, currently running programs, and your favorite applications. A powerful substitute for Apple's Launcher and Application menu, Action GoMac is well worth having.

Action Menus is the third useful component of Action Utilities. It lets you create custom menus for quick access to recently used applications, files, and folders; currently running applications; local and networked volumes; and open windows.

Granted, Action GoMac makes some of this functionality redundant. But Action Menus offers some other goodies. You can add items to the Apple menu by dragging them from the desktop or an open window into the Apple menu. And you can easily assign custom key commands in applications–assign command-T to the Empty Trash command in the Finder, for example–by selecting a command with the mouse and pressing the desired key combination. Note, however, that the assignable Function Key option within Mac OS 9's Keyboard control panel (supported by the G4, iBook, and iMac) takes precedence over Action Menus' key commands.

Action WYSIWYG replaces the font menu within each application with its own font menu. While viewing font names in multiple columns, in their true typefaces, and in family groups–and creating custom font sets for individual applications–may be a godsend to graphic designers and desktop-publishing mavens, users without a wealth of fonts may find Action WYSIWYG less useful than the suite's other three utilities. Although we like being able to view fonts in different colors and sizes, Action WYSIWYG is more of a bonus than a necessity.

February 2000 page: 42

At a Glance
  • Pros

    • Adds needed enhancements to Open and Save dialog boxes
    • Extensive drag-and-drop support
    • Convenient navigation features

    Cons

    • No single installer, serial number, or manual
    • Lost functionality with Navigation Services
    • Some redundancy
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