Tap Into the Location Manager

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Lots of people think of the Location Manager as a control panel that's only for PowerBook-toting business travelers–a handy gizmo that makes it easier to reset your clock when you're jetting between San Francisco and New York, for example.

But the Location Manager–which has come with desktop Macs as well as PowerBooks since Mac OS 8.1–is good for much more than city switching. It lets you reconfigure almost your entire system–everything from your default printer to the sound-output level–with a single click. Once you've mastered its secrets, you can leapfrog past a half-dozen control panels, changing your Mac's basic setup in a matter of seconds. With Location Manager 2.0 (which comes only with Mac OS 8.5) you can change your AppleTalk, TCP/IP, File Sharing, Modem, and Remote Access settings; launch any applications you want; reconfigure your e-mail client and Web browser; and turn dozens of extensions and control panels on or off without having to open a single dialog box. (Previous versions of Location Manager are more limited.)

Location Manager lets you store the configurations from several different control panels–such as TCP/IP, AppleTalk, and Extensions Manager–in a single location file. By activating a location setting during start-up, you change the setup of several different control panels all at the same time.

To make this magic happen, open up the Location Manager control panel and choose New Location from the File menu. Give the new location a name, and click on Save. Then begin assembling the configuration you want, by clicking on any of the items in the Location Manager's Settings list. For each of the items, you can click on Apply to capture the settings that are currently in use on your system or click on Edit to open a control panel and change the settings to the ones you want stored. For details about working with these settings, see "Location Manager Logistics."

Here's a sampling of how you can use Location Manager to handle some routine system-setup tasks that could otherwise be a hassle.

Do you share your Macintosh with another person? If so, you can use Location Manager to quickly reconfigure the system for each of you on start-up. For example, my wife and I share one Mac, but we run very different systems. Location Manager makes juggling our two setups a breeze. When the Mac starts up, Location Manager automatically prompts us to choose a location (see "Where Am I?"). Choosing His or Hers (the two location settings we've saved) from the pop-up menu customizes the system for each of us. Her location setting opens the Launcher on start-up (it's selected as one of the Auto-Open Items in Location Manager's Settings list); switches the Extensions Manager to a sparse set named Minimal; makes her color ink-jet printer the default printer; and turns on her Internet settings, activating her e-mail user name and password, dialing up her ISP, and directing her preferred Web browser to a custom home page containing her favorite links.

Whenever I start up the same Mac and activate my location setting, the Launcher stays hidden, my own set of extensions gets turned on, our monochrome laser printer becomes the default printer, and all the Internet settings are switched over to accommodate my preferences–my ISP and my user name and password.

If you carry a PowerBook from work to home each night, creating two location settings–one for the office and one for home–saves time. The office setting can connect your Mac to the network via Ethernet, choose a nearby workgroup printer as the default, flip on file sharing, and set up your TCP/IP control panel to access the Internet via the company network. When you go home at night, starting up with an alternative location setting can switch your AppleTalk connection from Ethernet to LocalTalk, target your personal printer as the default, and configure your TCP/IP settings to handle a dial-up connection to a local ISP.

It's easy to have files launch themselves on start-up by using the Startup Items folder. Problem is, sometimes you don't want those items to start up–and stopping them is a hassle. You have to press the shift key at exactly the right moment to disable those start-up items.

With Location Manager, though, it's easy to create two alternate location settings–one that includes start-up items (called Auto-Open Items) and one that doesn't (see "Getting Started"). Just choose the location you want at start-up, depending on whether you want the self-launching files to be triggered.

Ever get a new computer and find yourself spending half the day reconfiguring the new system, painstakingly re-creating the settings you had on your previous Mac? Location Manager provides a valuable shortcut: you can import and export Location settings. Just launch Location Manager, activate the location setting you want to export, and choose Export Location from the File menu. Use the Import Settings command in Location Manager on your new system to install the settings.

Once you've tapped into the power of Location Manager, you're sure to find all sorts of reasons to create new location settings–even if you never get on another plane.

May 1999 page: 93

Location Manager is one of the Mac's most powerful control panels but not one of the most intuitive. Here are some guiding principles to help.

•Before you even touch Location Manager, you must first create and save configuration settings for most of the individual components–such as Extensions Manager, Modem, Remote Access, TCP/IP, and AppleTalk–that you want to control.

•Location Manager won't let you use control-panel configurations that have the name Default. If you're running control panels such as AppleTalk and Modem under default configurations, duplicate those configurations and give them different names. Choose the Configurations command from the File menu in control panels such as Remote Access, Modem, TCP/IP, and AppleTalk to duplicate, rename, and save configurations.

•You don't have to restart to switch locations. Just make the change in the Current Location pop-up menu in the Location Manager control panel or select the location from the Location Manager module on the control strip to change configurations. (Some settings, such as a saved Extensions Manager set, won't take effect until after restarting.)

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