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Shareware authors take on problems commercial developers often consider too small to worry about–yet these problems can be widespread and extremely annoying. Here's a list of some of the most common problems that bother Mac users, as well as the right shareware utility to fix each one. You can download the shareware from online sites such as MacFixIt ( ) and the Macworld Online shareware library ( ).

"I get an error message that says I can't do some task until I close all applications. However, when I check the Application menu, it lists nothing besides the Finder. What's going on?"

Use Peek-a-Boo.

You're probably running a background (or faceless ) application. This hybrid, which is halfway between standard applications and extensions, may be open even though the Application menu doesn't list it. Fortunately, there are utilities that list all open processes (a generic term for both background and ordinary applications) and let you quit them. My favorite is Peek-a-Boo (Clarkwood Software; $20).

Peek-a-Boo not only lists all open applications but also displays the percentage of time your processor spends with each open program. This can help you spot processor hogs that may be slowing down your Mac. You can choose to quit the hog or use Peek-a-Boo to change its priority ranking. Setting an application's priority to low causes it to request less of the CPU's attention if several applications are open at the same time. If the priority is set to high, the application automatically gets more processor attention.

"Whenever I change the resolution of my monitor, all the icons for the files on my desktop get moved to new locations. My desktop now looks like an experiment in chaos theory. Even worse, when I return to my default resolution, the icon locations stay messed up."

Use Desktop Resetter.

Changing a monitor's resolution isn't the only way to mess up your desktop icons. Another way is to use the Finder's Clean Up command. After you're done shouting obscenities (which the icons routinely ignore), you still have to put all the icons back in place.

You can avoid this aggravation with Desktop Resetter (Nick D'Amato; $10). Click just one Desktop Resetter button, and the program memorizes where your icons sit. When icons get out of order, just click another button to put them back where they belong.

"Often I just want to print a couple of paragraphs from a Web page. Can I avoid having to copy the text to my word processor?"

Use Net-Print or WebPrint Plus. Install either Net-Print (John More; $15) or WebPrint Plus (Steve Becker; $15), and you can print any selection right from your browser. Even better, you can append separate selections to one file. Neither utility can print graphics, and you'll lose HTML-based text layouts. But for simply printing text, there are no easier solutions.

"When I copy an e-mail message to my word processor, hard returns appear at the end of each line–preventing the soft wrap that usually occurs. Plus I'm stuck with those angle brackets (>) that appear at the start of each line of quoted text. Isn't there some fast way to clean all this up?"

Use MagicBullets.

This utility makes cleaning up your text as easy as copying it to the Clipboard. Just use 1 -shift-C, instead of the usual 1 -C, to have MagicBullets (Bill Karsh; $5) clean up unwanted characters in your text. Then you can paste it back over your original selection. Other text-cleaning utilities may do a bit more, but none are quite as seamless to use.

"My hard disk just crashed and burned. No utility could repair the drive or recover files from it–not Disk First Aid, not Norton Utilities, not anything. Short of spending the big bucks to get help from a disk-recovery company, is there any hope of getting back my files?"

Use Data Rescue.

Data Rescue (The Wild Bits; $39) has become the court of last resort for data recovery. Although every recovery utility claims to recover certain files the others can't, no utility is successful as often as Data Rescue. The only downside is that it won't fix your drive; you'll still have to reformat that when you're done.

June 1999 page: 97

Sometimes all it takes to fix a problem on your Mac is updating software. Here are three scenarios in which shareware you already have installed may be showing signs of age.

Misbehaving StuffIt Expander   Does Aladdin Systems' freeware StuffIt Expander refuse to decompress certain files? Your copy may be too old--StuffIt Expander 4.5 can't decompress StuffIt Deluxe 5.X or DropStuff 5.X files. Upgrade to version 5.1 or later.

Misguided TechTool Does TechTool report that your System file is damaged, even though you just installed a clean new copy of your system software? MicroMat's freeware utility is great for rebuilding the desktop, zapping your PRAM, and checking your System file for damage. However, every time Apple comes out with a new version of the Mac OS, you have to update TechTool as well–otherwise it erroneously reports that the System file is damaged. If you're using Mac OS 8.5.1, you need TechTool 1.1.8.

Snitty Snitch Do you get a system crash or other error when opening a file's Get Info window? If you use Snitch (Nifty Neato Software; $20) with Mac OS 8.5.X to add options to Get Info windows, make sure you have Snitch 2.6. Earlier versions simply won't work. If you've upgraded to Mac OS 8.5.1, you'll need an additional Snitch patch to get to version 2.6.1.

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