The concept is compelling: a product called Spring Cleaning that sweeps out your hard disk, deleting duplicate files, trashing orphaned aliases and preferences, and nuking empty folders. As attractive as the prospect sounds, however, the first two versions of the program suffered from a convoluted design, a sloppy manual, and a tendency to trash good files along with the bad. Fortunately for us, Aladdin Systems obviously intends to keep at it until getting it right. In Spring Cleaning 3.01, the company has dramatically simplified the interface and improved the documentation. The new release is the best yet, although the goal of perfect System Folder junk identification continues to elude the program.
You can search for such unwanted items as broken aliases; orphaned documents; and corrupted files, fonts, and help files. Once Spring Cleaning produces its list of such items, you must choose how you want them handled. Sometimes these actions make sensefor example, you can archive the items with Aladdin's StuffIt or move them to the Trash. At other times, the options are just goofy: Why would you want to use a Duplicate command on files you found with the duplicate-file search? And how exactly are you supposed to use the Launch command on empty folders?
One welcome command is Exclude From Future Searches, which prevents Spring Cleaning from repeatedly rounding up the same incorrect sets of files. But although the program is smarter than before, it still makes mistakes. For example, the duplicate finder turns up many files that are obviously not duplicates, and the preferences trasher targets for deletion files that are actually extremely important, such as your Internet dial-up number and other control-panel settings.
Fortunately, Spring Cleaning 3.01 offers safety mechanisms that prevent the kind of tragedy previous versions occasionally engendered. When you delete an application, for example, the associated-files list still includes documents you've created with that application, but Spring Cleaning now identifies them as such. And many of the actions can now be undone, thanks to the new Restore command.
Despite the obvious attention Aladdin has paid to the new version's design, Spring Cleaning remains caught in a conceptual bind: it's most likely to attract novices longing for some automatic genie to cure their troubled systems, yet only advanced users should be armed with a program that requires item-by-item scrutiny. In other words, Spring Cleaning 3.01 does an excellent job of parading suspects into your courtroom, but it's still your job to separate the innocent from the guilty.
RATING: PROS: Dramatically improved interface; smarter than before. CONS: Some options are illogical; not for beginners. COMPANY: Aladdin Systems (800/850-3388, http://www.aladdinsys.com ). LIST PRICE: $50.
July 1999 page: 58