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essentials: os x switcher’s guide i

Posted 20 December 2002

It’s a ritual as old as moss. You’ve unwrapped your new Mac. You’ll spend the next two weeks installing all your applications, utilities, peripheral drivers, accessories, custom Photoshop palettes, and painstakingly hand-crafted email filters. Not to mention restoring your preferences before finally moving all your documents to the new machine. If your old machine ran OS 9 and your new one runs OS X, you’ll spend like a father of twelve replacing old software with new. If you do it right, your new Mac’s screen will look like this (screenshot).

Font management

If you do any graphic design work, you’ll need Extensis Suitcase 10 (just as you needed it in OS 9). Even if you’re not a designer, you may want to install Suitcase. OS X is swell in many ways, but coherent font management is not one of them. Whereas font management in OS 9 could be explained in six words (“Drag font suitcase onto System Folder”), whole O’Reilly books have been written about font management in OS X, and the authors of those books always commit suicide after writing them. Forewarned is forearmed.

Finder help

Using OS 9 straight out of the box was like exploring the web with Netscape 1.0. Shareware add-ons turned OS 9 into a thing of power and beauty. Most of these essential add-ons have made the transition to X:


Even if you like the OS X Dock (and it does have its strong points), you’ll still love, need, and cherish DragThing, finalist for “Best Productivity Utility” in the Macworld 18th annual Editors’s Choice Awards. (In the Screenshot, the application palettes at left show DragThing in action. The palette at upper left keeps track of open applications and lets you switch between them.)

Not only does DragThing launch your favorite documents, folders, applications, and URLs, it lets you to assign hot keys to these items, so you can launch (or switch to) Fetch or Photoshop—or open any folder or document on your hard drive—with the press of a key. DragThing also lets you navigate via hierarchical contextual pop-up menus (a trick the OS X Dock now performs as well). Oh, yeah, and DragThing also lets you put the Trash Can back on the Desktop, as the Lord intended.

Default Folder

If you dislike horizontally scrolling through OS X’s columnar views every time you try to save a file,you’ll appreciate Default Folder X, winner of Macworld’s 2002 Editors’s Choice Awards.

Like previous OS 8 and OS 9 versions, Default Folder X remembers your favorite folders, keeps them handy when you’re saving any document, and allows you to associate applications with folders (for instance, opening a “Logos” folder when you’re saving an Illustrator file). Our favorite feature? As in older versions of Default Folder, when saving a document, if you click in the open window of any folder on your Desktop, you instantly select that folder as your file’s final resting place. This feature alone can save you hours of dull groping every week. (As opposed to hours of interesting groping.)

Miss FinderPop? Try Ittec.

Turly’s $7 shareware FinderPop extended the classic Mac OS in more ways than we have time to write or you to read. When OS X came along, Turly quit making FinderPop. He now works as a Windows developer, but don’t tell his mother—she still thinks he plays piano in a whorehouse.

Life without FinderPop wasn’t worth living and the absence of an OS X-compatible FinderPop was reason enough not to switch to OS X. Fortunately, Ittec is an excellent FinderPop replacement.

Control-click on the Desktop or any folder or folder window to see its contents in a contextual menu. Command-click any item to open the folder containing it. Control-click an item to make a new contextual menu for it. And more. So essential, and such a bargain! Download it today or cry tomorrow.


If you do any writing, or even if you simply tire of typing certain phrases over and over again, you’ll dig Typeit4Me, a classic shareware add-on that has successfully migrated to OS X Jaguar. Typeit4Me is a text expander. You type “ty” plus a trigger (such as the space bar), and Typeit4me spits out: “Thank you very much for inquiring about our services.” It’s great for saving URLs, passwords, serial numbers, XHTML markup snippets, sincere-sounding replies, and bits of JavaScript or CSS, not to mention your name, address, phone number, and other text strings you benightedly peck out hour after hour and day after day until you just wonder if life is worth living. Buy Typeit4Me and know that life is beautiful.

Application Switcher

ASM restores OS 9’s Application Switcher to the OS X menu bar, while providing additional functions the old OS 9 Application Switcher never dreamed of. Between DragThing and Ittec, you may no longer need an OS 9-style Application Switcher, but you’ll buy ASM anyway, and do you know why? Because Apple took the Application Switcher out of OS X, and that pisses you off, that’s why. Because you’re not going to let Apple push you around! You’re stickin’ it to the man! Yeah!

Still waiting for Spell Catcher

One essential add-on that hasn’t yet made it to OS X is Spell Catcher, a system-wide dictionary and thesaurus. There are other such tools, but they are for criminals. Back in the day, Spell Catcher 8 earned four mice from Macworld and a “Freakin’ Awesome” review from Macaddict. We eagerly await an OS X version. (Did we say that?) Spell Catcher for OS X was released in January 2003 and works very well. [Initial comments.]

X or 9?

It’s too early to say if we like OS X more than we miss OS 9. We’re still installing stuff on the new Tibook, hence we’re still doing all our work on the dual processor G4 (which runs OS 9), hence we don’t miss 9 because we still use it. But the apps mentioned above are helping to make OS X feel more like home and less like a science project, and that’s a good thing.

Default text style.Alternate text style.Georgia on our minds.Watch this space.
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