Action GoMac 2.02
Cost: Download $29.95, CD-ROM $39.95
Company: PowerOn Software
Having spent the last two years on a virtually Wintel-only campus, I’ve gotten to know Windows95 pretty well. In doing so, I have had to uncomfortably admit to myself that even though I still find the Mac OS easier and more intuitive to use–and overall far superior–there are some things that Windows gets right.
One of these things is the task bar at the bottom of the screen. It provides an easy way to switch between open applications, documents, and windows; gives one-click accessibility to many control panels and system settings; and, via the Start menu, allows simple navigation of drives and often-used applications.
Well, of course, anything that Windows software does, new Mac software can be written that can do the same thing better. Such is the case with PowerOn Software’s Action GoMac. In preparing for this review, PowerOn told me that it would take two or three weeks to get used to the new features, but once I did, it would become so easy and intuitive that it would seem like second nature. I proved them wrong–maybe it was due to my previous Windows experience, but I got used to using GoMac in less than a week! The latter part of their statement was dead-on, however, even though willingly installing a Windows-like system enhancement on your Mac may seem like sacrilege, once you try it out, you’ll wonder why Apple didn’t beat Microsoft to the punch and write this into the OS in the first place.
The Improved Task Bar
Firstly, PowerOn cleaned up the task bar a little. In Windows95, if you have several applications open, and have two or three documents open in each, the task bar can get very cluttered. GoMac solves this problem by listing only every open application in the task bar, rather than every open window . Clicking on a button in the task bar switches to that application, and clicking and holding on a button brings up a menu showing the open windows of that application. This menu also shows memory usage, and options for hiding or quitting the application.
The Start menu (which you can customize to be labeled Start, Mac, Macintosh, or simply the Apple logo) offers the same efficiency and ease of use as its Windows counterpart, but offers more customizing options. You can choose to show or hide Find, Recent, Progams, Settings, Drives, Internet, and Office 98 submenus in the Start menu, and you can also add your own folders, files, or favorites to it. All of the submenus are very clever–Find lets you perfrom a Sherlock search; Recent acts just like the recently used items option in the Apple Menu; Programs reads from the Applications folder of the root level of your hard drive (assuming you have such a folder); Settings offers easy access to your control panels, Extensions Manager, Chooser, and Monitors & Sound preferences; Drives allows you to navigate through all mounted drives on your computer (you can choose to exclude certain drives from the list, too); Internet shows your email, web, ftp, news, and telnet applications as defined by your Internet Config settings; and Office 98 shows, obviously enough, the Microsoft Office 98 programs you have installed (I have none, so I chose not to show that menu). Finally, as I mentioned before, you can also add your own folders, aliases, files, or bookmarks to the Start menu.
I still haven’t mentioned what I find to be the real beauty of Action GoMac, however. The region between the Start menu and the task bar area is called a QuickLaunch area. You store the equivalent of aliases to your favorite programs here, and you can launch those apps with one click, just as if you were using the Launcher or had the icon view set to “buttons.” What’s more, on the right of the screen, next to the clock, you can install control strip modules. As you can see from the screenshot, I chose to install quite a few! The clock on the far right is also nice–clicking on it reveals a monthly calendar. Finally, GoMac allows you to define a keyboard shortcut for switching among open applications.
A Swiss Army Knife for the Desktop
With all of this functionality, GoMac can be many things to different people. Some people may be content to use it just as a task bar, or just for the Start menu. I tend to use all of its features, and as such, it acts as a replacement for many parts of the operating system. The Start menu nearly replaces the Apple Menu, the task bar itself replaces the tear-off application pallette, because of the keyboard combination option I can disable the Application Switcher extension, the QuickLaunch feature means I can go without the Launcher, and being able to install control strip modules in the clock tray allows me to keep the actual Control Strip hidden. If I wanted to, I could even disable the menu bar clock!
Being able to hold all of this in one small, unobtrusive bar along the bottom of the screen is a blessing for me, because my PowerBook’s screen is only 11.4 inches with a resolution of 800 X 600. There’s even an option to hide the task bar itself, and have it pop up only when you bring the cursor down to the bottom of the screen!
But don’t get me wrong–even if I didn’t need the extra screen real estate, I would keep GoMac installed. It’s just too darn convenient to do without! It’s also been conflict-free in the six weeks that I’ve used it.
Action GoMac is an incredibly well-written piece of software, packed with enough features and functionality–without reaching the point of bloating–that every user can probably find something to like about it.
After more than a decade of Windows ripping off the Mac OS, it’s about time that Mac users were able to benefit from a “originally-Windows” feature. Even so, Microsoft could probably learn something from Action GoMac, too–because in this case, taking an idea from a competitor didn’t result in a cheap knock-off imitation, it resulted in the way the idea should have been done in the first place. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
MacMice Rating: 3.5