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Productivity Aids

May 4, 1998
by Alex Zavatone

All of us love to tweak out our systems to help it help us do our jobs better. Last time I was in Europe, some crazy swede (yes you Jorgen) had his system so dialed that I felt I was in the dark ages.

"Geez, what's that? Whatsit do? Whats that thing do? Ohhhh. Wooow." Was about all I could say.

With that in mind, I asked a few people in the Director community what they use to help makes their jobs easier.

As an example, on my Mac, I've got the following goodies running to help me out

App: Malph
What: Application/document launching pad.
Why?: It not only provides a list of apps and docs to launch but also running processes and can be configured to sit most anywhere on your screen. Also supports drag and drop to open docs in the desired apps.
Where?: http://www.yorku.ca/ftp/Macintosh/utilities/

Init: GoMac
What: Windows Task bar for the mac.
Why?: It provides some of the functionality as Malph but also, a calendar, option tabbing between apps and other goodies. It's a good windows idea that works well on the mac.
Where?: http://www.proteron.com

Init: SuperBoomerang
What: An init that remembers your most recent folders and files from the open/save dialogs in all apps.
Why?: Cuz the apple open preferences BLOW and director does not set the open folder as the default when opening a fils from the recent apps menu
Where?: http://now.qualcomm.com/

Xtra: Director Toolkit Miaws
What: Some stuff I wrote to inspect a buncha things within Director.
Why?: Cuz even though I like to bitch about what's broken, when I can fix a problem or shortcoming in the product to make my life easier, I'd be a fool not to do it.
Where?: me till I get better distributors.

Init: ATM
What: Renders type 1 fonts properly on your screen with no jaggies
Why?: It makes type 1 fonts in addition to Truetype fonts work as the contents of a RTF text member.
Where?: http://www.adobe.com

Init: MacsBug
What: Apple Debugger
Why? If an app/when an app crashes, there's a better chance of recovering and restarting cleanly with it installed.
Where?:http://swupdates.info.apple.com/cgi-bin/lister.pl?
Apple.Support.Area/Apple.Software.Updates/US/Macintosh/Utilities

On a pc, I like to use NT because it just sucks less but if forced to use Win 95, there is a tweak that lets you change the screen size and resolution without rebooting windows. For the life of me, I can't remember what it is though. Quickres??

The following email messages are from folks on current Director and Shockwave lists who responded with their personal picks. The messages are edited and wherever possible, the url of the system enhancement has been added. In most cases, if the url is missing, you can find most shareware tools on http://www.download.com.

It's a long list but a good one. Read on you productivity monger you.

From: Chino

PC Send to:
Make shortcuts of your favourite apps, directories and network drives/folders and place them in the 'Send To' directory, located at C:\Windows\ or C:\WINNT\Profiles\Administrator or <username>\. Now you can locate a file on your windows explorer and by right clicking you can send the file to be opened by your desired application or destination. Especially useful if you have Director 5 and 6 installed on the same machine seeing how double clicking on the file will always use Dir6 to open that file.

Mac Default Folder:
This is a heaven send... especially if like me, you have tons of volumes and hard drives scattered all across different machines and networks. Published by St.Clair software for a measly 25bux as a shareware init. It should be readily available from the usual Mac download sites. My version is 2.5.7. This little gem puts a menu in the std Mac SF dialog box that allows you to save favourite folders anywhere on your network. Now with one mouseclick I can instantly be a folder that would normally be 10 mouseclicks away. I WISH THERE WAS SOMETHING LIKE THIS FOR PCs. (hint, hint all you shareware coders..:-)

Open window the moviename

This will open the movie you are working on in a window.. This is a help to me while I am working in Director because I don't have to lose track of where I am in the score or which windows I have open etc, etc.

Have tons more.. but these are probably my 2 most used productivity shortcuts.

From: Louis + Lesley

1st one I can think of is:

App: TweakUI (Part of Powertoys)
Platform: Windows 95
Why: Most useful thing of this app is that it will log me into the network automatically. No need to type in my password to get my desktop settings etc Also allows many hacks to the win95 desktop and control panel stuff

From: Simon Biggs

I must be a very conservative Mac user, as I have so few tweaks (as Zav defines them). Of the list he gives I only use ATM (which I thought everyone uses).

For me the greatest aid to productivity is a minimalised work space (both physically and what is on my screen or in memory, a stripped system of sorts) where I can find everything I need very quickly. I run an empty black desktop with just the minimum of required things on the desktop (just the drive icons usually). I put the entire contents of the drives into the apple menu so that I can heirarchically access things without ever double clicking. Sometimes I sit in front of some colleagues machines and cannot believe what a mess their desktops look. These are the same people who can never find anything on their desk (my desk also has nothing on it, everything neatly filed away for quick reference).

I use to use Photomatic a lot for batch processing in Photoshop of frames for Director but with Actions in Photoshop 4.0 this is no longer needed. I still use ColorSwitch, an easily accessed monitors control panel that lives next to the balloons icon on the menu bar. This makes bit depth switching extremely easy, something one does a lot between Photoshop and Director. I also have a 24 hour world clock which I can call up from the apple menu. This simply shows 24 time zones around the world, automatically calibrated to your own time zone. This is just a little dxr file I wrote for fun, but find sort of useful from time to time (when sending faxes, etc).

I guess my main tweak is the overall sysem spec that I work with. I find multiple monitors with accelerator options of various kinds very useful, allowing fast processing and a large work space. As much RAM as possible is also critically important. The CPU's speed is a factor, as is the OS version, but not as important as memory.

From: Brian Gray

Ok, that said, I have to confirm what Zav said about Macsbug. That's one of the very few "nonessential" extensions I use. The others:

Forker: Extension that allows ResEdit to manipulate the data fork of a file. I don't think this is required by Resourcerer, but then ResEdit (and Forker) is free.

Stuffit Engine: base64, uu, everything else from Expander and DropStuff. This one costs money though.

OT/PPP Strip: Used to have the PPP control panel in my Startup Items folder. Now I just use this control strip module to keep tabs on and control my connections. I can even switch configurations right from the desktop, although I then have to switch TCP/IP configs in that panel.
Where: http://sunsite.rediris.es/ftp/software/mac/Communication/
MacTCP/conn/ppp/ot-pp p-strip-102.hqx

From: Mark Reijnders

I used SuperBoomerang but then I upgraded to MacOS 8.0 and it didn't work anymore. I switched to defaultfolder but now I use ActionFiles. Very nice. You can sort files on name, size, date changed etc right in open/save dialogs. It doesn't work very reliable in Director though:-) MOA....

Extension: Click there it is
What: An init that automatically changes the contents of Open/save dialogs to the folder you click on. Or the desktop folder if you click on the desktop.
Why?: Because it is very handy if you want to save files to other folders than the originally came from.
Bummer: Does not work in Director for Importing files because that dialog is not modal...

System goodie: Windowshade
What: minimizes folders and windows to their handlebar.
Why?: cause it is very handy to have multiple scriptwindows open and still be able to look at the stage or the score. Every time I work in Director for Windows I miss this one the most. Having to close scriptwindows is a real pain in the butt. There seems to be a similar app for windows but I never used it.

From: Ron Manke

My favorite right now is Action Utilities, it is made by the same people that made Boomerang (I believe), and it is a really handy utility for enhancing the save dialog box.

From: Paul Farry

Just a few of the ones I use

CTRL: APPLWindows. (It's pretty old)
Purpose: Hierarchical access to the windows on the screen. Configured, you can have modifier keys that give you the hierarchical menu whereever you are on screen. It can also hide the application you are switching from.

Xtra: OSUtil [mac,win32]
Purpose: Script control over operating system functions
Features: Allows for HUGE scripting in lingo over the operating system, I especially use it to Flatten QT Movies, because it strips the resource fork completely from the flattened file. Also for bulk(intelligent) renaming of files, I stick that in. Something else I also use in here is the Process Control functions to quit the Finder and so forth if memory is really tight.
<Zav: I have to agree, OS Util is really useful. I use it in one of my own tools to preview all the fonts in Director>

App: CDSizer (Not exactly sure of the name)
Purpose: Get exacting sizes of files and folders for Fitting to a specific media.

It's been a while since I used this, but if you are looking close to filling that CD, this is great to monitor you trims to the media and files until it's gonna fit on that disc.

From: Roy Pardi

dragThing - a tabbed launcher-type utilitiy

neatnik - sets window size + placement + view for all subfolders of a selected folder or drive. neatens things up when setting up a cd image to burn

Drop Conversion - just sets the file/creator type for dropped docs- good when moving files back + forth across platforms- .dirs, csts, etc.

From: ZeusProd

I am always most productive with free disk space, a lot of RAM and a good network setup and a fast modem. I find that hardware is usually more of a bottleneck than software. I spent about a week downloading all sorts of browsers and plug-ins for all platforms to make testing feasible.

I find "DropInfo" and "MacErrors" vital.

I also use the Apple Menu and Start Menu a lot. I hated PowerBar.

I use two monitors on my Mac.

I now have two ISPs so that I am reasonably guaranteed to always have internet access, a 56K modem for downloads, with a second 28K modem with which I can just check e-mail while waiting for a long download.

For more productivity tips (inside and outside of Director) see my chapter aptly named "Productivity" in the upcoming "Director in a Nutshell". I'll be happy to refer people to your article though.
<Zav: here again I agree. I just read the text for this book and it's a keeper>

From: IKalb

I often need to grab an area of the screen. To do that I use the ScreenClip FKey which shipped with some old version of Director (3.0??). I find it invaluable.

Init: ScreenClip FKey (Mac)
What: Allows you to grab any portion of the screen and have it automatically copied to the clipboard.
Why?: Because I often need want to grab a portion of the screen with all Director layers flattened and save it as a new cast member.

From: Mark Hagers

On windows I pretty much live with the basic Win 95 stuff. But then, I use the PC mainly to test stuff for compatibility, not to develop, except in VB.

On my Mac, I try to keep a lean system, but there are some things I can't live without:

ATM
goes without saying... (comes free with Photoshop anyway)

Default Folder: gives access in open/save dialogs to

Control Strip (system)

File Typer

Contextual Menu Manager

Find file (system)
Where would we all be without it... I have this [APPLE]-F twitch in daily life, I keep hoping that s.o. someday will find a way to implement a find feature in reality.

finally... this is not productivity enhancement:
Sometimes, when I feel like it and can spare the memory, I enable texttospeech, mainly for the talking alerts feature. It brightens my day to hear the polished voice of Victoria(hq) say "Fuck the hell!", instead of the usual dull alert sound (I know I'm depraved, but what can one do?).

From: John Dowdell

I keep things stock these days. If something acts unexpectedly, there's fewer variables to isolate, and it's faster to get back on-track.

(I used to use Super Boomerang and WYSIWYG fonts and ATM and all, but moved away from them after a few upgrades. Today, if someone provides a steps-to- repro for a problem, I don't want to have to reproduce it twice across a restart in order to verify.)

From: Nick Derewianka

I do however, put my windows task bar at the top of the screen and my HD icons to the right of the screen so that it feels more like a mac - oh and a big fat apple logo right on the desktop to piss off any PC fanatics that go near my computer ;)

From: Michael Bashista

Recently went from 32 to 64 megs of RAM and found that to speed up things. I also try to keep about 250 megs free on my HD; sending stuff to a zip or burning a CD.

From: Gary Rosenzweig

FileTyper
Its an init that adds Command-T to the finder file menu. That brings up a dialog on any file that lets you quickly change the file type and creator (and a whole bunch of other things). Sort of like launching ResEdit and using the Get File Info function. Its very fast and useful.

FlashIt
Takes screen grabs of areas and saves them to the clipboard, or a PICT file. You can assign your function keys to activate it fast. Very nice for taking screen grabs when a drawing program's "save as pict" function doesn't work quite right or you want to take a snapshot of the Director stage. Shareware.

PageSpinner
Forget BBEdit. This is the very best HTML-writing tool. It is very powerful, and yet does not try to be a WYSIWYG editor at all. I hate those because you can never be 100% sure what it will really look like in Netscape/MSIE/Mac/Windows/Etc. It only tampers with your coding style as much as you let it and has all sorts of need gadgets and things. Shareware.

From: Joe Sparks

My TOP MODS for MAC:

Default Folder
-- never slog thru another open and save dialog again. Athing of beauty, for around 5 years now. Super solid.

Kensington Mouse with groovy Control Panel
-- never touch (or miss) a scroll bar, close box, or ever double click again, and so much more. A mac is not complete without it.

QuicKeys
-- MUST have.

The whole Stuffit Package + extensions.

VirtualDisk
-- virtual file system on your desktop for each and every Zip, Jaz, CD-ROMs, Floppys, whatever you want, all contianed within a single mounted "virtual disk". Updates each time you eject. Use plain ol Find to find anything on your unmounted disks, A MUST HAVE!

Norton Utilities with Norton FileSaver On

and:

You can do all of screen clip and much more now, with plain old Mac OS. Here's the note clipping I keep on my desktop when I forget the key commands:

Enhanced screen capture options You can copy portions of the screen, and copy the screen images to the Clipboard or a file. Use the following keyboard combinations:

Command-Shift-Control-3 copies a picture of the entire desktop to the Clipboard.

Command-Shift-4 creates a picture file of a rectangular selection of the desktop. After pressing and releasing the key combination, position the cursor at the upper-left corner of the area you want to capture, then drag to the lower-right corner. If you continue to press the Shift key while dragging the cursor, the capture area will be constrained to a square.

Command-Shift-4-Caps Lock creates a picture file of a window. After pressing the key combination, click the window you want to capture.

To save the rectangle or window on the Clipboard instead of as a file, press the Control key as you click. To cancel a Command-Shift-4 screen selection, press the Space bar.

From: Che

Platform: Macintosh (OS 8.1)

Init: Click, There It Is! What: When in an Open/Save dialog, a click on any open folder window on the desktop will make it the target folder for the file action.
Why: (To quote Zav) Cuz the apple open preferences BLOW

Init: Natural Order
What: Makes file listings alphabetize numerals "properly".
Why: Normally, files that have numeric suffixes (ie, face_101.pict) need leading zeroes to prevent number "10" coming right after "1" and before "2". This fixes that; files list in the order you intended.

Init: Program Switcher
What: Switches between open processes with a popup menu, like ALT-TAB in Windows.
Why: More customisation options that GoMac's switcher.

Init: Coolviews
What: Customise your file listing views; adjust order, widths...
Why: The defaults suck. I like to see my type/creator codes right up front.

FKey: GammaToggle
What: Switches between two preset monitor gamma settings with a single keypress.
Why:
Gives me a rough preview of what my designs/screens will look like on a PC monitor.

App: GraphicConverter
What: 90% of Debabeliser, but Shareware! Register it to get full batch processing
Why: I won't even begin. If you work with graphics, this is the production helper you need.

Init: FinderPop
What: Extends the OS 8.x Contextual Menu system. No more control clicking; launch a file into any running process, navigate your open folders, check free memory, run applescripts...
Why: The best feature of the new Mac OS just got better!

CMenu: More File Info
What: An extended Get Info, plus allows you to view images, movies, zap resource forks, change type and creator codes, all without launching an app Why: Are you kidding?

I, like Zav, am constantly amazed at the wealth of extensions out there that can improve on the user experience. You can bet that if there's something you don't like about the Macintosh interface, someone has written an init to fix it! I used to be a real junkie. I've now cut back to about 10 a day (and I can stop whenever I want!)

From: Alan Levine

I take a minimalist apporach.

Oh, I do have one very successful strategy; my main workstation has NO Microsoft software. I use a 6100 in our office pool if I need to type something.

From: Matt

Here's my contributions:

App: DragThing
What: Application/document/folder/url launcher
Why?: No more clicking or option-clicking folders. You can create floating 'docks' on screen that expand when clicked on to reveal layers of folder tabs that contain aliases to anything that can be aliased. Totally customisable you can set colour, look. It's fully drag and dropable, OS 8 savvy, comprehensive short-cut keys mean that changing memory allocation for _any_ app on your system is a half second task. Also displays running processes (hidden and not), allows you to switch between processes in an instant. URL Manager Pro savvy.

App: URL Manager Pro
What: Url manager that goes above and beyond the call of duty.
Why?: Ever tire of collating all those url's from the web, e-mail, usenet etc? Not any more. This app automatically starts whenever you launch an internet app. Adds a menu to your applications that allows you to grab urls from the e-mail/web page/bookmarks/usenet postings and stores them all in one place. Totally customisable comes with a control strip so that you can launch your mail app and check mail, launch any internet app, check latest mac news all in one click. A must have.

A special word (although it's not shareware):

App: Vicom FTP Client
What: Ftp client.
Why?: You may well ask. Quite expensive but it's the best ftp client I've ever used. The main reason that I mention it here is because of the way it uploads shockwave. You never have to take care in uploading a shockwave movie in binary mode again. Vicom does it all automatically - and works!

From: Matthew Caldwell

Snitch, an extended Get Info that adds finder flags, type & creator etc. Totally indispensable. Unfortunately it dies every time there's a new system release (the downside of its funky Finder patching).

From: sy

I am basically using Win95b with TweakUI, a free Extension from MS, which helps to tweak the UI. ;o) It is available on TUCOWS, www.microsoft.com, etc. in a package called "Powertoys", containing other handy gadgets (by those MS programmers who thought they were missing in Win95).

I'm also using a software called "Clipmate 4.5", which extends the clipboard from only one entry to literally as much as your HD can hold. Helped me saving hours of work and app-switching.

My hardware collection features a Logitech "wheel" mouse. The middle button is a wheel that can be used to scroll vertically in any window, which helps reduce mouse-miles and cramps. The wheel can also be clicked, which spares you the occasional double-click. It is easily customizable and programmable.

I'm also using a a 17" monitor with true color 1152x864 resolution, which is great for working on 800x600 movies (buy it: Samsung SyncMaster 700p), 64MB RAM, 6GB HD-space, a Wacom tablet and a CD ROM burner. And a telephone.

A Director user since 1987, Alex (Zav) Zavatone has worked on the engineering teams for both Director and Shockwave, 4, 5, 6 and 7. Recent investigations find him developing foundation classes for Director with asynchronous process management and other life threatening activities. In its early days, he had something to do with this Internet thing known as "DOUG". A noted ne'erdowell, slacker and laggard, Mr. Zavatone is nonetheless is trusted by children, small animals and the elderly. In his spare time, Mr. Zavatone rehabilitates lame desert trout.

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