Not everyone’s happy with the default look and feel of MacOSX. So the Unsanity LLC guys have come to fullfil feature requests from many MacOSX users. They have written applications that are basically “hacks” (Unsanity prefers the word “haxies”), that they change MacOSX, sometimes in a pretty fundamental way. We tested three of their products, Fruitmenu, WindowShadeX and Xounds.(Please click on the following links for screenshots)
This hack basically allows you to do three things: First, you can assign it so whenever you double click a window title’s space to have the whole window collapse under that window title. This was the default behavior on MacOS 9, but on OSX this action had changed to “minimize to dock”. Additionally, with WindowShadeX you can assign if you want the double click of the window title is to minimize to dock, to windowshade, to hide the application in the background or to make this application… transparent.
There is a widget bar where you can specify how much transparency (if any) you want for your selected windows.
Personally, I believe that the most useful utility of the three, is the fact that you can specify how much shadow spread, density and offset you want for your windows. And you can even set your windows to not have shadows at all. This is great for slower machines, because it really helps the overall speed of the OSX desktop, especially when minimizing or when resizing a window.
As all Unsanity’s applications, WindowShadeX also installs its settings panel on the main Apple Preference Panel. In the panel, you can set if you want the utility to get activated with the OSX startup, if you want to associate its actions with sounds, or if you would like to exclude some application from the influence of the haxie.
One problem I had with the utility is the fact that I wanted to enable the shadow options, without having enabled the WindowShade one. Unfortunately, this did not work well. I could get the foremost window with no shadows, but not the rest. And each time I was visiting the shadow settings panel, the panel had lost its settings. But other than that, the haxie works well (except some crashes of the pref panel if I uncheck the “WindowShadeX Enabled” option) and it is recommended if you miss OS 9 or if you want to squeeze some more speed out of your OSX.
Overall: 8 / 10
For those who missed OS 9’s little sounds associated to actions, like navigating through menus, moving the scrollbar, clicking on buttons, emptying trash and much more, Xounds is here to serve you. Again, the application is installing itself to the main preference panel and you get the option to launch at the startup and exclude some applications that may not play well with the haxie.
The default sound used, the Platimum set, it is imported from your MacOS 9 partition (if you have one) and it is immediately available for use. You can select if you want sounds only for the menu operations, or only for the windows operations, or for the widgets and the Finder, or for all or none of them.
Some (non-OS 9 users) might find that the Platinum set gets into your nerves after a while (eg. as it did for the author of this article 🙂 so the panel also includes a link to two web sites on the web where you can download more sound themes.
Overall: 9 / 10
FruitMenu is another haxie which basically does two things: First, it changes your Apple menu with custom options, and second, it changes your desktop context menu with additional options.
You will find many pre-compiled options to add to the two menus, like “Quit”, “Log Out”, “Hide Applications/Others”, Recent Folders and applications, Shut Down, Sleep and much-much more. You will be able to create sub folders for your menus if you want, add separators etc.
I have already added my Applications folder on the desktop context menu, so I can navigate, find and launch applications really fast. BeOS users will recognize this action as similar to Tracker’s.
What I found a bit dissapointing though is that the UI is not too intuitive and it is not so easy to figure out where to put things. For example, I was told that you can add your AppleScript scripts and when selecting a bunch of files, you can apply a selected script to them. I still haven’t figure out how to do that…
Another problem is that the Applications menu I put on the desktop context menu, does not update itself. For example, I may create or delete whole directories, and the context menu will still display a cached copy of the Applications folder.
When you tell its settings panel that you only want one of the two menus enabled, it either will add support for both, or for none, even if its UI is letting you to believe that you can control them individually. Overall, possibly this haxie is the one that makes the most difference when changing the OSX UI. However, it needs some more work on its own UI first.
Overall: 8 / 10