Now and Then and Now

Now UtilitiesIn the old days of the Macintosh’s System 7, I used to use a suite of products called Now Utilities which added a host of widget-style enhancements to the operating system, most principally for the purpose of helping users get to files faster. The first great benefit the suite offered was being able to add custom menus to various locations which would allow me to get to recently accessed folders, files and favorite applications. Another component of the utility suite greatly enhanced the Open and Save dialog boxes, again allowing me to access recent items.

As the old Macintosh operating system got long in the tooth, Now Software shuttered its operation, but the same products essentially lived on in the form of the Action Utilities suite from Power On Software. Still, neither suite ever truly made it over to the newer operating system, and for a while, I actually resisted upgrading to Mac OS X, holding out hope for some equivalent.

Now Menus Control Panel

From Now to Here

When I did finally upgrade, I was able to replicate Now Utilities’ Open/Save dialog enhancements with St. Clair Software’s Default Menu, which has essentially the same feature set. But I never found a way to add customized menus to the operating system — though I know there were a few shareware utilities that could do this for me, I was looking for an integrated suite like Now or Action, and after a while I more or less forgot about it.

Then last year I started using the excellent LaunchBar from Objective Development. This utility caused a real stir last year with its lightning fast and ultra-intuitive access to virtually all of the contents of one’s hard drive. LaunchBar’s unique value has recently been somewhat threatened by Blacktree Software’s Quicksilver, which offers a more robust version of the same feature set. Both programs are genuinely excellent in and of themselves as well as examples of how much more powerful Mac OS X is than its successor. (Though LaunchBar still has the superior search intelligence, my long-term bet is on QuickSilver thanks to its open source construction.)

Above: Now, now, there. The old Now Menus control panel, in all its old school glory.

I’m Not So Interested in You

Anyway, the whole point of this story is that I recently came across You Control from You Software, a company that actually shares some of the same genes as Now Software. This utility basically replicates some of the same functionality found in Now Utilities which, if it had been released when I first moved over to Mac OS X, might have piqued my interest. But now, with options like LaunchBar and Quicksilver which do the same job so well, I can hardly work up any excitement over it.

Reading over the You Software Web site and the description of the features, it struck me as strangely anachronistic, as if it was vintage 1997 software. It makes me realize that, despite general suspicions that we’re not making a heck of lot of progress in desktop software, programs like LaunchBar demonstrate that things are at least advancing incrementally.



  1. That is strange. I swear, I had no idea. Anyway, I’m not as kind in my comments on You Software as that article is, but I wish the company success all the same.

  2. how do you get custom menus and the other menu features (weather, stocks, news) from Quicksilver like You Control?

    i love quicksilver and use it but don’t see how it replaces You Control.


  3. You can’t create custom menus with LaunchBar or QuickSilver, but the point is that their speed and efficiency make custom menus obsolete — to my mind. I find it much quicker to type in the name of a document or file than to mouse up to a custom menu, but everyone has a different method of working. Anyway, I’m hoping new versions of (or modules for) Quicksilver will allow one to create and browse the equivalent of custom menus; a ‘smart listing’ of, say, recently used documents could be accessed via Quicksilver, which would totally remove the need for You Control — again, just in my opinion.

  4. You Control might be worthwhile IF it ever reaches the point where it uses minimal CPU resources in the background and is less prone to crashing. When I tested it last week it crashed at least 3 times a day. I could understand it crashing while I was hammering away configuring and fussing with it. But afterwords it shouldn’t have crashed just when I accessed a custom folder or checked the weather.

  5. If you want the best of all use “maxmenus” by the original author of go mac which became part of action utilities works just like “gomac” have menus in all corners customized as much as you like it is extremely stable. Click on the bottom left corner up pops your drive apps folder pref. home folder etc and really fast. Drag and copy into the popup menu etc Combines with Default folder to give a complete navigation system. and best of all it is inexpensive.

Thank you! Your remarks have been sent to Khoi.