by Stephen Camidge <firstname.lastname@example.org>
DiskTop has long been a popular Finder-replacement utility for people who need to work with files in ways that the Finder simply doesn't do well. DiskTop enables you to quickly browse through your files, find specific files, work with sets of found files, make files visible and invisible and so on.
PrairieSoft, a new company formed by many of the employees who developed and supported DiskTop at CE Software, has purchased the rights to DiskTop. PrairieSoft's first update to DiskTop, version 4.5, offers several improvements over DiskTop 4.0.2 and maintains DiskTop's position as a great utility, but leaves room for further improvement. This review aims to help current DiskTop owners decide whether or not to take the plunge for the $30 upgrade. The upgrade shouldn't require any fancy new hardware - the minimum system requirement is System 6.0.4, and it runs on the Plus or anything newer.
The new version is still a desk accessory. Gone is the DiskTop window showing the status of the hard drive volumes. Instead, you are offered a window showing information about files on the desktop in a columnar format. Alternately, you can open to the last folder accessed by DiskTop with the hard drive volume information presented, and in the Preferences dialog, you can set what appears in the DiskTop window on launch.
It is now possible to create ten customized views plus the old Normal and Technical views. You can also choose the size and location of the window. A more modern interface offers 3-D buttons and the use of color, though the interface also looks fine on a small monochrome screen. You can resize and reorder the columns to present the information in the order in which you would like to view it. You can choose among Icon, Name, Type, Creator, Data, Resource, Modified, Created and Locked. If you select the Make Alias command, DiskTop provides a SFDialog box where you can decide where to locate the alias, though you cannot rename the alias while in the dialog box.
PrairieSoft included a new version of GOfer with the upgrade. I have not tested it as I find that the DiskTop find is adequate for my needs. GOfer is not currently compatible with the 68040 chip, but Microlytics (the company that makes GOfer) is in the process of completing a 68040-compatible version, and DiskTop purchasers can get a free copy of that version by filling out and mailing in a coupon in the DiskTop package. [In addition, Sue Nail <email@example.com>, PrairieSoft Public Relations Manager, said that DiskTop will ship with the 68040-compatible version of GOfer once the version is ready. -Tonya]
Nice Touches -- The new version offers a number of nice enhancements, including:
Pressing the Command key causes the buttons to display their Command key equivalents.
When copying files, the target window displays only folders, since you will not be copying to a file. Logical, and a nice touch, though you can also display the files if you want.
To simplify navigation, you may now add a list of often-used folders to each drive on the new Drives pop-up menu. The list appears as a submenu for each drive.
The Path command has been improved to facilitate copying the path name of a file to the clipboard, although it's not immediately clear that you must click on the volume name in the path to enable the Copy Path button. Quite handy, especially for scripting.
Although PrairieSoft is a new company with limited resources, I found technical support easily accessible and highly responsive. PrairieSoft changed their shipping policies to permit Canadians to bypass using UPS (who slap on a $25 fee when a package crosses the border).
Negatives -- This isn't to say that DiskTop is a perfect program, and no matter how useful, few people will use it in favor of the Finder most of the time.
File size is not available as a column unless you are in the Normal view. In other views, you must be savvy enough to add the size of the Data and Resource forks in order to come up with the total size of a file.
Although the Lock column displays the status, it is not possible to lock/unlock a file from the main window; instead, you must use the Get Info command while in technical mode. This limitation is most unfortunate, and I hope that PrairieSoft will add the capability in the near future.
DiskTop Launch has not improved. It supports one list for your most frequently used applications and documents. Multiple lists would be of greater use.
Users of NowCompress will note that DiskTop 4.5 still expands files as they copy. The problem occurs due to a flaw of NowCompress, not of DiskTop, but it is the only reason why I won't use DiskTop as my main copy utility. [This problem may occur with other compression utilities as well, since the compression utility must recognize DiskTop to allow the copy to proceed without decompression. It seems like a feature that a compression utility would want for the feature checklist wars. -Tonya]
Conclusion -- The improvements to the interface (Command keys, customizable views, window sizing, 3-D buttons, often used folders submenus) show that much thought and effort went into the upgrade. A new manual is included in the price.
The miser in me objects to the U.S. $30 price tag for the upgrade. However, it is encouraging to see work resume on my favorite utility. PrairieSoft has plans to further enhance DiskTop and is not just capitalizing on name recognition to sell units. DiskTop remains the best alternative to the Finder, and I believe that PrairieSoft has an excellent future.
PrairieSoft, Inc. -- 515/225-3720 -- 515/225-2422 (fax)
Microlytics, Inc. -- 800-828-6293 -- 715/248-9620