WindowShade X, by Unsanity LLC
Posted: 27-Jan-2003

4 out of 5 Mice

Vendor: Unsanity LLC Type: SHAREWARE

Reviewer: Bill Catambay Class: GAMES
     
$7   Download

If you are one of those who have made the switch to Mac OS X, but are missing many features from OS 9 not carried over to OS X, Unsanity LLC has stepped in to fill some of the gaps. While Apple appears to be focusing on new "switch-over" users from Windows and UNIX, Unsanity appears to be thinking more of the Mac faithfuls that have been using Macs for years. One of the most useful utilities from OS 9 was the ability to "window shade" a window. This feature allows you to double click the top bar of a window, and the window disappears, revealing what is behind it. Double-click the window bar again, and the window comes back.

Years ago, WindowShade originally started out as a 3rd party utility, and due to its popularity, Apple incorporated it into their operation system. Surprisingly, however, when OS X came out (and its updates), the WindowShade utility was one of many useful features of the classic Mac OS that dropped out of sight. While OS X does provide the feature of dropping a window down into the dock, this requires moving the mouse down to the dock, locating the window (often in a collage of several icons, many possibly non-descript), and clicking it back out. WindowShade, on the other hand, allows you to double-click, see what's behind the window, then double-click again, never having to move the mouse or search for an icon. Try that several times a day, and you'll understand why so many Mac users prefer the WindowShade utility.

Unsanity's Windowshade X brings this utility back to the Mac, running native in OS X. It brought back the feature, and added some cool new ones. The first thing you'll notice in the Windowshade X preference panel is that there are 4 tabs to work with: WindowShade, Settings, Shadows, and Exclude List.


WindowShade X preference panel

In the main WindowShade tab, you can enable or disable WindowShade, and also bring back the familiar windowshading sound (just like with the old classic version). Here you can also specify an email address to subscribe to the Unsanity mailing list.


WindowShade X - Settings

In the Settings WindowShade tab, you can specify settings for all applications, and can further refine settings for specific applications. You can assign what action to take with the Minimize Button, double-clicking the Window Title, Control-double-clicking the Window Title, and Command-M. You can assign each of these actions to "WindowShade" (pop the window up, leaving the title bar only), make the window transparent (you can see behind it, and the window doesn't move), or use OS X's minimize action to squish the window into the dock. There's also a slider to set the opacity of the window when using the "Make Window Transparent" option (the further to the right, the more transparent the window gets).



WindowShade X - Shadows

In the Shadows WindowShade tab, you can enable or disable custom window shadows, both for the active (front-most) window, and for inactive windows. For both types, you can specify shadow spread, density, and horizontal and vertical offset of the shadow. This is a nice add-on to further customize your Macs visual appearance. There's also a "Draw Window Border" checkbox, and on first sight, I was hopeful that it would bring back the drag border for windows (another Classic Mac OS feature that allowed you to grab the border of a window and drag it on the desktop). Unfortunately, that's not what this is. Currently this feature only causes a thin border to be drawn around windows. As of this review, I know of no utility or feature that allows OS X users the ability to drag a window by anything but it's title bar.

The last tab of WindowShade X is the Exclude List tab. This simply allows you to exclude WindowShade settings from specific applications.

In use, WindowShade X is a champ. It heroically brings back a wonderfully helpful feature from Classic Mac OS, and includes some very nice add-on features. As you can see in the Settings example above, I set my settings to use WindowShade for both the minimize button and the double-click action. Just for fun, I also set the Control-double-click action to the transparency. To me this Aqua-esh feature is a novelty, but not very practical. Between having the window slide-up or have a ghost image left behind, it is far easier to read what's behind the window when it is gone completely (i.e., no ghost image). But it doesn't hurt to have the option! That was the beauty of Mac OS 9, and one of the problems with OS X (lack of options).

I also noticed a lag in the WindowShade sounds. In Classic Mac OS, when you double-clicked the title bar, the sound was sync'd perfectly with the action. In WindowShade X, unfortunately, there is a slight but noticeable pause between the action and the sound. For me, sounds breath life into my computer, and so I prefer to keep the sound on despite the lag.

Summary
As much as I enjoy seeing Apple get good press for Mac OS X, and seeing the switch-over stories from PC and UNIX users, I still find myself frustrated working in Mac OS X. There are a lot of wonderful features in Classic Mac OS that allow me to customize my Mac in all the right ways, and most of those features are not currently present in Mac OS X. Unsanity's WindowShade X is a godsend to me, providing the WindowShade feature from Classic Mac OS in near perfect condition. Throw in the cool add-in features in WindowShade X, and the low $7 shareware fee, and there's really no reason not to own this utility. I highly recommend it to all Mac users, old faithfuls and newcomers alike.

Pros

  • Indispensable WindowShade utility in OS X
  • Cool add-on features
  • Low shareware fee


Cons

  • Lag in WindowShade sound
  • Border feature doesn't support window dragging

Overall Rating

4 out of 5 Mice