FruitMenu 3.2.1, by Unsanity LLC
Posted: 16-Apr-2004

4 1/2 out of 5 Mice

Vendor: Unsanity LLC Type: SHAREWARE

Reviewer: Bill Catambay Class: UTILITY
     
$10   Download

Overview
Under Mac OS 9, the Apple menu contained customizable useful items, such as Notes, Calculator, and other utilities, as well as the Control Panels submenu, recent items, and other wonderful shortcuts. Even with desktop tools such as DragThing that provides on-screen button access to many applications, there were always certain kinds of programs or utilities that seemed more appropriate under the Apple menu. For example, even though I put my Dymo Labelwriter in both DragThing and in the Apple menu, I always preferred accessing it from the Apple menu. The Apple menu is a great way to access that occasional tool without looking for a button that may be covered. Under Mac OS X, there are utilities that you may not use frequently enough to put into your Dock, but you still want quick access to them. Unfortunately, Mac OS X does not provide us the option to customize our Apple menu. Fortunately, Unsanity has come to the rescue with it's FruitMenu tool.

FruitMenu is an OS X utility, known as a haxie, that gives you the ability to customize the Apple Menu and contextual menus. Using a visual editor, it allows you to edit the contents of the menus to suit your needs and taste. FruitMenu will also display the contents of the FruitMenu Items folder inside of your Library folder, launch applications and shell scripts from the Apple Menu and contextual menus, to allow easy file navigation and launching. In addition, you can assign hotkeys to particular menu items. It is a shareware utility that is priced at $10.

Features

  • Put any folders and files in your Apple and contextual menus.
  • Put complete disks in your Apple and contextual menus for easy navigation.
  • Assign hot keys to your files, folders, and commonly used tasks.
  • Access individual System Preferences immediately from a submenu.
  • See your IP Address in the Apple or contextual menu.
  • Speed up your system by disabling menu fadeout effect.
  • Open any document with application of your choice through the contextual menu.
  • Move any file or folder into your desired location.
  • Preview graphics file right into your menu.
  • Reveal and Get Info on files right from your Apple and contextual menus.
  • Create individual configurations of Apple and Contextual menus for different applications.
  • Use less-cluttered, faster implementation of Recent Applications, Documents and Folders than Apple's.
  • Set desktop picture instantly with a single click.
  • Browse contents of the selected folder in a menu, instantly.
  • Organize the Apple menu the way you want or need.
  • Easy to configure as it comes in usual Preference Pane form, accessible through System Preferences.
  • Compatible with Mac OS X 10.3 Panther.

Installation
Installation of FruitMenu is a breeze. It can be downloaded from Unsanity's web site, and easily installs with a simple installer program. Like most Unsanity products, it requires the Application Enhancer, which is installed automatically if it is not already present. FruitMenu is a keeper, so you'll want to register the shareware by paying the $10 fee and entering in the serial number. The only thing I didn't like about the installation process is that you have to re-enter the serial number for each account on the same computer. I would like to have just entered it once for all users on the computer.

In Use
FruitMenu is a relatively simply tool to use. After installation, you can go into your System Preferences, and FruitMenu has its own preference panel. FruitMenu can be customized globally, as well as for each application. This is a standard feature in Unsanity's product line, but I didn't really see a need to have a my Apple menu behave differently in different applications, so I only used the global settings. Customization comes in five categories: FruitMenu, Apple Menu, Contextual Menus, Exclude List, and Advanced.

The FruitMenu setting lets you turn the FruitMenu controlled Apple menu on and off, as well as enabling the FruitMenu contextual menus. The heart of FruitMenu is being able to customize the Apple menu, so you definitely want to keep that enabled. The FruitMenu contextual menu adds extra goodies to your Finder contextual menus, such as access to all your volumes and desktop by way of submenus. Further checkboxes allow you to display submenus in a smaller font, enable in-menu picture previews, and more. You can also specify whether to show icons in menus, and the depth of menus (up to unlimited). Finally, this is where you can click on Register to enter your serial number and register the product.

The Apple Menu setting is where the fun really begins. Here you define exactly what you want your Apple menu to look like, and the possibilities far exceed what you could do in OS 9. This is not your grandfather's Apple menu! On the left is what your Apple Menu is currently configured as, and on the right is a list of all the possible objects you can assign. It includes standards objects such as About This Mac, Shutdown, Restart and Log Out, and much more. Some of the more interesting objects are: System Preferences, Force Quit, IP Address, FruitMenu Items, and Running Applications. System Preferences gives you a submenu of all your system preferences (similar to how Control Panels were available in the OS 9 Apple menu). Running Applications gives you a submenu of all the running applications, similar to the application menu under OS 9. In addition to the preset objects, you can add your own objects by placing aliases to files and programs within your FruitMenu folder. To open the folder, simply press the "Open FruitMenu Items Folder" button at the bottom of the preference panel. Whatever you drop in the folder instantly shows up under the Apple Menu (folders turn into submenus). The fastest and easiest way to get to this folder in the future is to include the "Reveal FruitMenu Items" object in your Apple Menu. With that option, you can quickly open the folder using your Apple menu without having to return to the Preferences.

I really liked being able to bring back the lock and feel of the Mac OS 9 Apple menu, but more importantly, I was ecstatic that it brought back the functionality that made such perfect sense under OS 9 - the ability to create quick shortcuts from a menu that is accessible from every application. For such a simple utility, I cannot state strongly enough what a gem this tool is. After years of being without this functionality, it is like a major breath of fresh air. Other goodies, such as making my IP address visible under the Apple menu, is just icing on the cake.

But wait, there's more! Yes, for each item under the Apple menu, you can assign a Hotkey. This is wonderful! I made hotkey shortcuts for Log Out and Shut Down, and you can even make hotkey shortcuts for the items you add to your FruitMenu folder.


FruitMenu In Action

The only object that I wanted to include that wasn't available is an Empty Trash object. Sure, Empty Trash is already under the Finder Menu, but if it was available within FruitMenu, then I could assign my own hotkey to it. I trust myself enough that I'd rather have a two key shortcut to emptying the trash rather than the 3-key default of Command-Shift-Delete.

The other FruitMenu settings are not as thrilling as the Apple Menu setting, but they do expand the functionality of FruitMenu quite nicely. For instance, under Contextual Menus you can make almost anything available under contextual menus as you can under the Apple menu, and then some. For instance, unique to the contextual menu options is "Move To", allowing you to specify a folder, and then be able to move items to that folder using your contextual menu. Having access to my volumes, or being able to set a picture as my new desktop picture, or previewing an image file right in the contextual menu are very cool options as well.

Under the Exclude List setting, I didn't find a need to exclude anything, but it was interesting to see the list of items that are automatically excluded along with the reason. For example, the Dock, Command Line Tools, and Helper Applications are always excluded because they have no menubar.

Under the Advanced setting there are some additional checkbox items that may be of interest to some users, such as load all contextual menus early in application startup, or display folders first in file listings. However, I discovered an option here that partially resolves a problem that I've been wrestling with ever since Mac OS X came out. I use my Mac, among other things, to manage my web sites, and do so mainly through uploading and downloading files via an FTP client. Some of the files that I manage are on UNIX servers, and I manage special files for filtering that often begin with a period (.). This is where Mac OS X clashes in a big way. Because of the UNIX underpinnings of OS X, files that begin with periods are invisible (whereas they were just normal files under OS 9). There are hacks to make these files visible, but that opens up a Pandora's box since there are a probably numerous invisible files that I don't want to see. In FruitMenu's Advanced setting, there is a checkbox for "Show Hidden Files" that only affects the files in the FruitMenu folder. I made an alias of the folder containing my special UNIX files and put it in my FruitMenu folder. Lo and behold, I now have access to these files quickly and easily from my Apple menu! I'm able to open the files and edit the files, but unfortunately I still cannot move them. The last piece of the puzzle is figuring out an easy way to drag and drop the files into my FTP client to upload to my web site. FruitMenu got me two thirds of the way there. To complete the puzzle, it would be nice if FruitMenu could actually open a virtual folder (one controlled by FruitMenu rather than the Finder) that allowed me to see these invisible files and drag and drop them onto other application windows.

Finally, at the bottom of the FruitMenu preference pane, regardless of the settings tab activated, there are always three buttons: Open FruitMenu Items Folder (which does exactly that), Help (pulls up a FruitMenu help manual with TextEdit), and Apply (enabled when a change is made, and used to put that change into affect). FruitMenu was so easy to use, I didn't find a need to read the help manual, but it's nice to know it's there if you need it. It does include a few tricks on how to use FruitMenu that are not really obvious (such as how to assign hotkeys to the items in your FruitMenu folder).

FruitMenu configuration was easy, and the Apple menu it created functioned very smoothly (as if built-in to the OS). The only problem I encountered is that anytime you are in a classic application, you have the old Mac OS 9 Apple menu, and the nice FruitMenu Apple Menu that you've sculpted so carefully is no longer available to you until you return to a native application. Perhaps it's too much to ask, but for the sake of consistency, it would be nice if there was an OS 9 version that could run in parallel, and operating from the same preferences.

Summary
While Mac OS X gives you a fixed and rather boring Apple menu, and provides no options to customize it, Unsanity's FruitMenu utility is an amazing OS X haxie that allows you to customize your OS X Apple menu easier and with more options than in OS 9. You can install a System Preferences submenu, a Running Applications submenu, display your IP address, assign hotkey shortcuts, and much more. You can also add your own Apple menu items simply by adding items and aliases to your FruitMenu folder. FruitMenu also provides extended features, such as letting you customize your contextual menus and giving you access to invisible items. A couple of FruitMenu caveats: If you have multiple accounts on your Mac, you will have to register the program for each user, and your customized Apple menu disappears when you are running a classic application. Aside from these inconveniences, FruitMenu is an insanely great OS X utility. It's one of those products that is so simple, yet it removes a mountain of frustration from the OS X experience (like the mouse that pulled the thorn out of the lion's paw). I absolutely love this haxie, and highly recommend it to every OS X user.

Pros

  • Add items to Apple menu using FruitMenu items
  • Customizable presets such as Shutdown and IP display
  • Submenu for System Preferences and Running Applications
  • New Advanced settings that includes showing invisible items


Cons

  • Must be registered for each user on same computer
  • Needs drag and drop support of invisible files
  • Not accessible in Classic mode

Overall Rating

4 1/2 out of 5 Mice