The RecipeManager 1.1, by XtremeMac
Posted: 19-Dec-2004

4 out of 5 Mice

Vendor: XtremeMac Type: COMMERCIAL

Reviewer: Bill Catambay Class: UTILITY

Description
RecipeManager is a unique and handy recipe program that organizes your recipes in one place, and includes an interactive cookbook that offers you the room and power to experiment. RecipeManager lets you set up your personal cookbook according to ingredients, step-by-step instructions, nutritional information, and photos. In includes a comprehensive search feature, and comes with 300 recipes to start you off with.

Features

  • Organize: Put all of your recipe information at your fingertips. Ingredients, photos, instructions, nutritional information, and much more, are all accessible from this one easy to use interface.
  • Find it with ease: Find the right recipes quickly with the comprehensive search feature. Search for all Chicken dishes and try a new recipe, or search for the Mexican Chicken Appetizer you made a year ago. You will never lose a recipe again.
  • Create Meals: Plan that holiday feast with the Meals feature. Create a multi-course meal from several recipes and save it. Then, print out a Shopping List, individual recipes, and a menu for your guests.
  • Kitchen Helpers: Your new best friend in the kitchen puts cooking temperatures, tips, measurement conversion, and substitutions at your fingertips.
  • Print Outs: Print out your recipes, menus, and shopping lists.


System Requirements:

  • Macintosh computer running OS X v10.2 or later
  • 64MB RAM (128MB recommended)
  • 30MB of disk space


Installation
First of all, finding RecipeManager on the
XtremeMac web site is not the most obvious thing. XtremeMac is better known for their cool gadgets, such as iPod adapters and cases. However, if you click on the Software tab from their web site, you will see TheRecipeManager (along with iLingo and Freefall). The good news is that all three of their software products run on the Mac (Freefall *only* runs on the Mac). RecipeManager is not shareware, so there is no free download to try it out first. It's a retail package that sells for $39.95, and after purchasing, you can download it from the web. RecipeManager comes with 311 recipes, but you can download additional recipes from XtremeMac's web site (and even more recipes can be added from other resources).

Installing RecipeManager is quite simple. After downloading and mounting the .dmg file, you simply drag the application to your "Applications" folder.

In Use
The first time I ran RecipeManager, I was amazed at how easy the program was to use and how many features were built into the software. I've used some other recipe programs on the Mac in the past, but nothing that provided the rich user experience I had with this program.

In the left window pane is a list of the recipes in the database. The application comes with 311 built-in recipes, but as mentioned earlier, you can download an additional package of recipes from XtremeMac's web site. The caveat is that many of those recipes that you download are the same recipes as the ones that came with the application. This meant I had to go in and manually delete all the duplicate recipes. There is no duplicate prevention or cleanup provided in the program. After getting rid of all the duplicates, I was left with a total of 1017 recipes.

NOTE: Specifically, the Iowa Beef Council recipes are duplicate, so skipping those would prevent the above hassle.

By clicking on a recipe, you activate two panes on the right side. The top pane provides options for view the actual recipe, the list of ingredients, the staging process, recipe variations, and nutritional value. In the lower pane you have options for view a photo, recipe instructions, background information, the number of servings and time required, and the classification of the recipe. Note that some of these areas are not always filled in, as it is dependent upon the person who created the recipe and whether that section is relevant to the receipe. In some cases there are no photos, or no background, or no staging information, etc.. For example, Beef Stew has staging instructions, but no photo. Caesar Beef Kabobs, on the other hand, have no staging instructions, but does include a photo. All of the recipes include the bare minimum of what you need: the recipe, list of ingredients, and instructions.


The RecipeManager main window - "Beef Stew" recipe


The information in the browser panes are easy to read, but for those who need a bigger view (for example if you are actually working from the onscreen recipe while cooking), there is an option to display a "Cooking View". This takes the ingredients and instructions and inserts them into an enlarged window with large text, making it very easy to read. Additionally, you can print the recipe in an easy-to-read format to reference while cooking. I was very impressed with the print format.


The RecipeManager - Cooking View


The RecipeManager includes a feature that can automatically transfer the ingredients from a variety of recipes into a Shopping List (View menu > Shopping List), and your Shopping List can be organized to show what ingredients you already have versus what you still need to get. This makes shopping for ingredients much easier.

Another neat feature in RecipeManager is the "Meals" function. By clicking on "Show Meals", you can view an entire meal made up of various recipes included in the database. The application comes with five meals, but you can easily create more meals of your own. For example, one of the meals is titled "Family Chicken", and includes the recipes for Fried Chicken Imperial, Date Apple Waldorf Salad, and Dinner Biscuits. One feature that would make this program work easier is if you could send the ingredients to your shopping list for the entire meal with a single button click. However, you can still accomplish this by clicking on each recipe in the list, and choose "Send All Ingredients to Shopping List" from the Recipes menu, and you've just created your grocery list for the entire meal.

One of the less obvious features of this program that I really love is the Kitchen Helpers. I don't know how many times I was in the kitchen trying to figure out how many ounces goes into a pint, or how many cups to a quart, or how many tablespoons to a cup. Press Cmd-K and all that information and more is at your fingertips. In addition to the measurement equivalents, you get substitutions, temperatures, and tips. For example, you can substitute 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon and 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves for 1 teaspoon of Allspice. Under temperatures, you can find out how long to cook different meats for different results, as well as view temperature conversions between farenheit, celsius, and gas mark settings. Some of the tips include how to prevent a pot from boiling over, how to prevent syrup from caramelizing, and how to tell if an egg is fresh (tip is "a fresh egg will sing in water, a stale one will float"). This Kitchen Helper section I found fascinating and educational. You can also add, modify and delete Kitchen Helpers under the View > Administration menu option.


The RecipeManager Kitchen Helpers

For those of you with your own invented recipes, recipes passed down from family, or loads of favorite recipes from cookbooks, you can easily enter all of those recipes into the database for safe keeping and easy access. You might even be inspired to take pictures of your completed recipes to include in the database.

In addition to editing recipes manually, the RecipeManager also has an import function to automatically add recipes to the database from downloaded files. The recipes have to be in the proper format for this function to work. RecipeManager supports a number of import formats, including
"A Cook's Book", "Cooking Light", "Mastercook", and "Yum". When I am looking for a recipe that is not in a book or in RecipeManager, I use Watson to search for the recipe on the web, and then attempt to import that recipe. If the format is not recognized, I then just manually enter it in. From then on, it's always at my fingertips whenever I might need to look it up.

In fact, that is one of the nicest features of RecipeManager: the ability to search for recipes. Besides the standard browse mode, you can enter a string in the search field to quickly find a recipe. The search field is "live", meaning that as you type each letter, the search results are immediately shown. For example, if I were to look for chicken, I'd first see all of the recipes that have a "c", then filtered down to those with a "ch", then "chi", until I saw the recipe I wanted easily in the browse window. If you need to perform a more fancy search, you can choose Advanced Search, and filter your search by classification, source, ingredients, and so on. I bet cooks never imagined of being this organized!

Want to email a recipe to a friend? Simply export a recipe to a file, then email that file. Piece of cake (and there are recipes for some delicious cakes as well!).

This program is so intuitive that I never found the need to look up any help. However, for those who do need some more information on the program, the RecipeManager includes a well written 9 page Quick Start Guide which can help. It also includes an integrated FAQ (via the View > FAQ menu), as well as a support web site that includes a
FAQ and a means to contact support.

As simple and useful as this program is, it is not without its faults. All of the problems I encountered had to do with the interface, either in small bugs or something that was just not Mac savvy. For instance, the two-pane Cooking View (ingredient on top and instructions underneath) does not allow you to change the pane sizes. Typically you would be able to adjust the pane size by moving a separator bar between them, but there is no such bar in this window. Oddly, in the top "ingredient" pane, there is a draggable bar at the top. It only allows you to slide it down which does nothing but create a blank space in the window (i.e., completely useless). Likewise, the vertical 2-pane view with the ingredients on the left and instructions on the right also does not provide a bar to adjust the pane sizes.

The main recipe browser window provides a list of recipes, and intuitively you would think that when you clicked on a recipe that whatever action you chose after that (such as delete or edit) would act upon that recipe. However, if you click on "Show Meals", click on a meal, click on a recipe, and then click to delete (the "-" button), RecipeManager asks if you want to delete the meal rather than the recipe you just clicked on. This is very counter-intuitive. I thought that if I chose "Hide Meals" that it would then allow me to delete the recipe, but it was still trying to delete the meal. I had to change the "mode", a not-so-obvious set of buttons in the lower right that provided choices for "Recipe", "Advanced Search", and "Meals". By clicking on "Recipe" and then delete, it allowed me to delete the recipe. Also, the delete prompt should list the name of the recipe or meal to make it more clear what exactly is being deleted (and help prevent me from deleting the wrong thing). There is no "undo" on the deletes. When you click on a meal, the window automatically switches to "Meals" mode, but if you click on a recipe, it does not automatically switch back to "Recipe" mode (a subtle but potentially dangerous inconsistency).


The RecipeManager - Note the three modes in the lower right (Recipe, Advanced Search, Meals)

When editing recipes, there were a few more interface annoyances. For example, when editing an ingredient listing, there were no buttons to add or delete ingredients. To delete an ingredient, you delete the value in the third column (under "Item"). This is not at all obvious. Further, the only way to add an ingredient is to edit the last ingredient, tab to the Item column, and then tab one more time (a blank ingredient appears). You also have to be careful using the RETURN key, because when you are typing text or editing fields, the RETURN key has inconsistent behaviors. When entering text in a text field (such as "Background"), a RETURN adds a carriage return. When pressing RETURN on an edit field (such as the ingredient listings), instead of going to the next field, it actually triggers the default "SAVE" button, ending the edit session and saving any changes made.

Summary
The RecipeManager is an exciting and easy-to-use utility for archiving, browsing and managing all of your favorite recipes. It includes a lot of cool features for searching, browsing and printing, and includes useful tabs for things like pictures, staging instructions, and nutritional value (in addition to the standard ingredients and cooking instructions). I found this program to be much easier and more fun to use than recipe programs I've tried in the past. The RecipeManager comes with 311 recipes, and with the extra recipes that can be downloaded from the RecipeManager web site, you end up with 1,017 recipes, which is not bad. Further, there are several resources on the web for downloading more recipes, and you can easily import those directly into your RecipeManager database. You can also manually enter your recipes using the program's editing features. Two of my favorite features include the automatic shopping lists generated by selecting recipes, and the kitchen helpers that provide measuring conversions, cooking tips, and more. I did run into some interface annoyances and inconsistencies, but none of them were show stoppers. The bottom line is that the RecipeManager is a great and useful tool for organizing your recipes, fun to use, and makes for a versatile kitchen utility for both the cooking hobbyist as well as the full-time chef.


Pros

  • Easy to search and browse for recipes
  • Awesome print format
  • Import function supports a variety of recipe formats making it easy to expand recipe library
  • Very useful Kitchen Helpers
  • Automated shopping lists based upon recipes

Cons

  • Interface annoyances in edit mode
  • Inconsistent browser mode behavior
  • Non-adjustable panes in cooking view
  • Limited number of recipes included with product
  • Nothing to prevent or clean duplicate recipes


Overall Rating:

4 out of 5 Mice