Miscellaneous Ramblings

Waiting for WindowShade X before Going Snow Leopard

Charles Moore - 2010.02.01 - Tip Jar

One big reason why I haven't yet upgraded to Mac OS X 10.6 "Snow Leopard", aside from procrastination and lack of time to attend to the tedium of a major operating system upgrade, is that Unsanity's WindowShade X "haxie" isn't supported.

I'm a windowshading junkie, and I simply cannot abide not having that feature. There is no function built into any version of OS X that comes remotely close to being a satisfactory substitute. Windowshading has been deeply integrated into my work habits for more than a decade, and I'm not inclined or prepared to give it up.

Why Apple perversely dropped windowshading, one of the greatest Finder features of the Clasic Mac OS,* when it introduced OS X remains a conundrum to me.

Collapsing to Dock Is Unsatisfactory

Collapsing windows to the Dock? Fuggetaboudit! Not even close.

All those tiny thumbnails look the same, and my Dock is more than crowded enough already. The body-English of rummaging through the Dock with mouseovers trying to find the window you're seeking is inconvenient and time-consuming. On a typical workday I may have two dozen or more windows open and windowshaded, all conveniently identifiable by their full title bars being visible.

I struggled along for several months without windowshading in late 2007 after upgrading to OS X 10.5 "Leopard", until Unsanity got a Leopard-compatible version of their proprietary and required system add-on Application Enhancer (APE) out the door. I latched onto the then-new Spaces feature as a not-altogether-satisfactory stand-in for WindowShade X, although I dearly love it for a bunch of other reasons. With Spaces, I could open, say, email programs in one space, browsers in another, a text editor in a third, and so forth, then switch back in forth among them by clicking the appropriate application icon in the Dock - but I still missed windowshading terribly, and it nearly drove me to distraction not having it. I really don't want to go through that again.

Broken Again

Mercifully, Unsanity Software released a new beta 2.5 version of their APE enabler software in February, 2008, restoring Leopard support to WindowShade X and several of their other haxie add-ons, so it was all good until Snow Leopard launched last fall, which broke APE and its dependent haxies again. Apple is reportedly not a fan of Unsanity's APE anyway, having announced it will ignore every crash log submitted on a Mac with APE installed.

Too bad. APE has never caused any trouble that I'm aware of on any of the Mac's I've used it with over the past eight years, although I guess some folks have encountered conflicts with certain other software.

Happily, last week Unsanity announced that they're hard at work rewriting some of their most popular haxies for Snow Leopard, although they're not yet ready for public consumption - not even in public beta form.

Future Haxie Versions 10.6 and Up Only

Future versions of WindowShade X and Unsanity's other haxies will be compatible with 10.6 only, and support for OS 10.5 and earlier will be dropped, although folks still using older versions of Mac OS X can continue using current versions indefinitely.

The reason for the support cut-off, the developers explain, is that many of their haxies have "ancient and scary" code dating back to 2002, and the APIs in the system have changed so much during the past eight years that the code has gotten increasingly hard to maintain. And with the gradual transition toward 64-bit space underway, it's apropos to re-engineer the code, cleaning it up and using more modern technologies such as, for example, Core Animation.

Music to My Ears

Last week's Unsanity blog reported that Application Enhancer is now working solidly under Snow Leopard in both 32- and 64-bit modes, which is job one, since without APE the other haxies won't work. Music to my ears is that WindowShade X for Snow Leopard has also been largely redone, with its MIP system rewritten from scratch, and it is currently at internal beta status. It still needs some work before public release.

FruitMenu is also coming along, and Labels X, rewritten from scratch, is probably closest to public beta release at this point. Mighty Mouse will be attended to later. Xounds and ShapeShifter are on the bubble for possible discontinuation.

Anyway, the important news for me is that APE and WindowShade X are coming, and I'm sure many other windowshading addicts are waiting impatiently with me. Until they arrive, Snow Leopard remains on hold for me.

* WindowShade was first available as a Control Panel for System 7.5 developed by Rob Johnston. Apple bought the program and integrated it into the Mac OS starting with version 8.0 (July 1997).WindowShade X has been available since late 2001.

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Charles Moore has been a freelance journalist since 1987 and began writing for Mac websites in May 1998. His The Road Warrior column was a regular feature on MacOpinion, he is news editor at Applelinks.com and a columnist at MacPrices.net. If you find his articles helpful, please consider making a donation to his tip jar.

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