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Menus: Power
How easy is it for Power Users to do cool things?

By:David K. Every
©Copyright 1999

So you think you are a Power User, and you want the ultimate in menuing. The first thing to know is that you are less than 5% of all users (in fact probably closer to 1%), and you are probably only a true power user on a few Apps. But given all that, which machine is coolest for you?

NeXT - These menus are real-estate pigs, but for power users they are the gift of the Gods. You can tear off any menu and place them anywhere on the screen, that alone makes it rule. The second mouse button can be used to pop up the global menu (under the cursor), reducing mouse travel distance, and allowing the menu palette to be turned off, allowing for more free screen space. Because of the vertical arrangement of menus, sometimes it is shorter to go from selecting a menu, to selecting a sub-menu (because an item can be either an up or down move, while on other OS's, it will always be a down). Furthermore, NeXT has some commands at the top level -- which may be confusing to some users, but is certainly fast and powerful. If NeXT had as rich a choice of extensions as the MacOS, then it would squash the Mac even more resoundingly -- SCORE: 4.5

Mac - The Mac is easy, the Mac is cool -- but there are many things that you are going to want to do (occasionally), that the Mac might not do. You may want to add your own keyboard shortcut -- well, you can do it, but you have to add third party extensions. You may want to script menu commands? The Mac can do that. You may want to add your own menu items (or menus) -- well the Mac does that as well (in the Apple Menu, normally, and add other menus with some extensions). You want to have tear-off menus -- again, with third party extensions. You want pop-up menubar (anywhere) -- an extension. You want contextual menus? Well, they are part of the System, but they are new enough that they are not used nearly often enough (but it has a nice extensible architecture). Overall, you will notice a theme here -- Apple has set a pretty good foundation, it is wildly extensible (often too much so) -- but Apple has not done all they could do to make menus better and more powerful. -- SCORE: 4

Windows -- Microsoft is the eternal compromiser and thief.They stole everything they could, and compromised on the rest. As annoying for most users that the multiple shortcuts can be, it is a neat function for Power Users. There aren't any tear off menus (at least in most apps), but contextual menus are used far more often (but like Everything in Windows there is no real consistency). Many Apps do things to allow lots of Power -- like MS-Apps which allow you to reorder all your menus or shortcuts. This geek features exists on the Mac as well, but is far more common on Windows Apps. There is some extensibility, but it isn't used as much as the Mac (or as powerful), and scripting is sort of piece meal (varies from App to App) -- SCORE: 4

BeOS - BeOS pretty much modeled its Menus after Windows. I don't know enough about the Power-features of it, and it is too new to be really extended (if possible). I do know that they use contextual menus, so that is at least one plus. Overall, I'm going easy on BeOS menus, because I don't know any better (in this case) -- SCORE: 4

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Created: 12/21/97
Updated: 11/09/02

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