Friday, August 20, 2004

The One Utility To Rule Them All ... SideTrack

Came across this utility a while back via MacSurfer and I've just gotta say that it has made my Mac computing experience *that* much better. MacBidouille (French Mac enthusiasts "Hard Mac") happens to be running a little blurb on it today which prompted me to offer up my thoughts and ramblings on it.

Raging Menace's SideTrack.

Here's a snippet from their page:
SideTrack is a replacement driver for the trackpad (touchpad) found on Apple PowerBooks and iBooks. It brings many of the advanced trackpad features found on Windows laptops to MacOS X.

Back in the day I used to manage an IT group for a large company. I had plenty of laptops to play with, none of which were PowerBooks or PowerMacs. Of all the laptops I used (IBM ThinkPads from the C700, 600, 600E, 600X, T series and X series, Dell C series), I liked the IBM's the best, but I liked Dell's trackpad as a pointing device as opposed to the eraserhead of the TPs - which, for those who don't know, Dell had both, and now IBM does both due to demand for the trackpads.

The software included with the Dell trackpad was (is) by Synaptics and allowed for side to side and vertical scrolling as well as tap to click, tap a corner for right-click, etc. It became essential for me, even second-nature, when viewing long documents or web sites.

Over on my Pismo 400 (circa 2000 AD), I had a simple trackpad (same company made it that made the Dell's) with no options other than to tap to click and/or drag. Didn't help in showing Windows users how awesome the Mac was. "Your mouse has one button? Can it scroll? No? ... uhh, hey, I've gotta go now." I'd counter with the fact you could plug in a multi-button mouse ... but they were already gone.

Then I get my 17" PB last year and came across SideTrack. I was seriously excited - still am. It is simply a must-have utility for me. My PB has a "wide-screen" trackpad and I've got a generous allotment of room on the right for a vertical scroll "bar". Works like a champ, especially the recently released beta - as Chevy says, "Like a rock!"

Even though the beta is pre 1.0 (at 0.9), it performs flawlessly on my P'Book. So much so that I put it on my wife's Pismo and my niece's new iBook. My wife simply browses, emails and writes the occasional document, and she gushed when I showed her the vertical scroll feature. No more making sure the pointer was over the correct scroll button in Safari, just slide a finger up/down and voila!

Be aware that this beta does expire in November. Not sure what it'll end up costing, when released, if they even plan to charge for it. But it is worth money in my book. Unfortunately, I don't have a lot of bucks to shell out, so if you guys from Raging Menace read this, I'm not rich.

Pros: Feature-rich trackpad enhancer for PowerBooks and iBooks. Windows users switching to the Mac from a notebook with these features will feel right at home.

Cons: None that I can think of.

Recommendation: Go for it, but understand it is BETA which means it can mess your system up. Though I'm gushing about how awesome it is, always take precautions. Back up important files, repair permissions, have an escape route mapped out, etc. Download and install it at your own risk!

Comments? Good or bad experiences with SideTrack?

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