Review: Smooth Move
Requirements: SmoothMove-PowerMac (the faster the better)
Price: $10 Shareware
Have you ever used Greg Landweber's excellent Aaron extension? If so, SmoothMove is an excellent complement to it. In fact, even if you don't use Aaron, SmoothMove can give your Mac a new feel, and make it cooler. It doesn't seem to conflict with any extensions, so there are no real drawbacks to using it, especially if you disable it with a modifier key when you move around large windows.
When you look at a Mac that has SmoothMove installed, you will not notice anything different at first. Its presence is only apparent when you drag a window. If you are using System 7.5.3 or later on a PowerMac, you are no doubt aware that whenever you drag an icon in the finder, a transparent rendition of the icon follows the pointer around the screen. SmoothMove takes this one step further. It extends this capability to windows. Whenever you drag a window, a translucent copy of it follows the pointer around the screen.
There are numerous options that can be set in the SmoothMove control panel. For instance, you can set the level of transparency. If you like, you can make dragged windows look as if they almost aren't there, or you can make them appear almost opaque with a slight trace of other windows showing through. Anything in between is also possible. In fact, by pressing keys that you set in the control panel, you can adjust the transparency level of the window as you drag it. This feature reminds me of some of the cool preview effects in Kai's PowerTools. Best of all, SmoothMove works with almost all windows, regardless of the application that they belong to.
Unfortunately, SmoothMove requires a tremendous amount of processing power. Making a transparent copy of a window, and moving it in sync with the cursor is more complicated than it sounds, especially because the processor has to handle the drawing of other windows whose contents show through the transparent window.
There are several steps you can take to speed up the dragging of transparent windows. Using a simple desktop pattern helps, as does reducing the color depth. SmoothMove is also much faster without Aaron installed. However, it's not much fun to practice these techniques. Fortunately, there are better options.
SmoothMove includes a number of features to make it much more usable despite the processing power required. You can set conditions underwhich windows will not become transparent when dragged. For instance, you may want large windows to behave normally, or you may want to disable transparency altogether when in 24-bit color mode because it is more processor intensive. SmoothMove lets you do this.
You can also hold down modifier keys when dragging windows. One key will disable SmoothMove altogether, resulting in a normal window outline following the pointer. Or, you can disable transparency with a modifier key, resulting in a fully opaque window following the arrow, which speeds things up a bit. Finally, SmoothMove gives you modifier keys for precision window dragging. Holding down one of them forces the window to move on a straight line either horizontally or vertically. This is analogous to holding down shift in a drawing program. Another modifier slows down the responsiveness of window dragging so that you can finely position it on your desktop.
All in all, SmoothMove is a great program. It invigorates the user experience much as Aaron and System 7.5.3 did. Despite the fact that moving large windows around can be slow, the fact that it is even possible is astounding. Several years ago, no one would have even though that interface enhancements such as this were possible. They are yet another result of Apple's switch to the PowerPC chip.
Mac OS 8 will also take advantage of this processing power. At least one 'theme' will feature animated menu items. Apple has not said that they will include transparent window dragging, but I wouldn't be surprised if they did. Personally, I'm hoping that they will implement slide-down menus, menus that open as if they are being slid down from underneath the menu bar, rather than the current menus which are merely drawn from the top down. Even if Apple doesn't implement sliding menus, you can count on seeing more shareware interface modifiers before next summer. In the mean time, I recommend that anyone who has a PowerMac try SmoothMove, it's shareware, so you have nothing to lose if for some reason you don't like it.
|This review is ©1996 Michael Tsai. Note: Just as this issue went to press, SmoothMove's name was changed to Smooth Windows to avoid conflict with another piece of software. The current version, 1.1, adds support for 68K Macs.|