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November 1997


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Review: Square One 4.0

by Evan Trent,


Product Information
Published by: Binary Software
2118 Wilshire Boulevard, Suite 900
Santa Monica, California 90403-5784
Phone: (800) 8-BINARY
Fax: (800) 555-7217

Square One is a program launcher, one of literally dozens available on the market In truth, most of them are the same. Square One offers some nice features, such as integration with KeyQuencer and QuicKeys, but lacks a number of features which other, cheaper, shareware applications provide.

The Good

Square One is attractive. The palette window can be resized to fit nicely on any screen in any situation. The squares containing the icons automatically rearrange themselves to fit to the window. Icons can be large or small and the filenames for each square can be shown or hidden. square2

Square One's document list is a convenient method of launching commonly-used files with the appropriate application. However, Square One does more than open applications. It will launch KeyQuencer and QuicKeys macros or groups of macros, files, folders, and URLs (with a specified application).

Version 4.0 adds "paged" palettes, which add tabs to the top of the palette. Tabs help categorize palettes and are a nice feature for conserving screen space.

Square One is very fast. The Square One extension offers several nice features; one is the "hot corner." When the mouse is moved to the specified corner of the screen, Square One will come to the foreground. Likewise, a hot key can be defined to bring Square One to the front (I use F-15). Square One also lets the user define a keystroke to shuffle through active applications (much like Windows). square3 A related feature is the "Active Applications" palette. Clicking  on any of the applications on the palatte brings it to the foreground. I find this feature relatively useless because it occupies too much screen space and other methods of switching applications require less time.

The Bad

Square One lacks a number of features. First and foremost, it doesn't allow the use to define custom settings for launching files or applications. For example, what if a program only runs in 256 colors? Square One should provide a method of switching to 8-bit color upon launching this program. It doesn't. That's inexcusable. The only way around this is to write a QuicKeys or KeyQuencer macro that sets the color depth and then launches the application. The problem is that these applications were not designed to do that. Similarly, sound level can't be set upon launch.

I'm suggesting that Square One allow the user to define profiles for each square. Ideally, each square would have its own settings dialog box. Unfortunately, this is not the case.

Another feature that Square One lacks is "Drag and Drop" capability. That is, documents cannot opened by dragging them onto applications in the Square One palette. Instead, documents are added to the palette and given their own squares. This is completely unintuitive. Square One should behave just like the Finder and support Drag and Drop.

The most obnoxious behavior is the inability to move squares around within Square One's palette. If I want to switch two squares or move one around, I have to delete all the squares and start over. That's just plain silly. Fewer than twenty lines of code would be required to implement this feature which would make Square One much more usable.

The Ugly

This is where it starts to get a bit ridiculous. Square One wouldn't be so bad if it were the cheapest package available, but it's not. In fact, it's overpriced at $40. Why? Because for $15 you can register a shareware package entitled DragThing which does everything Square One does, everything it should do differently, and a lot of stuff it doesn't. I'm not going to get into specifics, because this is a review of Square One. But consider trying DragThing before pitching $40 at Square One.

Square One is an attractive and functional piece of software. It does what it promises to do gracefully. It has a good manual and integrates well with KeyQuencer and QuicKeys. However, Square One is not particularly intuitive and it lacks a number of features it really should possess. For the price Binary Software is charging, Square One should put shareware competitors to shame. Rather it's the other way around.

Blue Apple Evan Trent, is ATPM's webzinger. When not working on  web sites, he enjoys C/C++ programming and desktop publishing. Every now and then he spends five minutes away from his computer.

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