Extensions Strip

Reviewed 04 December 2000 for Low End Mac's "Mac Wares" column.

Extensions Strip, a $15 ($8 educational) piece of shareware written by Ammon Skidmore, is the best Control Strip replacement there is. Apple would do well to follow Ammon's example.

If you're not using Control Strip, you should. Apple's implementation is a real time saver. Extensions Strip is fully compatible with both 68K and PowerPC and runs native in either environment. It requires about 300K of disk space and 100K or so of RAM. The latest version is 2.0b3 (a beta), which I've been using since mid-July with no problems at all. I believe the last non-beta version was 1.9.3.

Extensions Strip works just as the Control Strip does: It uses small (generally 40K or less) "modules" that bring additional functionality to the Mac OS via a small floating window on your screen. The Control Strip itself was originally introduced with the PowerBook versions of the Mac OS back in System 7.1; it became part of the Mac OS in general with Mac OS 7.6. In my control strip, I have modules to control my monitor bit depth and resolution, my CD-ROM drive, the speaker volume, the sound input device, Location Manager, File Sharing, QuickTime, Energy Saver, and many others — all available with a single click at the bottom of the screen.

Where Extensions Strip excels is in ease of use and flexibility. While both Extensions Strip and Apple's Control Strip can be hidden with one keystroke, Extensions Strip can be moved about the screen to wherever you wish it to be. Apple's Control Strip is chained to the two sides of the display.

Extensions Strip supports multiple horizontal or vertical strips; you can put your seldom-used modules into their own folder and get them out of the way by minimising their strip. (Control Strip supports only a single horizontal strip.) Extensions Strip takes up somewhat less screen real estate than the Control Strip and even supports a "mini-module" mode to take up still less screen space. Extensions Strip loads and unloads modules as they are dragged into and out of the Control Strip Modules folder; the Control Strip requires a restart for this.

Because Extensions Strip is an application, it can be quit and restarted at will, but Control Strip cannot. Extensions Strip also supports "themes" for the strips that control the appearance of an individual strip's "title bar." Different strips can have different themes, and Ammon conveniently includes a theme modeled on Apple's Control Strip if you desire that particular look.

Extensions Strip allows full control over the fonts and styling of the menus that modules pop up; Control Strip does not. One module included in the package, Ammon's own Process Manager, gives the user a great deal of control over running applications. Keystrokes can be set for a variety of different controls, most notably application switching (very useful if you're using a pre-Mac OS 8 system). Process Manager is one of what Ammon calls "ES-savvy" modules that take advantage of the added features of Extensions Strip.

Extensions Strip's only drawback is that it requires System 7.5 or better to run, whereas Control Strip can on PowerBooks with System 7.1.

Download Extensions Strip from Skidperfect Software.

copyright ©2000-2004 by Chris Lawson