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Computing With Bifocals
by Nancy Carroll Gravley

A column for people who remember what
the world was like before there was color.....

A Few More Tips For New Users
October 25th, 2000

Extensions Manager

Once you get into downloading things you will frequently see references to Extensions. I didn't really know what they were so I decided to do a little research. According to what I found, extensions are small pieces of software that "extend" the function of the Mac's Operating System. They reside in the Extensions folder inside the System folder on your hard drive. They run automatically at startup, and usually we can ignore them. Extensions are one of those "user friendly" things of which the Mac has plenty. The ability of the Mac to painlessly take on new functions is due in part to the availability of extensions. When you add any new device to your Mac (printer, scanner, etc.) you activate them by dropping the extension that comes with it in your System folder and you Mac instantly knows how to run the new device. This is what usually happens when you run the software installer that comes with these devices. When we added a scanner to my computer at work (where I use a machine from the Dark Side), it took two technicians three hours to get it up and running.

As our Mac's have become more complex, the number of extensions in the Operating System has grown. Even though extensions are small and run completely in the background, they do take up RAM and they do take up processing time so lots of extensions on your machine can slow down your machine. They can also conflict with other extensions, particularly when the extensions are created by several different developers. So with the introduction of OS 7.5 in 1994, Apple introduced a utility called Extensions Manager to help users manage the increasing number of extensions. The Extensions Manager allows you to activate or inactivate extensions by clicking on check marks. The version I am showing you today is the version that comes with OS 9.

Extensions Manager is found in the list of Control Panels.

Note: To get to the Control Panels, click on the apple icon in the upper left hand corner of your screen , hold the mouse button down and slide the cursor down to Control Panels. As soon as you stop on Control Panels a second box will open to the right. To then get to the Extensions Manager just move the cursor down to that choice and release. Your Extensions Manager will open.

Extensions Manager Folder

This sample of my Extensions Manager file shows how I have activated some and deactivated others. For instance, I don't like to have the Control Strip open. It just gets in my way so I turned it off. Check out your own Extension Manager and see what is turned on and what is not. Don't be afraid to ask a more experienced user if you have questions about whether you need to absolutely have some extensions checked, or just experiment. This isn't a terrifically big deal or anything, but it may help you increase the speed of your machine a bit.

How To Add or Delete Something From Your Apple Menu

There may well be times when you wish to modify your Apple Menu in some way or another. It is not hard to do. First open the System folder on your hard drive and find a folder called Apple Menu Items. Any item placed there will show up under the Apple Menu on your desk top. Conversely, any item removed will not. Here is a trick I learned quite some time ago from a friend. The Apple Menu automatically lists things in alphabetical order, but you may have something that you really want at the top. To make it show first on the list go to the application in the Apple Menu Items folder. Click once on the name that is below the icon. When it changes color that means you can change the name. Go to the beginning of the name and put in a space and click somewhere else so the name box goes back to its natural color. Close the Apple Menu Items folder and your favorite item will now be listed first. To place a second item at the top follow the same steps but put in two spaces.

My immensely talented son (he is often quick to remind me of this) told me another tip you may want to try. He puts an alias of the Apple Menu Items folder in the actual folder. This may not make much sense, but it allows you to open the folder from the Apple Menu itself. If you do this, you will be able to change around the contents of the Apple Menu by clicking on it and choosing "Apple Menu Items Alias." It's a handy shortcut that my son was considerate enough to put on my own Mac a long time ago. If you need help with making an alias, check out my Index of Tips and look for "Alias."

Dealing With a Frozen Application or a Frozen Key Board

It seems to be a fact of life with my Mac that if I use Microsoft Internet Explorer for any extended length of time, such as searching the auction sites, Explorer will eventually freeze. The only way I know to keep it from happening is to periodically restart my machine. However, usually I forget and then suddenly, without warning, everything seems frozen. If you are using OS 7 or above, you can hold down the command and option keys while pressing the Escape key to forcibly quit an application, even if your machine seems frozen. Sometimes, and only sometimes, the frozen program will close and your whole machine doesn't freeze up. Save any work you have open and restart your machine. If you try to do this step and it never works, you may have an extension called NoForceQuit activated in your Extensions Folder. You can disable that particular extension and it should work for you.

If you have ideas related to using your Macintosh for the upcoming holidays that others would like, please take a moment to write me about them.

Copies of Nancy's book Tips, Hints, and Solutions for Seasoned Beginners Using Apple Macintosh Computers With OS X are available in PDF download versions  for US$9.57 and in print version for $18.15 plus $4.00 shipping.   To view sample pages and get ordering information visit the September 14, 2004 column.

Post your comments below.
Check out Nancy's complete index of all her columns for the most complete list of tips anywhere. The list is categorized and is a great reference when you are looking for help!

A Capacious Catalog Of Computer Tips

Talking to a generation that remembers what the world was like before there was color, covers issues for people who don't care how their computer works, but rather what their computer and the internet can do for them.

Nancy has a Master's degree in Human Services Administration and prior to her retirement she worked for almost 30 years in field of mental health and mental retardation. She has been a Mac user for 11 years, and has recently developed an avocation of teaching basic computer skills in both group and one-to-one settings.

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