The Apple menu is a useful feature that provides easy access to folders, applications and documents on your disk drive, allowing you to avoid tedious navigation in the Finder. The Apple Menu Items folder, which is located inside the System Folder, contains all the items that appear in the Apple menu. It can include a selected number of desk accessories (a small kind of application), standard application programs, files, folders and aliases.
A desk accessory (DA), such as Apple’s Calculator, is a special kind of application designed for use in the Apple menu, requiring only 20 KB of memory.
It’s perfectly possible to use third-party software, such the ‘menu’ components of Action Utilities or Now Utilities, to customise your menu. However, it’s cheaper, although slightly less convenient, to modify the contents of the Apple Menu Items folder by hand.
Here are some possibilities:-
To do this, you should ensure that all the items in Apple Menu Items are aliases. This allows you to change the filenames of the items so as to set their order, but without changing the names of the original files. If alphabetical ordering isn’t adequate, you can add numbers, spaces or other symbols to the beginning of names. Mac OS characters come in the following order, beginning with a space:-
You can also use characters in conjunction with one or more spaces. Or you can use special software to copy a
CR (carriage return) or another special code, such as
DEL (Delete), and then paste it in front of a name. However, such characters are best used on aliases rather than actual files, since applications can object to such characters in filenames.
An empty file or folder with a name such as ------ can be used to create a ‘divider’ in your menu, although it has to be said that the result isn’t particularly attractive. You can prefix the name of the item with one or more spaces to set its position in the menu. And if the item is a file it can also convey useful information. In most instances you’ll also want to remove the icon that appears next to each divider item. To do this, you can paste an appropriate ‘blank’ colour (copied from an image in a graphics program) onto the icon box that’s shown in the item’s Get Info window.
By placing an alias of your hard disk in Apple Menu Items you can get to all your files, including some folders that are usually invisible. Depending on your version of the Mac OS, these can include Desktop Folder, containing files on the Desktop, Trash and the Temporary Items folder.
The Mac OS Installer puts numerous items into Apple Menu Items, although these vary according to your machine and the version of Mac OS. The following list gives details, although many items won’t appear on your machine. A four-character file type code is shown against each item for reference.
This is an alias of the Apple DVD Player application, as supplied with modern machines.
This application provides information about your hardware and software. It requires a 68040 processor or better. Older models can be checked using Now Profile, part of Now Utilities.
This is an alias of the Apple Video Player application, which can be used for viewing video images on the screen of older Macs that have video capabilities. If you don’t have a MacTV you should also enable Video Startup in the Extensions folder.
This is an alias of the AppleCD Audio Player application, which can be used to control an Apple-compatible CD drive that’s playing an audio disk. The Apple CD/DVD Driver or Apple CD-ROM file, as well as the Audio CD Access file should be enabled in the Extensions folder. This application may not work if you require special CD-ROM driver software for your drive.
This is an alias of the folder of the same name, which contains several AppleScript applets. The AppleScript and AppleScriptLib files should be enabled in the Extensions folder to use these files. The ObjectSupportLib extension is only required if you’re running Mac OS 7.x.
This DA is suitable for solving simple calculations. Although better alternatives are available this only uses a tiny amount of memory.
This DA lets you select a printer, enable AppleTalk or set up AppleShare. Rather curiously, the driver software for some types of scanner is also selected using this device.
This is an alias of the Control Panels folder that exists in the System Folder. It provides fast access to all of your current control panels.
This is an alias of the folder of the same name that’s used by some versions of the System Folder. It contains files that represent all the desktop printers that you’ve created.
This application, which is only used by older systems that don’t have Sherlock or Sherlock 2, provides a comprehensive file searching facility. In addition, the Find File Extension lets you launch Find File in the Finder by simply pressing ⌘-F.
Any files that match the chosen criteria are shown in the upper part of Find File’s window, whilst its path is shown in the lower pane. The divider between these panes can be dragged to resize them. You can also open a folder containing an item by double-clicking on the folder in the bottom pane.
In the upper pane you can:-
Prior to making a search you can:-
This very fast graphically-based calculator application only works on a PowerPC-based machine.
This application is suitable for those who have nothing better to do. If inclined, you can paste a PICT image or an icon into this application to create your own customised puzzle. And if you’re desperate you can even use it to open PICT files.
This DA shows you all the characters that are available in a font, with or without modifier key combinations such as Shift, Option or Shift-Option. The following points are worth noting:-
This application accepts text that’s pasted or dragged onto it. It uses little memory and includes a Find feature, but employs the same font for all pages. Its contents are automatically saved to disk without you having to implement a Save command.
The textual information is stored in the Note Pad File inside the System Folder. However, you can make copies of this file and place them, suitably named, in the Apple Menu Items folder. You can then open these at any time from the Apple menu and edit them as individual documents.
Each of these folders contain aliases that are created by the Apple Menu Options control panel. Each one points to recently used items that you can reach via the Apple menu. The existence of these folders depends on whether Apple Menu Options is enabled and how it’s set up.
This small application lets you easily disconnect from Apple Remote Access (ARA) without having to switch into the Finder. This is replaced by Remote Access Status in newer systems.
This application provides a small window that lets you connect to a remote computer via a dial-up circuit using ARA or PPP Internet protocols, as determined by the Remote Access control panel.
This application accepts pasted or dragged text and graphics. Unwanted items can be cleared by pressing Clear or ⌘-B. The contents are saved automatically without a Save command.
This application is supplied in the form of Sherlock or Sherlock 2, and as an alias or application, depending on your version of the Mac OS. It replaces the older Find File application.
This application lets you record and manipulate alert sounds, although modern versions of the Sound or Monitors ＆ Sound control panels are usually better suited to this purpose.
A folder of AppleScript applets and small applications that can be launched using either Apple’s Speech Recognition system or directly from the Apple menu.
This application lets you create ‘sticky labels’ on the screen. Under its Preferences you can select Launch At Startup, with the option for it to launch in the background if you want to start in the Finder, Confirm Window Closing, which presents a dialogue for saving the sticky as a text file, and Zoom Box Collapses, which lets you choose what the zoom box actually does.
This desk accessory lets you shut down your computer without switching to the Finder.
©Ray White 2004.