HDC Power Launcher. (file management software) (Evaluation)
by Tom Campbell
Windows was designed to be infinitely extendible. That's the good news. The bad news is that most of that flexibility hasn't been evident until now. With hDC Power Launcher, however, you get both extendibiiity and a fresh, unique mixture of utility programs that go far beyond what the modest name implies. The company calls Power Launcher "the Toolbar for Windows," and it is that, allowing you to add a single master toolbar visible in all Windows applications, as well as a custom toolbar for each program.
Included with the product are several related utilities, which the company calls MicroApps: a keyboard macro program that goes far beyond Macro Recorder, a mouse macro program, and Power Toolbox, which lets you create toolboxes. Several other utilities are included; my favorite is Virtual Desktop, which lets your screen stand in for a much bigger workspace. Power Launcher attaches itself to the System menu, so it's immediately available from all applications with a minimum of keystrokes.
Central to using Power Launcher and any of the MicroApps are what hDC calls Enhanced Commands, which execute whenever you click on an icon in the custom toolbox, launch a keyboard macro, or customize a mouse button. Like many concepts in a wellcrafted GUI program, Enhanced Commands are easier to use than to explain.
An Enhanced Command can be viewed as an extension of the concept of running a program from Program Manager or File Manager, but it's much more than that. You can trigger keyboard macros, move and resize windows and icons, request input from the user, change an application's window caption, set the starting directory for an application, replace an application's icon, issue DDE commands, call routines from DLLs, run another Power Launcher script, and do any of this at any time as a scheduled event.
It's easy to tame this bewildering array of features, because each of the utilities sports a button called the Command Builder. When you click on it, you're stepped through a visual script-building process that lets you create an Enhanced Command without typing a thing. Left-brained, numbingly conventional traditionalist that I am, I much preferred simply typing a script into the included edit box, but it's a tribute to Power Launcher's infinite flexibility that the two approaches work equally well. Saving a command sequence as a script lets you attach that same script to a macro or toolbox icon or whatever, so you don't duplicate work.
The manuals are excellent-beautifully produced, intuitively organized, well written, and fairly complete. They could use much more extensive indices and examples for advanced scripting topics, especially in the sections on DDE and the use of DLLs. The online help is complete and, like the manual and hDC apps themselves, clearly the product of topnotch talent. The whole package fairly oozes quality.
Is Power Launcher worth the money? Absolutely--if you're a power user or if you're about to become one and are chafing under Windows' self-imposed limitations. This is a state-of-theart set of utilities. If you're new to Windows or use it only occasionally, Power Launcher probably isn't for you. Yet.