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A sidebar to the article “A tour of the Mac desktop,” published in Macworld 1/1984, pp. 20-21. Available with permission.

and wondered what it does. If you press and hold down the mouse button on this icon, a list of options will appear instantly These are the soon-to-be-well-known Macintosh desk accessories, which are manipulated with the mouse and are available as part of any application program for the Mac. The desk accessories provide a number of useful functions similar to those performed by objects on your “real” desktop. The Mac also allows you to create your own desk accessories. The following are brief descriptions of each accessory.

Calculator. The hand-held calculator rose to prominence in the 1970s, joining pencil and paper as necessary tools of every student, consumer, and businessperson. The Mac partially replaces those “concrete” objects, not only by reducing the need for pencil and paper, but also by providing a basic four-function, hand-held calculator. You can use the mouse to click on the numbers and function symbols, or you can perform calculations using the keyboard or the numeric keypad. Results of calculations can be cut and pasted into another desk accessory or into any document, and numbers from a document can be pasted into the calculator’s display.
Clock. We live in a time-conscious era; we have clocks on our desks, walls, stoves, cars, and wrists. The Mac also has a clock that can be placed on the desktop. It gives you the current date and time and has an alarm that can be set with the mouse. You can copy the date and time and paste them into other documents or accessories.
Key Caps displays the Mac’s optional character set.
This image can be zoomedKey Caps displays the Mac’s optional character set.
Key Caps. The Macintosh comes with a set of optional characters. The Key Caps accessory shows the characters you can type while holding down either the Option, Shift, or Caps Lock key To get the character you want, you can click it while you are in the Key Caps accessory or type the particular key combination on the keyboard. Characters typed in the Key Caps window can be edited, and you can cut and paste them into any document or desk accessory.
Puzzle. When you need some relief from a difficult computing task, you can select the Puzzle option. The Apple menu puzzle is an electronic simulation of the familiar plastic tile number scramble. You click on the “titles” to move the numbers into sequential positions. Whenever you close the Puzzle the titles are rescrambled.
Notepad. Taking notes or memos has become an essential action in our fast-paced society People carry around scraps of paper covered with phone numbers and financial figures, and appointment books stuffed with daily reminders. You may not be able to carry your Mac around, but you can keep your notes and messages in the Notepad. It holds up to eight numbered pages of text that are automatically saved on the disk in a special Notepad file. Notepad text is editable, and you can cut and paste text into and out of it. Clicking on the turned-back corner of a page brings up the next page, and clicking on the bottom-left corner brings up the previous page. This accessory is handy for jotting down notes that you want to keep separate from a document you’re working on. If you are in the midst of a spreadsheet application and suddenly get an idea for the final chapter of your mysterv novel, jot it down in the Notepad.
The Scraphook stores images or text that you use frequently.
This image can be zoomedThe Scraphook stores images or text that you use frequently.
Scrapbook. People often use a graphic image or a portion of text for several purposes. The Mac has a Scrapbook file for collecting images and text you want to keep available. For example, if you have a standard letterhead or logo you use frequently you can copy or cut it into the Scrapbook. When you want to paste that element into a document, scroll through the contents of the Scrapbook file until the image you want appears and then click the Paste button in the window.
The Control Panel allows you to control nine system functions at any time.
This image can be zoomedThe Control Panel allows you to control nine system functions at any time.
Control Panel. If any feature typifies this machine’s design as a user-scaled computer, it’s the set of custom options available in the Control Panel. Calling up this subprogram permits you to control nine system functions at any time. Two of them are fairly straightforward; one lets you adjust the volume of the internal speaker, and another resets the time and date on the Control Panel clock.

Some of the other controls are truly innovative. You can specify both the rate at which the keys repeat (clicking the lower numbers causes a slower repeat rate) and the keyboard response rate (the length of time a key must be held down before it produces a repeating character). Clicking a low number means you'll have to hold down the key longer to get a repeating character; clicking 0 disables the character repeat feature.

The Notepad, Clock, Puzzle, and Calculator have functions similar to those “real” objects on your desktop.
This image can be zoomedThe Notepad, Clock, Puzzle, and Calculator have functions similar to those “real” objects on your desktop.
You’ve probably noticed the apple in the upper-left corner of the desktop menu bar You can also control the blinking rate of the insertion point (vertical bar) and the command selection bar. When you drag the pointer over a command in a pull-down menu, for example, the command is highlighted. When you release the mouse button, the highlighted command blinks according to the level set in the Control Panel. (Setting the blinking rate at 0 disables the feature.) These two options help users to control the visual cues on the desktop.

Two controls govern the actions of the mouse. The mouse tracking control determines whether the movement of the mouse on the desktop will produce a corresponding one-for-one, dot-by-dot movement of the pointer on the screen. Setting the mouse tracking control at 0 maintains a constant, dot-by-dot pointer speed. Setting the control at 1 causes the pointer to move farther, skipping every other dot on the screen, but only when you speed up the mouse movement. Having the faster mouse tracking speed in operation facilitates taking action on the screen.

The other mouse control determines what time span qualifies as a double-click. This may sound like an abstract concept, but being able to control double-clicking speed lets users adjust the computer to their styles, rather than vice versa. The setting with the arrows closest together is the most rapid double-clicking speed.

The desktop pattern control feature has a purely aesthetic function. It allows you to specify the pattern used for the desktop. The default setting is a neutral, 50-percent gray pattern. You can scroll through more than 30 patterns, ranging from solid black or white to crosshatchings, brick patterns, and wave forms. You can even customize your own pattern by editing the pattern in the FatBits portion of the pattern window.

The Macintosh might well have been successful without the Control Panel. The fact that Apple programmer Andy Hertzfeld took the time to design it – and that Apple put his creation into the final product – reflects the overall concept of the Macintosh style of computing.

Daniel Farber

Daniel Farber is the Assistant Editor of Macworld.

Page added on 12th February 2005.

Copyright © 2002-2006 Marcin Wichary, unless stated otherwise.