June 9
The 58-Second Tutorial

Swapping Throbbers
Customizing IE 5 for Mac with ResEdit

by Tim Wilson
Man About Town™

Like most folks who've heard of ResEdit, I used to look on it warily at best. A free utility from Apple, ResEdit is a "resource editor," a tool for altering software at its most fundamental level.

Anyway, that's what I generally knew about ResEdit. What I knew in particular was some variation on the harsh warning that accompanied every discussion of ResEdit I'd ever seen. For example, here's the one from Apple's ResEdit download page.

Use of this application is not recommended unless you have a strong knowledge of how the Macintosh operating system functions. NOTE: if this software is improperly used, it is possible to incur data loss and/or render your Macintosh computer unusable, thus requiring you to reinstall the Mac OS.

Eek! So I thought of ResEdit as sort of like a scalpel: admittedly a powerful tool, and I'm pretty sure if I owned one I'd only hurt myself.

But I recently came across a project that was too cool to pass up. It was enough to make me overcome my fear of pain and computer downtime and take the plunge. Hey, if I enjoyed pain and downtime, I'd toss out my Mac and run Windows, right?

Not that everything about Microsoft is useless or evil, mind you. Illegal apparently, but not useless or evil.

The one product of theirs that I think is actually as good as its market share is Microsoft's Internet Explorer 5 for Macintosh, a product superior, I think, to its Windows counterpart. In fact, the only thing that identifies it as a Microsoft product to the naked eye is the animated Internet Explorer logo, or "throbber," in the upper right hand corner of the browser. With a couple of clicks in ResEdit, though, it can be gone for good, replaced with any number of free alternatives.

You can of course replace the throbber in any browser that has one, including Netscape. But I took particular satisfaction in this little project, knowing that Microsoft would replace my logo with theirs in a heartbeat. Here, I could beat them to the punch.

I've seen throbbers with pictures of the iMac, G4, Apple logo, kitties and puppies, a skateboarder, college logos and much more. The ones illustrated here are by Patrick Kelleher, and are from his Web site http://homepage.mac.com/pkelleher/throbbers.html. The one I've chosen is the one in the middle: a rotating PowerBook throbber, since the G3 PowerBook is my primary Internet device.

You can also go to Yahoo, type in "Throbber," and find literally of dozens of listings, surprisingly few of which are obscene. Almost all of the sites also offer instructions for making your own throbbers. The one site I found for creating an obscene throbber was, of course, for a Windows browser. And no, I won't give you the listing.

(I was delighted to find a Yahoo listing for a Bob throbber, but the link was dead. If anybody has one, let me know. Otherwise, somebody out there has their work cut out for them.)

Don't be afraid of the clown
ResEdit hasn't been updated since 1994, because there just isn't any need to. It does exactly what it needs to, the price is right (free), and it works really well. Honestly, you're not going to believe how easy this is. Here's Throbber Replacement in 7 steps.

1. Open ResEdit.

2. Inside ResEdit, open the Throbber. (Command-O, then navigate to the throbber, just like you would to any other file.) Here's what the PICT resource looks like inside ResEdit. Yup, that little housey looking thing with the paintbrush. That's not so scary is it?

3. Open Internet Explorer. ResEdit senses you're about to do something potentially hazardous, and offers you the option of working on an alias. Select yes.

Unless, seeing how easy this all looks, you're suddenly feeling very manly, which is to say, needlessly reckless and foolhardy beyond reason. Guess which alternative I selected. Of course I chose the idiot's course: am I not a man? Not a good habit to cultivate as you set off down the path to resource editing enlightenment. So, as a putatively responsible guide, I'll advise you to definitely work on the alias. Even though I didn't.

4. Copy the PICT resource for the throbber; select the little house; and hit Copy.

5. This is the hardest part of the whole process: find the housey looking thing in the IE window. I reduced the size of the window for this demonstration — the icons are all actually full-sized, as in the window above. But that's the hard part. If you can find a PICT resource, which happens to be labeled "PICT," you're golden. Select it, and hit paste. When ResEdit asks if you want to replace the selected item with the item you're pasting, click Yes.

6. Save the change, quit ResEdit, log on with IE, and start throbbing..

7. There is no step seven. Hee-hee! There's no step seven!

Seriously, that's it. Now, in IE's upper right corner, I have a spinning PowerBook, which matches my browser color—PowerBook black, of course. But if you prefer Tangerine or Lime, your throbber thoughtfully changes to match.

To further explore ResEdit, maybe even stretch it a little beyond swapping throbbers, download Apple's documentation, and start experimenting. Or be manly and ignore the documentation. No need to be afraid of the clown, although to avoid actually becoming one, you should probably work on copies of your software instead of the originals.

Tim Wilson, Man About Town™, throbs as the Bureau Chief of DMN's Florida Keys bureau. He's no longer afraid of ResEdit, but clowns still give him the willies.

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