Stepping Out II

By Greg Raven

If they laugh when you step up to do page layout on a standard size Macintosh screen, it may be because they haven’t heard that you are using Stepping Out II, the latest version of a piece of software that makes your regular Mac screen think it has a gigantic monitor inside, struggling to get out.

Most of the time, the regular screen is fine. You get used to the size, and you adapt. Sometimes, though, art work or page layouts will extend beyond the boundaries of the physical screen, at which point you normally would reach for the scroll bars.

With Stepping Out II, you can still reach for the scroll bars if you wish, but a much faster way of moving around is to simply zip the cursor off in the direction of the part of the screen you want to see. When Stepping Out II senses that your cursor has reached the edge of the screen, it automatically scrolls your document for you, up to the limit of the big screen Stepping Out II has constructed for you.

The resultant increase in speed in astonishing. I spent the first few minutes awestruck at the way a complex XPress document scudded across the screen at the slightest move of the cursor. Mind you, this was a document with four different typefaces and a large Encapsulated Postscript image in the center. Normally, moving around this document means clicking on the scroll bar and watching XPress galumph across the screen, redrawing everything as it goes.

With Stepping Out II there was no redrawing, no galumphing, and no lag of any kind. Want to see the bottom of the page? Fine … you got it. Go up to the top? Sure … no problem. Side-to-side to check your margins? Instantly.

About the only other things you could want to do with your screen are reduced views and magnified views. Stepping Out II does ’em both. Reductions come at 25, 50, and 75%, while magnifications can be had from between 2X and 16X. Furthermore, you are not simply looking at the screen in reduced or magnified view, you can work on it too, if you wish.

Want more? Stepping Out II allows you to fix an area of the screen so that it does not move when the rest of your screen does. For example, if you are working in a program that has a tool palette along the right-hand edge of the screen, you would tell Stepping Out II that you want the tools to remain visible (fixed) at all times. Now, no matter where you scroll in your document, your tools are readily available.

How about those times when a rapidly-moving screen starts to get on your nerves? Stepping Out II allows you to lock the entire screen so that you can work in peace.

I mentioned that the scrolling is fast, but it is also smart. If you approach the edge of the screen slowly with your cursor, Stepping Out II takes a long time to react, and then does so gradually. If you crash the cursor into the side of the screen at full speed, be prepared to get to the edge of your document, because that is where you will find yourself in less time than you can imagine.

In this respect, Stepping Out II is easier to use than a true big-screen monitor. With a physically large monitor, getting the cursor from one side of the screen to the other can be a tiresome task, even with your cursor dynamics set to the fastest setting. With Stepping Out II, the movement just happens. After the initial incredulousness wears off, you quickly get a feeling for where everything on your big screen is and how best to get there.

Different tasks require different screens, and Stepping Out II not only has a good selection of default screen sizes, it allows you to define and save your own custom sizes. Their default full page display (8.5×11) was perfect for working with XPress (it even left room to fix the tool palette). For Microsoft Word, however, none of the default screens did what I wanted. It took only a couple of minutes to set up a 7.1×10 screen (you can also define screen size in pixels) that gave me the left and right margins I have grown accustomed to but allowed me to scan a full page quickly with a quick mouse movement.

This brings up an interesting point. Because of the popularity of big screen monitors, most of the programs I ran under Stepping Out II were lead to believe that there actually was a physically large monitor there, and automatically sized their working windows accordingly.

Adjustments to Stepping Out II are made through the Control Panel (under the Apple menu; it installs as a CDEV), and you can select any predefined screen as the default, or you can instruct Stepping Out II to reserve room in RAM for the big screen but not to turn it on until you ask for it.

Stepping Out II does everything I described and more, but there are some compatibility issues that may prevent you from using Stepping Out II every time you turn on your Mac.

First, Stepping Out II does not get along with some other INIT programs. My screen blanker — one I downloaded from the LAMG BBS — caused Stepping Out II to crash heavily. Stepping Out II does work with Pyro!, but you must reassign the sleep now corner from upper right to upper left. Of course, if you have MFMenu+ (or On Cue) in the upper right corner, there is a conflict there, too. If you have several INITs or utilities (menu clocks in particular) of this nature, you may run out of room at the top of your screen even if Stepping Out II does coexist with them otherwise.

Stepping Out II also slows normal scrolling motions, and the expanding/contracting rectangle animation that you get when you open or close a file at the Finder are much slower than normal.

Finally, Stepping Out II needs RAM to construct the big screen, reserving anywhere from 128K on up to itself. On a one meg machine, that is enough memory to prevent Illustrator 88 from opening. If you use other memory-intensive programs (Fullwrite Professional comes to mind), you should check to see if you have enough RAM to run everything at once.

Given the number of conflicts, it is difficult to bestow a perfect score on Stepping Out II. On the other hand, the ease of use and the functionally in some situations make this a program that definitely merits serious consideration.