Why is the Location Manager so under-utilised? Certainly not for lack of utility. Put simply, the Location Manager is a master switch that enables you to alter a host of system settings all in one go, from one central control panel (or control strip, speaking of neglected bits of the Mac OS). Most desktop Mac owners ignore it because it looks and sounds like a thing most relevant to owners of portable Macs. Most owners of portable Macs have a go at fiddling with it, then give up in frustration. I will admit this: it isn't the best-designed bit of software in the world.
Here's a bit of news for you. Not only is it the best thing since sliced bread if you move your Mac about from place to place, it can also be terrifically useful on a stationary desktop machine. If you share your Mac with another person who has different preferences about how they like to work (and perhaps a different ISP), Location Manager can hold that person's desired settings, allowing them to switch instantly when they use your Mac.
Yes, in Mac OS 9 you can do the same by setting up multiple user accounts. If you have Mac OS 9, that's certainly a better way to do it. Location Manager is present in every Mac OS since 7.6. For this tutorial, I'm using Mac OS 8.6, but the instructions are the same for any version of the OS.
WORK AND HOME
Before you start fiddling with the Location Manager itself, make sure you have some settings it can alter. This is especially true of the TCP/IP and AppleTalk settings. Location Manager (for reasons Steve Jobs himself probably doesn't understand) won't let you save a "configuration with "default" as the setting.
The first thing to do is to open up each of these control panels, then select Configurations from the File menu. Select the "default" configuration, and click Duplicate. In the dialogue box, fill in an appropriate name for the configuration.
You might, for example, use a network connection for the Internet at work and a dial-up connection at home. In that case, create two configurations, name one "Work" and one "Home", and edit each with the correct settings. For example, for "Work", tell Appletalk to connect via Ethernet, and for "Home", tell it to connect via PPP. The important thing for desktop Macs is that you have a configuration that isn't called "default". I just left my settings alone, and named the configuration "Home".
(Note: you can only edit the active configuration in either of these control panels. So, once you've created a new configuration, click on Make Active to edit it. Also, make sure before you close the control panel that "default" is not the active configuration.)THE MANAGEROpen up the Location Manager control panel, and select New location from the File menu. Now, here's where you mustn't feel restricted. I've created one location called "Sydney", another called "Melbourne" (which essentially switch my dial-up settings), but also two locations for home, called "Matthew" and "Robyn" (a person who shares my Mac). You could, just as easily, create locations that optimise your Mac for gaming, or video capture. "Location" in this sense means the same thing as "configuration", and doesn't necessarily mean you're moving your computer around.
Once you've created a location that you'll use for home, click on the checkbox labelled "Appletalk and TCP/IP". Location Manager will tell you which configurations for each of these panels are currently active. If you want to make changes, click on Edit, and you'll be asked to open the control panel whose configuration you wish to change. Don't worry, it all sounds complicated, but once it's done you'll not have to worry about this again.
If you have multiple ISPs, or if you move from one city to another and therefore have different dial-ups, or if you share your Mac with someone who uses a different ISP, you can use the Location Manager to switch easily between remote access settings. Even if the only reason you use the Location Manager is to switch between dial-up configurations, it is easier than doing it through the Remote Access and Modem control panels.
As with TCP/IP and Apple-talk, you'll have to make sure neither the Modem nor Remote Access control panel is set to "default". Create configurations for your various dial-up needs, and name them accordingly. Then, using the Location Manager, assign the different configurations to the appropriate location sets. Matthew's dial-up settings go with the "Matthew" location, etc.
Here's where it gets really interesting. As well as the various bits of switching, you can use Location Manager to juggle sets of system extensions using Extensions Manager. So, for instance, at work you have the ultimate Excel powerhouse, and at home you're primed for Lara Croft. Thankfully, the Extensions Manager doesn't have a "default" configuration, so you won't have to worry about setting up sets first.
Simply click on the checkbox next "to "Extension Set", and Location Manager will reveal your currently selected set of extensions. If you wish to change it, click Edit, and you will be asked to open the Extensions Manager. Either switch to the desired set or create a new set, and close the control panel. Then, back in Location Manager, click Apply to attach that set of Extensions to your selected location.
(Note that changing extension sets using Location Manager will require you to restart your computer for it to take effect.)OTHER FIDDLY BITSYou've got the hang of what the Location Manager can do, so I won't bore you by going through the steps for each individual checkbox. Most of them are self-explanatory (what do you think "default printer", "sound level" and "time zone" are likely to alter?) and using them is pretty much like using the ones I've described above.
What about settings that aren't covered by Location Manager? You can't, for instance, change the desktop picture, mouse settings, or the settings on your video capture card with one simple swipe of the mouse, can you?
Well, yes and no. Control panel settings you might wish to change when you switch from one location to another, but which aren't included in the Location Manager itself, can be opened automatically using the "Auto Open items" check box. Clicking on this opens up a file selector, which you can then use to select which miscellaneous control panels to alter. Of course, you don't have to restrict yourself to control panels. If you're creating a location set that will optimise your machine for Photoshop, why not get it to open Photoshop as well.
Once you've got your locations all set up, you can switch between them at will. You can also select which location to use when you start up your Mac. With the Location Manager control panel open, go to the Edit menu and select Preferences. By default, Location Manager won't bother you at startup. You can tell it to open every time you start up (which can be annoying if you don't change locations very often) or when you press a hot key (such as the control key). This can save time, especially if you use a location that requires switching extensions - you'd have to restart the machine then, anyway.
The other very quick way to switch between locations is to use the Control strip. The Location Manager module is the odd-looking one on the end with the red arrows.