MagicWorkbench Review (Amiga Computing 82, January 1995)

(Editor’s note: written in November 1994, and published in Amiga Computing as my first review for them)

The world, its brother and their cats have all by now seen MagicWB. For those still left who haven’t, MagicWB is a rather incredible package that will make your Amiga a much nicer place to work.

“Sweeping generalisations are dangerous”, so people say, but in this case the generalisation holds true. MagicWB is a collection of 8 colour icons, patterns, documentation and a few support programs which in itself doesn’t sound revolutionary. It’s when you see the quality of these icons and patterns that you get some idea of just how “useful” MagicWB is.

MagicWB contains icons to replace all of your standard system icons, lots of utility icons and over 50 image drawers. These drawers have small representations of what is in the drawer on them (for example, tools have a spanner on them and painting drawers have a palette on them) and they’re great!

ToolManager users have a bonus included too as there are around fifty dock brushes which can be added to ToolManager. MagicWB comes with two files to append to your ToolManager configuration, saving you from having to load each brush manually – thankfully.

With MagicWB 2 there are two very useful programs. IconUpdate tackles a common complaint about older versions of MagicWB in that it will replace an icon’s image without losing position information and tooltypes. MagicCopper is a program which plays with the copper of AGA machines to give stunning gradient fills of the background. Unfortunately, no screen grabber will take a snapshot of these so you’ll have to take my word for it that they’re excellent.

Pattern-wise, you’ve got 52 to play with. Most are truly superb and must have taken an age to draw. There are four which are designed for use with MagicCopper and are therefore AGA only. The full screen “Intel Outside” logo will probably get a lot of use as with the gradient backdrop it looks excellent.

Interestingly enough, icon and pattern sizes have halved in size and memory requirements : this is some feat. It is down to a small program called MagicDaemon which makes all icons and patterns have the correct colour. No, I don’t know how. The daemon is also responsible for a great suprise occasionally which you really have to see, preferably in front of a PC owner.

Installation is achieved through a shell script, not the standard Installer. The author tells me that this is because Installer won’t do what he needs it to and I for one believe him. The installer works well without a hiccough, apart from insisting on putting the MagicDaemon invocation in both your user-startup and startup-sequence for no apparent reason. A script is also provided to replace drawer icons with the standard MagicWB icon but I think most people will elect to manually replace them with the ImageDrawer icons.

Another change from older versions of MagicWB is that the colour palette has been made darker. This makes the package look stunning on AGA machines or users with 24bit graphics cards but looks slightly too dark on ECS machines. The fix is simple : change your palette.

MagicWB also comes with three fonts in differing point sizes to replace Topaz, Courier and Helvetica. These are all very well designed and improve your Workbench no end. It’s almost worth buying the package just for these – they really are that good.

A great many icons have been drawn by other artists and these are not included in the package. However, they are easy enough to find and are completely compatible with MagicWB 2. These sort of add-ons are appearing on AmiNet at the rate of one archive a week!

MagicWB has recently overgone a drastic overhaul : it used to be the case that you could buy/download MagicWB from anywhere and register it when you felt like it. Now, you can buy/download a few screenshots of MagicWB 2 which will hopefully make you part with your hard earned for it. MagicWB is shareware, as it always has been, but now you have to register to get the package.

There is a UK registration site and the address is provided below. Despite the warning that it would take up to three weeks for my personalised package to arrive, two days later the package dropped through my door. Good service!

All in all, MagicWB is worth much more than the £15 registration fee. It’s something that you will use every day for a long time to come. Get it now!

MagicWB is available in the UK from:
Paul Jewell
(address removed!)

Price is £15, or the upgrade from registered users of MagicWB 1.x is £7.
Payment can be made by cheque or cash.