by John Nouveaux and Leigh Cockrell
XtremeMac, most known for cool gadget accessories, has taken a jump into the software arena with the release of The RecipeManager recipe management software. If you like to cook a lot, as we do, you know that sometimes finding a recipe can be most of the battle. The RecipeManager is designed to facilitate your finding recipes quickly and easily, and it does this very well.
In addition to the standard ingredients list and recipe instructions, you can specify a recipe's country of origin, author, category, type, include a photograph (conveniently drag and droppable from the Finder or iPhoto!), and other information. Using the advanced search feature you can search for recipes on most of these fields; very nice.
Each recipe also sports staging information (preparation steps you can do ahead of time and when to do them), nutritional information, recipe variations, preparation time and how many people it serves. In the future, XtremeMac says scaling of ingredients for larger servings will be supported.
A large-format Cooking View allows you to see the ingredients list and instructions on your screen-in one of four scalable formats-from a distance, eliminating the need (at least for us) to print a new copy of a recipe each time we want to prepare it.
In addition, you can create and track entire meals-collections of recipes you have served in the past. Next time you want to serve your special friend that special romantic meal-it's all there.
As we mentioned above, searching for recipes is one of the more powerful features of The RecipeManager. Quick search lets you find a recipe by its name, source, category, type or origin. We particularly liked the immediate culling down of recipes as we typed into the search field-sort of like searching for songs in iTunes. The advanced search lets you combine multiple search criteria using AND/ OR boolean logic designed to get you to that special recipe fast.
Recipes can be exported to plain text files for e-mailing to your friends whereupon they can import the recipe into The RecipeManager. Easy and cool. And if you're like us, you're seeing potential here for cookbooks and on-line recipes to start publishing in RecipeManager's (open) format for easy inclusion into The RecipeManager's database. XtremeMac has indicated this as their intention with The RecipeManager in the future.
You can also generate a shopping list of all or just selected ingredients from either a single recipe or an entire meal as well as from any number of recipes or meals. Using the standard print function, the shopping list can be printed giving you a checklist you can carry to the store. One enhancement here we'd love to see is the ability to organize shopping list items by the section they are in at the grocery store (produce, dairy, canned goods, etc.).
The included User Guide is short and sweet giving you pretty much everything you need to know to make The RecipeManager do its stuff-although here and there the grammar looks like it might have been written by a middle school student.
For efficiency, The RecipeManager keeps tracks of your recipes using a back-end database. Databases, being databases, can become corrupted if the power fails while you are making an update. Accordingly, The RecipeManager allows you to make a backup of the database in a form you can reload in the event of a catastrophe. You might want to do this from time to time as part of your regular backup regimen (it would be nice if the program allowed you to automate this task).
The RecipeManager shows it's a 1.0 release in several areas. Although there are no major showstoppers, there are quite a few places where the interface isn't quite right, could be made more Mac-like and here and there are a few things which are just annoying. A few examples: As of this writing, the web site www.TheRecipeManager.com, mentioned in the User Guide, was not functional.
Changing into modify mode in the shopping list, recipe, and meals windows is clunky. There are no easily accessible edit buttons or doubleclickable fields where you might expect them - you have to either use a command-key shortcut or make the long journey to the menu bar and back.
Kitchen Helpers, a nice item, showing measurement conversions, possible food substitutions, tips etc. would be even better if you could add your own substitutions, tips, etc. And it might be nice to be able to enter links to web sites right into your recipes.
Finally, XtremeMac tech support was responsive to our e-mail requests for help/information - always a plus when you purchase software.
Overall, The RecipeManager has a nice look and feel, is easy to learn, and does what it does very well. If you have to manage a lot of recipes and are constantly having to find that particular recipe card, The RecipeManager may be just the program for you. We have to get back to making a roux for our next batch of gumbo. Yum.