Boss key utility

Specify which windows stay open with this free boss key.

We're fairly sure that the development of the first boss key followed close behind the development of the first graphical user interface. As the name suggests, boss keys or boss buttons quickly hide whatever is open on the desktop when the user touches a hot key or types a similar trigger. Magic Boss Key 4.10 is a free boss-key utility that has some extra options, such as selecting which windows you want to stay open on the desktop when you use your hot key.

Magic Boss Key's small interface listed our open desktop items with check boxes to select those windows we wanted to remain open, with Help, Options, and Refresh being the only controls. The Refresh button updated the list of programs, while the Options pop-up let us download and specify additional language files, select either the default F12 hot key or left and right mouse buttons to hide and show windows, and set the program to hide all desktop icons or the taskbar, mute sounds, and run at start-up. We made our selections, minimized the program to the system tray, and pressed F12. Magic Boss Key cleared our desktop, windows and icons alike, and muted our sounds. The only trouble is we hadn't selected the options to mute sounds and hide desktop icons. Selecting, operating, and deselecting these options failed to correct the problem, and the Help file wasn't especially helpful. The program's Web site didn't offer much documentation beyond bug fixes, though it seems a few more are in order, since not only did Magic Boss Key hide our icons without our permission but also the mouse button hot-key option failed to activate the program. However, the windows we'd selected to stay open when we ran Magic Boss Key did stay open, although the desktop icons still vanished, which doesn't really help appearances.

Magic Boss Key proved a bit clunky in operation, occasionally requiring us to restart the program, which didn't always activate our changes. Mind you, we love the idea of a boss key that lets you specify what stays open when the rest goes down, but it needs work, and we'd also like to be able to change the hot key from the default F12 to fix conflicts, as well as a proper Help file. The program is updated regularly, though, and it's free.

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