When it’s time to leave your Mac for a while, you want a nice quick way of putting it to sleep and a little bit of flexibility in how you do it.

Introducing Midnight, a Dashboard widget designed to help you put your Mac to sleep in the way you want and at double speed.

Midnight can either put your Mac into its standard sleep mode or into hibernation mode (also referred to as ‘safe sleep’ or ‘deep sleep’). Standard sleep is where your Mac reduces its power consumption to a minimum by stopping its processor but maintaining the supply of power to (and thus maintaining the current contents of) the RAM. Hibernation is different in that no power is used at all. In order to do this your Mac will copy its current RAM contents onto its hard disk. It needs to do this so that it can remove power from the RAM and keep a copy of its contents for when you want to wake your Mac up later.

You might not have heard of hibernation before. Apple calls it ‘safe sleep’. Its purpose is to ensure that data stored in RAM is not lost if there is a loss of power during normal sleep mode. Apple only officially supports safe sleep on the PowerBook G4 (Double-Layer SD) together with all of the new Intel books and desktops and you won’t find a setting to turn it on or off in System Preferences on any of these Macs. To find out a little more about safe sleep look here.

In addition to choosing a particular sleep mode you can choose whether your Mac should switch to the log-in screen before going to sleep.

“Hold on a minute,” I hear you scream. “I’m a standard user not an administrator. I’m not usually allowed to play around with this kind of stuff!!” It’s true, only an administrator can turn safe sleep on or off permanently, but you don’t need to change the safe sleep settings permanently. You only need to change them temporarily when you have asked Midnight to hibernate and you want them to go back to standard when your Mac wakes up. Fortunately Midnight is a clever little fella and can handle this for you without ever needing to know your administrator’s password.