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I currently have mine set to be active. I've done it both ways, and there are skilled practitioners in both camps. As you say, try it both ways, and see which works best for you. I seem to flip between the two every time this discussion comes up :-)

If you want a quick way to check items in an on-hold context to make sure they would be available if not on hold, bring up a context view that shows them. Select the specific items you want to check. Now click the Focus button in the toolbar (or View->Focus on Selected Projects, or control-cmd-F), and then switch the view to project or planning mode (View->Planning Mode, or cmd-1). You'll only be viewing the projects that contain the items you had previously selected, and you can judge whether or not you should be working those actions.