Posts in mac

Skala Color 2: A More Functional and Beautiful Color Picker for OS X

Bjango is a small development studio, probably best known for the (very handy) iStat Menus utility. For the past few years they’ve also been hard at work on Skala, which will be a UI and icon design tool that Bjango promises to have ‘phenomenal rendering quality and a unique blend of vector, bitmap and 3D abilities’. But in the interim, they’ve released Skala Preview (which lets you preview Photoshop documents on your iOS device) and Skala Color (a new color picker for OS X).

Marc Edwards, founder of Bjango, explained why they've created Skala Color and Preview in a brief interview with Khoi Vinh:

When we began work on Skala, we decided it could be good to break out some features into separate apps. Doing so helps ensure those modules are well tested, and creates awareness Skala is coming (we’re a tiny company, so we can’t afford expensive ads).

Late last week Bjango released version 2 of Skala Color which brings a revamped user interface, support for copying color values for use with Swift, random color generation and improved format parsing.

For those that aren’t familiar with Skala Color, it adds a tab to the system color picker window in OS X. The key features you get from using Skala Color is the ability to easily copy color values in a wide variety of formats (full list here), and really fine control over selecting a color thanks to the new user interface in version 2.

Skala Color 2 may just be a little utility, but it is full of great little design touches. For example, you don’t necessarily have to use the color sliders, you can also hover your mouse over the ring of the magnifying glass and cycle through the 360 degrees of hues. Another is how Skala Color will recognise if you have a color value on your clipboard and let you select that color with one click.

One thing to keep in mind is that Skala Color is a 64-bit app, so it won’t show up in an app that is 32-bit. That shouldn’t be a problem for the vast majority of apps on OS X these days, but I did run into it with Microsoft Office Preview.

Skala Color 2 is a free utility for OS X.

 

 

 


Spring Cleaning, or How I Fell in Love with 1Password Vaults

I've been using 1Password since January of 2008, which means that I have a lot of passwords and other bits of secure information stored in there.[1] Recently it started to feel like I had too much in there. Search results were cluttered with accounts that I no longer use, don’t use very often, or other information that I might need some day.

At first I went through and attempted to deactivate/delete accounts that I no longer use (i.e. the user forum for some piece of software that I used 3 years ago). Most often I found that the account could not be deleted unless I contacted someone, or the login information was no longer valid. The process was boring, time-consuming and frustrating. I found myself trying to guess if I might need something later. (Do I need to save the password for a friend’s WiFi login if I only see them once or twice a year? Couldn’t I just ask them for it again if I did need it? Do I need to keep a copy of my mother-in-law’s Gmail password in case she forgets it? Yes. Do I need to see it every time I search for “Google” in 1Password? No.) It is hard to know if I might ever need something again, and so I tended to err on the side of caution, meaning that I would keep things, even if I didn't use them all that often. The end result was that I didn't get rid of very much, and it still felt like I had more in my 1Password database than I really needed.

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Make Keyboard Shortcuts for Two Menu Items with the Same Name

OS X has an easy way to add keyboard shortcuts: in System Preferences.app go to the “Keyboard” preference pane, click on “Shortcuts” and then “App Shortcuts”. You can create a “global” keyboard shortcut (which will work in any application which has a matching menu item), or you can create an app specific shortcut which will only work in one particular application.

That’s great, but what happens if an application has two menu items with the same name? How can you tell which menu item will be used for the keyboard shortcut? Turns out there’s an easy way to do this, but one that I had never heard of, and I’m guessing others might not have known it either. I’m going to use 1Password as an example, but this will work in any OS X app.

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Flashlight Extends OS X Yosemite’s Spotlight with Plugins

Developed by Nate Parrott, Flashlight is an interesting tweak for Spotlight that aims to extend Yosemite’s search utility and app launcher with plugins. Available for free on GitHub and based on a plugin system written in Python, Flashlight extends the capabilities of Spotlight with features such as Google and Wolfram Alpha search, weather forecasts, Terminal integration, and support for online search on various websites.

In spite of a major redesign for OS X Yosemite, Spotlight didn’t get the more advanced functionalities that have become a staple of third-party apps such as Alfred and LaunchBar; Spotlight can return selected Bing results, but, for instance, it can’t fire up traditional Google searches in Safari or provide results directly in the Spotlight UI. Compare that with the useful and time-saving workflows created by the Alfred community, and it’s easy to understand why the average OS X power user may prefer the versatility of a Spotlight replacement.

Flashlight is an official Spotlight API and a “horrendous hack” according to its developer, but it proves a point. I installed Flashlight on my system running the latest Yosemite developer seed, and Flashlight displayed a small popup window with the ability to enable plugins. I activated Google, weather, and Wolfram Alpha, then I invoked Spotlight and typed “g MacStories Tweetbot” – that’s a shortcode for Google queries in Spotlight through Flashlight. Google search results were displayed in a mini-web view inside Spotlight, and I could either type Enter to open the Google search results page in Safari, or click the results in Spotlight.

I got similar results with weather and Wolfram Alpha integration, although also I stumbled across bugs as Parrott cautioned in the release notes. Weather correctly fetched my location, but Wolfram Alpha didn’t accept the (theoretically supported) “wa” command and some queries just didn’t work. And, obviously, being this a rough hack that’s not officially supported by Apple, memory consumption of the Flashlight plugin occasionally went through the roof with hundreds of MBs reported in Activity Monitor.

Flashlight may be an unfinished and hacky workaround, but it offers a glimpse of what an extendable Spotlight for Yosemite could be. While I don’t think that Apple will ever allow users to write their own plugins for Spotlight, Flashlight may grow into a relatively stable and popular utility – and if things don’t work out, there will always be Alfred and LaunchBar.



Calcbot for Mac

Tapbots have today launched a Mac version of their Calcbot app. Priced at $4.99, Calcbot for Mac is a good replacement for the default OS X calculator if you want a calculator with a few more bells and whistles but don't necessarily need something as advanced as PCalc. Calcbot comes with a Basic and Scientific calculator, as well as an in-built unit converter.

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iStat Mini

Bjango's iStat Menus has been one of my must-have Mac apps for the past four years, but I have to admit that I don't use all of its features. I don't need iStat Menus' comprehensive set of tools to monitor my CPU, fan temperature, or network usage – mostly because I don't understand that data and just want to know how much free memory and storage I have.

iStat Mini, released last week on the Mac App Store, takes iStat Menus' most popular features and puts them in Yosemite's Today view with a compact widget that's always a swipe away. iStat Mini will show you CPU, memory, and disk usage, with two smaller network indicators at the bottom for downloads and uploads. And that's it.

If you've always been interested in iStat's monitoring capabilities without the full power of iStat Menus, iStat Mini is a handy widget that covers the basics with a compact layout in Notification Center. Adopters of the app will likely ask for more features, and Bjango will have to balance requests for more options with the simplicity of the widget. A little more customization would be nice, but I wouldn't want to see iStat Mini become as complex as iStat Menus.

iStat Mini is $1.99 on the Mac App Store.


iCloud Drive: What Is It, How It Works & Its Fundamental Problem

With iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite, Apple is introducing a new feature of iCloud: iCloud Drive. Apple bills it as a feature that will let you:

...safely store all your presentations, spreadsheets, PDFs, images, and any other kind of document in iCloud. Documents you store in iCloud Drive will be kept up to date across all of your devices, and you can access them from your iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Mac, or PC.

This brief article aims to clarify what exactly iCloud Drive is, how you access it, as well as the big problem that it has.
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Extensibility and Automation Changes in OS X Yosemite

The headline making news of OS X 10.10 Yosemite, released yesterday as a free update on the Mac App Store, is that it brings an extensive UI overhaul, modernizing the look of Apple’s desktop operating system to fit in with the design language pioneered by iOS 7. This is a great change, and maybe would have been enough to satisfy the average Mac user, but if you’re reading further into this article than the title, chances are you’re looking for a little more than a surface adjustment. Thankfully, Apple was kind enough to oblige.

OS X Yosemite introduces a series of interesting and useful changes under the hood, particularly in the category of automation. The first of these is the addition of extensions to the Mac. Yes, those extensions. If you have a device running iOS 8, you already know what extensions are, and extensions on the Mac are built on the exact same concept of extending the functionality and content of your individual apps out across the entire operating system. Although the idea is the same, extensions on the Mac are a bit different in their implementation due to the fact that the restrictions and capabilities of the operating system are not the same as those of iOS.

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