Posts tagged with "os x"

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.


Mac Menu Bar Apps

Ask any Mac power user about their menubar and you’ll get a different list of 5-10 must-have applications and utilities that boost productivity. The menubar is the mission control of a user’s computer, giving them an at-a-glance view of stats and apps that are important to them. The menubar can become so crowded, in fact, that’s there’s a menubar app that collects menubar apps. So meta.

Speaking of OS X features that haven't been ported to iOS, Zach Hamed published an interesting look at the history of Mac menu bar apps last month.

As his images show, the landscape of menu bar apps is a jungle of different sizes, interfaces, keyboard shortcuts, and colors. It's no surprise that Apple is setting strict and specific guidelines with iOS 8 widgets – admittedly, the closest thing to menu bar utilities we'll soon get on our iPhones and iPads.

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The Terminal

I’ve been using the Unix command line since 1983 and like most software developers, the Terminal app is a permanent fixture in my Dock. Over the years I’ve learned a lot of things that make working in this environment more productive, but even old dogs like me are constantly learning new tricks.

As much as I love them, these long “trick lists” on Stack Overflow have a problem: they’re poorly organized with little narrative describing why you’d want to use a technique. This long homage to the command line is my attempt to remedy that situation.

This is a fantastic collection of Terminal tips and tricks, elegantly narrated by Craig Hockenberry. Being able to do this sort of stuff is one of the things I deeply miss on iOS.

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Fileup Simplifies Dropbox Sharing with Drag & Drop and File Filters

Developed by Francisco Cantu, Fileup is a new OS X utility that lets you quickly share files through Dropbox by dragging them onto a menu bar icon. Unlike other apps that have implemented the same sharing mechanism and user interaction (which Dropbox surprisingly doesn't support with their own menu bar app), Fileup adds filters for file types, integrates with Notification Center, and lets you set up templates for naming files through a simple syntax. The idea is reminiscent of Vemedio's shortlived Sharebox experiment, but, as required by Dropbox, Fileup is a separate menu bar utility that doesn't interact with the official Dropbox client.

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Inspecting Yosemite’s Icons

Nick Keppol has published a great look at the icons from the developer beta of OS X Yosemite:

When 10.10 ships this fall, your users will expect your icons to feel at home in the new system. Rather than critique the icons, I’m going to dissect the icon system and focus on the small details that will help you make icons that look great in Yosemite.

When I saw this link in my Twitter feed, I thought the article would focus on colors, gradients, and comparisons with iOS 7. Instead, Nick has inspected the tiniest details of Apple's icon design on Yosemite, such as reflections, materials, grids, and combination of shapes. If you're a designer or just curious about Apple's new dock icon language, I recommend reading this post.

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Jason Snell’s Hands-on with OS X Yosemite

In his first hands-on with OS X Yosemite, Jason Snell points out an issue with the redesigned title bars that no longer show a title:

I have to admit I’m also a little nonplussed about the disappearance of titles from the top of many windows. In apps that never really have more than one important window (Calendar and Maps come to mind), the title is unnecessary; labeling my Calendar window with the word Calendar seems pointless. But in many other contexts, the title of the window imparts important information, and there’s a danger that some of that information could be lost if Apple takes this approach too far. It’s something worth keeping an eye on, especially given the radical changes Yosemite has in store for Safari.

I've been trying the first Yosemite beta on my MacBook Air, and I find it annoying that Safari doesn't show the title of a webpage (just the domain in the address bar) when a single tab is open. It'll be interesting to see if third-party apps will switch to this integrated toolbar approach with no separate area for a title.

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How To Open iCloud Tabs In Editorial for iPad

Editorial iCloud Tabs

Editorial iCloud Tabs

I’ve always wanted to be able to access my iCloud Tabs directly from Editorial, but, unfortunately, due to the lack of an iCloud Tabs API, that’s currently not possible. Last week, however, when I linked to the iCloudTabs for Alfred project by Kevin Marchand and saw that the workflow was based on a bit of Python code, I realized that I could modify his script to find a way to make Editorial read constantly-updated iCloud Tabs from a text file.

What follows is a combination of a server-side script and an Editorial workflow to read and open iCloud Tabs within the app. The system works and I’ve been using it every day for the past week with good results.

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