Posts tagged with "os x"

Flashlight Adds 160+ Features to Spotlight

First drafts aren’t meant to be good, they’re meant to be a starting point.[1] Sometimes we see “first drafts” released into the wild and we think “Wow, that’s a terrible idea.” Sometimes we see them and think “That could be great.” Flashlight is an example of the latter. Late last year, it was released as a beta[2] which even its developer described as a “terrible hack.” But the idea was great, and I remember thinking: “Imagine if Spotlight could do all of these things.”

Today, Flashlight is being released as a 1.0, with much more polish, and much less of that first-draft smell. It’s also free and open source. It extends Spotlight to do a bunch of different things (there’s a list below) but even more importantly it offers an API for others who want to hook into Flashlight’s power to do new and different things. Its plugin system also means that you can disable features that you don’t want or won’t use.

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Apple Releases OS X 10.10.3 with Photos App, New Emoji

Apple released version 10.10.3 of OS X Yosemite today, bringing a new Photos app that works with iCloud Photo Library from iOS 8, 300 new emoji, and a slew of bug fixes. We're working on our Photos article – in the meantime, iMore has done an excellent job in covering iCloud Photo Library and the new app.

I use OS X twice a week at this point, so I only installed the public beta of 10.10.3 last week and took the Photos app for a quick spin. Since late last year, iCloud Photo Library has become my only photo management solution, where I've transferred about nine years of photos from all my devices. The new Photos app for Mac took a couple of minutes to download my library; after that, it showed the same collections and edits as my iPhone and iPad. The process was painless.

I've upgraded my iCloud account twice to put everything in iCloud Photo Library, and I couldn't be happier. There have been many cautionary tales about Apple's cloud services and photo management apps, but I think they nailed it this time. I'm happy with iCloud Photo Library because it's seamlessly integrated with my iPhone's camera and photos – I don't have to manually upload anything, and I don't have to think about managing photos. This is quite the departure from what I used to do, and I like how I'm not wasting time with scripts anymore.

For this reason, I welcome Photos for OS X. Even if not for me, I like knowing that my photos – the same photos I keep on other devices – will show up on my Mac as well.


BitTorrent Sync 2.0

I used version 1 of BitTorrent Sync for many months, and started using version 2 as soon as it reached beta. Having used BitTorrent Sync regularly, I now find Dropbox to be incredibly slow, especially when syncing large files or even a large number of files. In some ways, BitTorrent Sync version 2 feels like the version they really wanted to make (akin to the iPhone 3GS or the second-generation MacBook Air).

From the official announcement:

We’re now ready to take the beta tag off and deliver a final product. All of the core functionality we introduced in version 1.4 last August still exist in 2.0, letting you securely share folders across all platforms, with visibility into who has access. A bunch of new functionality has been added, from enhanced user interfaces across desktop and mobile platforms to a new certificates-based security model with even greater control and ease-of-use.

Version 1 was good, but version 2 is great. How great? I plan to drop my paid Dropbox account when it expires, not just because BitTorrent Sync is cheaper, but because it’s so much better.

BitTorrent Sync has often attracted critics who complain that it isn’t open source. That’s true, it isn’t. For those who demand such things, other options exist. If you like building things from source, Java, or pre-alpha software, good luck and Godspeed. However, if you prefer to avoid those things, and are more interested in design, features, stability, usability, and an app you can use today (instead of something that seems like it might be good someday), I highly recommend BitTorrent Sync.

All of its new pro features are available for free for 30 days. After that, they will cost $40/year (that’s “per person” not per device). Don’t want to pay? BitTorrent Sync’s free version is still faster option than Dropbox, with no storage limits, and no limits on file sizes or transfer speeds.

Get BitTorrent Sync for Mac, Windows, Linux and FreeBSD. (Mobile apps for iOS, Android, Windows Phone, and Amazon Kindle Fire should be available later today.)

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Arq for Mac Adds Support for Dropbox Backups

Arq 4.8 is now available, and it includes support for backing up to your own Dropbox account!

If you already have a Dropbox with 1TB of space, now you can use that space for your Arq backups. The Arq backups go into the folder /Apps/Arq in your Dropbox account.

I've always wanted to try Arq and use the space I have in my Dropbox account. The latest Arq adds support for Dropbox backups and it even lets you combine multiple destinations (such as Dropbox + Google Drive or Dropbox + Amazon S3) to have specific files in locations you choose. Version 4.8 is a free update for existing customers.

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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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How I Control My Mac with Automatic + IFTTT + Dropbox

The other day, Federico asked about why people use web services such as IFTTT. I have a few of these that I use frequently, but the geekiest one is this: controlling my Mac with my car.

More specifically, when I turn my car’s ignition on or off in the parking lot at my office, Automatic triggers an IFTTT recipe, creating a text file in a special Dropbox folder which is monitored by launchd[1] and runs a shell script depending on which file is created.

It sounds more complicated than it is. No, really.

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Photos for Mac Coming with OS X 10.10.3

Apple announced today that Photos for Mac, first showcased last year, will be included in Yosemite's 10.10.3 update set to be released later this Spring. As previously explained, Photos for Mac will sync with iCloud Photo Library and replace iPhoto as the single place where users will be able to browse, organize, edit, and share their photos.

A few months ago, I took all my photos and put them into iCloud Photo Library. I'm talking about almost 9 years of photos stored in iCloud. The service (which costs me €0.99/month as everything is under 20 GB) has been working extremely well for me. Photos are available on all my devices and I like that I can take pictures on my phone, come home, and find everything on my iPad when I sit down.

I'm curious to see how Photos for Mac will integrate with the rest of the ecosystem and if performance will keep up. In the meantime, you can read hands-on impressions at The Verge, Re/Code, and Wired.

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Audio Hijack 3

Jason Snell reviews Audio Hijack 3, the new version of Rogue Amoeba's popular audio app for OS X:

Audio Hijack’s mastery of a Mac’s disparate audio inputs and outputs is amazing. OS X itself is pretty poor when it comes to this stuff—you can set a single input and output in the Sound preference pane, and some apps will let you override those settings to route audio elsewhere, but others won’t. If you’re trying to send some sound from some apps or microphones to one location, and others to another, it can all fall apart rather spectacularly. With Audio Hijack 3, it’s all there in blocks. You just need to drag them in and press the button.

I don't use Audio Hijack, but this is exactly the kind of update that makes me want to try a new app because it sounds so incredible. You can create workflows to save inputs from multiple sources as separate audio files simultaneously and there's a template chooser to start using the app based on common tasks. The whole idea of workflows – somewhat reminiscent of Quartz Composer and Alfred – seems amazing.

Make sure to check out the updated website and Jason's interview with Paul Kafasis included in his review.

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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.