TJ Luoma

24 posts on MacStories since February 2015

Tj went to college as a Computer Science major and came out as a Presbyterian pastor. It’s kind of a long story. He’s been using OS X since the days of NeXTStep. These days he enjoys finding ways to automate his Mac with Keyboard Maestro, Hazel, launchd, and/or shell scripts. Brett Terpstra once called him insane (but in a good way). He believes in keeping his dock on the left side, multiple backups, and the Oxford comma. When he’s not writing at MacStories, you can find him at Luo.ma.

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Resolutionator Makes It Easy to Switch Your Mac’s Screen Resolution

Resolutionator is a handy new utility from the great team at Many Tricks which is the best and easiest way that I have found to quickly switch between different screen resolutions.

Why would I need to do this? Well, one of the things I have started doing with my my new 12” Retina MacBook is adjusting the resolution between its “native” size (1280x800) and the “more space” (1440x900) options, depending on what I am doing.

I also need to adjust the resolution on my Dell UltraWide U2913WM 29” Monitor when I connect to it via screen-sharing, because 2560x1080 is a lot of pixels, and 1280x960 is a lot easier to manage over VNC.

My favorite feature is a keyboard shortcut which brings up a quick list of the available resolutions:

If I had one feature request it would be the ability to exclude resolutions that I don’t use or somehow easily select between just options that I do use. That Dell UltraWide has a myriad of resolution options, but I only ever use about two.

Download Resolutionator (requires 10.8 or later) and check out the free trial, and then you can buy it for $3.


Suspicious Package Lets You Inspect .pkg Files Before You Install Them

Suspicious Package is a free Quick Look plug-in which allows you to inspect package files (.pkg) on the Mac.

Package files on the Mac are awesome, because they can install all of the various files that you need in the right places, and do all of the right things to make sure that you can use them.

Package files on the Mac are terrifying, because they can install all of these various files all over the place and you probably have no idea what they are doing.

If you download a .pkg file from a reasonably trustworthy source, chances are extremely high that the package is completely safe and won’t do anything nefarious. But .pkg files also have the potential to do a lot of damage, especially because they almost always require that you enter your administrator password. Suspicious Package allows you to see inside .pkg files, including the any scripts which will be run during the installation process. All of this gives you a much better chance of understanding what a particular package will do before you install it.

Plus, it’s free, so there’s no good reason not to install it. You can download it here either as a .pkg file (yes, irony) or manually. If you want to see a good example of why .pkg files can be a very helpful thing, look at the instructions for installing this manually!

I’m not trying to make you paranoid, I just want you to be able to make more informed decisions.


Set Up Your Own OmniFocus Sync Server

The fine folks at The Omni Group offer a free service called, logically enough, the Omni Sync Server. It will sync your OmniFocus and documents from your other Omni* apps. I use and love this service.

But what if, for some reason, you don’t want to use someone else’s sync service? What if you want to host it all privately? Well, the good news is that you can do that, and pretty easily too. The sync feature of the Omni* apps will work with any standard WebDAV server. If you don’t know how to go about setting up a WebDAV server, the OmniGroup folks have two options for you:

  1. If you use OS X Server, see Setting Up an OmniFocus Sync Server With Server.app.
  2. If you want to use a Mac without OS X Server, see Setting Up an OmniFocus Sync Server With WebDAVNav Server which uses the free WebDAVNav Server app which you can download from the Mac App Store.

You can use either of these options to sync your devices on your home network, or even across the Internet if you configure the appropriate ports in your router. If I didn’t use OmniGroup’s server, this would be yet another thing I would host on my Macminicolo machine.

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Replacing QuickCursor with Keyboard Maestro

QuickCursor was a great app which allowed you to use your favorite text editor to edit text anywhere on the Mac. For example, rather than writing a blog post in a form field in your browser, you could press a keyboard shortcut and then whatever text you had written would be sent BBEdit (or any other text editor). You could finish writing your post using all of the features of your preferred text editor (and, most importantly, not have to worry about your browser window crashing or anything else that might cause you to lose your work). When you finished writing, your text would automatically be sent from your text editor back to the web browser. (If the awesomeness of this is not immediately obvious, watch this short YouTube video showing how QuickCursor worked.)

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My Favorite Mac: The New 12” Retina MacBook

After three weeks with the new MacBook, I can easily declare it as my favorite Mac, and none of the details that left some of the tech press wailing and gnashing their teeth have actually been a problem. Only one port? A minor annoyance at worst. Performance? It works great for everything that I need to do. Keyboard? I absolutely love it and can’t imagine switching back. In hindsight, the only regret I have is spending all that money on an iPad Air 2.

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How to Configure Gmail with OS X Yosemite Mail

My friend Amy is having her first experience with using Gmail, and, it, um, isn’t going as well as she’d like. The good news is that although Apple’s Mail.app and Gmail have had a rocky relationship in the past, Mail.app in Yosemite works pretty well with Gmail, but there are some things that you should understand before you proceed.

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StretchLink Unshortens and Cleans URLs from Your Menu Bar

Brett Terpstra, writing about StretchLink 1.0:

It’s an easy-to-use tool for expanding shortened links, fixing redirects, and cleaning out referrer junk from Google Analytics and others. StretchLink runs in the OS X menu bar. You can click the icon to open the main panel from which it can expand and clean links on demand with a single click. Even better, it can be set to silently watch your clipboard. You can turn this on with a switch from the main panel, or just right click the menu bar icon to toggle it.

StretchLink 1.0 is priced at $1.99, with a free trial available on the website. An introductory sale of $0.99 (50% off) starts now and goes through the end of May. StretchLink didn’t get a beta round, but it’s been tested on a variety of my own machines. If you do run into issues, don’t hesitate to contact me. A Mac App Store release is planned for the near future, if all goes well.

As a shell script nerd who loves automation and clean URLS, I had, of course, written my own shell script to expand and clean URLs. I installed StretchLink last night, and I am sure that I will never use my script again. That’s how much better Brett’s app is.

My biggest criteria (after, of course, that it actually works) is how fast would it work. So I did what any self-respecting geek would do: I wrote a shell script to test how fast it would expand a given URL. The result was that StretchLink expanded it in less than 1 second. 1

You can download StretchLink here.

P.S. If you’re looking for something similar on iOS, checkout Clean Links.


  1. If you want more details about how I tested this, I posted my script as a gist. Because of course I did. ↩︎

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TextBar Puts Your Text into the Menu Bar

TextBar is an awesome app which solves a problem that I have been struggling with for at least three years: “How can I put some text into the menu bar, such as the output of a shell script?” TextBar can do that, but it does it even better than I had hoped, because it also:

  • Lets you configure multiple items
  • Copies the item to the clipboard when you click it
  • Easily enables/disables individual items
  • Updates each item on its own time interval (some items might need to be updated every minute, some every 5, some 10, etc)

Here are some ways that I have been using TextBar.

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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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