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Posts tagged with "mac"

New Tricks for Old Dogs

Jason Snell, who's been a using a Mac for 26 years, has been trying to do as much as possible on an iPad Pro for the past few days. His takeaway is spot on:

That’s sort of how I view the iPad and the Mac today: One is not fundamentally better than the other, but the Mac is the one I know by heart. The Mac is the one on which I’ve built numerous scripts and workflows and shortcuts to make my work manageable. Leaving it isn’t something I can do lightly, and would need to provide large, tangible benefits.

As I argued in today's Connected, instead of continuing to spend time on discussing what is a "computer" and what's "better" for other users, perhaps we'd be better served by understanding what works for us.

This "Mac vs. iPad" debate is taking us nowhere. Today – right now – millions of people are using phones, laptops, and tablets as their computers. They couldn't care less about the traditional idea of a computer. Most of them don't even call them "computers" anymore. That's powerful and empowering. It gets rid of the weight of any preconceived notion of how technology should be used. For some, this change is uncomfortable. For others, it's liberating. And somewhere along this spectrum, there's the "computer" for each one of us.

As far as Apple devices go, I believe it'd be more interesting (and intellectually motivating) to talk about how OS X and iOS can improve in their individual areas and as part of the iCloud ecosystem. Exploring the present and imagining where we could go next, rather than telling others how they're supposed to get work done.

Jason's probably not going to stop using a Mac, and I'm going to keep using an iPad. No one's right or wrong here.

Use whatever works for you.


Twitter Teases New Twitter for Mac Coming Soon

At its Flight developer conference earlier today, Twitter showed a brand new version of Twitter for Mac – the company's neglected desktop client – coming soon with a refreshed design and modern Twitter features. In addition to a revamped look (see screenshot above), the new app will include inprovements to Direct Messages in line with the mobile versions, such as group DMs and the ability to share photos and large emoji in private conversations. Also, the next Twitter for Mac seems to offer a dark mode.

Twitter for Mac has been ignored for a long time. Even if I'm not using my Mac as my primary computer anymore, I'm curious to see what Twitter – now under Jack Dorsey's guidance (who was in an apologetic mood today) – does with it.


Bartender 2 Arrives with New Features and Full El Capitan Compatibility

Version 2 of Bartender is now available. If you have been running the El Capitan betas, you know that version 1 required you to temporarily disable System Integrity Protection (SIP) in order to install its system file. Version 2 does not need you to perform those steps. It is fully El Capitan-compatible right “out of the box.”

Other version 2 changes include:

  • With Bartender 2 you can now keyboard navigate all menu items both in the menu bar and the Bartender Bar, simply arrow through them and press return to select.
  • You can now search the Bartender Bar for menu items, allowing you quick access to a menu item without looking for it. Simply display the Bartender Bar and start typing, then press enter to select the menu item.
  • A key part of Bartender 2 has been rewriting the internals to enable new features and to allow Bartender to work with System Integrity Protection in OS X El Capitan. As always we continue to improve Bartender’s performance and reduce energy usage.
  • If you want a really clean look and privacy, Bartender’s own icon can also be hidden.

I'm not sure if that last one is new, but it’s new to me. With Bartender’s menu bar item hidden, you can still access the app using a keyboard shortcut. Then, just keep typing the name of the menu bar item you are looking for, or navigate with the arrows. That’s pretty cool.

This is a great update which brings some great new features. Dealing with SIP was a big hurdle, but I’m glad to have a fully armed and operational Bartender back on my Mac.

There's a free, four week trial available from the Bartender website. After that it’s $15 for new customers, or $7.50 to upgrade.

My advice? Just buy it now.

Zen Timer: Elegant Pomodoro on Mac

Zen Timer has improved my daily work life. I have ADHD, and I recently went through a snafu where my disorder was untreated for a couple of months. In order to get any work done, I needed more structured work time, so I gave the Pomodoro technique another go. It turned out to be a huge help for me, and if it can help someone with a level of concentration as hopeless as mine, I have to believe it's a great tool for more "normal" people, too.

At its core, Pomodoro is a simple method of working and resting in timed intervals. There are a variety of timers available on Mac and iOS for this, and just as I was making the effort to start implementing the technique again, I found Zen Timer. It's a beautiful and creative app for interval timing that immediately became part of my daily workflow.

Zen Timer generates an animated tree which grows during a work interval, and when the timer is up, the leaves of the tree fall to the ground and rest there while it counts down to your next work period. When the next work interval starts, the tree begins growing anew. Zen Timer generates a unique tree each time, and you can customize the colors, line thicknesses, transparency and more things that people with ADHD (or OCD...) probably shouldn't be allowed to spend too much time tweaking.

It's visually customizable, but I've found there's a specific way I like to run it: I set the size of the window as large as it will go, make the window background transparent, and set it at the bottom of the viewport at Desktop level on one of my auxiliary displays. You can hide the timer and controls during work periods, so I'm left with an elegant tree growing on my desktop while I work. I customized my wallpaper and the tree colors, of course. Because I could.

While Zen Timer comes with intervals set to the Pomodoro defaults, its timer settings are easily modified to work with any lengths of time in each interval.

If you're looking for a new Pomodoro timer on your Mac, or are like me and just need a better way to work, check out Zen Timer ($4.99 US) on the Mac App Store. If you're curious, check out the developer's website for an excellent video of Zen Timer in action.

Beamer 3 Public Beta Available Today: Features Chromecast Support and a New User Interface

Beamer, a favorite Mac app of the MacStories team, is today launching a public beta of their third major release. For those unfamiliar with the app, Beamer is a Mac app that enables you to easily stream video (in almost any format) to your Apple TV via AirPlay.

The tentpole new feature of Beamer 3 is that it can now stream videos to Google Chromecast. Beamer 3 also has a redesigned interface that looks better on OS X Yosemite and has improved functionality, making it easier to access key options such as audio tracks and subtitles. You can also skip to the next video in your Beamer queue by double clicking the play button the Apple Remote. Beamer's developer also plans to implement further improvements during the beta period.

Beamer 3 is a free upgrade for existing Beamer 2 customers. During the beta period, new customers can purchase Beamer 3 for $15, discounted from the standard price of $19.99.

Instant Hosted Web Pages From Markdown With Loose Leaves

Loose Leaves is a handy (free) utility for OS X that takes selected Markdown text from almost any app and instantly creates a web page on the secure Loose Leaves server that you can link to and share.

Loose Leaves is available anywhere, and just a hotkey away in any app. If you've ever needed to share more than 140 characters, link long text in Trello or Slack, or just effortlessly share an idea from your notes, this is a handy tool to have.


Dropbox Adds Support for Storing URLs Alongside Files

Example from the Linked Dropbox Blog post

Example from the Linked Dropbox Blog post

Dropbox yesterday announced a new feature to allow you to drag URLs from websites into your Dropbox folders to store them alongside your files. The feature is available on both the desktop and web versions of dropbox, and is as easy as dragging from the address bar on a web browser and dropping the URL into a local Dropbox folder or the Dropbox web app in a browser window. The URL is stored right alongside the rest of your files. Clicking on it from a Finder window opens it right away, while clicking on it from the browser version will open a page with a large "Open in new tab" button in the center. You can open the same page on the Dropbox mobile app, and open the URL in Safari from there, but there's no way as of yet to store URLs to your Dropbox from mobile.

The new feature is reminiscent to me of a similar feature in the upcoming iOS 9/OS X El Capitan version of Apple's Notes app. You can save URLs directly into your notes, which allows you to easily keep relevant sources or other web media close at hand while working on or reviewing the note. Dropbox's take on this allows that type of easy organization of sources or relevant web media without forcing you to use a proprietary file format. While Notes may let you view previews of the URLs inline, in exchange the files can only be opened in the Notes app. If you want them elsewhere you'll need to export them to PDF and lose any interactivity with the file or the associated URLs. With Dropbox's new URL storing feature, you can store websites alongside files no matter what the project that you are working on may be, and then access them from any platform.

The lack of support for adding URLs from mobile does seem like a shame to me. I often go through Twitter on my iPad or iPhone, and it would be great to be able to quickly save URLs to my Dropbox via the iOS share sheet when I come across something relevant to a project I'm working on. That said, it seems like such an obvious feature that I would be surprised if it was not implemented eventually. Hopefully we'll see it soon.

While I'm not certain right now if I will go all in with this feature and start saving all of the sources for projects I'm working on into Dropbox alongside the project files, it's definitely nice to have the option. In fact that's my favorite part of the implementation: it will integrate directly into existing workflows without requiring any changes whatsoever. Since the URLs are stored separately from the files, the most you'll need to do is move your project into it's own folder (but let's be real, who doesn't keep projects in their own folders anyway?) and then you can drag links on top of the folder to store them alongside the rest of the project. You can do this right now, the feature already works.

This feature is an excellent example of Dropbox innovating on its platform while still staying true to itself. Rather than getting sucked into the modern trend of proprietary file formats with fancy inline previews and interactivity, Dropbox kept things simple, and kept their hands out of our file extensions; yet they still made a way for us to achieve the same overall goal that apps like Notes and Evernote have shown to be useful. I love seeing implementations like this from Dropbox, and I hope they continue finding new ways to make their system more powerful without adding layers of complexity for their users to deal with.

Photoflow: An Instagram Client for the Mac

I've been using Instagram (shameless plug) almost since day one, and although I don't post to it that frequently, I do look at my feed on a daily basis. For the most part I've always used the official Instagram client, except for a brief period when I also used Flow, an iPad Instagram app. Until this week, I'd never tried an Instagram client for the Mac, which is what Photoflow is.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that Photoflow includes virtually every single feature that the official Instagram app has. Of course there is one giant exception; you cannot post images to Instagram from Photoflow. But that's a restriction that Instagram has imposed on all third party apps, it's not a failure of Photoflow. But almost everything else, whether it be liking images (but not commenting), interactive hashtags, featured images, viewing profiles or searching nearby locations is available in Photoflow. It also supports easy account switching and can send you notifications for new images, comments, likes and followers.

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Browser Fairy Overcomes Browser Commitment Phobia

Browser Fairy allows you to set different browsers to open different links, rather than having to use the same browser for everything.

If this sounds familiar, you might be remembering Choosy, which worked as a Preference Pane and did a very similar thing. I have written about Choosy on several occasions, and MacStories covered it back in 2009! However, Choosy has not been updated in a long time, and I have happily moved to Browser Fairy, if for no other reason than its ability to import/export its own settings, so I can move those settings between Macs and back them up.

I generally use Safari as my web browser, but I make two exceptions: I use Google Chrome for any Google-related sites, and I use a Facebook-specific Fluid browser for anything related to Facebook, which I do to prevent Facebook from tracking what I do on other websites. (I started doing this before I started using Ghostery.)

This is especially important if you are trying to maximize battery life on a laptop, where Safari is far superior to Google Chrome (“Using Safari full time is like getting a new battery. Not even kidding.” — @bradleychambers), but need/want to use Chrome for some websites.

Bonus Tip: If you are looking at a website in Safari and need/want to quickly open it in Chrome (for example, if you come across a page that, for some inexplicable reason, still uses Flash), Bradley Chambers has an Alfred workflow to open the current Safari URL in Chrome. Browser Fairy also has browser extensions to send the current URL to another browser easily.

Browser Fairy ($5, Mac App Store) requires OS X 10.7 or later.

Thanks to Abby for first introducing me to Browser Fairy.