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Posts tagged with "mac"

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.

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.

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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