There are few macOS utilities I’ve tried that take a potentially complex, multi-step process and boil it down to a simple task as well as Softorino YouTube Converter 2 does. That’s because it’s a difficult technical and design challenge to hide complexity without creating an inflexible app with too many compromises. Softorino YouTube Converter, also known as SYC, does an excellent job avoiding the pitfalls and striking a balance between utility and simplicity. It only takes a few steps to go from a URL to a downloaded video or audio file, but SYC still allows for just enough tweaking along the way that it preserves a level of versatility that should make it attractive to a wide range of users.
Posts tagged with "mac"
Earlier this week, The Iconfactory released version 1.1 of its iPad sketching app, Linea. The highlight of the release is iCloud syncing for all drawings stored in the app. This is a welcome addition for the sake of having safe backup files in the cloud, but it is also important because of a related app debut from this week.
This new app is the easiest way to get sketches drawn on your iPad onto your Mac. Using iCloud sync, your work is instantly available for use in your favorite macOS applications.
Start a new Photoshop document using Linea’s layers. Reference a quick design idea while working in Xcode. Transcribe meeting notes into a Pages document. Or just tap the spacebar to preview Linea documents using Quick Look. Linea on iOS works great to get an idea started, and Linea Link on macOS lets you take the next step toward making it a reality.
Linea Link is a perfect bridge between the iPad and Mac for those who use both devices to get their work done. Third-party app support includes Sketch, Acorn, Pixelmator, Affinity Designer & Photo, and the above-mentioned Adobe Photoshop.
It is still the early days of Linea's life, but it's comforting to see continued investment being made to the app by The Iconfactory. As John shared in his initial review, Linea is an excellent example of an app that blends elegance and usability with just the right amount of tools and power needed to get creative work done.
Timing 2 for Mac is out today. I've been a long-time user of Timing, and have had the pleasure of beta testing the new version for a while now. It's an excellent update to a great tool.
Timing is an app that runs on your Mac and tracks everything you do. Sounds creepy at first, but the data is completely safe, and the tracking is only for your own productivity purposes (never uploaded anywhere). By helping you see how you're spending your time, you can start to change behaviors. Plus – because it can intelligently associate activities with actual projects – it serves as a detailed work timer for your paid projects.
Timing 2 comes in three versions: Productivity ($29), Professional ($49), and Expert ($79). No recurring payments needed, you own the app and you own your data. Some of the features I'll be talking about are from the Expert version, so be sure to check the feature list before you purchase one of the other versions.
Timing tracks more than just what app you're using. It will record what websites you visit, what documents you open, what folders you work in, and every way you spend time on your Mac. You can even add in notes about what you did while you were away from your Mac.
Timing 2 does a brilliant job of grouping tasks together and automatically assigning "keywords" to add new tasks to groups. You can also assign tracked tasks to projects, and do fine-grained editing on the criteria Timing uses to determine the purpose of the time it tracked.
Keywords and manual assignment of activities can be grouped into categories such as "Research" or "Podcasting." As a result, you can easily see what activities you spent the most time on – and possibly realize that you're not focusing on what you thought you were.
Timing also provides automatic suggestions for blocks of time that might belong together. It makes it easy to group activities and reap the benefits of manual time tracking with the ease of automation.
Then you get the reports. Timing 2 has truly upped its game in the data visualization section. Beautiful and useful graphs showing your most active times, most productive times, the type of work you spent your time on, and a pie chart of your most-used apps. Keep in mind that all of this is gathered automatically – you don't have to configure anything to start getting detailed overviews.
When you edit a task, you can even assign a productivity rating to it. For me, an app like VLC gets a 25% productivity rating. A quarter of the time it's active I'm watching something educational, but 75% of the time is probably less than productive. Now when I get reports, time tracked in VLC can automatically contribute to my overall productivity rating without unduly distorting it, and without me having to go in and manually mark each video as "productive" or "not."
Timing 2 is the result of a solid year of development by Daniel Alm, who left his job at Google to work full time on it. In the process he's turned a useful tool into an indispensable one for freelancers and productivity nerds. If that sounds interesting, go check it out!
Last month, I took a look at the Clamshell iBook G3, the most colorful notebook Apple ever made.
The Clamshell saw just one speed bump, and was replaced in less than two years. The second-generation iBook introduced the form factor most people think of when they think of the notebook:
If you're a fan of the Pomodoro Technique, you'll be interested in Tomates Time Manager. Version 4 is a great-looking menu bar app with detailed reporting, Touch Bar support, and a handy Today Extension.
If you're not familiar with it, the Pomodoro Technique is a timer-based way of getting work done in 25-minute sprints with short breaks between, and then a nice long break after a set of four. I first tried the Pomodoro Technique many years ago and it worked well for me, but I didn't stick with it. Over the years I went back to it a few times, but it still didn't stick. It was only last year when issues with my ADHD caused me to desperately need a system exactly like this.
There are a plethora of good timers available for Mac and iOS, including the elegant Zen Timer on Mac (which I've mentioned here before) and Focus Time on iOS. What sets Tomates apart is the combination of elegant design and powerful utility. It allows customizable work and break times, Work Series counts, alarm sounds, and handles task names and reporting.
Version 4 introduces a Today Extension, providing an overview of your progress right in the Today View of Notification Center, tracking your tasks and sessions along with trophies for reaching your goals.
Reporting is also enhanced, with both task and time-based reports. The time-based reports can show today, this week (or this workweek), this month, or a custom time period. The reports can also now be printed or saved as beautiful PDFs. I'll admit those reports aren't something I really need hard copies of, but they are nice looking.
Lastly, version 4 adds Touch Bar support so you can work with the timer from the Touch Bar on your MacBook Pro. Manage and reset timers, and reset the session and goal counters with a tap.
Head to the Mac App Store to check out Tomates Time Management. $2.99 US isn't a bad price to pay for something that could change the way you work.
Last year, Agile Tortoise introduced Interact for iOS, a powerful app for managing contacts. One of the most popular features of that app is the scratchpad that parses contact information, making quick work of turning a block of text into a new contact. Agile Tortoise has ported that functionality to the Mac in the form of a menu bar app called Interact Scratchpad.
Adding information to contacts is tedious. Too often I find myself switching back and forth between a webpage and the Contacts app typing information into field after field or copying little bits of text and pasting them into those fields. Scratchpad does the monotonous part for you by automatically recognizing all kinds of contact information.
Close your eyes and picture a Mac laptop. It has a small screen in a case unique among a sea of PC notebooks. It runs without a fan, and has impressive battery life. The trackpad is smooth and the keyboard is responsive.
Now open your eyes. Is this what you had in mind?
Let's talk about the original "Clamshell" iBook.
GAget is a Google Analytics app for macOS that started life as a Dashboard widget. These days, GAget resides in macOS’s Today widget panel of Notification Center. If you’ve ever used Google Analytics, you know that its web interface is complex. There’s a place for digging through Google’s many tabs of data, but when all you want are the highlights, GAget is better. It takes Google Analytics’ data and boils it down into cleanly-designed dashboard widgets and alerts that make it easy to understand what is going on with your website at a glance.
RAW Power is a powerful image editor reminiscent of Aperture that takes Apple’s discontinued pro photo editing tool a step further than Apple ever did. Whether you use RAW Power as a standalone image editor or as a Photos extension, what strikes me most about it is that with a little experimentation and patience, it’s accessible regardless of whether you consider yourself a pro user.
Before Photos, Apple had two photography apps: iPhotos for average consumers and Aperture for pros. In 2014, Apple discontinued Aperture. Around the same time, Apple evolved iPhoto into Photos, bringing the macOS and iOS apps that go by that name closer together from a feature set standpoint. That left pros and ‘prosumers’ who relied on Aperture in a bind. There are alternatives like Adobe’s Lightroom, but if you preferred Aperture, you were out of luck, until now.
RAW Power, by Gentlemen Coders, has a stellar pedigree. Its lead developer, Nik Bhatt, was Senior Director of Engineering for Aperture and iPhoto, so it’s safe to assume he understands Apple’s RAW engine. What sets RAW Power apart from something like Aperture, though, is its flexibility. Images can be edited non-destructively either in the standalone RAW Power app or from within Photos because RAW Power’s full functionality is also a Photos extension.
Like many people, my photo library is a mixture of thousands of images taken over many years that were shot with a variety of hardware, including old point-and-shoot digital cameras, a variety of iPhones, and a Sony NEX-5N I got in 2011 for a trip to Patagonia. I enjoy photography and have improved beyond taking simple snapshots, but I’ve never gone too deep into the technical side of it. Nonetheless, for special occasions I still shoot RAW images on my Sony camera to give myself maximum editing flexibility when I process my photos. RAW Power’s Photos extension fits my mix of photos and approach to editing perfectly by offering pro tools that are available on my command as an extension from within Photos when I need them, but stay out of the way when I don’t.