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Posts tagged with "utility"

Automation April: Mac Outliner Bike Adds Shortcuts Support

Last spring, I reviewed Bike, Jesse Grosjean of Hog Bay Software’s excellent outlining app for the Mac. The app’s simple, elegant design keeps the focus on the outline you’re creating, while its rich, keyboard-driven set of features enable ideas to be organized quickly and efficiently. Advanced features, like versioning, linking and grouping rows, and a long list of ways to view, navigate and edit your outlines, make Bike one of the best ways to create outlines on the Mac.

Bike has 14 Shortcuts actions.

Bike has 14 Shortcuts actions.

Bike’s focus on efficiency and extensive support for keyboard shortcuts and AppleScript make it the perfect candidate for Shortcuts support, which was added to the app today. Version 1.11 of Bike adds 14 Shortcuts actions to the app:

  • Create Outline
  • Open Outline
  • Open Row
  • Get Rows
  • Fold Rows
  • Focus Row
  • Edit Rows
  • Import Rows
  • Export Rows
  • Find Rows
  • Create Row
  • Delete Rows
  • Move Rows
  • Get Selection

The actions cover a lot of the functionality of Bike with a focus on outlines, text and row selections, and rows. Outlines can be created from scratch or existing ones opened, and Get Selection returns any selected text and its outline row.

Exporting all rows as plain text.

Exporting all rows as plain text.

The remainder of Bike’s Shortcuts actions apply to rows, the building blocks of outlines. Rows can be opened in-app or retrieved in a variety of ways, such as by their root, row ID, focus, selection, ancestor rows, child rows, and descendant rows by using the Get Rows action. There’s also a Find Rows action that uses predicate filtering to allow rows matching multiple criteria to be located and sorted. Rows can be imported and exported in Bike, OPML, and plain text formats too.

Rows can also be created, edited, deleted, and moved within an outline with precision, thanks to a detailed set of action parameters. Actions for focusing on particular rows and folding and unfolding rows round out the available actions by allowing users to use Shortcuts to prepare their outline work environment automatically.

I’ve only just begun experimenting with Bike’s new Shortcuts integration, but it’s clear that thanks to extensive parameter and predicate filtering, the automation opportunities are extensive. Especially if you work with big outlines that require frequent, repetitive edits, Bike’s new Shortcuts integration could save you a lot of time.

Bike 1.11 is available on the App Store and directly from Hog Bay Software as a free download. Some features, including Shortcuts support, require a $2.99/month or $19.99/year subscription from the App Store or a one-time license purchase directly from Hog Bay Software, which comes with one year of updates.

You can also follow MacStories’ Automation April coverage through our dedicated hub, or subscribe to its RSS feed.

Drawing a Blank



Yesterday, Craig Hockenberry announced a free Apple TV app he created called Blank. The app blanks out your TV screen until you press a button on the Apple TV remote. That way, you can listen to music or a podcast through an Apple TV without also watching the album art or screensavers.

Blank is a clever solution to something that’s been a problem ever since the second-generation Apple TV, which ditched its dedicated audio out port in favor of HDMI. How do I know that? Well, I tackled the same problem myself in 2016 in a far hackier way than Hockenberry, which I shared more than 300 issues ago in MacStories Weekly 25. As I said then, when the Apple TV’s flyover screensavers, and even HDMI, were brand new:

I enjoy the new flyover screensavers on the Apple TV, but whether you have a current generation Apple TV and use those, or use a different screensaver with any model of the Apple TV, the screensavers are a distraction when you throw a party and want to use the Apple TV for music. In my experience, people are drawn to the screensaver like moths, focusing on it instead of socializing.

My solution? Create a Photos album with a single 1080p image of a black rectangle and use it with the Apple TV’s ‘Sliding Panels’ screensaver. Blank is a far more elegant solution and even offers an inspirational quote that appears onscreen before the screen goes blank.

You can download Blank from the App Store for free.


Dark Noise 3.0 Has a New Business Model and A Few Other Updates

Today, Charlie Chapman released Dark Noise 3.0, his iOS, iPadOS, and macOS ambient noise app, with a new business model, some remastered sounds, and other updates.

The biggest change to Dark Noise 3.0 is its new business model. Historically, Dark Noise has been a paid-up-front app, but with 3.0, the app is now free with an optional subscription that unlocks certain features.

The free version of Dark Noise includes eight sounds, continuous sound looping, Shortcuts support, Siri integration, and a timer. The Pro subscription increases the number of sounds to over 50 and adds custom sound mixes, alternate app icons, themes, and Family Sharing. The Pro features are also available as a one-time purchase.

Alternative icons and sound mixing are two of the features available to Dark Noise Pro subscribers.

Alternative icons and sound mixing are two of the features available to Dark Noise Pro subscribers.

If you previously purchased Dark Noise, which included many of the features that are now part of a Pro subscription, you’re covered. Anyone who bought Dark Noise prior to the release of version 3.0 gets all of the features included in the Pro subscription. Pro subscribers may get new features in the future, but as of the release of version 3.0, existing users and subscribers have access to the same features, which I think is a fair way to transition to a subscription model.

I’m also glad to see that the core features of Dark Noise will be available for free for the first time. There are a lot of ambient sound apps on the App Store, but a lot aren’t very good. Dark Noise is excellent, and I expect having a free tier to show off what the app can do to new users will result in more paid users in the long run. I’m also a fan of the one-time payment option, which is a nice option for fans of the app who just don’t like paying subscriptions.

Dark Noise has a new green theme called Aurora.

Dark Noise has a new green theme called Aurora.

Version 3.0 also introduces remastered Rain, Beach, Airplane Interior, and Thunderstorm sounds that sound better when used with stereo speakers. The app’s icons have been tweaked a little, and there’s a new theme that uses shades of green called Aurora.

For more on everything Dark Noise can do, be sure to check out our reviews of version 1.0 and 2.0.

Dark Noise 3.0 is available as a free download on the App Store. The Pro subscription unlocks the features described above, for $2.99/month or $19.99/year with a three-day trial. Dark Noise 3.0 is also available as a one-time purchase for $49.99.

Sequel 2.0: An iPhone and iPad Media Tracker That Strikes an Elegant Balance Between Form and Function

Too often, media tracking apps feel like work. There’s too much effort involved in adding and browsing items, which makes them feel more like task managers than an inviting place that helps you decide how you want to spend your precious free time.

Apps in this category seem to take one of a couple of different approaches. Some apps specialize in one type of media, which can be great if you’re a huge book or videogame fan, for instance. As much as I like the media-specific approach of some apps, I’ve found that lately, I just want an app that’s easy to use, so ‘past me’ can recommend ‘tired and lazy me’ something to watch, play, read, or listen to. And, for the past couple of months, the app that has fit my needs the best has been Sequel 2.0 by Romain Lefebvre.

Read more

CleanMyMac X Adds Device Charging and Storage Monitoring and Management

CleanMyMac X has been updated, expanding its utility beyond the borders of your Mac by tracking the battery status of connected devices and adding management of outboard storage.

The new features, collectively called Connected Devices, are part of CleanMyMac X’s menu bar app. Click the app’s icon in the menu bar, and you’ll find a new summary tile that includes information about the charging status of Bluetooth devices, as well as information about connected drives, memory cards, and flash drives. Click on the tile, and it expands to the side of the menu bar app’s main window to display additional details.

Devices like iPhones and iPads don’t need to be connected to your Mac with a wire to show up in CleanMyMac X’s menu bar app. As long as they’ve been connected once and confirmed as trusted devices, they’ll show up in the app and display the remaining charge (but not whether they are currently charging) and available storage. It can sometimes take a while for a device to show up in CleanMyMac X’s menu bar app, but if you’re impatient, you can always grab a cable, plug your device into your Mac, and it will show up immediately. Beneath the storage information for each device, there’s also a ‘Reclaim Space’ link that opens a ‘How to free up iPhone storage’ page on MacPaw’s website.

CleanMyMac X works with wireless headphones like the AirPods Pro and some wireless game controllers.

CleanMyMac X works with wireless headphones like the AirPods Pro and some wireless game controllers.

CleanMyMac X supports other Bluetooth devices like the Magic Trackpad, Magic Keyboard, and at least some game controllers. I tried the app with 8BitDo’s Bluetooth Ultimate Controller and an Xbox controller, but only the 8BitDo model showed up in the app. CleanMyMacX’s menu bar app displayed my left and right AirPods Pro buds but not their case. Also, it’s worth noting that the app doesn’t seem to support Apple Watches.

For anyone who’s using CleanMyMac’s menu bar app, its new ability to monitor the charge status of devices is a nice addition. It has some limitations, but for my core devices, I’ve found that it gets the job done, just not quite as well as a dedicated Bluetooth device utility like AirBuddy.

CleanMyMac X's menu bar app works with external drives like this 500GB Samsung T3 drive too.

CleanMyMac X’s menu bar app works with external drives like this 500GB Samsung T3 drive too.

The other feature of Connected Devices is external storage monitoring and management. CleanMyMac X displays any external drives, memory cards, and flash drives and their storage capacity. The app also shows how much space is available, and if it determines after a scan that some of the data is junk, the app will list the amount of junk too. There’s an Organize button beneath each drive that opens the full CleanMyMac X app to the app’s Space Lens tab, which lets you drill through the drive’s folder structure, eliminating any junk or other unnecessary files. Drives can be ejected individually or all at once with the app too.

CleanMyMac X has come a long way from the days when it was primarily a tool for freeing up space on your Mac’s built-in drive. It’s still that and does an excellent job, but with tools like its menu bar app, CleanMyMac X is a far more robust way to monitor your Mac’s performance and fine-tune it for maximum speed and efficiency. With its new suite of Connected Devices functionality, CleanMyMac X has taken an important step towards extending beyond your Mac to the other devices and peripherals that you use with it.

CleanMyMac X is available directly from MacPaw as a $39.95 annual subscription or a $89.95 one-time payment. The app is also included as part of a Setapp subscription.

Primate Labs Updates Geekbench on All Platforms

Yesterday, Primate Labs released Geekbench 6, the suite of benchmarking tools for Apple and other vendors’ hardware. According to the company:

Geekbench tests have always been grounded in real-world use cases and use modern. With Geekbench 6, we’ve taken this to the next level by updating existing workloads and designing several new workloads, including workloads that:

  • Blur backgrounds in video conferencing streams
  • Filter and adjust images for social media sites
  • Automatically remove unwanted objects from photos
  • Detect and tag objects in photos using machine learning models
  • Analyse, process, and convert text using scripting languages

In addition to updating benchmark workflows, Primate Labs says Geekbench includes modern file types and file sizes that reflect current computing tasks on Macs, iPhones, iPads, and other devices. The company also changed its multi-core benchmark to include tasks that span multiple cores to align the tests with how modern devices typically tackle a job.

My time with the new benchmark apps has been limited, but running them on my Mac and iPhone went smoothly. It’s worth noting that the apps are significantly larger, and it take longer than before due to the changes made to the underlying benchmark tests. However, it’s great to see Primate Labs working to make its tests reflect modern usage patterns and hardware.

Geekbench 6 for Mac is available as a direct download from Primate Labs. The iOS and iPadOS versions of the app are available on the App Store.


Social Media Management Utility Buffer Adds Mastodon Support

One of the things I immediately missed when I moved to Mastodon was the ability to schedule posts. This isn’t something I do a lot. However, with a busy editorial calendar at MacStories, I’ve used a variety of services over the years, including Buffer, to allow me to set up draft posts in advance when we’ve got a big story or episode of AppStories coming up. Losing that convenience wasn’t the end of the world, but it introduced friction I hadn’t had to deal with in years.

That’s why I’m glad to see Buffer has added Mastodon support to its web and iOS apps today. I’ve been testing Buffer’s beta for the past day, and the best part of the update is that there’s not much to say about it because it’s so easy to use. If you’ve used Buffer before, the process is similar to any other scheduled post you’d create: draft the post, add any media and hashtags you want, and then schedule it. If you want, you can also use Buffer to cross-post to other services.

Scheduling a Mastodon post with Buffer.

Scheduling a Mastodon post with Buffer.

Managing posts for multiple accounts has always been the sort of thing that can disrupt my other work. It’s too easy for me to get distracted and wind up browsing my timeline after I post something from one of our company accounts. With Buffer’s new Mastodon integration, I’m looking forward to creating those posts as part of our production workflow and avoiding getting sucked into my timeline when I have more pressing tasks.