Category: Mac & OS X

Mac OSX topics

Has the Adobe Illustrator “killer” finally arrived?

Tomorrow marks an important day for long-time Windows developer, Serif. They’re launching Affinity Designer, their first foray into Mac software. And they’ve set their sites on one of the largest and most important Mac developers in the world: Adobe.

Affinity Designer is a vector art design tool rivaling Adobe Illustrator in the same way that Pixelmator is an alternative app to Adobe’s Photoshop. Which is to say, it’s the real deal.

Affinity Designer
I’ve been using Affinity Designer on and off for the last month or so and I must say that I’m extremely impressed. With a price tag of only $40 (special price until October 9th), and a most-impressive feature set, I’m betting that it will find a home on quite a few Macs.

Affinity Designer can import AI, PSD, PDF, and SVG files, and save/export as EPS, TIF, JPG, PNG, GIF, PSD, and PDF. It also offers both RGB and CMYK color modes, including 16-bit color support.

All the tools you would expect can be found, and are easy to use. And the app fully supports Apple’s iCloud, Spaces and Full Screen mode. Some pretty cool features include the ability to use pixel-tools to your vector art and have it remain editable. And the best part, Affinity Designer is fast. Really fast.

If you’ve used Pixelmator, you’ve no doubt come to believe that there actually IS a true replacement for Photoshop. I’m here to tell you that as of tomorrow, there will be a real replacement for Adobe’s Illustrator as well. And rumor has it, they’re working on a page-layout app to compete with InDesign.

Now I’m not a fool. I don’t expect designers everywhere to suddenly dump their investment in Adobe software. But true professional-grade alternatives are out there. Watch out Adobe… you’ve been king of the hill for a long time, but the competition is heating up.

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Apple updates iCloud Drive pricing/storage options

iCloud Drive pricing
Apple has updated the storage options and pricing for their iCloud Drive service. It’s a lot more reasonable now, though still not competitive in the market on pricing alone. Fortunately, iCloud Drive will have the benefit of working seamlessly with all your Apple devices. No other vendor will be able to offer the accessibility that Apple will with iCloud, and that (in my mind) justifies a little more in cost.

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Put a handy calendar in your Mac menubar

Pop-Calendar

A few years back I had an app that would show a simple calendar icon in the menubar which when clicked would drop down a simple calendar of the current month. It did nothing else, but it was useful to me to be able to see a full month calendar. But it stopped working long ago. I gave up looking for a simple replacement.

A few days ago I came across Pop-Calendar from Magnesium-App. Pop-Calendar is a free utility that placed the date in a calendar icon in your menubar. When you click the icon, you can view the entire year at once or single month view (click the screenshot above for a larger view) by clicking on the month name. Pop-Calendar will remember which you view you used last, but you can switch at any time.

Pop-Calendar uses Apple’s built-in Calendar app to display all your events in either view. When you click on an individual day, you can see the day’s events. You can also add new calendar events simply by clicking a small + icon at the top of the pop-up window that appears when clicking on a day.

Pop-Calendar offers the ability to set a keyboard shortcut to show the window, as well as the ability to turn on and off individual calendars from Apple’s Calendar app. That’s all there is to it, and that’s why I love it!

Beside being free, simple to use, and easy on the eyes, it already works in Mac OS X Yosemite—though I do hope the developer adds transparency once Yosemite ships in the fall. Pop-Calendar is available directly from the developer’s site, or in the Mac App Store.

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Free and easy audio control for your Mac with AudioMate

AudioMate

Control all your audio input and output devices from the status bar, receive system notifications when relevant events happen on your audio devices, change the master output volume, sample rate, clock source, system default input and output and more!

AudioMate has gone open source, and is now free. Requires OS X 10.7 or later and a 64-bit Mac.

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Monochrome brings social app viewing to the Mac

Monochrome

Monochrome lets you browse and check all your favorite social networks at the same time from the ease of your laptop or desktop Mac. You can listen to SoundCloud or watch YouTube while working on something else without the battery taking a huge hit.

If you don’t live with your iPhone in your hand at all times and want to view some of the most popular social networks in one small window on your Mac, Monochrome looks like a great solution.

All the social networks Monochrome supports can be seen in the screenshots below.

Monochrome networks

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Apps & Utilities for Mac OS X that I can’t live without: Part 2

My Favorite Apps: Part 2

Last week, I gave you part one of my list. Today I offer you part two of my list of OS X apps I can’t live without. Some I’ve used for quite a long time, some are a recent discover, but all of them have found a permanent home on my Mac.

RenameRename
There are plenty of file renamer apps available, but if you only need to use a tool like this once in a while, it’s a shame to spend $10 to $20 on it. Rename offers the most important features that more popular bulk file renamer apps have, and is free of charge. I don’t use it often, but when I do I’m glad I found this little gem.

AppCleanerAppCleaner
After all these years, you would think Apple could come up with a way to make it easy to delete an application and ALL its associated files. Until that happens, AppCleaner does the job extremely well – and it does it automatically. Drag an app to the Trash and AppCleaner pops up a window asking if you want to delete any files it finds that appear to be related to that app (prefs, configuration files, etc.) If you download and install a lot of different apps, AppCleaner is something you’ll want to have around, and it’s absolutely free.

TrashIt!TrashIt!
If there’s one thing I can’t stand it’s when a file refuses to be deleted. The Finder somehow believes I don’t have permission, it’s in use, or whatever stupid reason. TrashIt! to the rescue. I keep the icon in the Finder window toolbar so it’s only a click away when I need it. TrashIt! simply asks for your admin password to delete any stuck file. It beats having to launch the Terminal and typing the command to delete a file. TrashIt! is free, and has saved me from throwing large heavy objects through my office window many, many times.

ApptivateApptivate
Get instant access to files & folders, or launch apps and scripts with a quick keyboard shortcut. There are tons of file launchers available today, but Apptivate is simple and works extremely well. I particularly like the ability to assign a sequence of key shortcuts to activate items in Apptivate. It also allows you to overwrite system shortcuts with a pref setting. Apptivate is free.

YoinkYoink
Drag & drop is fantastic. I use it constantly. But if you use apps in Full Screen mode, have apps in separate spaces, or have a hard time motivating yourself to hold the mouse button down while you navigate from one place to another in order to drop the file in the right spot, then it’s probably not a lot of fun. I found Yoink to be a real life-saver, popping-up a window when you start dragging a file and allowing you to “store” it there until you’re ready to drop it somewhere else. I love it because I can drag multiple files into the window one at a time from various Finder windows, then drop them all at once in an email. Yoink is available in the Mac App Store for $3.99.

Worth mentioning:

OnyXOnyx
Onyx is the one-stop-shop for tweaking your Mac, and keeping it running smoothly. With the ability to run maintenance routines and customize the Mac OS, it offers something for everyone. It’s updated frequently, and best of all, it’s absolutely free. This is one of those apps that I can’t believe everyone doesn’t already have installed.

1Password1Password
For creating, storing, and entering passwords for websites, there’s simply nothing better. And when you add in the ability to store credit card info, and software license info, 1Password is one app I can’t live without. $50 will get you a single-user license, while $70 gets you a family license (5 users). 1Password is available via the Mac App Store or directly from the developer.

Suitcase FusionSuitcase Fusion
Every designer needs a font manager. There are only a few options available, and Suitcase is the king of the mountain. Every new version brings useful features for designers, updates for new versions of Adobe’s Creative Suite are timely, and it’s been rock-solid for me for years. In particular, Fusion’s Quick Match feature is invaluable. Fusion costs $100, with upgrades priced at $50.

TweetbotTweetbot
There are a ton of 3rd party Twitter applications available, but none of them come close to Tweetbot – which strikes the perfect balance between features and usability. Tweetbot isn’t cheap. At $20, it’s not for the casual user. But if you spend a lot of time on Twitter, it’s worth every penny!

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