Category: Mac & OS X

Control window position with Spectacle

Spectacle

If you’re looking for a little more control over your Mac’s window placement but don’t want to waste time mousing around, Spectacle is the answer to your wish.

Spectacle allows you to move windows to full screen, top half, bottom half, left and right half position with a simple keyboard shortcut.

Enhance OS X’s speech services

Dictator

If you use Mac OS X’s built-in speech service to read text back to you, you’re going to love this little gem!

Dictator is a free add-on that enhances built-in speech services by adding a progress indicator, a teleprompter (for reading along with the audio if you wish), and control audio with play, pause, and skip forward by sentence or paragraph controls.

To use Dictator, you simply select some text in any Services supported app (pretty much every app), right-click and choose Dictate from the menu.

You can download Dictater here.

The best iOS 9 content blocker so far

I started using an extension for Safari on my iMac a while back called Ghostery. It basically blocks tracking cookies and other obnoxious little things. It’s not an ad blocker, but it not only speeds up website load times, it’ll protect your privacy as well. It’s awesome, and I recommend you get Ghostery for the Mac right away.

Flash forward to yesterday when I finally got around to trying some content blockers for iOS9 on my iPhone 6Plus. I tried several, including one that was more than the price of a cup of coffee. Let me tell you that almost every single one of them available on the App Store absolutely sucks. Then I came across a Tweet about yet another content blocker—but this one caught my eye because it also mentioned Ghostery.

Peace content blocker for iOSTurns out, Marco Arment (creator of Instapaper and Overcast) has an iOS 9 content blocker called Peace for only $2.99.

What got me to buy it immediately was that A) The screenshots looked much more polished and easier to use than the other apps. And B) Marco has an exclusive deal with Ghostery to use their database as the foundation for Peace’s ability to block trackers. And really, that’s what sold me.

What it does

Peace blocks ads, trackers, social media buttons and other mobile web annoyances. You can configure with a simple slider if you want those social media buttons blocked, as well as most web comment systems and a site’s use of web fonts. All of those things can really slow a web page down, something I can overlook on an uber-fast desktop cable connection but is absolutely infuriating on mobile. As a bonus, Peace can install a set of Share Sheet extensions that allow further access to the app’s capabilities.

Peace isn’t perfect, by any means. Some ads still get through. And sometimes it’ll block things you don’t want blocked. But peace will allow you to add domains to a whitelist if they don’t work properly, or you simply love a site and want to support it by not blocking anything.

Want proof it’s working?

If you buy it and really want to see what it does, may I recommend you visit MacDailyNews before and after installing. At any given time, the site can have around 25 banner ads and a list of trackers as long as my arm. The page loads slow even on a fast cable connection, but on mobile it’s excruciatingly slow. So much so that I often just skip right over any link that points to the site. After I installed Peace, I went to the MacDailyNews homepage. I was shocked when it loaded almost instantly. Of course, almost every one of the ads and all the trackers were blocked, and that’s why it loaded so quickly.

You can read more about Peace here. Direct link to Peace in the app store here. Best $3 I’ve spent in the App Store in a long time!

UPDATE: Marco Arment (the developer) has pulled his app from the App Store after having some regrets. If you managed to buy Peace before it was removed, you can request a refund, or continue to use the app until such time that Apple updates iOS to the point that the app no longer works.

iOS web browsers: Why bother?

By now you’ve heard the news that Mozilla is finally in testing phase with Firefox for iOS. And you may have noticed that AdBlock (the popular desktop browser extensions) is releasing their own AdBlock Browser as well. Google has Chrome for iOS, and I believe iCab still has a heartbeat.

I have to wonder though, why bother? Until you can change the default browser on iOS; something Apple isn’t likely to allow any time soon, you WILL be using Safari at least once per day whether you want to or not. Simply because nobody is going to want to copy/paste URLs from email or text message just so they can be viewed in a browser other than mobile Safari. And let’s face it, Safari on iOS is a pretty damn good browser experience for 99% of users.

So I’m back to wondering what the ‘end-game’ is for companies that make web browsers for iOS. Why bother?

Add a tiny calendar to your OS X menubar

Itsycal

Itsycal is a tiny calendar for your Mac’s menu bar. It adds one function that has been missing on the Mac from day one, and one that has driven me crazy for years.

Itsycal will display a monthly calendar, as well as your calendar events from the Mac Calendar app. Events are highlighted on the calendar, and you can also create and delete (but not edit) events.

Itsycal is a lightweight app and is free of charge.

Free and easy screencasting app

Recordit app

If you’re looking for an affordable (or free) screen recording app for the Mac, you should check out Recordit. As a bonus, you can share your recordings as animated GIF files as well.

There are limitations. The recording is limited to under 5-minutes, no audio is recorded, and your recording is uploaded and shared via the Recordit servers immediately. A pro version allows you to offer private videos for a one-time fee of $30.

OS X El Capitan beta display brightness fix

If you installed Apple’s latest beta of OS X, El Capitan, you may have noticed the LCD appears to be a bit brighter with less contrast. I didn’t notice a problem until I launched Diablo III and found that it was almost unplayable due to the screen brightness.

El Capitan ambient light

After tinkering, I realized that El Capitan has added an option in the Display preferences that allows your Mac to automatically adjust the display based on ambient light. Turning this option off (unchecking) fixed my screen brightness issue.

Because this is an iMac, in an office where I control the lighting, this is probably optimal. However, I haven’t installed the beta on my MacBook Pro, so I’m not sure if the new feature offers benefits to mobile users.