Category: Mac & OS X

Alien Skin offers 20% storewide discount to benefit Haiti relief efforts

Alien Skin Software sale

Alien Skin Software storewide sale to benefit Haiti

Alien Skin Software today announces the immediate start of a store-wide sale to benefit Haiti. From now through February 28th, 2010, everything in the Web store is 20% off. 10% of Alien Skin Software’s profits for the entire month of February (not just from the sale) will be also be donated to Haiti through the Red Cross and the Community Coalition for Haiti. This is on top of significant donations already made by the company and individual employees.

“I am confident that the sale will generate a significant donation to Haiti relief funds,” said Jeff Butterworth, CEO of Alien Skin Software. “I also encourage everyone to donate blood. There is no substitute for this precious resource. I do it for the free cookies and bright bandage to show off around the office!”

Alien Skin, maker of Eye Candy – perhaps one of the most popular filter sets for Photoshop of all time, has been one of my favorite design-related software makes for many years. In particular, I LOVE Blow Up 2 for enlarging images to huge sizes, and Bokeh for creating awesome focus and depth-of-field effects with your photos.

iPod: It’s faster to talk than it is to type

Dragon DictationIt doesn’t take a genius to figure out that it’s faster to talk than it is to type. But after decades of tried and failed attempts by several software vendors, Mac OS X is still left without a viable solution in the speech-to-text arena.

If you own an iPhone or iPod Touch though, you’re no longer left out in the cold. And better yet, it won’t cost you a dime!

Nuance has a version of Dragon Dictation for both devices that works superbly. I dictated this article on my iPod Touch using Dragon Dictation with only one minor error.

The only major complaint is that the app has a time limit of 20-seconds on the length of the recording that gets converted into text, making it cumbersome for lengthy speech-to-text conversions.

The app requires a second or third-generation iPod Touch or iPhone with a microphone (Apple’s built-in headphone/mic combo works fine), and an Internet connection (WiFi or 3G works more than adequately, though Edge is a bit slower, obviously). The Internet connection is necessary because the app actually uploads the data to the Nuance servers for the translation.

Dragon Dictation

Dragon Dictation is easy to use, requiring only a tap of a button to do its job

Using Dragon Dictation is easy. You simply hit the Record button and speak. When the recording hits the 20-second mark, or you stop speaking, the app converts the recording to text. If you have a long email or message to dictate, you’ll have to hit the record button again to continue adding to the text. When you’re finished, you can copy the text to the clipboard, send it as a text message or email it.

Dragon Dictation is free, and is available from the iTunes store.

Extended volume control for Mac OS X Leopard (10.5) users

PTHVolumeIf you’re a Mac OS X user who hasn’t upgraded to Snow Leopard yet, but you want more control over the volume and sound output sources, PTH Consulting has a great little app that offers the same functionality as Apple’s built-in volume control menubar widget found in Mac OS x 10.6. PTHVolume 2 is a menubar application that not only allows you to adjust the volume of your Mac, but offers you the ability to switch the sound output sources without making a tiresome trip to the OS X System Preferences. PTHVolume menubar appPTHVolume (free) is particularly useful for Mac OS X users who, like me, have a nice set of external speakers set up on their Mac, but also like to use headphones at night or when anyone around you isn’t particularly interested in listening to your personal taste in music. As you can see in the screenshot at the left, you can adjust the volume for each source individually; something you cannot do with Apple’s built-in widget in Snow Leopard. Up until Snow Leopard, I was using this utility for a long time with no stability issues at all. It works perfectly.

Facebook Desktop Notifications for OS X

Facebook Desktop NotificationsIf you’re a Facebook user and are looking for a simple, unobtrusive way to view updates on your Mac OS X desktop, look no further than Facebook’s own menubar application. Facebook Desktop Notifications lives in your menubar, keeping your Dock and desktop free of icons, but easily accessible. The app displays your news feed in the drop down menu, which when clicked will take you to the appropriate place on your Facebook page. Shortcuts to your Facebook page, and new message creation are available at the top of the menu, as well as direct message shortcuts at the bottom. Facebook message notifications Desktop Notifications also offers you the ability, with a simple keyboard shortcut, to update your Facebook status via a simple input box. Facebook status updates New Facebook notifications make the menubar icon turn blue, or if you have Growl installed, a popup Growl window appears. While there are a ton of applications that do a whole lot more, few offer the simplicity and “get out of my way” nature that Facebook Desktop Notifications does. For that reason, I love it. It’s stable, and does its job without me having to do or launch anything.

Minimize windows into app icon

If you haven’t looked in your Mac OS X Dock preferences since upgrading to Snow Leopard, you may have missed a handy little preference that will save you space in your Dock when you minimize windows. Neat-freaks read on… (more…)

Deleting applications easily in Mac OS X

AppCleanerIt’s no secret that Mac OS X doesn’t always make it easy to completely delete an application from your system. There are preference files littered all over the hard drive, and most apps not offering an uninstaller, it’s a real pain in the behind. Even apps that offer an uninstaller inexplicably don’t always delete all the files. While there is no foolproof way of removing ALL those files, AppCleaner goes a long way in making the task easier. AppCleaner is a free utility from FreeMacSoft that like other app-remover applications like AppZapper, removes applications and their supporting files. Unlike AppZapper though, AppCleaner offers the option of running in the background – meaning you don’t have to remember to use it. App Cleaner window The SmartDelete preference option in AppCleaner sets your system to automatically gather all the files attached to a particular application when you drag that app to the trash. You can then selectively decide if you want to delete all or some of the related files along with the application itself. You can also protect your preferred applications from accidentally being deleted if you so choose; a nice little safety valve. I used AppZapper for quite a long time until I came across AppCleaner a few years ago. I’ve been using it ever since with no problems whatsoever. As I stated earlier, no app uninstaller is perfect. But AppCleaner is the best I’ve used at finding all the files associated with an app. And I love that it does it automatically. AppCleaner is free, runs in Mac OS X 10.4 through 10.6.1.

Pantone Turns iPhone into Color Studio on the Go

Pantone iPhone appmyPANTONE, an iPhone application, offers graphic, digital, multimedia, fashion, interior and industrial designers the freedom to capture, create and share PANTONE Color Palettes – wherever they go and whenever they find inspiration. With myPANTONE, designers have access to all the PANTONE Color Libraries, including the PANTONE MATCHING SYSTEM for coated, uncoated and matte stock; the PANTONE Goe System for coated and uncoated stock; PANTONE PASTELS for coated and uncoated stock; and the PANTONE FASHION + HOME SMART Color System. The application also enables designers to easily create harmonious color palettes by finding complementary, analogous and triadic combinations for selected colors. myPANTONE takes advantage of the iPhone’s built-in camera to let designers capture whatever inspires them – from architecture and street scenes to fashion and nature. Colors can be extracted from any photo on the iPhone and then matched to the closest PANTONE Colors. Color palettes can be emailed to colleagues and clients as color patches, or as application-ready swatch files for use in design applications including Adobe Creative Suite (.ase), CorelDraw and QuarkXPress. You can purchase the myPANTONE application for $9.99 from Apple’s iPhone App Store, for use on the iPhone or iPod Touch.

Remove extension change warning dialog in OS X Snow Leopard

One of the few annoying things about past versions of Mac OS X was the warning the OS tossed up every time you changed the extension on a file. I often times changed a .txt extension to .html, or added an extension to a file that didn’t have one. Boom – annoying warning message.

OS X Finder Extension Warning Preferences

OS X Finder Extension Warning Preferences

Thankfully, Apple has given us the option of turning these warning messages off via the Finder’s Preferences in Snow Leopard. Simply go to the menu bar and choose Finder>Preferences and un-check the Show warning before changing an extension option.

Adobe’s Facebook desktop app is full-featured

FacebookAdobe AIR apps are popping-up everywhere, so it was no surprise to see a full-featured Facebook application show up. What was surprising to me was to see that the developer is Adobe itself. Photo Uploader for Facebook is a multi-platform Facebook desktop application based on Adobe’s AIR technology. And while the name implies that it’s simply a photo uploader, it’s actually more full-featured than that. It’s not going to replace the use of the Web interface completely, but for most users, the app may do everything you need. Photo Uploader for Facebook offers views of your Profile page, Friends list, a Chat page, and of course, your Wall. The Wall page shows status updates of all your friends, as well as gives you the ability to update your status by clicking on your latest status update at the top of the screen.

Status updates

Facebook status updates

The app updates status at intervals that I couldn’t find a way to customize, but it appears to be fairly frequently. The chat screen works just like the Web-based chat feature does, with the added benefit that you can keep the chat window open and surf to other pages in your browser at the same time. The sidebar in the app window shows status updates, regardless of which view the main part of the window is showing. Quick access to Event Invites, your Inbox, Pokes and Friend Requests are also available via small icons at the top of the sidebar. Choose albumThe Photo Uploader offers basic Facebook integration. Upon clicking the Upload button, you are asked to choose which album you want your image to be uploaded into, or create a new one. Then, you drag & drop, or click the Add Photos button to bring in a single image, or folder full of images into the app’s window. From there, you can crop your image, rotate it, give it a caption, and tag it with keywords.
Facebook photo uploader

Facebook photo uploader

I prefer to use desktop applications, rather than a service’s Web interface in almost all cases. I find them to (usually) be more full featured and easier to work with. I am not, however, a big fan of AIR applications – for a variety of reasons. Photo Uploader for Facebook is a rare exception to my anti-AIR preference. It’s stable, offers plenty of features, and I find the interface to be simple, and a big improvement over Facebook’s Web interface. Photo Uploader for Facebook can be downloaded and used for free from the Adobe AIR Marketplace, where you can find plenty of other AIR applications.