Category: Mac & OS X

Create symbolic links the easy way

SymbolicLinkerSymbolicLinker is a tiny contextual menu plugin (for Puma through Leopard users) and software service (for Snow Leopard & later users) that, once installed, allows any user to create symbolic links to files inside the Finder. SymbolicLinker does this by adding a contextual menu item to the Finder that generates symbolic links to the selected files.

Dan Frakes recently wrote a review of SymbolicLinker for his MacGems column at Macworld, which explains more about why you would want this handy little add-on for OS X. Needless to say, if you know you have the need for creating symbolic links, this app will save you trips to the Terminal each time you need to do it.

3 great cloud-based apps every designer and Mac user should use

Cloud appsThere is certainly no shortage of applications available that heavily rely on “the cloud” to do their work. It’s the hip thing to do nowadays. Personally, I prefer a more robust, reliable and feature-rich desktop app any day. But there are a few cloud-based apps that I love, and simply couldn’t live without.

The advantage, of course, is that these applications store information on servers accessed via the Internet, so that information is available to you anywhere you go, from any computer you have access to. This is huge for any Mac user who’s lucky enough to have a desktop and a laptop, or splits their time between their office and home computers. The three apps below can, and for many people have, killed the need for transferring files via physical media such as CD or USB thumb drives, and made accessing and sharing information dead simple.
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Access your iPhoto collection in an application’s Place or Open dialog box

When Leopard was released, a little-hyped feature was the ability to access your iPhoto, iMovie and iTunes assets from within virtually any application’s Open, Insert or Place dialog box.

Because it’s a feature you don’t use every day, it’s easy to overlook it – but it can save so much time that I’m surprised I don’t hear or see more people using it. Previous to Leopard, you could use Karelia’s free iMedia Browser to get the feature in Mac OS X Tiger (10.5) or Leopard – including any application that doesn’t support Apple’s built-in method. But in my day-to-day work, I’ve yet to come across an app I need it for that the built-in method doesn’t work in.

Access iLife assets in virtually any app

You simply need to click on the appropriate Media icon in the left-side source list of an Open, Place or Insert dialog box. The appropriate database will appear at the top of the window allowing you to access your library of assets, and offer previews of your assets below it. In the case of the screenshot above, I’m accessing a specific collection of images in my main iPhoto library from within Photoshop. No need to open iPhoto and drag the image to the desktop before opening it in Photoshop. The same method will work for bringing iMovies into Final Cut or your favorite video editing apps, etc.

You can still use Karelia’s iMedia Browser if you come across an app that Apple’s built-in method doesn’t work with. The nice thing about it is that it’s a stand-alone app that you can keep open and drag images out of whenever you wish.

Web browsers on the Mac: They all suck, except for Chrome

Google ChromeWith the recent update to Opera 10.5 for Mac OS X, I decided it was time to take a look at all the major Web browsers for Mac OS X.

I’ve been using Google Chrome (developer builds, not the betas) for quite some time now, and made it my default browser within hours of installing it. Nevertheless, I’m going to remain unbiased in thoughts.

Below is my extremely thorough review and expert advice for which Web browser you should use in Mac OS X.

Chrome (most recent dev build or beta version)

Uber fast to launch. Smokin’ fast browsing speed. Compatibility is nearly perfect, but there are a few sites it doesn’t work with. Expansion via extensions is pretty good, and getting better every week. Frequent updates and improvements make it more fun to work with lately. The clean interface coupled with the speed make this my favorite, and you should use this as your main browser!
Download: Release Version | Beta Version | Developer Build

Safari 4.0.5

Looks great. Quite speedy. Completely lacks any usefulness beyond just surfing pages randomly. With no expansion opportunity beyond a few really crappy plugins, it’s feature-starved. Make it your backup browser though.
Download: Release Version

Firefox 3.63.

Looks clunky. Works clunky. Takes forever and 6 months to launch. It’s fast, but not as fast as Safari. The only real redeeming thing about it is the obnoxious amount of add-ons you can install to do virtually anything – which unfortunately makes it look and work even more clunky. Don’t bother with it unless you’re a geek and want all the extra add-ons.
Download: Release Version | Beta Version

Opera 10.52

Interface lacks polish. Just configuring all the options and preferences can take weeks. Speed ain’t all that. Buggy. It basically sucks and you shouldn’t even bother trying it.
Download: Shipping Version

The Rest of them

They all suck, don’t bother.
Download: Really, don’t bother.

Fontcase offers alternative font management for designers

FontCase iconAny graphic designer or production artist worth a darn has a multi-gigabyte collection of fonts, many rarely used, just waiting for the perfect job to come along to use them with. The difficult part of having such a large collection is managing it. With nearly 4,200 fonts in my collection, I’ve never run a Mac without a font manager. Since the days of Mac OS 8, I’ve been an avid Extensis Suitcase user. But when the developers of FontCase offered a review license, I decided it was time to take a look at an alternative font manager.

The first thing I noticed about FontCase is it’s gorgeous Mac-like interface. Clearly Bohemian Coding was borrowing from iTunes here. While the overall layout of virtually any font manager is the same, FontCase managed to really make it look good. Everything just “fits” in the Mac GUI. In fact, one could make the argument that FontCase is what Apple’s own Font Book should have been. This is one area I’ve never liked about Suitcase Fusion, it just looks bad. While the appearance of the app has nothing to do with how it performs, for most Mac users it’s still a point of interest.
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The easiest way to rip DVDs to your Mac

RipItI recently had the overwhelming desire to rip a DVD to my Macbook for watching on the road. It’s not something I had done before, so I was shocked at how incredibly complicated it can be. Everything I read told me to get Handbrake because it was so simple. After giving it a try, I nearly gave up on the entire project. I sat there after hours of unsuccessful attempts thinking “there has to be an easier way.”

Handbrake couldn’t be more complex. Not only are you required to know what terms like bitrate, anamorphic, codec, and framerates are, but you also have to download VLC; another ugly and unnecessarily complex app to actually finish the job.

As it turns out, there is a much easier way to simply make a copy of your commercial DVD. It’s called RipIt from The Little App Factory, and it actually lived-up to it’s claim of being easy – a fact which earned it a Macworld 2009 Editor’s Choice award.

Ok, so it’s not dead simple. You do have to have some knowledge of your Mac to rip a DVD with RipIt. To make it easy, I’ve created an illustrated set of instructions below.

RipIt

Step 1: Insert DVD. Step 2: Click Rip button. Step 3: Wait. Step 4: Watch your movie.

I would love to give a lengthy review of this app, but quite honestly it simply isn’t necessary. The app does one thing, and works perfectly. You can choose how you want to receive the resulting file(s), a single file viewable with Quicktime, or the required folders to burn a viewable DVD using Toast or other DVD burning app, a few simple quality settings, and a small handful of eye-candy preferences. That’s it. It really couldn’t be any easier than RipIt makes it.

RipIt can be purchased from The Little App Factory for $19.95, and a demo download is available. The developer claims that the app works with over 250,000 commercial DVDs – and even guarantees that if you find one that doesn’t work, they’ll buy the DVD and fix the app. I wish every shareware app I downloaded delivered on their promises like RipIt does.

FontCase update brings auto activation and more to elegant font manager

FontCaseBohemian Coding recently updated Fontcase, their beautifully Mac-like font management program.

A young application in the font management world, FontCase has gained critical acclaim due its stunning good looks, speed, stability and ease of use. The latest version adds to an already impressive list of useful features.

Version 1.5 of Fontcase brings the following updates to the program:

  • Font auto-activation
  • Duplicates Detection
  • Automatic import of missing fonts
  • Incremental export of both fonts and metadata
  • Improved speed, launch time and cache size
FontCase

FontCase 1.5 brings auto font activation

I’ve not tried FontCase, I’ve been an Extensis Suitcase user for many years and had no reason to try anything else. But with font auto-activation finally making its way into FontCase, and the server-like font sharing feature built-in, it might just be time to give it a try.

FontCase requires Mac OS X 10.5 or higher, and costs $56 for a single user license. A demo is available for download.

Quickly see grammar correction options in Cocoa applications

Some of the coolest features of the Mac OS often go completely unnoticed. In reading through a post at Mac OS X Hints, I came across this little gem regarding Mac OS X Snow Leopard’s built-in grammar checker.

Grammar tool tip in Mac OS XIn many Cocoa apps (or another app that supports the feature), a green dotted line is placed under possible grammar errors detected by the system. If you hover your mouse cursor over the underlined word, a tool tip pops up describing the error. The screenshot you see here is from TextEdit, where I’ve made the horrific error of forgetting to capitalize the first word in the sentence. To accept the correction, you can either right-click and accept the correction in the contextual menu, or inside the spelling and grammar dialog box accessed from the contextual menu.

View extended laptop battery info with Coconut Battery

coconutBatteryIf you have a MacBook or MacBook Pro, your battery is vital to the usefulness of the machine. While Apple offers you basic information about your battery life, little information is displayed about the overall health of the battery. This is where coconutBattery comes in.

coconutBattery is a simple utility that goes beyond just showing you the current charge of your MacBook’s battery. You might say it gives your battery a complete physical exam. coconutBattery can show you the current maximum capacity of the battery compared to what it was when you first took it out of the box; perfect for anyone who’s thought “the battery used to last longer.”

coconutBattery

coconutBattery offers a wealth of information about your laptop's battery

The diagnostics don’t stop there. You can get a better idea of how many complete charge cycles are left in the life of your battery by checking the loadcycles (how many times you’ve fully charged your battery) – useful because every battery has a set amount of full battery charges before it just doesn’t charge anymore.

If you’re a multiple-laptop family, you’ve no doubt been faced with the question “is that the MacBook charger or my wife’s MacBook Pro’s charger?” coconutBattery can let you know if you’ve plugged your laptop in with the wrong charger.

coconutBattery is a free, Universal Binary you can download here.

Add tabbed windows to Mac OS X’s Finder

TotalFinder iconWhen tabs finally found their way into Web browsers some years ago, people immediately fell in love with them. In fact, most people wonder how someone could live without them. With Apple’s love for a minimalist interface, you have to wonder why we still don’t have them on the desktop. Whatever the reason, we’ve been left to wait for a third-party solution.

Thankfully, a creative and persistent developer has finally figured out a way to add them into Mac OS X’s Finder without completely replacing the look, feel and functionality of the Finder in the process.

Tabs in Mac OS X's Finder windows

Tabs in Mac OS X's Finder windows

TotalFinder, a SIMBL application by BinaryAge adds elegant tabs, borrowed from Google Chrome, to Mac OS X’s Finder windows. The tabs look, feel and act like tabs in your Web browser for the most part. Along with the tabbed windows (seen above in the screenshot), TotalFinder also adds a few other really cool features.
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