Category: Mac & OS X

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.


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 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 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.

Add an OS X menubar to your second monitor

SecondBarIf you happen to be lucky enough to have a second monitor hooked-up to your Mac, you’ve no doubt wished you could access your menubar on the second monitor at some point. While Apple doesn’t give you this feature, and likely never will, a simple little app brings most of the functionality you’re looking for, and more.

SecondBar is a small utility that does exactly what you would expect, it adds a Mac OS X menubar to your second monitor; giving you full access to your Apple, File, Edit, View, Go, Window and Help menus, as well as placing a clock in the far right position.

Capture audio and video directly with Quicktime Player

If you regularly use iMovie or some other application to capture audio or video, or were wondering how to do it on the cheap, then you’ll love this handy little tip.

Video Capture with Quicktime Player

Video Capture with Quicktime Player

All you’ll need is a copy of Quicktime Pro 7 or later, or the latest version of Quicktime Player in Mac OS X 10.6 (Snow Leopard), and a Mac with an iSight camera, or a connected video camera or microphone.

Get more info about your files and folders in Mac OS X’s Finder

Sometimes a little info goes a long, long way. While you can do a Get Info (Command + i) on a selected file, it would be easier if you could see just a little info without the hassle of a keyboard command – such as how many files are contained in a particular folder, or the dimensions of an image file. Once again, Apple thought of the little things.

OS X Finder Item InfoA quick visit to the Finder’s menubar does the trick! Simply go to View>Show View Options (or hit Command + J). In the View Options window about half-way down, click in the checkbox next to Show Item Info as seen in the screenshot at the right.

OS X Finder Item InfoOnce that option is activated in the Finder, you’ll notice information located just below the desktop icon file name colored in light blue. When you’re in icon view mode in a folder, which you can switch to by hitting Command + 1, you’ll see the info there too. As you can see in the screenshot at the left, you’ll get a quick glimpse of the number of items inside a folder, and the pixel dimensions of image files.

Not all document types display information, but these two in particular I find quite useful.

Iconpaper offers full load of customization options for your Mac

There are tons of sites out there you can use to customize your Mac OS X experience. From themes and icons, to desktop wallpapers and app skins, the options are limitless. But spending the time to find them is daunting.


iconpaper offers everything you need to customize your Mac

Iconpaper is a fantastic site that brings the best of the bunch all together in one easy to use site. Iconpaper offers easy viewing and downloading of everything you need, including:

  • Icons
  • Wallpapers
  • Dock Skins
  • App Skins
  • OS X Themes
  • Screensavers

I found so many Dock themes and desktops to try, I ended up wasting away an hour before I finished writing this brief article.

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.