Tagged: application

The easiest way to extract (mask) objects from images

Decompose vs. PhotoshopThe situation is common; you want to remove the background from an image and the subject/foreground object is a person. The trick is masking things like hair, glasses, and other subtle areas that can make or break the final result.

There have been numerous Photoshop plugins and stand-alone applications over the years that claim to do the job quickly and easily with stunning results. However, it has been my experience with most of these methods that they simply don’t work, or are more difficult than masking the objects manually in Photoshop.

I recently came across Decompose from metakine software, who’s tagline for the app is “Extract objects from images with ease.” Indeed, they promise “easy and flawless extraction of elements from pictures in order to use them to make composite images.” Those are some bold statements, so I decided to give it a shot to see if things have improved in the years since I’ve used other masking applications such as OnOne’s Perfect Mask (which crashed every time I tried to use it for the purpose of comparison in this article, so I’ve left it out).

For the purpose of this article, I’m not going to go into the controls and features of Decompose. Instead, I’m only going to focus on the results. (more…)

Is your favorite app compatible with Mac OS X (10.7) Lion?

Mac OS X Lion app compatibility

Mac OS X Lion app compatibility chart

RoaringApps has put together a fairly extensive, and constantly updated, list of current applications that reveal their compatibility status with Apple’s next big OS update, OS X 10.7 Lion. You can view the collection in list format, or as an icon grid as seen in the screenshot above.

As far as graphic designers concerned with Adobe apps, it appears that most do run under Lion, but with some issues. I’m sure Adobe will be providing updates shortly after Lion’s release.

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.

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.

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.

Batch convert Illustrator files to JPG, PNG or SVG format

If you’ve ever needed to batch convert a folder full of Illustrator or .eps files to a bitmap format such as PNG or JPG, you know the frustration of doing it manually (one at a time) with Illustrator’s export function. You could set up a batch action in Photoshop, but that’s almost more trouble than it’s worth. Pongo is a tiny application that does only one thing, convert vector-based Illustrator files to either PNG, JPG or SVG format, with a single click of a button. You simply drag your file(s) onto the Pongo Icon, and choose which format you want to save the files as. Pongo actually uses Adobe Illustrator to do the work, so you will have to have Illustrator installed, but it does its job in the background. Pongo requires Mac OS X 10.4 or higher, and is completely free – though donations are accepted.

Tilt-Shift photos on the cheap

A short while back, I reviewed Bokeh from Alien Skin Software, an excellent Photoshop filter perfect for simulating tilt-shift photography. The filter offers the maximum amount of flexibility and features available to simulate tilt-shift photography with your existing images, as well as much more in the way of adding the bokeh effect to your photos. But if your need for simulated tilt-shift photography is limited, the $199 price tag might be too much. A friend of mine recently informed me about a new tool to simulate tilt-shift on your images, and it’s absolutely free. (more…)

Tweetie for Mac: The good, the bad, and the beautiful

Looking at the screenshots of Tweetie, the latest Twitter desktop app from atebits, tells you all you need to know about the look & feel of of the app – it’s simply gorgeous. Fluid animations and an easy-on-the-eyes color scheme make looking at Tweetie as much fun as using it.

Tweetie for Mac

Tweetie for Mac

However, form is never above function in my book. As beautiful as Tweetie is, it lacks so much in the way of features, functionality and overall value. (more…)