Macintosh blog postings

Macintosh Postings

Earliest: June 26, 2003Latest: March 24, 2017Total: 181

July 8, 2016

Keyboard Maestro

Keyboard Maestro2

Last week I wrote about how awesome BetterTouchTool was. Well there was one thing missing - I wanted a way to run Unix shell commands from a key press. I wanted to have some Bash commands that I wanted executed when I clicked on the F19 key.

I discovered that there is another keyboard tool that bridges the "Unix Shell" gap - Keyboard Maestro by Stairways Software. This is far from a new tool on the market - it's been around for a long time.

Keyboard Maestro

With keyboard Maestro you can assign Unix commands to keys, something you can't do with BetterTouchTool. You can assign all sorts of actions to all your F keys, something that you can't do with TextExpander.

With Keyboard Maestro, I have now had a "random word" key. Anytime that I need a word, I simply press the "F 19" key. This makes testing so much easier, if I need a word, simply hit the F19 key.

Creating a "Random Key" Macro

Here's how to configure Keyboard Maestro so that you can have your own random key: (I assume that you downloaded the software and have it properly setup.)

  1. Click Command - N to create a new Macro
  2. Call it whatever you want, "Random Word" is a good choice.
  3. Click the green plus icon to add a New Trigger, and select the 'Hot Key' Trigger
  4. Type in any Key, F13 or F19 are good options, as well as the 'end' button.
  5. Click on the green Plus icon next to the 'New Action'
  6. With 'All Actions' selected in the Categories, search for 'Shell' and select the 'Execute a Shell Script'
  7. Click on 'Display results in a window' and change it to 'type results'
  8. Paste the following text in the text area box:
#!/bin/bash
WORDFILE=/usr/share/dict/words
RANDOM=$$;
lines=$(cat $WORDFILE | wc -l);
rnum=$((RANDOM*RANDOM%$lines+1));
sed -n "$rnum p" $WORDFILE | perl -pe 'chomp'
  1. Click Edit
  2. Try it out! You'll need to have the cursor in a text field, Why not try the browser search.

Random Word Tool

Why Use BetterTouchTool?

While Keyboard Maestro does a lot of similar things that BetterTouchTool does, I really like the screenshot capabilities in BetterTouchTool. I can capture screenshots superfast, simply by moving the mouse to the bottom right of the screen. Then I can edit the screenshot as needed. I have yet to see a "Move Mouse to Bottom Right Corner" trigger action in Skitch or Monosnap. Both are great tools and have their advantages but BetterTouchTool Trigger action is cooler and the Editor suits my needs.

BetterTouchTool isn't all that expensive, so it's worth keeping around. Perhaps they will add Unix Shell capabilities in future releases.

I am still a big fan of TextExpander and use it all the time. It's nice to see some other tools fill in some gap that I am looking for in a keyboard tool:

  • Ability to assign commands to all the keys on the extended Apple Keyboard (Availble in BetterTouchTool and Keyboard Maestro)
  • A decent built in screen capture tool. (Only in BetterTouchTool)

TextExpander does have a good suggestion tool - it notifies you when you type something over and over and suggest you make it a keyword snippet.

About Keyboard Maestro

Keyboard Maestro cost $36. You can download the software for 30 days trial. It's a very powerful Keyboard/Mouse tool. I certainly recommend checking it out.

July 1, 2016

BetterTouchTool

BetterTouchTool is a must have tool for anyone that has an Apple Keyboard with Numeric Keyboard (MB110LL/B). Finally you can can make use of the F13,F14,F15,F16,F17,F18 and F19 keys!

BetterTouchTool is a keyboard replacement tool, it allows you to re-assign functionalities to different keyboards and mouse actions. This is great when you have a keyboard that has unused keys.

The BetterTouchTool has a lot of configurable options. For example, you can now assign the 'Paste' function to the F15 key, no more Command-V in any application! You can even change the 'Home' button to be an actual browser home button. How cool is that!

Better Touch Tool

If your a Web Developer you can assign the the F16 (Or any F Key) to open FireFox WebConsole and Chrome Developer Tools - depending which application is currently active. Now you don't have to remember the different keyboard shortcuts when your debugging a page.

There's all sorts of configuration that you can do with the Magic Mouse, Trackpads, Drawings, and Siri Remote. There's lots of possibilities to spread your trigger actions.

BetterTouchTool has a built in Screen Capture functionality with an image editor. It's pretty good. My only complaint is how the arrow get drawn on the image. When you select the arrow in the top menu the arrow automatically appears in the middle of the image. The user then you have to move it to where you want. I do like that the arrow has a better curve style than what's in Skitch and MonoSnap. The magnifying glass tool is pretty cool.

BTT Screencapture
Screen Capture with the Magnifying tool.

I configured BetterTouchTool so that when I "Move Mouse to Bottom Right Corner," the computer acts as if I did a Command-Shift-4. After I selected the capture area, I then can edit in BetterTouchTool. Once done editing, I have multiple options: I can save to a file, upload to my imgur.com account, create a new email with attachment, copy to clipboard and so much more!

Logitech Mx518

I have been trying to get BetterTouchTool to work with my Logitech Mx518 mouse with very little success. There are three buttons that are on the top of the mouse that I would like to use. There is a "Volume Up, Volume Down" and some "Power" button.

I installed the latest Logitech Gaming Software, which has the latest drivers, but BetterTouchTool still doesn't recognize the buttons when I try to assign a Trigger action.

Logitech Mouse Panel

It turns out that you can actions to the mouse using the Logitech Gaming Software. While not as fancy as the BetterTouchTool, it still has some basic actions that make it worth while. There is a work around and that's to use the keyboard assignment and then use BetterTouchTool's Keyboard Shortcut tab to further configure it.

There is some discussion on the Logitech Forum about configuring the device to work with third party apps: MX Master Logitech Options SW Feature.

Overall view of BetterTouchTool

While I am disappointed that I can't easily configure my Logitech Mouse, I am excited that I have five new keys on my keyboard. Now my hands can move to the other side of the keyboard more often.

BetterTouchTool use to be free, but it's now a very active application and Andreas Hegenberg, the Developer, has changed it to a "Pay what you want." The current minimum bid is $4.50. I highly recommend at least covering the cost of a a couple cold beers, as an appreciation for all his hard work.

Google has a updated table of the Cost of Living in Munich. You can see how much Domestic Beer, Cappuccino is.

I did try out BetterTouchTool and will certainly be purchasing it.

June 24, 2016

LaunchBar 6

Launch Bar If you like using Apple's Spotlight Search, then you'll love LaunchBar.

The whole idea behind Spotlight/LaunchBar is to navigate everything from the keyboard. Users shouldn't need to open applications by using the mouse and clicking on the Application in the dock. A simple Command-Space from any application and type a few letter and you're on your way. It's just a more productive way to open applications.

Objective Development's LaunchBar has been in production long before Mac OS X, it started as a series of shell scripts for NeXTSTEP. It became a real application around 2001 as Launcher 3. Apple saw the potential value of LaunchBar and came out with Spotlight in 2005.

Objective Development continues to improve on the functionality on LaunchBar. It's a setup to what Apple provides as a default. I feel that LaunchBar is perfect for any Macintosh power user that bounces around the different application. LaunchBar works well with multiple monitors.

Launch Bar File Info

LaunchBar learns how you use the service, so if you type 'T' and select 'Thunderbird,' the next time you type T at the LaunchBar the first item under the search bar will be 'Thunderbird.' That's pretty cool!

Some cool features that I have discovered using LaunchBar:

Clipboard History

Use Clipboard History to access recently copied items. It not very to reuse any previously used clipboard item, simply by doing Command-Space then Command-K and select the item that I want to use. I can configure it to save the last 100 clipboard items.

Recent Items

I can switch between recently used applications. This is better than the application switcher (Command-Tab) because that only shows current items. To get the list of most recently items, simply Command-Space, then Command-B.

LaunchBar Index Control

You can easily control what content displays when you use LaunchBar. For example, you can exclude applications, categories, and actions. This allows you to make LaunchBar work for your needs.

What's cool about the LaunchBar Index window is that you can see all the different ways that LaunchBar works for you. There are 144 Built-in Actions, 6 Workflows, 73 services, 195 Categories to customize, and so much more. There's a

Launch Bar Index Info
LaunchBar Index dialog box gives you lots of information.

Custom Actions

After playing around with LaunchBar for a couple of days, I ventured to create my own actions. LaunchBar gives you a lot of flexibility to make some pretty cool actions.

I spent time reading their API document and checking out some examples. There're some really cool featured actions in the LaunchBar library.

I thought it would be cool to have an action that would allow me to search the company Jira database in the Atlassian cloud. I was able to create a simple search action in about 15 minutes. Not bad for someone with minimal AppleScript experience.

Now when I need to search for a Jira issue, I type in Command-Space, then Jira then the issue number.

Search Jira with LaunchBar

In Summary

I don't use Spotlight all that much and didn't think that I needed a third party tool to make it better. Once I started playing around with LaunchBar, I began seeing the potential. It really makes finding things on the computer much easier.

I like that there's a Usage tracker. It shows how much value you really are getting from the software.

If you are used to the Application Switcher (Command-Tab) and Spotlight (Command-Space), then you should see what LaunchPad brings to your productivity.

LaunchBar single license is $29 and a family license is $48. There is an eBook available ($10) that teaches you how to get the most use out of LaunchBar.

LaunchBar was last updated on June 11, 2014.

June 17, 2016

iTerm2

iTerm2 is a third-party replacement utility for MacOS Terminal. iTerm2 brings the terminal into the modern age with lots of cool features that will make you way more productive when you need to use the command line.

If you haven?t checked out iTerm2 yet, here are a couple of features that I think make it a practical application.

Hot Key

Hotkey Window

Register a hotkey that brings iTerm2 to the foreground when you're in another application. A terminal is always a keypress away. You can choose to have the hotkey open a dedicated window. This is very similar to the Quake Terminal functionality, commonly known as Guake Terminal.

Whenever I need to access Terminal, I type my short cut and instantly a top-down terminal appears ready for me to type my command. The window and session close when I click away from the top-down terminal.

Note: The HotKey functionality only works if you have the application open.

Profiles

Profiles Colors

A profile is a named collection of settings, and you can have as many of them as you like. A key feature of a profile is that you can associate a command with it that is run when it begins. For instance, if you often ssh to a particular host, you could create a profile with the command "ssh example.com" to automate that process.

What's nice about the Profiles functionality is that I can assign different colors to different profiles. So Production accounts can have a red background whereas Development and Staging can have the typical black background. I don't have to second guess where I am, by looking at the color of the background, I know when it's safe to type certain commands.

The folks over at Iterm2 created a library of 147 different color schemes that I can use, I don't have to be a color genius to define the style for my environment. Someone actually created a Dracula Theme, which is slightly better than the 'Dark' theme that is included with the Iterm2.

Overall

There are a lot of cool things that make iTerm2 a great solution for anyone that spends a considerable amount of time using the Mac Terminal.

One key reason that I like about iTerm2 is that George Nachman, the developer, spends a lot of time using the application. He is always looking for ways to make the application better.

iTerm2 is free and can be download from the iTerm2 Website. If you like it, consider making a donation.

June 10, 2016

Path Finder 7 Overview

Path Finder Windows

Cocoatech promotes that Path Finder 7 allows you to become the master of file management. It's been in Production since Mac OX X has been part of Apple's system architecture. Cocoa tech and their long-standing customers know a thing or two about what makes a better file system.

I just started looking at this application because I need to better file management on my home iMac computer. My initial reaction to the application is that it's very cool and practical.

Some people may not be aware that the application exists because it doesn't appear in the 'Apple's App Store.' It's certainly worth looking at if you want a little more bang for your computer.

What is so special about Path Finder?

Here are some of the key things that I have found that separates Path Finder from the default MacOS Finder:

  • Easier to access Terminal
  • Ability to collect files and move/copy them in a single step via Drop Stack
  • Easily view and change hidden files
  • Application Launcher - Access all your apps with a simple key press
  • Ability to Compress Files with Passwords (Stuff or Zip Format)
  • Create Font Reports! You can print out the fonts in your system in their typeface.
  • Source Control - Easily run GIT/Subversion commands from the Path Finder window,

This is by no means a complete list of everything that Path Finder can do. There's a lot of functionality packed into one application. At first, it can seem overwhelming when your use to the basic features that the Finder gives you.

Did I find a Bug?

One downside to Path Finder 7 is that it doesn't appear to be sorting the file size correctly. In this example, I am sorting by size, but it's clearly not sorting correctly. It's not separating Files and Folders:

Path Finder Sizes

Turns out that other people had the same problem and it's not a bug! It's a feature called "Smart Sorting." Smart Sorting allows you to determine the order of the sort. By default, Applications come first, then Packages, then Folder and Files. You can reorder the sort any way you want to.

To view the listing as I would expect it, I had to disable the "Smart Sorting On" in the View Menu.

Window Toolbar Option

Here's one last thing to consider, check out the differences between the window toolbar options. This just shows you how powerful Path Finder is.

ToolBars21_sm.jpg
Click on image for a larger version.

I would recommend trying out the Path Finder 7 Demo for 30 days. It will take that amount of time to get use to PathFinder's interface. After a couple of days it will feel like you got a whole new system upgrade.

Note: I am not a paying customer of Path Finder 7 - Yet. I have a few more days of my trial and then I'll purchase the application. I am impress of all the tools that is available.

June 3, 2016

Default Folder X

Default Folder Icon

Default Folder X ($34.95)

Last week I briefly covered a bunch of the utilities that were part of the legacy Now Software utility package. I also suggest several applications that we good alternatives for the present day users. Default Folder X kept coming up as a useful utility, so I thought it would be worth a separate post for this week.

I actually purchased the software as part of the MacHeist deal on January 21, 2015. Other software programs that came with this bundle include Little Snitch, VirusBarrier, Control Center, Speedy, Parallels Access, Cocktail, uBar, TotalFinder, and PostBox. The bundle total cost $14.99. It certainly was a good deal.

What is Default Folder?

Default Folder X attaches a toolbar to the right side of the Open and Save dialogs in any OS X-native application. The toolbar gives you fast access to various folders and commands. You just click on the buttons to go to your favorite and recently used folders, manage the folders and files shown in the list, and make changes to your settings. It also fixes a number of problems in Open and Save dialogs, "rebounding" to the last selected file, putting the path listing back in the top menu, and correcting bugs in scrolling column views.

My Thoughts

This is a practical utility for anyone doing a lot of work with multiple folders and projects. This makes it easy to access favorite folders. It does take some time to get used to the overlays on the Save and Open dialog boxes.

A view of the Open Dialog box:

Default Folder Pics

Default Folder X does give you a lot of power to find the right documents. I can preview or get additional information (File Size and Modification Dates) before opening them. I can add comments to a document, this is useful if I want to explain the use of a particular file.

The menubar allows you to quickly access recently file, folder, and windows from any application. This is handy when you're doing a lot of work and need quick access to your files.

Summary

Default Folder X is a great application if you spend a lot of time working with different documents. The license that I got was for version 4. It will cost $14.95 upgrade to the latest version. I am spending some more time playing around with it to see if it's something that I would use on regular bases.

May 27, 2016

Now Utilties

Now Utilities

Once upon a time, there was some cool 3rd party utility software on the Macintosh. One of my all time favorites was Now Utilities by Now Software available only for System 7. It made the computer more productive.

MacUser named it one of the "Top 100 Products for 1990."

On November 10, 1997, Qualcomm Incorporated purchased Now Software. In 1999, Power On Software purchased the company. The last known version of Now Utilities was version 6.5

Some of the functionality in Now Utilities has been integrated into Mac OS X. Their are some 3rd party applications that fill in the gap. Default Folder X and Path Finder 7 seem to be good alternatives to Now Utilities.

Here is the list of the seven utilities that were included with Now Utilities 6.0 software and the equivalent replacement available today. (I included a brief description of the original documents.)

Now AutoType

Now AutoType lets you create macros for frequently typed words and phrases. It also watches what you type and creates macros for your frequently typed words and phrases for you automatically.

TextExpander and Keyboard Maestro are the better solutions today. Although, I am interested in learning more about the "create macros" functionality that was in Now AutoType.

Now Tabs

Now Tabs places a tab bar at the bottom of the screen. You can really clean up your desktop by dragging open windows to the tab bar where they're stored as tabs.

Sounds familiar? That's what Launchbar does in MacOs X. There are 1,000 features in one application, certainly worth looking into.

Check out ubar, the dock replacement for the Mac.

Now Shortcuts

Now Shortcuts lets you hold down a modifier key (such as control) and click on a file or folder in the Finder. When you release the mouse button a menu of choices like duplicate, lock, share, and make alias will pop-up - choose an item for a "shortcut" way to manage files and folders.

Today a simple right click is all you need.

Now Super Boomerang

Makes it easy to access the most recent files/folder menus in the Apple Menu or in Open/Save dialog boxes.

Default Folder X - Make your Open and Save dialogs work as quickly as you do

Now Startup Manager

Easy way to manage what extensions should load when you start up your computer. This is useful when your Macintosh crashes during startup.

LaunchControl - With LaunchControl you see all services and their respective status at a glance. Invalid services are highlighted and a problem description is provided. You can enable or disable services with a single click. The same goes for loading, unloading, and ad-hoc starting. A long list of jobs may be filtered.

Now WYSIWYG Menus

Now WYSIWYG Menus lets you see fonts in their actual typefaces when you pull down the Font menu in applications. The Size and Style menus will also display the currently-selected font in the available sizes and styles, so you can always choose fonts and styles quickly said know what the results will look like.

WYSIWYG Font menus is built into many popular Macintosh applications.

Now QuickFiler

Easy way to compress files. Now QuickFiler provides an alternate view of your disks, folders, and files in which you can perform all standard file- management functions. It also has a sophisticated Find command and can compress files on demand or in the background.

Path Finder 7 - Become a master of file management with Path Finder 7! Take full control over your file system! Save your time and work how you want! Say goodbye to the days of weak file management. With Path Finder 7, it's your files, your way.

Now Save

Now Save adds additional functionality to the Save box, including the ability to auto-save in any application. Use the Key Capture function of Now Save to record all of your keystrokes to a text file in case of crash.

Default Folder X - Make your Open and Save dialogs work as quickly as you do

Now Folder Menus

Now Folder Menu lets you "pop up" a menu of any folder's or volumes' content just by clicking on the item and holding down the mouse button. By default, Now FolderMenus displays arrows on the icons of folders and volumes to indicate that you can pop up a menu to view their contents. You can then view the contents of nested folders, and open folders or documents within folders by selecting them and releasing the mouse button.

Default Folder X - Make your Open and Save dialogs work as quickly as you do

Download the official Now Utilities QuickStart guide to see how to use all the above functionality.

May 20, 2016

Easy way to Lock your Mac

In Windows, it's really easy to lock up your computer, simply type in CTR-ALT-DEL and then lock up the computer.

In Mac OS X, you can actually lock up the computer even quicker! With no keys to remember! Simply by using Hot Corners. Just change one of the corners to "Put Display to Sleep" and update your Security & Privacy configurations so it happens immediately.

Make the Computer Lock Immediately

Password Immediately

  • Under the Apple Menu, select "System Preferences..."
  • Then Click on Security & Privacy
  • Change the 'Require password after sleep or screen saver begins" to Immediately

Hot Corners

Hot Corner

Now to configure one of the screen corners, so that when you move the mouse to the corner the screen will lock.

  • In the System Preferences search box, type in 'Hot Corner'
  • Select "Desktop & Screen Saver"
  • Then select "Hot Corners..." on the bottom right
  • Pick a corner where you want to put the display to sleep and pull down the menu and select that option.
  • Click 'Ok' when your done.

Now when you move the mouse over to that corner the screen saver will begin and you will need to unlock the computer to use it.

If you want to stick with the keyboard shortcut, simply remember to type in Control + Shift + Power. This will lock your screen but not sleep your computer, so background process will still run.

Keybord Restart

If you need to sleep your entire computer, simply type in Command + Option + Power. If you have a MacBook, you can simply close the computer's lid. Your computer will go to sleep immediately stopping all background processes.

May 6, 2016

EverNote's Skitch Tips and Tricks

EverNote Skitch is a great Macintosh program to add annotation to images. It makes great screenshots and the backup sync to EverNote makes it an essential tool for anyone doing software QA.

Here are some tips and tricks that I have learned using Skitch:

Creating Blank Images

You can easily create a blank image in Skitch. This is useful if you want to create an image from a quote. In the top of the Skitch window, pull down the menu and select ?Blank.? A new Blank image will be created. The image size will be about 80% of the current window size. You can always crop the image when you are done.

Skitch Blank

Unfortunately the blank image does function as a canvas tool, where you can combine mulitple screenshots. Pixelmator, Artboard, and OmniGraffle are some of the applications where that is possible.

Blank canvas is great when you need to create a quick image to get the message across.

Changing the Image Type

You can easily convert the image from PNG to JPG and vice versa using the image type selector on the bottom left of the dialog window.

Image Formats2

Skitch PNG and Skitch JPG are re-editable files. While in other applications, such as email and chat, they are are regular images. However when the file back in Skitch, and you can make edit to the annotations.

There is a significant file size difference when saving a file in Skitch PNG, as it pretty much doubles the file size than using the standard PNG type. Just something to keep in mind when attaching the file to Jira or emailing.

For most situations, the JPG file format is the best choice. I can't think of a reason why anyone would want to save a file in a legacy BMP format.

Different Menus Options

The Menu Bar and the Dock have different options when you select them. The top Menu Bar is missing Window Snapshot, Menu Snapshot, and Camera Snapshot. The Dock menu is missing the Timed Crosshair Snapshot. I am not exactly sure of the logic of why certain capture tools were excluded from each area.

Skitch Menu Options

All the capture tools have a keyboard shortcut assigned to it. I would recommend spending time getting familiar with a few of them. Knowing the "Previous Snapshot" capture shortcut is handy when your doing a before and after.

Some of the keyboard combinations are a bit weird, it will take time to get use to it.

Change Text Annotation Size

The text tool is a great way to communicate a message in an image. Did you know there is a simple way to change the size of the Text Annotation in Skitch?

When you have the text selected, simply click on the blue circle and drag to adjust the text size of the text:

Skitch Tip

Clicking on the lowercase 'a' above the text field will toggle the text outline. This is useful when you insert text in box as in the following example:

Removing the text outline makes the text in the box a bit easier to read.

I certainly recommend using Skitch. You can download it from the Apple Store for free.

May 6, 2016

Apple's App Store Search

Did you know that you can search the Apple App Store by extensions?

Want to know what applications support EPS format? Simply type in 'extension:eps' in the search bar in the upper right window:

App Store Extenstion

The search query returns a list of all the supported applications!

I don't know of other Apple Store hacks, but I thought the extension: one was pretty neat!