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Productivity

Quicksilver, one of the oldest “launchers” for Mac OS X, has reached one of its biggest milestones — the 1.0 release — a few months ago. We’ve already reviewed v1.1, and now we’re rolling out a series of how-to articles to get the most of this powerful app.

Quicksilver’s flexibility may be daunting at first. You’ve got to get your hands dirty to really see what it’s capable of. But fear not, we’ve got you covered! Last week we taught you some basic concepts. For a few weeks, we’ll have a weekly in-depth coverage of some of the most commonly-used plugins. Read on to get the most of managing your contacts and sending emails.
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Last week, we reviewed a serious alternative to launchers like Alfred and LaunchBar: Quicksilver – a program that finally came out of its 10-year long beta period a few months ago.

This software is really powerful and is relatively easy to use, yet you might miss its full potential if you don’t spend enough time with it. Let me make a few things easier for you and guide you through the steps from a complete beginner to becoming a Quicksilver master in just a few articles. This week, we’ll cover the basics that help you understand how the app works and how you can perform basic tasks on files and folders.

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We’ve all accidentally deleted an important file — or forgotten to save a file after typing up a whole page worth of changes. The latter problem is fixed with Autosave in most modern Mac apps, and the former is usually fixable if you have a Time Machine backup setup or if the deleted file was in Dropbox (where you can undelete files or roll back changes to them for up to 30 days for free, from their site).

But what if you manage to delete a file that wasn’t backed up? Or — even worse — what if you wipe your whole backup disk without meaning to? You’re going to need a disk recovery tool, one that can undelete files. I just had this happen to my personal backup disk, and after recovering from my initial panic, took Disk Drill for a spin to see how much it could get back. This time, I wasn’t just testing an app for a review: I honestly needed the app to work.

The good news: it worked, most of the way. Here’s the good, the bad, and the ugly of disk recovery, and how to get the most of your data back if you ever find yourself in a similar situation.

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A few weeks ago, LaunchBar 5.5 update brought — among other interesting things — a new feature called Snippets, which actually is a complete overhaul of its previous “Text Clippings” feature. As the devs advertised Snippets as “a serious text expansion tool”, I was curious to see how this compares to one of the references in text substitution on the Mac: TextExpander.

So, for one week, I did a little experiment: I closed TextExpander and acted as if it was never installed on my Mac, and chose to use only LaunchBar instead. Read on to find out how all of this turned out.

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If there’s one thing that consistently impresses me about my iPhones, iPads and Android devices, it’s how fast they are. My iPhone 5 in particular whizzes through web content, churning out video like butter on cellular or WiFi networks with ease. My 2008 iMac and 2012 15″ Retina MacBook Pro are both slower than I’d like when it comes to Internet use, sometimes slower than the iPhone at this point. And I’ve been looking for ways to speed them up.

Going Flash-less seemed to be the easiest answer. I’ve wanted to get Flash under control on my Macs for a while, to the point where I avoided installing it for months on the MacBook Pro. I find it just bogs up the whole system. That being said, Flash can be a necessary evil for many of us. So I’ve set out to find the best Flash alternatives for your Mac, and I’m happy to share some of the results with you now. (more…)

Writing my contribution to the Apps We Use Feature after several others makes it interesting see how many applications we have in common. Like several of the other writers I’m a recent convert to the Mac, having started using a MacBook less than two years ago.

I now use my MacBook as my main computer; however, I’ve not made the complete switch and still spend as much time within Windows during my normal day as I do my MacBook. In addition to writing here, I have a day job as an IT manager and also do consulting, mostly in networks and web development. I tend to use apps I can use in both environments, or at ones that are compatible with similar Windows programs. Here are a few apps that I turn to every day to work and organize my work.

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I recently stumbled upon a great iPad app that, as strange as it may sound, has changed the way I work with my Mac. You can read our full review of Actions on iPad.AppStorm, but in a nutshell, Actions is an app that allows you to trigger keyboard shortcuts from your iPad.

Now while this may not seem very useful or relevant, think of the amount of keyboard shortcuts apps such as Photoshop have. Now imagine being able to launch these from your iPad, visually organised in a way that makes sense to you. Or imagine harnessing the power of Automator, Keyboard Maestro or Alfred with the aid of your iPad.

Seem more appealing? Then read on for a few interesting use cases of Actions for iPad with your Mac. Since it can launch keyboard shortcuts at the tap of one finger, you can make keyboard shortcuts that’d be rather unwieldily to enter on a Mac’s keyboard, and then use them in Actions easily. And even if you don’t have an iPad or don’t want to get Actions, you’ll likely find some shortcut based tricks here that’ll speed up work on your Mac.
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Todoist—the popular online task management app—recently came out with a Mac desktop app available through the Mac App Store. The app is free, so I gave it a test run. While the app does have a couple of nice features such as a quick add shortcut and a menu bar icon that shows the number of due and overdue tasks, I quickly reverted to using Todoist with Fluid.

In case you haven’t heard, Fluid is a great utility that allows Mac users to turn any web app into a de facto desktop app, or Fluid App. Read on to discover my handy Todoist/Fluid set-up, as well as some other use cases for Fluid.

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In the previous instalment, I covered quite a few topics. Ranging from search and working with URLs to the various little neat features that make working with your Mac all the more pleasurable. As overwhelming as it all may have seemed at the time, I did warn you that there was still more to Alfred. Much more in fact.

So without further delay, let’s continue on our quest and wake this beast from its slumber once and for all.

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To the untrained eye, Alfred may seem like just another simple frontend to spotlight, allowing you to launch apps and search your Mac. However, beneath its seemingly humble facade lies a dormant beast. A powerful and flexible beast, that is, that with a little knowledge can be woken from its slumber to bring your productivity to new heights.

Join me on this epic quest as we set free the beast within Alfred and have it do your bidding.

Be sure to check out second article on Alfred to find even more productivity tips and tricks.

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