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I’ve written this review twice now. The first time was in the heat of the moment. I was excited about Knock — a new app that was getting a lot of hype from the usual tech pundits, and I was enjoying it after just a few minutes of use. I was typing wildly like I was on a bender.

But then I told myself to calm down. Knock was cool, yes. But did it deserve my excessive praise? I figured I should let it soak in for a few days and see how it goes; analyze the app and see what solution it solves. And now that I’ve cooled off a bit, what’s the verdict? Well … (more…)

Two weeks ago at their special fall event, Apple released the much anticipated updates for its iWork suite. It’s been the biggest rework of the apps since the iWork suite was first launched. The apps bear a fresh, brand new UI but leave behind useful features, especially those that were most-loved by at power users. There’s been a lot of controversy about these apps over the past weeks, as is readily apparent from the comments on our Pages and Keynote reviews.

Numbers, Apple’s spreadsheet app that’s now in its 3rd version, is not an exception to the trend seen thus far in the new iWork apps. It’s simplified, looks much like the other new apps in the suite, and gets rid of some features that some of you might consider essential. Here’s my impressions on what I’ve always considered a powerful yet super easy to use combination of a free form spreadsheet processor and data visualizer.

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Logic and MainStage just got sizable updates back in July, bringing them to version 10 and 3 respectively. Now it’s time for GarageBand, Apple’s free DAW (digital audio workstation), to get an overhaul. At the Apple event this month, the company gave its iLife suite a facelift, with the exception of iPhoto. iMovie and GarageBand now resemble their iOS counterparts, and GarageBand X (it’s version 10) has been modeled after Logic Pro X.

GarageBand X is sporting lots of new features, from Drummer to iCloud sync. We just hope it hasn’t lost anything special. (more…)

Among the many apps unveiled at Apple’s Fall special event were long-overdue new versions of the iWork apps for the Mac. We had to wait almost five years to see Keynote version bump from 5.0 (aka iWork ’09) to 6.0, which was almost as long as the wait between between 1.0 and 5.0. But it’s been worth the wait for the most part.

The brand new Keynote 6 brings a completely revamped UI and new features to Apple’s venerable presentation app. Let’s see how far Apple went in re-thinking the app that powers all of the company’s own presentations.

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Microsoft Word has long been the word processor for the masses. Whether people like it or not, they have to use the .doc format to submit things to their superiors. Slowly, however, a new generation of apps is arising. OpenOffice and LibreOffice are leading the way in open source word processors, and there are lots of great Markdown tools out there for the pseudo-coder. For the average user, though, the best way to write an essay or report for work is using Pages.

Unfortunately, Apple’s small app doesn’t get much recognition, since it’s not available outside their ecosystem. It also didn’t appeal to some people because of the cost. Well, that’s all about to change in Pages 5. During the special event this week, Apple unveiled a new version of its word processor, making it more powerful and attractive than ever. Best of all, people who buy new Macs get it for free. So just how good is this essential piece of the new iWork suite? (more…)

15 months after OS X Mountain Lion was released, Apple’s upgraded the OS that started it all. This time, though, it’s the name of a surfing location in California that graces the latest OS X instead of another cat name — but then, it is hard to top a Lion when it’s the king of cats.

So OS X Mavericks 10.9 it is. It’s the last OS before Apple either decided to use a two digit number after 10 or bumps the number up to 11 — or totally rebrands it as OS Xi, my personal favorite prediction. And instead of being a sweeping UI overhaul of the OS like the dramatic changes in iOS 7, OS X Mavericks is a release that’s almost not noticeable at first. You could use a Mac running Mavericks and not notice it wasn’t running Mountain Lion if you weren’t looking close — it’s that similar.

And yet, it’s not the same. Mavericks is a core release that makes OS X faster, more power efficient, and brings some great new apps and power user features along for the ride. It’s the foundation of things to come, and yet, it’s going to be a great OS for the next year in the mean time. And it’s 100% free for all Macs, so there’s no reason not to upgrade.

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Odds are, you’ve never tried to use your Mac as a dash-mounted GPS. The thought likely never crossed your mind. And yet, if you ever plan trips before leaving, or perhaps still print out paper maps as a backup against vacation disasters, you likely still visit Google Maps online semi-frequently. You might even have Google Earth around still for the occasional scenic virtual stroll around the globe.

Maps for Mac is now the best way to plan your trips, if you’re comfortable relying on Apple’s maps data. It’s nothing groundbreaking, but it’s a nice extra on the Mac, one you’ll likely find yourself reaching for instead opening a new tab for Google Maps.

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Steve Jobs infamously quipped in ’97 that “Internet Explorer is a really good browser”, then followed up 6 years later by unveiling Safari and predicting that “many will feel it’s the best browser ever created. A decade later, and Safari commands around 14% of the browser market — and additionally, derivatives of its Webkit core power Safari and Opera as well, which have a combined marketshare of around 32%.

iOS is largely responsible for Safari’s large browser share today, but on the Mac, Safari still gives you the smoothest browsing experience. Apple’s maintained that with Safari 7 in OS X Mavericks, and thrown in some extra features that make browsing nicer, even if Safari’s not competing in the web app’s world the way Google’s Chrome is. It’s the browser still focused on making browsing nice.

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Finder’s demise has long been foretold. It hasn’t received much love since Snow Leopard’s release, and the addition of iCloud seemed to spell doom for the way we’ve always managed files. And then, WWDC 2013 happened, and the lowly Finder was back in the spotlight (ahem).

Some of OS X Mavericks’ most exciting new features are in Finder and the ways it can help you find and manage your files more easily. There’s tabs in Finder at long last, along with tags that happen to make iCloud files more accessible to other apps of all things. It’s time to take a deep look at the essential underpinning app to the Mac: Finder.

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iOS is the favored child at Apple these days. Most new features in Mavericks — and, indeed, in OS X Lion before — were features that came first on iOS, and even the Darwin Kernel version in iOS is always one version ahead of its OS X counterpart. The Mac still doesn’t have Siri, the iPhone’s iconic chatty assistant, but it does have a leg up on iOS in one Siri-like feature: Dictation.

Dictation has its roots in Mac OS Classic’s PlainTalk Speakable Items introduced in the days of System 7 in 1993. That core is the tried-and-true VoiceOver and Voice Commands in OS X, but it never was perfect for dictating text. Then iOS and Siri came along, and Apple brought iOS-style server-powered dictation to the Mac with Mountain Lion. It was far more accurate, but far more limited, and required you to be online for dictation to work.

In Mavericks, Dictation on the Mac has once again pulled ahead of its iOS counterpart, with continuous, offline dictation that works as good or better than the version in Mountain Lion. And there’s still the voice commands, now in a reworked settings pane, that together make the Mac the most accessible computer out-of-the-box.

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