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Apple made a controversial change in Snow Leopard. It’s a fairly system-level one, though, so perhaps the majority of users will not have had any issues with it – but it’s made some experienced Mac users pretty unhappy. What’s changed is the way in which files open when double-clicked.

It used to be that OS X embedded what’s known as a Creator Code in new files, so that the system knew to open files within the applications that made them. Rob Griffiths published a discussion of this behaviour, and the changes in Snow Leopard, in Macworld back in September last year. Have a read of that piece, and the lengthy comments that accompany it, if you want to understand the issue better.

I haven’t been impacted by this change to a great degree, but one of the applications that comes up in discussion of ways of fixing the change, and giving back more control over what applications open files, caught my eye. Michel Fortin’s Magic Launch is a Preference Pane that lets you manipulate file-opening in ways that allow you a great deal of flexibility.

It solves the problem of Creator Codes being removed, but it also adds some excellent functionality, and that means it’s well worth a look even if you’re untroubled by the main issue it addresses.

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We’ve taken a look at the various different screenshot apps for OS X previously, but I’d like to focus on one in particular today. Skitch is a combination of a desktop application and web service that makes capturing and sharing screenshots fun.

As well as all the functionality you’d expect from a traditional screenshot app (or OS X itself), you can annotate your captured image, easily drag out the result, or publish it to your Skitch.com page in a few simple steps. Read on to find out how the application works, and whether it’s for you!

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Despite Apple having done a great job of streamlining the process of app switching on OS X, it’s easy to reach a point where having many applications open can become a jumbled mess. Making sense of a maddening scene full of application windows, open folders and several documents can make it difficult to get anything done.

Spaces was Apple’s answer to the chaos, but for those that don’t find it deep or intuitive enough, Many Tricks’ Witch may provide a way out. This is an app that promises to do a better job than Spaces, Expose and Command-Tab ever could in making switching through any open window elegantly easy.

And since Witch installs into System Preferences, the level of customization is pretty high, which can be a bonus for those looking to have maximum control of what’s open and where. Let’s take a look at how it works!

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When I wrote about Leech a few weeks ago, I made a few comparisons with YazSoft’s Speed Download.

Some of the comments on that review asked why anyone would use a download manager when most modern browsers have excellent download management built in. I thought the answers given were quite convincing, and it seemed that quite a few people do already use such apps, or might be in the market for one.

The short version of my own feelings about Speed Download is that I’ve never gotten on with it, though I own a licence and have used it on and off for the past year or so. But since there is a demand for download managers, and since Speed Download is well-known and widely used, I thought it would be worthwhile giving it another look and seeing whether or not my assessment was fair.

Join us after the jump for a walkthrough of its capabilities, and my personal judgement of whether looking at it again has changed my view of Speed Download.

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When you own a PC, you need to pay attention to things like defragmenting your hard-drives, installing and updating antivirus, antivandal and firewall software. If you switch to a Mac, you need worry a lot less about such things. I’m not saying you should be complacent, but things generally just work much more easily and straightforwardly.

Your Mac has built-in maintenance routines that run periodically, and – for the most part – you will have a simpler computing experience that requires you to spend much less time under the hood tweaking things.

If you’ve made the switch from a PC, one thing that you might find yourself wondering about is defragmenting your hard-drive. Today we’re delving into that topic, and taking a look at iDefrag. After the jump, I’ll walk you through the app, and conclude with some reflections on whether or not you need it.

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Compartments by LittleFin is a home inventory application. In other words, it’s built to help catalog and track any and all of your worldly belongings, from software licenses, to furniture, to your brand new car.

Compartments doesn’t track anything purely financial, like loans or investments; it’s strictly limited to possessions, although those possessions can be digital files or information. It’s especially aimed at people who want to have a full inventory of their belongings in case of a disaster.

As LittleFin’s website points out, having a home inventory prepared in advance can mean less to worry about if an unexpected event should claim your house. Let’s take a look at the app, and see how it works!

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Earlier this year, everyone’s favorite blog editor announced a completely new version. MarsEdit 3 introduces a number of new and powerful features that address most if not all of the shortfalls we pointed out in a previous review.

Today we’ll give a brief overview of MarsEdit for newcomers. Along the way we’ll point out all of the new features and discuss how much they improve the overall experience.

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Keeping applications up-to-date on my Macbook is definitely one of my weaker areas. I tend to delay installing the Apple updates for as long as possible, especially if it requires a restart of the computer, and will then do a bulk install every couple of weeks.

Updating my applications, plugins and widgets often doesn’t even figure in my mind, unless prompted on launching said piece of software. But the problem with that is that a lot of OS X software doesn’t include an update checker.

From a security point of view this could possibly leave my Mac open to being infected or hacked through a loophole in one of the programs, which would have been fixed had I installed the update that I didn’t even know about.

AppFresh from MetaQuark aims to help solve that problem by providing a one-stop-shop for updating applications, widgets, preference panes and application plugins without having to even go looking for the updates yourself.

If the software is listed on osx.iusethis.com, then AppFresh will be able to look for an update, download and install it to your Mac and remove any old version if necessary….all with just the click of a couple of buttons. It can even grab official Apple updates. Keeping your software up-to-date needn’t be a hassle anymore!

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There was a time when having a download manager made a real difference to one’s experience of using the internet. There are places where this is still true. A few years ago, I spent a month in a remote part of India, where I struggled to top 2k download speeds with my laptop’s modem connecting via a fixed line. I literally waited an hour some days just to download a morning’s email.

A download manager wouldn’t have helped all that much with those messages, but it would have made a huge difference if I had wanted to download any software, music or video files.

That’s the most common use of a download manager: pausing and restarting downloads, scheduling them for later in the day, perhaps after you’ve gone to bed, so that massive download can be ready and waiting in the morning. There are now a number of download managers that can do a whole lot more than this. Speed Download has been the big-hitter for a long time, but (though I bought a licence for the app) I’ve never got along with it.

Recently, I’ve switched over to using Leech, which makes no claim to being as powerful, but turns out to be an excellent, lightweight option that might just do everything you need.

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My work requires me to keep confidential notes. I hunted around for some time to find the best way of doing this on my Mac, and tried several different options. What I used for a long time was password-protected entries in either Yojimbo, VoodooPad or Together. Unfortunately, in each case I felt something was missing.

I also tried Espionage. What I liked about this solution was the simplicity of making my notes in plain text files and dropping them into folders, which were then securely encrypted as a whole. I found, though, that I was prompted far too often to supply passwords to unlock the archives it creates so that online backups or other apps could interact with them. What I discovered instead was another app that did a similar job but required far less interaction: Knox.

Knox was already a well-established app when, back in May, it was acquired by Agile Web Solutions, the folks who brought us the excellent (and I would say essential) 1Password. After the jump we’ll walk through Knox’s main features so you can see if it matches your way of working.

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