Ask the Mac.AppStorm Editor #4

It’s time for another “Ask the Editor” post today. A big thank you to everyone who sent in their questions – it’s great to have the chance to help you out with your Mac-related queries and quibbles.

Some of the topics covered this week include tagging your photographs in iPhoto, whether you need to defragment your Mac’s hard drive, sharing specific folders across your network, and how to know when the time is right to upgrade your Mac!

What software can I use to have a library of photos with multiple, fully searchable, tags?

– Guido

Although you mentioned in your question that iPhoto isn’t capable of doing this, I’m pleased to let you know that you can! The process is fairly straight-forward – just pick a photo, then click “Info” towards the lower right. If you don’t see the “Keywords” panel displaying on the right, click “View > Keywords” to show it.

iPhoto Keywords

iPhoto Keywords

You can then type in various keywords (tags, essentially), and those you’ve used before will be suggested automatically. After tagging your photos, searching for a relevant keyword will show that image as a match.

There are plenty of other apps available for the Mac that support photo tagging as well. If you need a more powerful implementation, try Lightroom, Aperture, or even Picasa!

I’m looking to upgrade my 20″ 2007 iMac to a 27″ 2010 iMac. Is this a good time to upgrade? Also, is it worth paying extra for the 256GB SSD or should I get the 1TB disk?

– Torsten C.

One of my favourite websites for investigating this type of issue is the MacRumours Buyer’s Guide. This page lists all the different Mac models currently available, shows how long each previous upgrade cycle has been historically, and predicts how long it will be until the next update to this particular hardware line.

Is this a good time to upgrade?

Is this a good time to upgrade?

At present, you can see that the iMac is “mid product cycle”. It’s just over 100 days since the last upgrade, and historically the iMac has been updated every 226 days. Of course, this is just a best guess – it could be way out! All things considered, now is a pretty good time to consider buying a new iMac.

If you’re happy to pay extra for the 256GB SSD, I’d certainly recommend it. You can buy a 1TB external drive for next to nothing, and the extra investment would be best spent on a solid state internal drive. That is, unless you have a specific need for a large amount of internal storage.

How can I share a specific folder with other people on my network? For example, a web project is based in my “Sites” folder. How do I share this specific folder with collegues?

– Erik

By default, your Mac is set up to only share the “Public” folder in your home directory. This makes file sharing across your network fairly safe, and prevents people from seeing the contents of your whole hard drive!

One way to add a new shared folder is through System Preferences. Open the “Sharing” panel, and click on “File Sharing” in the left-hand menu. You’ll then see a list of the currently shared folders on the right.

You can add a new one by clicking the “+” icon – in your case, add the specific folder inside the “Sites” directory. After doing this, you can set what type of access other people have; Read Only, Write Only, or Read & Write.

Setting Up New Shared Folders

Setting Up New Shared Folders

Another method for doing this would be through a web service such as Dropbox. This would have the added advantage of allowing people to contribute to the shared folder from anywhere, even if they aren’t on the same network.

Why don’t you need to defragment a Mac?

– John

In years and operating systems past, defragmenting your hard drive was a common occurrence, and good practice to ensure the smooth, speedy running of your computer. As technology has come along over the past few years, defragmenting a drive isn’t nearly as important as it used to be.

Apple’s documentation generally advises against the need for defragmenting your drive, citing various technical reasons – some specific to the way OS X works, others related to the general improvement in hard drive technology.

The bottom line is that while you don’t need to defragment your Mac’s hard drive, if you regularly work with very large video/audio files and notice a gradual slow-down when using these files, it might not be a bad idea to give it a try. Equally, if you’ve been running with a very low amount of disk space for an extended period of time, defragmenting could help to speed things up.

For further reading, check out the support article above, or this short piece on when it might be necessary to defragment. If you do decide to give this process a try, be sure to read our review of iDefrag, one of the leading Mac utilities for doing just this!

Didn’t See Your Question?

If you asked a question but didn’t have it answered today, don’t worry! I’ll do my best to get to it in a future week. I love a challenge, so feel free to ask some weird and wonderful questions…

If you’d like to submit your query, you can do so here:

Thanks for reading, and let me know if you agree or disagree with anything I mentioned today!