Ask the Mac.AppStorm Editor #9

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.

Today I’ll be offering some advice about software for managing your font library, explaining a (slightly geeky) process for taking a look at the applications accessing your hard drive, suggesting software for helping with academic research, and helping a reader get to grips with GeekTool.

Read on for plenty of handy Mac knowledge, and I hope you’ll find most of it useful for your own situation as well!

The fonts on my Mac are a mess. I use Font Book to keep things ‘organised’, but I’m frankly not doing a good enough job.

– Ian Yates

Although Font Book is a good basic solution for managing a basic collection of fonts, there are more powerful solutions out there. A popular solution is FontExplorer X, though it’s fairly expensive at EUR 79 (around $109).

Another option you may like to take a look at is Fontcase. Priced at $53, it’s a very “Mac-like” way to manage your font collection, and make sure that everything remains well organised and consistent.

The Fontcase Interface

The Fontcase Interface

We’ve actually written about Fontcase twice before:

Hopefully these will give you a good idea of what the app is capable of, and help you in your font management conundrum!

I’m looking for a program that can provide information about what processes and applications are accessing the hard drive. Any tips?

– Henrik

This is a really interesting question. Although it’s easy to see the RAM and processor usage of various applications in Activity Monitor, tracking the applications that are accessing your hard drive is a slightly more complicated task.

There is a way to do this, but things are going to get a little bit technical. We’ll be using Terminal, and a command called fs_usage which shows – in real-time – everything related to the accessing of your filesystem.

If you simply run this command in the Terminal, you’ll be presented with a rapidly updating list of disk activity, which is too quick to really appreciate. Instead, we’ll write the results to a file that we can come back to and analyse later. Here’s the command to run:

sudo fs_usage -w > ~/Desktop/usage.txt

You’ll need to enter your administrator password, and then you should see the file appear on your desktop. Use your computer as normal, until the issue or problem you’re wanting to diagnose occurs. When you’re ready to review the log, go back to Terminal and hit Ctrl-C to stop logging disk activity.

The Output Results

The Output Results

Open up the file (it’s likely to be fairly large!), and search through by application (or time) to try and track down the cause of the problem!

If there’s an easier solution to this, I’d love to hear it. Feel free to post in the comments!

How do you use GeekTool, and remove it if necessary?

– Chris

GeekTool is a fun little Preference Pane app that allows widget-like functionality on a highly customizable level. You can add all manner of near widgets and data snippets to your desktop, and adjust how they look and feel.

It’s a fairly technical idea (if you were expecting Dashboard-like functionality, you’ll be disappointed), but can be fun to play around with if you’re a fan of tinkering with your machine.

We’ve published a great tutorial on this very topic, entitled Make Your Desktop Come Alive with GeekTool. In this, we walk you through the process of installing GeekTool, setting up a script, and adding a large clock display to your desktop.

GeekTool is pretty cool!

GeekTool is pretty cool!

We also point you in the direction of where to look for more GeekTool scripts – there are plenty to choose from!

If you decide that you don’t want to run the app any longer, getting rid of it is fairly easy. You’ll need to use the GeekTool uninstalled to get rid of everything completely (just trashing the Preference Pane app won’t work).

This comes bundled with the downloadable GeekTool package:

Uninstalling GeekTool

Uninstalling GeekTool

I would like to know what is the best Mac app for helping with the academic research process?

– Justyna

I alway like being able to give a very straight answer to a question, and this is an easy one to solve! By far and away the best application for this purpose is Papers, which offers all the functionality you could need for academic research.

Manage academic papers with... Papers!

Manage academic papers with... Papers!

You can organise all your research, scan papers, generate a bibliography automatically, automatically detect meta data, and even take everything with you on your iPhone or iPad!

It’s priced at $79, but is worth every cent if you’re going to be working on a long dissertation or academic project.

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!