Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Customising the Mac

One of the things that I really like about the Mac is that there are so many little applications that you can buy or get for free which customise basic uses and procedures using the computer. It isn't that the standard set up of the Mac is anyway bad, it is just that all of us use a computer in different ways and therefore is ripe for personal customisation. I only have to look at the menu bar on my iMac to see that there are a lot of little extras I have added to my personal set up for Mac computing. Today I have been setting up a couple of extra applications to add more functionality and give me some extra ease of use.

Doing things with DropZone


I have added the application DropZone which I got in the latest Mac Heist bundle. This makes it very easy for me to take a file and do a number of things with it. I have set it up with Flickr and I can drag a picture file to the right side of my screen and the dropzones that I have configured will pop out. Dropping the file onto the Flickr dropzone will send that file off to the web. There are a number of other things that you can set up to do, such as moving or copying files to a specific folder. I will be also looking into other connections that I can make with this application. I see that it is very easy to use this for launching often used applications, if I move the mouse cursor to the right-hand side of the screen I get the option to pop out the circles.

Dealing with the Trickster


Trickster is an application which I had on my Mac before and I found it to be quite useful and today I set it up so that it starts automatically when I open up my Mac. I have only just reinstalled it since upgrading to Mavericks. I had found it useful before, but had forgotten about it and only remembered when I heard another blogger talking about it in a podcast recently. What this application does is to keep an eye on certain folders that you can specify and the files which appear in those folders. You can set the view so that it shows the list of files by date and this is very handy for a file that you were working on today or yesterday and you want to get back to it quickly without having to open up the Finder window. If there are a lot of files that you have been opening then you can filter down the files by using a search term.

Getting the Canary out of the cage

There is a developmental version of Google Chrome called Canary. I only just found out about it and decided to add it to my Mac because it gives me a menu bar icon giving me access to Google Now. What Google Now does is to look at what you are doing with your life and pops up info to your Android devices and now also the Mac. It gives you information sometimes before you know you even need it. I like to use Google Now to know when the next game is being played by Barcelona Football Club and it will also give me the scores after the games have been played. It gives me the local weather as well as information about birthdays of the people I am connected to on Google+. At the moment what it does is fairly simple, but it is something that is gradually getting better and offering more information. A good thing about this Canary version of Google Chrome is the fact that I can have it installed alongside the normal version of the application. I find that it suits me to have Google+ in the Canary version and to run my general web browsing in the other one.

More file finding with Houdahspot

There are times when you are trying to find a file and you can't remember the name of the file, but you can remember some of the words that you used within it. Houdahspot is an excellent application which gives you all sorts of super search facilities including a fuzzy search. You can combine various searches creatively to really specify exactly what it is you are looking for. There is also a menubar icon for this application called Blitz Search and this is a good way to get the Houdahspot application started and then further refine what it is you're looking for in the main window of the application.
All you have to do with Houdahspot is to fill in the details of what it is you are looking for in the what, where, exclude and limit sections of the application. Once you get used to howe this application works and you know how to make it look for things when ANY of the following is true or ALL of the following is true you will find that it is an extremely powerful searching tool for the Mac. Spotlight on steroids.

Launch Bar or Alfred


As I have been using it for some time, Alfred is my preferred application for using as a Mac Application launcher. This is also because it can do a lot of different things as well as launching applications. I sometimes use Alfred to do a quick calculation and I also have a few other extras programmed in also, but I only use those rarely. I was tempted this week to give LaunchBar a try, as it was also included in the Mac Heist bundle. I haven't added it yet, but there are many people that swear by it and I might be tempted to give it a try when I have a little bit of free time to spare.

Textexpander and DragonDictate

In the previous version of Mac OS X I was having to switch off Textexpander whenever I started to use DragonDictate, especially when I was using DragonDictate in other applications. There seemed to be some sort of bug which made it so that those two applications didn't work well together. Now that the dust has settled with Mavericks I find that I can forget about having to switch off Textexpander while I am using DragonDictate.
It really is very useful having an application that will fill in things like email addresses and complete web addresses with a couple of key taps. For example, I can put in the whole of my email address by typing in ,,w. This is very handy as I find I often have to enter an email address into a web form and by using Textexpander I know that I will always enter it correctly without any typos.
Of course, all of this article has been written using DragonDictate while I have my feet up on the desk and I am leaning back in my chair in a very relaxed mode.