This week's Pick of the Week is a revisit to a previous Pick of the Week. Back then, Keyboard Maestro was just an application switcher. In its new 2.0 incarnation, it's now an application switcher, a window switcher, a clipboard switcher, and (most interesting to me) a keyboard macro creation tool. The clipboard switcher lets you have any number of items on the clipboard, and you can then paste any specific clipboard with a simple keystroke. This is a great way to store often-used logos, signatures, etc. The application switcher has some very nice features, including the assignable hot keys, the ability to have the switcher window open under the mouse, and scalable icon sizes. For instance, here's my switcher panel:
There's also a separate window switcher which brings up a palette of open windows within any application -- this alone makes it worth the asking price for me! In Photoshop Elements, there's no simple way to switch between open images (unless I'm missing something obvious and yet well hidden!). You either have to click on a portion of the image or use the Window menu -- command-tilde won't even cycle between them. With KM 2.0, I just hit Control-Tab and pick the image I wish to work with from a floating palette.
Finally, the macro tool is quite well done. Macros are, by their very nature, complex to write. This makes it tricky to write an easy-to-use macro creation app. KM may not be perfect in this regard, but it's quite good. I was able to easily create some menu-activating macros that save me time each day. One of them selects Photoshop Elements 3's "New Image from Clipboard" menu item, which is buried in a sub-menu of File -> New. Now, regardless of which app I'm in, once I have a graphic on the clipboard, I just hit Shift-Command-Control-E (user assignable, of course), and the graphic appears in a new image in Elements. I've also set some macros up to set Artis' SmallScreen to various resolutions.
I've barely touched the surface of what KM can do; if you're interested in a good all-around utility to add to your tool set, give it a look.
This week's Pick of the Week was based on several hint submissions over the last few months. Each of these read something like "Did you know you can scroll web pages in Safari by just holding down the Control key, and then moving the mouse up and down?" Every time I tried this, regardless of which machine or OS X version, it failed. After some exchanges with one of the hint authors, we figured it out -- it's the Saft extension that brings this useful feature to Safari. Saft is an extension that adds a whole slew of new features and new menu items to Safari. In addition to the above-mentioned scrolling feature, here are a few of Saft's other enhancements:
Adds a "Add Bookmark Here" submenu to Safari's Bookmarks -> Bookmkark Folder Name menu; this lets you very easily file a new bookmark in the proper folder.
Force all new windows to open in tabs instead -- even things like pop-up ads, etc.
Save your opened tabs as a 'workspace' when you quit Safari, and reopen them on launch.
Two new submenus in Edit -> Find let you search Bookmarks and History -- this is a very very cool feature!
A new "Bookmark this group of tabs" menu item lets you create a tab group very easily.
Use Control and 1 through 9 to pop-open bookmark folders on your shortcuts bar. Apple uses Command-1 through 9 to activate individual bookmarks, but this fails if you have a folder in one of those spots. Saft lets you use Control and 1 through 9 to pop open the bookmark folder and then select an individual site via the arrow keys or mouse.
Adds a ton of other search engines (including macosxhints) to the Google search box.
Change the default HTTPD timeout from 60 seconds to something longer. I've had to do this on a couple of very slow-loading sites. Before, the only option was to use another browser.
Export any web page as a one-page PDF, instead of multiple pages.
Create shortcuts to websites, search engines, etc. There are a bunch of pre-defined ones in Saft's prefernces. For example, typing osxh finder will search macosxhints.com for hints containing the word 'finder.'
Type-ahead searching; type a few characters, and Safari will hilite matching words on the page.
These are just a few of the more interesting features; Saft does more. There's a free demo available; it will pop-up an annoying message until you register Saft. After having used it for only a few days now, though, my $10 is now headed in their direction. Saft really does make Safari more usable -- I still prefer Firefox, but Safari + Saft is now a stronger competitor for my browsing time.
I'm guessing that this week's PotW will be disliked by many, as it clearly reflects one's personal preferences in newsreaders (programs like NetNewsWire Lite, for instance). My work habits don't lend themselves to traditional newsreaders; I don't usually have the time to sit down and page through screen after screen of updates on numerous websites -- my newsreading time comes in odd (small) snippets and chunks of time throughout the day. So I end up probably reading less news than most people, as I do so by only regularly visiting the handful of sites that I find truly interesting.
But recently I stumbled on Tickershock, which presents RSS feeds in a unique manner -- as seen here [2.2mb QT movie, reduced 50% from true size]. Instead of presenting an application window with some form of site and headline manager, Tickershock puts a scrolling list of headlines on your screen. You control the speed, font, color, location, etc. of the ticker to suit your tastes -- I have it positioned at the bottom of my 'alternate' monitor, moving relatively slowly. If you don't like ticker-style updates, there's an optional billboard mode that shows the headlines in a static panel.
For me, this is the perfect newsreader, as I can just let it sit there and slowly scroll by. When I have a free minute or two, I'll glance over at the scroller and see if anything catches my eye. When I'm busy, the ticker is positioned and set at a speed that I really don't notice it at all -- this is the feature that I know some (many?) will hate, as they find motion on the screen distracting. But with the speed and colors I've chosen, I find the scroller blends right into the background when I'm not actively looking at it. And yet, when I want news blurbs, they're but a flick of the eyeballs (and mouse) away. Like any good modern RSS newsreader, Tickershock includes a bundled WebKit browser, or you can click a button to jump to your default OS X browser.
Probably not a pick for everyone, but if you like having news available and don't mind a bit of onscreen motion, Tickershock is worth a look...
Yes, it's another web-development-related PotW. Sorry, but I'm pretty heavily into the new site's development, and have been spending way too much time in multiple browsers, editors, and forums figuring out how to make the new site even better. The Firefox Web Developer Extension (WDE for short from now on), which I discovered after reading about it in the comments to a previous PotW, has become an invaluable part of the process. This free plug-in adds a handy toolbar, just above your tabs, with all sorts of interesting features. In the image at the top left of this hint, for instance, it's outlining all of the table cells on CNN's homepage (click the image or here for a full-size version):
In addition to making table layouts relatively obvious, the other WDE feature I've been using a lot is the "Edit CSS" menu -- this puts the site's CSS in the Firefox sidebar, and any changes you make in the sidebar are immediately reflected in the page. There's even a "Reset all," which will restore the functional CSS after I mess it up with my changes :). This is a great way to learn about CSS, as you can see what each line does to the page (note: don't start with something complex like CNN.com!).
This is just scratching the surface of WDE; among its myriad other features are the ability to find broken images, display image dimensions, find missing ALT and TITLE attributes, display a whole bunch of info about the page, clear the cache (very useful, even if you're not a web developer), reset the 'visited' state of all links on the page, resize the window for smaller displays, and an easy way to send the page to the HTML, CSS, etc. validators.
If you do any web development at all, you'll probably find a use for the WDE -- I know I've given it quite a workout in the few weeks I've been using it!
This Pick is long overdue; I've owned and used various versions of DiskWarrior for a number of years. It's one of those programs that I consider essential, yet it's (hopefully!) seldom used. DiskWarrior is a drive recovery and (to some extent) preventative maintenance tool. You only need it when you have a disk in trouble, but at those times, it can be a lifesaver. DiskWarrior uses a special method to examine a 'crashed' drive, create a new master directory of the disk's contents, and then lets you examine the new directory before writing it to the drive. If all goes well, you wind up with your disk functional again, and all of your data intact.
What finally drove me to select DiskWarrior this week was some odd activity on my G5 yesterday. I was working away when I noticed that my desktop picture changed from a selection of family images to the standard Aqua Blue JPEG. This happened without an error message or a crash of any sort. Finding it somewhat odd, to say the least, I opened the Desktop and Screensavers panel to reactivate my images ... only to find the iPhoto folder missing (I have my iPhoto library stored on a partition on the second SATA drive in my G5). A quick look in the Finder verified that my "videospace" partition had just vanished. Checking in the Terminal, there was definitely nothing mounted in /Volumes. I fired up Apple's Disk Utility, which could see the partition, and ran a Repair on it. After a very short amount of time, it claimed that it (a) had found nothing wrong and (b) had fixed whatever wasn't wrong with the drive. Needless to say, I still couldn't get it to mount.
For the third week in a row, this week's pick is related to my work on the future version of macosxhints (which is making great progress, now that I can spend nearly two full days a week on it!). Previously, I touched on a utility to display screen sizes and a CSS editor; this time, it's a handy little PHP reference manual.
PHP is the language that powers the Geeklog engine, which in turn creates the pages you are reading now. Not being a programmer by training, I know just enough about PHP to get myself into trouble. That's where the PHP Function Index comes in. This desktop application lists all the PHP functions and their explanations, directly from the PHP documentation. This information is available for free, of course, on the documentation pages at php.net. The advantage of having the docs in an OS X app, to me anyway, is that you get a nice, non-browser interface with quick searchability and an easy-to-use bookmarking feature (for your often-visited commands).
There are three license levels for the PHP Function Index -- the free version is for users who don't make any money doing PHP development; the $8.50 version is for those who make less than 50% of their income doing PHP coding, and the $16.50 version is for professional PHP coders.
Installation is relatively easy, though you do have to download the documentation yourself (to insure the program has the most current version). I gave it a 9 out of 10 for one reason only -- the online manual has the option to see user-submitted comments, some of which are a great help in further explaining how to use the various commands. As far as I can tell, there's no way to load the user-commented pages into PHP Function Index. Other than that, though, this useful little program helped me muddle through yet another trivial (for a pro!) Geeklog modification...
Now that I've got more time to work on the site, I've been hard at work on getting Mac OS X Hints migrated to the latest version of Geeklog (1.3.9). As part of that effort, I've also been working on a new theme for the site (yes, it will see the light of day in the near future!), and that means lots of fighting with CSS. I find working with CSS particularly difficult, as I haven't spent much time with it, so I know just enough to be dangerous.
But that's where CSSEdit comes in. This handy little app is perhaps the only real CSS editor for OS X; there are many other programs that will do CSS syntax highlighting, but CSSEdit takes the complexity of style sheets and (mostly) hides it behind a very intuitive user interface. That's not to say that you can use CSSEdit effectively with no CSS knowledge -- you'll still have to understand the basics on your own (see the above link for more info). But once you have a basic understanding, CSSEdit can help greatly reduce the difficulty involved in managing a complex stylesheet.
Late again, I know. No good excuses this time, just been busy with a lot of stuff. Some of that stuff involves designing the next major upgrade to macosxhints, which means I've been spending a lot of time looking at various layouts, trying to make sure they work for as many viewers as possible. One of my goals is to make sure that macosxhints will fit in an 800 pixel wide browser window, which is about as narrow as it can possibly get. To test the design's look at this small size, I've been using ARTIS Software's Small Screen program, which is part of their Screen Tools package.
Small Screen creates a thin black border that 'floats' over all other windows. You choose the size you'd like to see -- 800x600, 1024x768, 1280x1024, or a custom size, and the outlines then appear on the screen. You can then resize various browser windows to fit the outlines, giving you an instant look at your site on a smaller screen. A simple tool, and it does its job well.
My only wish is for some sort of 'global shortcut' for switching screen sizes. As it works now, if you want to switch between the various window sizes, you first have to switch to Small Screen, then invoke a hotkey for the desired size, and then switch back to the browser window. I'm not sure exactly how it would work, but I'd love to be able to make a global hotkey for it that would work in any app, so I can save the first switch.
For your $9.95, you actually get the full Screen Tools package, which also includes a screen ruler, a "loupe" to magnify a portion of the screen and capture the pixel color to the clipboard, and (very useful) screen guides, which allow you to add alignment guides to programs that don't support them natively. Quite a bargain, and you can try all four of them before you decide to fork over your $9.95.
This week's Pick of the Week is somewhat delayed, due to my travels this week. It's also directly related to what I did this week, so I don't feel too badly about the delay. On Tuesday and Wednesday, I gave a "Living with OS X" presentation to a couple of Oregon Mac user groups. The presentation was made in Keynote, and I was looking for a good way to control it remotely so that I could move about the room a bit. At the suggestion of a friend, I tried out Salling Clicker, which I had last looked at shortly after it had come out. Needless to say, much had changed in the year or so since I last looked at it -- and changed in a very good way. Read on for some details on just what you can do with Salling Clicker and a compatible Bluetooth device.
Note: Due to the late finish in Eugene, followed by the 100+ mile drive home, this is today's only hint. Late night arrivals and early morning starts don't seem to work very well for me!
Last week, a browser add-on. This week, a browser. OmniWeb has been here before; OmniWeb 4 was actually the very first Pick of the Week, way back in February of 2002! At the time, OmniWeb was the only Cocoa browser for OS X, and it looked head and shoulders better than anything else out there.
A lot has changed in two-plus years. Now we have Safari, which is the dominant browser on the Mac. And we have Camino, Firefox, Mozilla, Netscape, iCab, and probably another five or six I'm forgetting about. So why would anyone need OmniWeb's $29.95 solution when there's a glut of free alternatives out there? The short answer is "you don't." Nobody needs any one particular browser; we all gravitate to the ones we think work and look the best to us.
Long ago, I had stopped using OmniWeb 4, even though I'd purchased it, as there were just too many better free options. But OmniWeb 5 has now been released, and so I thought it merited another look on my part ... and I'm glad I took the time to check it out; it has some amazing new features. The Omni Group has built their new browser chock full of just about every geeky power tool you can think of. Read on for a few examples...