Alternote Review

One of the most prominent apps when thinking about productivity is without a doubt the green note-taking app with the friendly elephant called Evernote. There are apps available for virtually every platform and device imaginable, and it will sync virtually anything from photos to large files. There is one area where Evernote currently is lacking though — the actual note-taking and organizing notes into notebooks and the user experience to make that happen. The recently released app called Alternote has set out to change all that.

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Moving from Aperture to Lightroom

What to do now that Aperture has been discontinued

Apple recently announced the retirement of Aperture, their professional photo management and editing application. This is unfortunate news but not entirely unexpected, considering the lack of new features for several years prior to this announcement.

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Mac Must Have: Haze

Hazel basically allows you to preform preset actions based on a set of rules that you create.

There are some really interesting ways to use Hazel, and the first things I will try is the automatic deletion of application support files.

Limit Time Machine disk usage on external drives

Time Machine is a very simple and elegant backup solution for Mac OS, with an intuitive restore browser. The problem with Time Machine however, is that it takes up all free disk space before starting to erase old backups. This is no problem if you have a dedicated Time Machine disk, but most people usually want to keep other things on the very same disk.

Time Machine uses different methods for network backup and local backup. One way of limiting remote backups is covered in an earlier article called “Create a fixed size network storage for Time Machine“, so this will instead focus on limiting the disk usage on locally connected disks, such as USB or Firewire.

First make sure that you are using a HFS formatted disk, since we are going to resize the partition. Start Disk Utility and select your external disk from the left menu. Click the Partitions tab and you will be presented with your entire disk. Drag the bottom-right handle of the partition up and make it as small as you want your Time Machine to be. When you are satisfied with the new size, click the plus button at the bottom to add an additional partition to occupy the free space.

Disk Utility

Disk Utility

Now open up the Time Machine preferences and select your disk!

Time Machine Preferences

Time Machine Preferences

The additional volume can be used to store anything you want. Just remember to eject the disk properly before you disconnect it from your Mac!

Address Book on Mac shows the wrong certificate

I recently wanted to email a recipient, for which I had the certificate. The problem was however, that he has an old certificate which has expired, and a new valid one. For some reason though, Address Book associates the old certificate with the email address instead of the new one.

Inspect Certificate

Inspect Certificate in Adress Book

I still haven’t found a way to associate the new certificate with the user.

Bought Coda in a big Panic.com sale

CodaI have long been looking for the perfect editor for my Mac. Ever since I bought the latest Macheist bundle I have been using Espresso, which has been working fairly well. It is a very immature editor though with lots of essential features missing.

I heard that Panic is having a sale on Coda (hurry, two days remaining!) so I decided to get buy it immediately, since it seems to be a very competent editor with a solid reputation.

My first experiences have been very positive! It has innovative features, looks good and does its job very well. I especially like the excellent Subversion integration and remote support via FTP, SFTP etc.

When I have used Coda for a week or two, I’ll write a proper review with images and everything.

Things vs The Hit List vs Omnifocus

I have been using Things for a long time, both on my Mac and iPhone. While being very good at what it does and being visually beautiful, I have lately been having lots of trouble finding a good solution for a “Waiting For” focus, planner, setting a starting date, subtasks and other minor things. Their support forum is full of these requests and many other too.

Both The Hit List and Omnifocus do not suffer from these shortcomings, and have other benefits too. THL has a very nice planner where you can see items due today, the next days, next week, month etc. It makes it very easy to get an overview on what and when things have to be done.

The one thing missing in THL at the moment is iPhone sync, which is where Omnifocus shines! It has a very competent syncing framework and a native iPhone client (a bit pricey though). Omnifocus follows the principles of Getting Things Done almost to the letter, which may be too rigid at times, and it does not have support for tags at the moment.

What to do? I have invested in Things for the Mac and for the iPhone, but I have considered the idea of moving to Omnifocus for the moment, and maybe returning to Things when it has matured somewhat. I like THL quite a lot, but without syncing with an iPhone application, it’s useless for me.

Safe document writing using Dropbox

dropbox-logoLots of people who write articles or create content in any form, often find themselves generating lots of files. A writer will for instance probably have lots of article drafts laying around. Everyone have different solutions for revision control and backup, ranging from a simple manual file copy to using a full-fledged revision control system such as Subversion.

For everyone else, there is a simple solution for keeping backups of your work in progress, as well as being able to retrieve any previous revision. In addition to all this, it even lets you sync files between multiple computers and access your files online from any computer with internet access.

I guess you know by now that I am talking about Dropbox, a service available for Windows, Mac and Linux. It installs a small application on your computer which monitors a configurable directory for changes and uploads them automatically to the Dropbox servers.

dropbox-revisions

The free version offers 2 GB of space, which should be enough for most people. For photographers and other people dealing with lots of large files, there also a premium option available which gives you 50 GB for $99 per year.

The web interface is beautiful and easy to use for navigating your Dropbox and downloading the files. This is also the place for viewing older revisions for your files and delete, copy, rename and delete them.

dropbox-events

A very handy feature is the ability to share folders with other Dropbox users! If you are working together with other people in a project, just share a folder between you and everyone will instantly have access to all changes in the project folder – automatically.

dropbox-publicThere is even a way of sharing files with non Dropbox users. There is a special folder in the root of the Dropbox named “Public”. Putting files here makes it possible to right-click on the files and copy a public URL for it. To let other people download the file, it’s just a matter of sharing the link with them. They can’t of course make changes to it, nor view its revision history.

Another special folder in the Dropbox root is the Photos folder, which creates instant photo albums for viewing on the web by anyone. This is definitely the easiest way of getting a photo album up on the web, since you only need to copy or move the pictures to this special folder on your computer – Dropbox does the rest.

All iPhone users out there, and possible other phone owners, can access the iPhone web interface too for downloading files in the Dropbox. It is even possible to view the uploaded photo galleries.

dropbox-iphone

There is a tour available on the website which explains all features more in-depth.

Upcoming features include:

  • Timeline based undo
  • Online visualization for any file type
  • An iPhone application/interface that let us download files of interest (pdf, docs, pictures..)
  • Watch any folder support (configurable per host)
  • Better shared folder controls (permissions, etc.)
  • Online edition for text files
  • Add friends
  • Improve Upload Speed
  • Group accounts

If you decide to give Dropbox a go, consider using my referral link when you sign up. That way, both you and I get additional storage for free!

Disclaimer: From this article it may seem like I work for Dropbox, but I don’t. I just like their service a lot!

4 Essential Mac Applications, and 1 bonus

perianMy brother was recently in the market for a new laptop, and I helped him with the reasearch as usual. He ended up with a Macbook in the end, and being a first-time Mac user I of course helped him get started.

What I didn’t realize is that there are some essential applications I have collected over time, which everyone may not know about. They tend to make things much easier.

One of the “features” that need fixing in OS X is the way sleeping is implemented. When you close the lid of the computer, it enters sleep as usual, but it also does the hibernation step – meaning that it saves the contents of the memory to disk, in case of a power failure.

While this may have its benefits, I find it mostly annoying and it means being careful handling the computer until the disk has stopped spinning. Well, no more. There is a smart program called SmartSleep which makes it possible to reap the benefits of both sleeping methods at once!

The idea is that since you probably won’t need the hibernation functions until your battery is almost depleted, it will only be enabled when the battery charge becomes low (configurable threshold)! This means that the computer will go to sleep much faster in normal circumstances, and when the power is critically low, it will revert to the default sleep plus hibernate option. This makes it possible to resume the session even when the battery has been totally depleted.

Media! The Mac needs to be able to play the various media file formats out there, such as Matroska and Windows Media. Perian and Flip4Mac takes care of all your codec needs, and since they provide filters for Quicktime, you may continue to use your Quicktime Player or even iTunes for viewing this content!

The final application for this time is Growl, which provides a system-wide and well supported method of providing unobtrusive user notifications. This may not seems like a big deal, but it makes it easier to focus on what’s important.

gammaJust one more thing! This isn’t an application, but it something Mac users should be aware of. If you have noticed that your pictures, videos or other things look washed out, it might be time to modify your gamma settings.

The default gamma on the Mac is set to 1.8, while most other use 2.2. Experiment with this and see what you prefer. G Ballard provides some more insight and howtos on this issue. There are even some rumors floating around that Apple will change the default gamma to 2.2 in the upcoming Mac OS 10.6 – Snow Leopard.

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Enable 1Password in Safari 4 beta

Apple just released a beta version of Safari 4 with lots of new features. Users of 1Password might notice that it doesn’t work in the new version. To fix this, close Safari and 1Password and edit the following file:

/Applications/1Password.app/Contents/Resources/SupportedBrowsers.plist

Find the Key named Safari and look for MaxBundleVersion underneath. You will see 5528.1 as the maximum version. Change that to 5528.16, save and quit. Now you can reenable Safari from the 1Password preferences and then start Safari 4 and add the button to the toolbar. Voila!