App of the Week: Alfred

Ditch Spotlight for this genius universal search bar on Mac

Spotlight is a powerful tool on the Mac, but it doesn’t even compare to the third-party app Alfred and its countless user-developed workflows.

 

By Taylor Martin of CNet

Apple’s Spotlight for Mac is a wonderful tool, but even with Siri and a third-party add-ons coming this fall, Spotlight doesn’t compare to one of my all-time favorite applications, Alfred.

Alfred looks and acts much like Spotlight. But with the add-on Powerpack, it gets a lot smarter. The $22.04 (£17.00 or AU$28.61) app adds “workflows,” which make your Mac do a chain of tasks with one command.

The best workflows for Alfred

If you’re ready to ditch Spotlight, install these add-ons to change the way you use your Mac. Seriously.

To install one of these workflows, follow the link to download it, double-click to open and the workflow will install itself.

  • Google Suggest does exactly what you would expect it to. It puts suggested searches inside Alfred. Press your launch command for Alfred (by default, it’s Options + Spacebar) and type “g” followed by a space. Then type your search query. With each keystroke, the list of suggested searches narrows. Use arrow keys or the hotkey (listed to the right of the result) to select one and load the search results in your default browser.
  • Amazon Suggest is the same thing for Amazon searches. Launch Alfred and type “amazon,” followed by your search query. Highlighting and selecting one of those results will launch the Amazon search in your default browser.
  • Curious how critics feel about a new movie? Use the RottenMovies workflow to find out. Type “rt” followed by the name of the movie. The workflow will search Rotten Tomatoes and you can see the score without ever visiting the website.
  • Sitting at a desk all day, it’s easy to let 10, 20 or even 30 minutes slip by unnoticed.
  • Sometimes you need to set quick reminders for yourself to respond to someone in 20 minutes or check the coffee pot in 5. EggTimer 2 is the perfect workflow for this. Launch Alfred and type “timer 5 Check coffee pot” to set a 5-minute timer with a reminder to check the coffee pot. You can also set alarms for specific times using the same syntax: “alarm 4:00pm Take a break” or “alarm 12:00pm Lunch.”

 

  • When writing, I’m constantly switching between my writing app and Google search for currency and unit conversions. With the Units workflow, I can make those same conversions without ever leaving my writing app. In Alfred, type “units” and type or select what you want to convert from the list of options (length, temperature, currency, etc.). Next type a number and select the starting unit from the options and finally select what you’re converting to. When you hit enter at the end, the conversion is copied to your clipboard for pasting. It will take a few tries to get the process down, but once you do, this is one of the most handy converters around.
  • The Recent Items workflow is great for helping you recall things you have been working on in the last few hours. Install the workflow and launch Alfred, then type “rec.” The workflow will suggest types of recent items, such as applications, downloads, folders or up to two custom items. Select one of the types of files from the selection (or begin typing to narrow the suggestions) and all the recent items of that type will appear. Selecting one will open it.
  • After you get used to a keyboard launcher like Alfred, it’s difficult to break the habit of launching Alfred when you want to do anything, even things that you don’t normally control with Alfred, such as adding new tasks to your task manager. Fortunately, you can add that functionality with workflows for Trello, Wunderlist and Todoist.
  • Sometimes toggling Wi-Fi will fix any connectivity issues you’re experiencing. It’s not a difficult task on OS X, especially with the menu bar icon. However, the Wi-Fi Control makes it a much faster process. You can turn Wi-Fi on or off with the workflow, but you can also restart Wi-Fi (toggle off and back on) with just a few keystrokes.
  • The Kill workflow is easily the one I use the most. If you have a rogue app that gets hung or you need to force quit, launch Alfred, type “kill” followed by the first few letters of the app and press Enter. It will immediately kill any apps or processes.
  • I also do a lot of link shortening for personal analytics. The Shorten URL workflow is fantastic. It includes support for goo.gl, bit.ly, is.gd, j.mp and more. With the workflow installed, launch Alfred and type “short” followed by a space, paste the URL you want to shorten and select the link-shortening service. The shortened link will be copied to your clipboard and automatically pasted wherever your cursor is placed.

 

  • It’s easy to use the same password over and over. But if you use a password manager, quickly generating a new password is the more secure route. With the Password Generator workflow, type “pw” followed by a number for how many digits you’d like the password to have. Press enter and the randomized password will be copied to your clipboard.
  • Sleep is a sleep timer workflow for your Mac. Just type “sleep” followed by the number of minutes you want your computer to stay awake. After the timer finished, the Mac will go to sleep.
  • Who doesn’t love GIFs? Alphy puts Giphy search right inside Alfred. Just type “gif” followed by your search term. Highlight one of the suggestions and press Shift to preview it. Pressing Enter will copy the URL of the GIF to your keyboard, Command + Enter will copy the Giphy URL and Alt + Enter will open the GIF on the Giphy website.
  • There are several ways to quickly insert emoji with a Mac. Emoj is yet another way, and this one comes with search, which means you can find a specific emoji, even when you don’t know its exact name. The downside is that this requires Node to be installed on your Mac.
  • If you’d prefer unicode emoticons over emoji, Dongers is the workflow you’re looking for. Type “dongers” and your search term for a list of relevant emoticons, like the table flip. (ノಠдಠ)ノ︵┻━┻
  • One of the first things I do if my internet connection is having problems is run a speed test. The SpeedTest workflow allows you to do this without loading the speedtest.org site in your browser. Type “speedtest” press enter and wait. When the test completes, you will receive a growl notification with your uplink and downlink speeds, as well as your ping.

Have you tried Alfred? What are some of your favorite workflows? Sound off in the comments below!!

Tales form the Orchard: What to expect from Apple’s September 12 ‘Gather round’ event

 

 

By Christian de Looper of Digital Trends

It’s that time of year again. Apple has sent out invitations for its annual September event, where we’ll likely see a new set of iPhone devices, a new Apple Watch, and possibly a range of other devices too. The event itself is set to take place on September 12 at 10 a.m. Pacific Time, though no matter where you live you should be able to live-stream it for yourself.

What exactly will Apple announce? We’ve been following rumors surrounding all the upcoming products for the past year, and we’ve rounded them up into this short, handy guide. Here’s everything we expect to see at Apple’s “Gather Round” event.

THREE IPHONES

Last year, Apple unveiled the iPhone X, iPhone 8, and iPhone 8 Plus. This year, rumors suggest it will announce three different models again. Apple is expected to fully adopt the edge-to-edge design seen on the iPhone X for all models of the iPhone (including the notch). Thankfully, they won’t all cost $1,000. Apple will reportedly release two successors to the iPhone X, dubbed the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max, and they will be sized at 5.8 inches and 6.5 inches. Apple will also release a 6.1-inch model, which is expected to be the cheapest of the lot. It will also have an edge-to-edge display with a notch, but the main difference will stem from the use of a LCD screen instead of OLED used on the other two.

The new iPhone XS devices are expected to arrive in a new gold color model, alongside an updated processor, eSIM support, a potential Lightning to USB Type-C cable, and more. The prices are rumored to range from $650 to $1,000.

APPLE WATCH SERIES 4

Just like it did last year, Apple is expected to release a new Apple Watch alongside the new series of iPhones. The Apple Watch Series 4 will retain many of the features of the Apple Watch Series 3, but it’s expected to include a display that’s larger by as much as 15 percent — making it an edge-to-edge display, like that on the iPhone X.

Other rumors about the watch indicate Apple may do away with the Wi-Fi model altogether — leaving only the LTE model (you will likely still be able to use Wi-Fi without paying for LTE with this model). It may also feature a UV sensor, and will run Apple’s latest version of watchOS 5.0.

MACBOOK AIR

Apple has long been expected to release a new low-cost MacBook, and rumors indicate the company will introduce a refresh of the MacBook Air. The new device is expected to feature Intel’s 8th-generation processors, along with a larger display. The updated computer will reportedly get a 13-inch Retina display, and will likely feature modern ports, like USB-C.

Not much else is known about the new laptop, except for the fact that it will most likely come at a starting price of around $1,000. It’s also not totally certain the new MacBook Air will be released at this September event. Instead, it could show up in October.

MAC MINI

Apple may also be planning a long-awaited refresh of the Mac Mini — and it’s about time, considering the computer was last updated in 2014. There will likely be quite a few performance upgrades. Apple will probably adopt Intel’s eighth-generation chips for the computer, and may do away with outdated hard drives in favor of only solid-state options. On top of that, while Apple may not completely revamp the design, it will likely at least update the port selection on the computer to include a few USB-C ports.

When it comes to pricing, the new Mac Mini may start in the $1,000 price range, and will range up from there. Like the MacBook Air, however, there’s no certainty that the Mac Mini will show up at the September 12 event — it may well instead be released later in the year.

IPAD PRO 2018

Another rumor to have popped up in recent days is that Apple will update the iPad Pro. It’ll be more than just a spec-bump too — rumors indicate Apple will give the iPad Pro the iPhone X treatment, with slimmer bezels around the screen, as well an updated A-series processor, and perhaps even a little more RAM.

With the new design, there may be no more home button, which means Face ID may replace Touch ID. That may be a double-edged sword, though, as rumors suggest Face ID might only work in vertical mode — meaning you won’t be able to dock the iPad to a keyboard and unlock it with your face. Apple may move the Smart Connector to the bottom of the iPad, so manufacturers may need to build new keyboards.

AIRPOWER

Apple officially announced the AirPower charger almost a full year ago, but the charger has yet to be released. When it is, AirPower will be able to charge up to three devices at a time — meaning in the evening you can plop down your iPhone, Apple Watch, and AirPods to charger — and they’ll be good to go in the morning. It’s using unique technology that will be able to identify the products and provide the correct amount of energy needed.

While we’re not completely certain AirPower will see the light of day at Apple’s upcoming event, we certainly wouldn’t be surprised to see it.

OPERATING SYSTEM RELEASES

Alongside new hardware, Apple will also release new software to the public. A few of those releases are all but definite. There’s iOS 12, which will be released likely on September 12 itself. You can check out our hands-on review for all the details on what’s new.

Next up is watchOS 5, which is also likely to be pushed to Apple Watch users on September 12 or soon after. The new operating system boasts a few improvements to watchOS and how it works, including better health and fitness tracking, Walkie Talkie mode, Siri Shortcuts, and more. On top of that, Siri will be better at listening to your needs — you’ll no longer need to say “Hey Siri” to activate her. Instead, simply hold your wrist up to your mouth, and Siri should be listening.

Last but not last is macOS, which is being updated to macOS Mojave. It’s expected that the new macOS will be released alongside new Apple computers — meaning it’s not a certainty that the new operating system will be released at this event. Still, if it is, macOS users will enjoy a number of new features, including a new Dark Mode, a revamped App Store, and Stacks, which are automatically arranged groups of files on the desktop.

 

What are you looking forward to the most from Apple’s upcoming Media Event? Sound off in the comments below!!

App of the Week: TextSoap 8

Hands on: TextSoap 8 cleans up your text for online and publishers

 

By William Gallagher of AppleInsider

TextSoap 8 is supremely handy, easy to start. and hard to master —but so very powerful for writers of all ability levels.

From 1998 to around 2004, every website editor at BBC Worldwide in the UK had an extra button in their copy of Microsoft Word. When you clicked it, Word would ready your text to go into websites without any of the usual problems of the time. Smart quotes, the 66 and 99 marks, used to break the sites, for instance, so they were changed to plain ones. The BBC system had problems with dashes and certain types of parentheses too, plus a constant difficulty with the British pound symbol.

This Word button handled four or five such common issues but it was the quote marks it was known for. So much so that since it was changing smart quotes into dumb ones, it could’ve been called the Dumber. Instead, since “thick” is British slang for stupid, it was called Thickify. It made smart things more thick.

I know all this because I wrote Thickify. It was the single most successful piece of work I ever did at the BBC and hardly anyone who used it had any idea that it was mine or that it was a Word macro. They believed that it was part of Microsoft Word and when they’d upgrade that word processor, they would actually shout at IT people for apparently removing their big button.

A dozen BBC websites used it. Probably twenty editors, news editors or assistant editors used it. So did most of the writers on each of these sites. To this day I am proud of that work —and yet I see it was total rubbish compared to TextSoap 8.4.7.

TextSoap is the same idea and it does the same things. However, where my Thickify for BBC fixed four or five problems, TextSoap 8 does more than a hundred.

Paste some text into this Mac app and it will remove extra spaces, it will take out extra returns, it can remove every tab and so on. If you paste in the HTML source code from a web page, it will extract all the actual text from it.

Better and better

You don’t have to paste text into the app, though. Instead, you can call up TextSoap’s features from within practically any Mac app. Just select some text then click on the app’s name in the menu bar. Choose the little-used Services item from the menu that drops down and then TextSoap does its work.

In the background, it’s taking that selected text and putting it into its own app before cleaning it up and pasting it back.

It puts that text into its Clipboard Workspace but it’s also possible to open or create documents in TextSoap. It’s oddly resistant to closing them again, though.

We’d run it from the Services menu a few times and would sometimes find that it had opened new documents for each occasion. So we’d close them but the next time we’d run TextSoap, it would occasionally reopen a dozen. It’s probably something to do with macOS’s way of making apps reopen the last documents you were working on, but still we had positively chosen to close them.

When we’d run it from within another app like Pages or Word or Ulysses, though, we wouldn’t notice the documents at all because we stay in that app as it works.

Still, there’s a reason that macOS Services menu is so little used. You forget that it’s there and also to choose it you have to take your hands off the keyboard and use the mouse or trackpad. Since we’re doing this to speed up preparing text that we’ve typed, it would be great if you could just use a keyboard shortcut —and you can.

At the foot of the Services menu there is Services Preferences option. Choose that and you’re taken to the right section of System Preferences. It’s the Keyboard pane and Shortcuts/Services will already be highlighted.

If you’ve not been in this before or haven’t looked at Services on the Mac, your head will jerk back at the sheer number of options. Every app you’ve ever installed can provide a Service and so many do that your list is going to be long.

However, scroll on down and you will reach one called Clean with TextSoap 8. It will also say “none” next to it. Click on that to record a new keystroke that will open the Service for you.

After that, using TextSoap is a matter of selecting some text, pressing that button and taking your hands off the keyboard while it works. Depending on how much text you’ve selected, you may have to wait a while but it’s going to be enough time to flex your fingers, not enough time to get a coffee.

 

Takes all sorts

Perhaps it’s just because we are more habitually used to clicking on menubar items, we use Services only when we remember. The rest of the time, we click on TextSoap’s menubar app.

This does also have the advantage that where Services shows you only one or two TextSoap cleaners, the menubar app lists about 20 by default. So we can go directly to Straighten Quotes if we know that’s all we want.

There is more, though

If this all you use TextSoap for then you’re in good company: this is chiefly how we’ve used it for years.

However, it is preposterously more powerful and has practically a ludicrous number of options that we’ve explored from time to time.

They’re all to do with creating what TextSoap calls your own cleaners. The built-in option that straightens or thickifies smart quotes is a cleaner. The one that removes double spaces after a sentence is another.

While most of the time you’ll use one called Scrub which is actually a collection of many routines, each time you run TextSoap you are choosing a cleaner to work on your selected text.

It’s just that you can make your own. You have to open the main app, you can’t do this from the menubar version. Choose File, New, Custom Cleaner.

This gets you an editor window that’s divided into three key areas. Down the left there is a list of actions or existing cleaners that you can use. Each one comes with a detailed explanation of what it does and the only reason you’ll take a long time to get through this is that there are so many.

Then the greater part of the editor window has two sections arranged horizontally. At the top there is a Properties window and then underneath is an Actions one.

Or that’s the theory. We spent a frustratingly long time trying to understand how this section worked because we didn’t have that Actions part. It turned out that this was because we also didn’t have the very latest version of the software: while TextSoap has had this particular feature for some years, it somehow wasn’t displaying in our copy. Not until we updated.

When we did, this suddenly because much more familiar territory. If you’ve ever used Workflow, Automator or Keyboard Maestro then you’ll recognize the idea. You have a pot of actions to choose from and you drag in the ones you want into the order you want them to work.

Then you can edit them to make an action be more specific.

For instance, we created a cleaner called The Ize Have It where words written with the British English ending -ise were changed to the US English -ize.

We dragged in a Find and Replace action, then entered a pair of words like “equalise” and “equalize” and from now on this cleaner will make that swap. It was a bit tedious because we had to do a different Find and Replace for each pair of words. It would be better if you could load in a spreadsheet of them.

Still, no matter how many pairs of words we add, we’re adding them to one cleaner. Which means, every time we want to check and fix this problem, we run that and it’s done.

Worth the effort

TextSoap is worth putting some effort in to create your own cleaners because the time you spend now is saved later. You do it once and this tool is available forever.

It could be friendlier but really for the giant majority of times we use it, TextSoap is quite clear. We’d just like it to have some up to date documentation for those times we want to go further.

TextSoap 8.4.7 costs $65 direct from the developer. It’s also available as part of the Setapp subscription service.

There is a trial version available from the developer’s site which also points out that TextSoap has been around for 20 years. I could’ve just told the BBC to buy TextSoap version 1.0.

How to: Use AirPlay

Minimum Requirements and Basic Information

 

by Sam Costello of Lifewire

For many years, the music, videos, and photos stored in our iTunes libraries and on our computers were stuck on those devices (barring complex file-sharing arrangements). For Apple products, that has all changed with the advent of AirPlay (formerly known as AirTunes).

AirPlay lets you stream all kinds of content from your computer or iOS device to other computers, speakers, and TVs.
It’s a pretty neat, and powerful technology that’s only going to get more useful as more products support it.

You don’t have to wait for that day to come, though. If you want to start using AirPlay today, read on for tips on how to use it with many existing devices and apps.

AirPlay Requirements

You’ll need compatible devices in order to use AirPlay.

  • A Mac or PC
  • An iOS device running iOS 4.2 or later
  • iTunes 10.2 or later (some earlier versions support AirTunes or more limited AirPlay implementations)
  • Any iPad model
  • iPhone 3GS or higher
  • 3rd generation iPod touch or newer
  • Any Apple TV model
  • AirPort Express
  • Compatible third-party apps
  • Compatible third-party hardware like speakers or stereo receivers

Remote App
If you have an iOS device, you’ll probably want to download Apple’s free Remote app from the App Store. Remote allows you to use your iOS device as a remote (are you surprised?) to control your computer’s iTunes library and what devices it streams content to, which saves running back and forth to your computer each time you want to change something. Pretty handy!
Basic AirPlay Use

When you have a version of iTunes that supports AirPlay and at least one other compatible device, you’ll see the AirPlay icon, a rectangle with a triangle pushing into it from the bottom.

Depending on what version of iTunes you have, the AirPlay icon will appear in different locations. In iTunes 11+, the AirPlay icon is in the top left, next to the play/forward/backward buttons. In iTunes 10+, you’ll find it in the bottom right-hand corner of the iTunes window.

This allows you to select a device to stream audio or video to via AirPlay. While earlier versions of AirTunes required you to set iTunes to seek out these devices, that’s no longer necessary – iTunes now automatically detects them.

As long as your computer and the device you want to connect to are on the same Wi-Fi network, you’ll see the names you’ve given the devices in the menu that appears when you click the AirPlay icon.

Use this menu to select the AirPlay device you want the music or video to play through (you can select more than one device at the same time), and then begin playing music or video and you’ll hear it playing through the device you selected.
See how to enable AirPlay for iPhone for a walkthrough.

AirPlay With AirPort Express

One of the easiest ways to take advantage of AirPlay is with the AirPort Express. This is around $100 USD and plugs directly into a wall socket.

AirPort Express connects to your Wi-Fi or Ethernet network and lets you connect speakers, stereos, and printers to it. With it serving as the AirPlay receiver, you can then stream content to any device attached to it.

Simply set up the AirPort Express and then choose it from the AirPlay menu in iTunes to stream content to it.
Supported Content

The AirPort Express supports streaming audio only, no video or photos. It also allows wireless printer sharing, so your printer no longer needs a cable attached to your computer to work.

Requirements

  • iTunes 10.2 or later
  • At least one AirPort Express running firmware 7.4.2 or newer (you can use multiple AirPort Expresses in the house)
  • Speakers (or printer) to plug into the AirPort Express

AirPlay and Apple TV

Another simple way to use AirPlay in the home is via the Apple TV, the tiny set-top box that connects your HDTV to your iTunes library and the iTunes Store.

The Apple TV and AirPlay is a powerful combination indeed: it supports music, video, photos, and content streamed from apps.

This means that with the tap of a button, you can take the video you’re watching on your iPad and send it to your HDTV via the Apple TV.

If you’re sending content from your computer to the Apple TV, use the method already described. If you’re using an app that displays the AirPlay icon (most common in web browsers and audio and video apps), use the AirPlay icon to select the Apple TV as the device to stream that content to.

Tip: If the Apple TV doesn’t show up in the AirPlay menu, make sure AirPlay is enabled on it by going to the Apple TV’s Settings menu and then enabling it from the AirPlay menu.

Supported Content

  • Audio streamed from iTunes or iOS devices
  • Video streamed from iTunes or iOS devices
  • Video from iOS apps (e.g. YouTube app or video embedded in web pages)
  • Photos from computers or iOS devices
  • Mirroring a device’s screen on the TV

Requirements

  • Apple TV: 2nd generation Apple TV and newer for video and photos, or 1st generation Apple TV for audio only
  • iTunes 10.2 or higher
  • iOS device running iOS 4.3 or higher to stream content from third-party apps, or iOS 4.2 or higher to stream from built-in iOS apps
  • An HDTV

AirPlay and Apps

 

A growing number of iOS apps support AirPlay, too. While the apps that supported AirPlay were initially limited to those built by Apple and included in iOS, since iOS 4.3, third-party apps have been able to take advantage of AirPlay.

Just look for the AirPlay icon in the app. Support is most often found in audio or video apps, but it may also be found on videos embedded in web pages.

Tap the AirPlay icon to select the destination you want to stream content to from your iOS device.
Supported Content

  • Audio
  • Video
  • Photos

Built-in iOS Apps That Support AirPlay

  • Music
  • iPod
  • Videos
  • Photos
  • YouTube
  • Safari

Requirements

  • AirPort Express, Apple TV, or compatible speakers
  • iOS device running iOS 4.3 or higher to stream content from third-party apps, or iOS 4.2 or higher to stream from built-in iOS apps
  • App that supports AirPlay
  • AirPlay With Speakers

AirPlay With Speakers

There are stereo receivers and speakers from third-party manufacturers that offer built-in AirPlay support.

Some come with compatibility built in and others require aftermarket upgrades. Either way, with these components, you won’t need an AirPort Express or Apple TV to send content to; you’ll be able to send it directly to your stereo from iTunes or compatible apps.

Like with the AirPort Express or Apple TV, set up your speakers (and consult the included manual for directions on using AirPlay) and then select them from the AirPlay menu in iTunes or your apps to stream audio to them.

Supported Content

  • Audio

Requirements

  • iTunes 10.2 or later
  • Compatible speakers
  • iOS device running iOS 4.3 or higher to stream content from third-party apps, or iOS 4.2 or higher to stream from built-in iOS apps
  • App that supports AirPlay

 

Do you have a favorite AirPlay Hack? Tell us about it in the comments below!

Seven Excel Tricks You Need To Start Using

By Alan Henry of lifehacker.com

 

 

Tales from the Orchard: Leaked internal Apple videos detail iPhone X, iMac Pro, MacBook Pro repairs

 

 

By Michael Potuck of 9to5Mac

Update: Earlier this morning Apple pulled the videos from YouTube. As noted by users on Reddit, the videos can still be downloaded – at your own risk – on torrent site Mega.

A slew of Apple internal repair videos have leaked, with detailed descriptions and walkthroughs on how to repair everything from the iPhone X to iMac Pro.

As spotted by Reddit user turnby, the 11 internal Apple repair guides showed up on YouTube recently. Motherboard got in touch with the YouTuber who uploaded them about a month ago that were first discovered on Twitter. However, they were likely kept as privately listed on YouTube until recently as Apple would have taken action to pull them long before now.

“When I saw these videos I downloaded them out of curiosity, and when his account got suspended, I wanted people to still see them, so I uploaded them to YouTube,” Haji told Motherboard in an email.

Notably the videos go in depth in describing the repair processes for the iPhone X, MacBook Pro, iMac Pro, and more.

These videos won’t be live for too long, but check them out below while you can.

The authenticity of the videos is all but certain with Apple copyrights, as well as footage of diagnostic tools and documentation.

As Motherboard notes, one impressive revelation these leaks bring is how well third-parties like iFixit reverse engineer the repair processes and offer very close walkthroughs and similar tools for sale to handle seemingly complex, detailed procedures.

What do you think of Apple’s new “training” strategies for it’s technicians? Sound off in the comments below!

App of the Week: NightOwl

Download this brilliant Mac app as soon as you get MacOS 10.14 Mojave

By Chris Smith of BGR.com

MacOS 10.14, or Mojave, comes with a feature we’ve asked from Apple for years, and that’s a dark mode that looks gorgeous. Even if you aren’t a night person, dark mode looks great, and you can experience it right away by installing the Mojave public beta.

I’ve been on the beta for weeks now, and, up until this very moment, I’ve used dark mode a total of two times. That’s because of two reasons. First of all, I forgot it exists immediately after I tried it for the first time. And then I caught myself thinking about how it’s such a drag to enable it.

To get to the dark mode, you have to go to the System Preferences app, then General — well, the first time around you’ll just search for “dark mode” to find out it’s in General.

And then you’ll have to switch between the Light and Dark themes. So. Annoying. Who has time for that?

Yes, I’m entirely aware how lazy all that sounds, but it’s incredibly annoying to have to do that every single time you want to switch between the two. 

Thankfully, there’s an app for that, and I totally love it. It’s called NightOwl, available at this link, and it’s precisely the kind of dark mode toggle you’d expected the company that makes devices that “just work” to place somewhere on the menu bar. It’s an app that Apple should copy at some point in the future.

The app puts a cute owl button on the menu bar. Click on it, and it brings up two simple buttons, that read Light and Dark:

Since I’ve installed it, I switched between light and dark modes more times than in the more than three weeks of testing Mojave. Pro tip, you can use the minimal settings of the app to make sure it runs on boots and that it plays an owl sound whenever you switch modes.

By the way, you’ll have to force the Mac to run the app: System Preferences > Security & Privacy > General. And then you’ll have to let it manage your preferences. A prompt will appear on the screen, just allow the app to do it.

I know what you’re going to say next. You still have to click on that damned owl, and then on a button. But wait, it’ll get better. A future version of the app will bring an automatically toggle feature that will switch between light and dark modes on sunset and sunrise.

Have you tried out Mojave yet? Tell us your favorite features in the comments below!!

How to: Free Up Space on Your Mac

Apple includes a few tools with macOS to help manage unnecessary files on your computer.

By J. D. Biersdorfer of the New York Times

For years, Mac computers did not come with utilities like Disk Cleanup and the newer Storage Sense found in Windows, but Apple added new tools in 2016 with the release of its macOS Sierra system. If your Mac is running at least that version of the system, go to the Apple Menu, select About This Mac and click the Storage tab.

On the Storage screen, you should see a graphic showing your drive’s available space. Click the Manage button on the right side of the box to get started. The resulting storage-management screen offers four ways to clear off old files: Store in iCloud, Optimize Storage, Empty Trash; Automatically and Reduce Clutter.

As one might expect, the Store in iCloud option punts documents, photos and Messages off your Mac’s drive and into your iCloud online storage locker. While this does free up room on the computer, you may have to buy more iCloud storage space from Apple if you fill up your five gigabytes that come free with an iCloud account.

Enabling the Optimize Storage feature dumps iTunes videos you have already watched, but you can download them again later. The setting also changes the Mail program’s behavior regarding file attachments to retrieve only recent files — or only those that came with messages you have opened.

The Empty Trash Automatically setting permanently deletes files that have been living in the Mac’s trash for longer than 30 days. (In macOS Sierra and later, the system also automatically dumps duplicate Safari downloads, cache files, logs and other unneeded files.)

Using the Reduce Clutter feature is another way to find big files hogging drive space and remove them. To see what the Mac considers “clutter,” click the Review Files button and go through the lists of files deemed large, old or unnecessary. Click the X next to each file to delete it.

If you are running a version of the operating system older than macOS Sierra, you can manually wade through your drive tossing old files or get a third-party cleaning app to sweep up for you. The Macworld site has a detailed list of cleaning tips that explains how to find and trash old Mail downloads, cache files and disk images.

If you’d rather have software do the job, a combination of MacPaw’s CleanMyMac 3 and Gemini 2 (for system cleaning and duplicate-file removal) is an option; free trials of the programs are available. Disk Cleanup Pro and Dr. Cleanerare among the free utilities in the Mac App Store, and others can be found online. As with all maintenance programs, however, read the reviews before you download and back up your Mac before using software intended to automatically delete files on your computer — just in case.

Do you have any tips for freeing up space on your Mac (or PC)? Share them in the comments below!!

How to: Teach Siri to Pronounce Names, Learn Nicknames

Need to teach Siri how to pronounce a name or understand a nickname in your contacts list? You can train her to better understand your commands on iOS.

 

By Lance Whitney of PCMag.com

Are you tired of Siri mangling the names of people in your contact list? Siri can get vexed and perplexed by names that aren’t easy to pronounce, but you can fix her mistakes so your friendly, neighborhood voice assistant learns the right way to speak the names of family, friends, and other folks.

Siri can also get confused when you try to call or text someone in your contact list when you try to use a nickname. You can train Siri about pronunciations and nicknames on your iPhone or iPad, but the process will need to be repeated for both devices. Luckily it works the same no matter what you’re using.

Pronounce First Name

Let’s say you’ve asked Siri to call or send an email or text message to someone, and in so doing, Siri mispronounces the name. Activate Siri again and say: “You pronounced it wrong.” Siri asks how you pronounce the person’s first name. Tell her, and she’ll display a list of options, asking you to choose the right one. Tap on each option to hear how the name will be pronounced. If none of the options sound right, tap on the link to “Tell Siri again.” Siri asks you to say the name again, then displays another list of options. Again, tap on each one to hear it and then tap on Select to choose the best one.

Pronounce Last Name

Next, Siri asks how you pronounce the person’s last name. Pronounce the name for Siri. She displays the list of options. Tap on each one to hear it. No good? Tap on “Tell Siri again” and repeat the name. Tap on each of the new options and tap Select to choose the best one. If the person has a middle name, Siri will ask you how to pronounce that as well.

Teach Siri With a Direct Command

Alternatively, you can say: “Hey Siri, learn to pronounce name of contact.” Siri goes through the same steps, asking how to pronounce the first name and then the last name by prompting you to select the best option for each.

Enter Phonetic Spelling

If you can’t get Siri to pronounce the name by voice, then you may have better results diving into the person’s contact information and spelling the name phonetically. Launch the Contacts app, open the person’s entry, and tap on Edit in the upper-right corner. Swipe down the contact page until you see the link to add field. Tap on that link. At the Add Field page, tap on the entry for Phonetic first name.

 

Finalize Phonetic Spelling

In the Phonetic first name field, type the name phonetically as best as you can. You may want to look up the name in a dictionary or search online to see how it’s spelled phonetically. Swipe down the screen, tap on add field, and tap the field for Phonetic last name. Type the last name phonetically in the appropriate field. Tap Done. You can then ask Siri to show you contact information for that person, and Siri will now pronounce the full name.

Pronouncing a Company

You can extend this process beyond a person’s name to the name of a company. The contact information for a company includes a field for Phonetic company name. Add that field. Type the name phonetically, and Siri should learn the right way to pronounce it.

Nicknames

What if their names are pronounced correctly, but Siri is having trouble telling people apart. This is where nicknames become handy.

Let’s say you ask Siri to call or text someone by saying his or her first name, for example, “call John,” and there’s more than one John in your contact list. Siri will ask which John, displaying and speaking the possible choices.

If you want to avoid all that, simply giving the contact’s last name will allow you to identify the correct contact quicker. As a warning, this method works best for last names that are different from the first names of other contacts. If you have more than one contact with the same last name, Siri will still ask you to specify the correct person.

Set a Relationship

Maybe you want to call or text a family member or relative but want to refer to that person by the relationship rather than his or her name. Here, you have a few options. Say: “Hey Siri, call Dad.” The first time you do this, Siri asks for your father’s name. Give her the name, and Siri then asks if you want to remember that person as your father. Say yes. From then on, ask Siri to “Call Dad” or “Call my father,” and she’ll know who to contact.

 

Set a Relationship With a Direct Command

You can also give a nickname to a specific person based on your relationship by explaining it to Siri. Say: “Siri, wife’s name is my wife” or “husband’s name is my husband” or “son’s name is my son.” Siri asks if you want to remember that the person you named is your wife or husband or son. Answer yes, and Siri records the relationship in your entry in the Contacts app. You can extend this to friends, cousins, doctors, dentists, and other people in your life.

Manually Set Relationship

Alternatively, you can go directly to your entry in the Contacts app to create a nickname. Launch Contacts and open your own entry. Tap on Edit. Swipe down the screen and tap on the button for “add related name.” Tap on the term that best describes the relationship, e.g., mother, father, brother, sister, spouse, manager. Then tap on the info button next to Related Name and select the contact you want to associate with the term you selected.

Set Custom Label

If none of the existing terms are a good match, tap the entry at the bottom to “Add Custom Label.” Type the term you want to use, such as Accountant. Tap Done. Then tap on the Info button next to Related Name and select the contact name for your accountant. Tap Done.

Remove a Nickname

What if you need to change or remove a nickname? No problem. You can tell Siri: “Joe Smith is no longer my accountant” or “Jane Doe is no longer my boss.” Siri asks if you want her to remember that information. Tap or say yes. If the nickname is saved in your entry in the Contacts app, just edit your entry and tap on the Delete button to remove the nickname and relationship.

 

How do you feel about Siri’s ability to learn? Sound off in the comments below!

App of the Week: FirstSeed Calendar

FirstSeed Calendar: Manage Events and Reminders on iPhone, iPad, and Mac

 

By the MacStories Team

Whether you work on iOS, a Mac, or both, FirstSeed Calendar takes advantage of the unique features of each platform providing a seamless experience that anyone with a busy schedule will appreciate.

The app has a comprehensive month view that makes viewing, adding, editing, deleting, moving, and duplicating events a breeze and an innovative week view. Most calendar apps require scrolling to see a full day’s events in week view. FirstSeed provides a grid view of the core of your day and shows any other activities as a list view, making it possible to see everything at a glance. There’s a list view, day view, and reminder support too.

FirstSeed Calendar packed with clever features. There’s a clock interface for intuitive event editing, a dedicated button to quickly switch between views and a continuous month view that takes advantage of every pixel on your screen.

The app has natural language support for English and Japanese too. Just type events as you would typically describe them and FirstSeed populates your calendar like magic.

FirstSeed is designed with each platform’s hardware in mind. On iOS, the app’s emphasis on one-handed operation makes it the perfect choice for working on the go. The iOS versions of FirstSeed support keyboard shortcuts too. On the Mac, FirstSeed uses the MacBook Pro’s Touch Bar and includes a menu bar app for quick access to your schedule.

Managing your calendar doesn’t have to be hard. Take control of your schedule today with FirstSeed Calendar.

Download FirstSeed Calendar here.

What’s your favorite Calendar app? Make your case in the comments below!

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