OS X Utilities and Books

TypeIt4Me, A Way to Type Faster

Have you ever filled out the same information, such as your address repeatedly in a series of forms and wondered if there's a faster way to complete these forms?  Any time you need to type the same information repeatedly, you can let a text expander do the work for you.  Text expanders use customized abbreviations, set by the user, that type out whole words, phrases or even paragraphs.  For example, when I type EM followed by the space bar, my email address appears on the screen.  Or if I start typing my phone number and then a space, the entire phone number is completed.  Many programs, such as Safari include auto-completion features.  Now Snow Leopard also includes such a feature.  The problem is that these only work in a single program or in Snow Leopard's case, in OS X programs.  I want my triggers to work across all programs because otherwise, I'm going to type an abbreviation and expect the computer to expand the text.  A text expander, such as TypeIt4Me, will work with all programs.  I synchronize my abbreviations across multiple computers by putting the abbreviation file into Dropbox (described below).  When using a computer without a text expander, I realize how much I miss the ability to use abbreviations.  "Don't it always seem to go, you don't know what you've got till it's gone."  

If you decide to use a text expander, one hint is to make your triggers the beginnings of whatever you would type anyway.  This makes it easy to remember triggers.  Also, I find using the built in dictionaries (i.e. non-user defined dictionaries) to auto complete takes more time than it saves.

The other full featured text expander for the Mac is Textexpander.  The two programs are very similar.  The one feature feature Textexpander has that I wish was available in TypeIt4Me is the ability to synchronize abbreviations with Windows text expanders such as Breevy or PhraseExpress and a Mac.  Again, this is easily achieved by storing the abbreviation file in Dropbox.  

  

Mac OS X Leopard: The Missing Manual, by David Pogue


Click on any image to enlarge


Update, September 13, 2010:  The Snow Leopard Edition of this is almost identical to the Leopard version.  The back cover of the book says, "Apple sure has been busy--there's barely a feature left untouched in Mac OS X 10.6, 'Snow Leopard.'"  Well, barely a word has been touched since the Leopard Edition.

This is my favorite book about OS X.  It is thorough, has useful tips for users at all levels and is funny.  The index is also excellent.  For many years, I have used the different editions of this book.  As OS X has evolved  it has been consistently the best book I have found on the subject.  The book contains mini-manuals on the iLife program suite, a section on using the Macintosh Unix Shell and another on Time Machine.  The problem with this book is that it was written when the latest version of Leopard was 10.5.1.  As of the writing of this description, in May 2009, the latest version is 10.5.6.  A lot has changed in Leopard since this book was written but the book had no second edition and as noted above the Snow Leopard Edition seems to have just been cut and pasted from the Leopard edition.  The book is available here:

http://www.amazon.com/Mac-OS-Leopard-Missing-Manual/dp/059652952X







 

David Pogue Speaking about OS X Leopard during book release



Path Finder, A Better Finder 


Unfortunately, as OS X rapidly evolved, the Finder, OS X's file management tool, has barely changed.  Path Finder, by Cocoatech, is what Finder may have looked like today if it had advanced as rapidly as OS X.  All of the relevant information about a file can be seen at a glance, as can a truly helpful preview, without any extra clicks.  Drop down menus of directories often used can placed at the top of the window, making navigation simple.  The window can be divided into two panes, which makes moving files less clunky than opening two Finder windows.  The context menus provide numerous compression algorithms.  Most of the functionality of Path Finder can be replicated in Finder but it takes more time and more clicks.  This program provides elegant way for navigating through files on OS X.  For more information about Path Finder, click on the links below:

http://www.cocoatech.com/

http://s3.amazonaws.com/media.cocoatech.com/PF5OverviewSmall.mov (This is a screen cast about Path Finder.  It's informative.  Too bad the creator used a computer generated voice.)



SuperDuper, A Fast and Simple Way to Make Clones

SuperDuper is a super duper easy to use program for making bootable clones of hard drives.  The program explains in plain English what it is going to do.  The free version is functional with no time limit.  When the customer pays money, the Smart Update feature becomes available, which compares the last backup with the files on the hard drive.  It only copies the files that have been changed and that is much faster than copying every file.  Clones can be made using Disk Utility but it does not have the Smart Update feature.  In my experience SuperDuper is easier to use and less prone to errors than Carbon Copy Cloner.  Apple's Time Machine backups can be used to restore data but it is not making a bootable backup and it is not available in pre-Leopard versions of OS X.  This can also be used for putting entire builds on an external hard drive.  Those builds can be used for development.  For more information go to:

http://www.shirt-pocket.com/SuperDuper/SuperDuperDescription.html



Default Folder X, Enhancing "Save As" and "Open" Dialogue boxes


When using the "Save As" or "Open" Dialogue Boxs in OS X, it often takes several clicks to get to the folder that I'm seeking.  Default Folder X provides several ways to get to the folders I'm seeking, normally within 2 clicks.  When openning a dialogue box with Default Folder X, a black shadow box surrounds the box.  This dialogue box provides several ways to get to a directory or document, including a heart for favorites.  It also provides a single place in System Preferences for selecting default directories for all programs and several other ways to navigate to files.  It saves a lot of time, especially when attaching files from several directories to a single email.  Here is the link:

http://www.stclairsoft.com/DefaultFolderX/


Dropbox, A Way to Synchronize Files Across More Than One Computer


Dropbox is an easy way to synchronize files/directories across multiple computers and have a copy of the files on the web.  When installing Dropbox, a folder called " Dropbox" is created on the computer.  Anything stored in this folder is automatically copied to web and to other computers with Dropbox installed and linked to the same account.  I installed Dropbox on my computer and on my girlfriend's computer.  When we're working on a project, we store the files in our Dropbox folder and they are immediately synchronized.  If a file is changed on one computer, the updated file is immediately changed on the other computer(s) that are linked to the s ame account.  A 2 Gb account is free.  We also store any files that we may want to use while away from home on Dropbox and can download the files from any web computer with web access.  Dropbox will also work with Windows and Unix based systems.  In fact, the computers being synced can be mixed.  Sugar Sync competes with Drobox but costs money.  The only advantage of Sugar Sync is that it can be set to track multiple directories.  According to people who have tested both products, Sugar Sync is much slower than Dropbox.  To get this program go to:

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