What are Smart Folders?
They are super helpful, is what!
On the Mac, Smart Folders in Finder (also Smart Playlists in iTunes, Smart Albums in iPhoto, Smart Mailboxes in Mail, Smart Groups in Address Book, etc.) are containers for files or folders that meet a certain criteria. Think of them as a permanent search.
For example, you could make a Smart Folder that shows you all the documents you’ve opened in the last 3 days, or one for all your PDFs that are bigger than 2 megabytes.
In iTunes, you could have a Smart Playlist that always has the jazz songs you’ve added this week. In iPhoto, I created a Smart Album for all the photos I’ve rated above 3 stars, and I sync that to my iPhone.
You can create a smart container in the File menu of any of these programs. You’ll immediately be presented with a dialog box that lets you pick your search criteria, stacking them with “any” (if this OR that) or “all” (if this AND that AND that).
Smart containers appear in the same list with their manual counterparts, but have a gear icon on them.
Try ‘em out. They can really speed up your workflow!
What can I do to see why my computer has become extremely slow?
Yes! Open Activity Monitor (an app in Utilities)
- In CPU, more black is better. More color = slower computer.
- In System Memory, more green is better. You want at least 25% of the pie chart to be green.
If it’s not, restart your computer, and open Activity Monitor. See how things look then.
Do I need Adobe Reader? How do I edit PDFs on my Mac?
PDFs are like food to a Mac. Whenever you print anything from a Mac, you’re creating a PDF. That’s why, whenever you go to File > Print, there’s a convenient PDF menu at the bottom left, with options like Save As PDF… and Mail PDF.
The Mac has an built-in app called Preview, which works with all kinds of image files, including PDFs. With Preview, I can sign PDFs with my signature, or notate the heck out of them.
Tell me what you do to/with PDFs, and I’ll tell you whether to use Preview, or the even more awesome PDFpen, which can change text in a PDF, or the super badass PDFpenPro, which can teach your PDFs to sit up, beg, and roll over.
Apple sent me an email saying, “You are currently using 4.8 GB of your total 5 GB of iCloud storage, which means your iCloud storage is almost full…device backups to iCloud will stop and apps will no longer be able to save documents to iCloud. To ensure your iCloud services continue without interruption, you can free up space or buy more storage by following the steps below…”
My settings show two iPhones. Is one of them my old phone?
From the picture you texted me…and how’s that for technology doing weird things to language?…
From the picture you texted me, yes, your old iPhone is still in your iCloud backups and can be deleted from the settings in your new phone. Just tap the old phone and tap “Delete Backup.” That should free up adequate room.
Perhaps later on, when you start to acquire more apps, or take more pictures at one time, or add an iPad to your arsenal, you might fill up your 4.7GB of iCloud backup storage legitimately, and will then need to tap “Change Storage Plan,” and choose from:
- 10 additional GB (15 GB total): $20/year
- 20 additional GB (25 GB total): $40/year
- 50 additional GB (55 GB total): $100/year
(cf. This Apple support doc)
Note that you can also tap on your new phone (tagged as “This iPhone”) to get a list of what apps are taking up the most room on your device—Camera Roll for most people—and perhaps turn off apps that you don’t need backed up. Be judicious here. Few people will be surprised that I prefer that you buy more storage rather than remove app data from the backup.
I am currently migrating a client’s data from a MacBook Pro to a new MacBook Air.
We have tried it twice over Wi-Fi and it failed both times, so I asked her to bring it over, and I did it using a hard drive as a middleman. This time is working flawlessly.
Historically, migrating from one Mac to another has been the easiest thing going. But since they started eliminating FireWire, and thus Target Disk Mode, from many Mac models, they have had to kludge a solution together. They went with Wi-Fi, rather than telling people to use a hard drive in between.
My own previous experiences with migrating over Wi-Fi have been less than stellar. But my contractor said it always worked for him, so I’ve run with telling people that.
In short, if you run into problems migrating over Wi-Fi, try doing it from your Time Machine backup. And if that doesn’t work we can do it with an external hard drive.
Note: Before you read this, you owe it to yourself to head over to Dropbox and sign up for a free account. It will be the best thing you’ve done on your computer all month. There is a video on the front page of Dropbox.com to explain why.
Besides straght use of its core feature—syncing your files and data between all your devices—my tip-top favoritest thing I can do with Dropbox is edit plain ol’ text files. Whether I start them on my iPad or Mac or iPhone, once they’re saved into Dropbox, they immediately show up everywhere else.
That may sound mundane, but trust me: this is cutting-edge stuff! Writers have always been chained to big clunky mechanisms. From ink-and-parchment to typewriters to the first massive “portable” computers (with their 5-inch screens) to modern laptops, we’ve never had true mobility, the liberty to change our writing environment at a whim. The archetype of the lonely author—in his favorite bathrobe, seated in his library pounding away at his keyboard—may go the way of the telegraph and the horse-drawn carriage.
My goal for my own writing life is to find my own perfect environment, not a physical one, but an undistracting digital space, where I can find all my drafts and finished pieces, no matter where I may find myself. Dropbox has become the key to that.
The right to write
Since finding this solution of plain text, synced with Dropbox, I’ve tried and recommended several different text-editor apps for the Mac and iPad. Elements, Nebulous Notes, OmmWriter, and Apple’s TextEdit have served me well (at least, when Elements wasn’t throwing frustrating error messages that forced me to quit and even reinstall the app). Meistergeek Brett Terpstra has supervised an insanely comprehensive matrix of all the text apps in iOS.
Just recently, however, my best writing app for the Mac has made it to iOS. Byword is just fantastic: clean, simple, and with just the right features to make me kick everything else to the curb, at least for the moment.
Byword’s default mode on the Mac is full-screen, hiding all other windows and toolbars behind a light-cream shade.
It behaves similarly on the iPad; the few buttons and controls are designed in faded grey, and the developer has included only the most important features and preferences, eliminating the urge to fiddle rather than write.
If I create a document on the Mac, which I can do in any text editor, I just save it in my Dropbox folder. I have linked my Dropbox account to Byword on iPhone and iPad, so it sees any text file in any folder there. Whatever edits I do get automatically synced. With Lion on the Mac, I don’t have to remember to hit Save.
This easy, no-save syncing is simply impossible with Microsoft Word. I haven’t used Word for writing in years.
When I’m ready to ship, I can just copy and paste, or email straight from the iOS app, or from the Mac file system, as an attachment, or as plain or formatted text.
The real magic
Wait, did I just say formatted? Indeed I did. For this is the big new tip for modern writer: you can format a plain-text file. Bold, italics, bullet lists, web links, even web images and footnotes…you can do it all.
The secret is Markdown. Markdown is a set of simple text codes you can use to indicate formatting. It takes just minutes to learn, and once you’ve got it, it’s yours forever.
One asterisk on either side of a *word*, for example, means italics. **Two asterisks** is bold.
Use asterisks or plus signs to make a bulleted list, so…
* my first item
* my next item
* my last item
- my first item
- my next item
- my last item.
Once you’ve finished writing and editing your doc, all that’s left is to ship it. I mentioned that you can email text directly out of Byword. BUT…if you format with Markdown, you can send email that’s all kinds of pretty, in ways that Apple’s Mail app just won’t do.
For bloggers, Markdown changes everything about generating a post, because it will convert all your formatting into sweet, sweet HTML code to be pasted into WordPress or your choice of platforms. My favorite CMS, Squarespace, even lets you edit in Markdown directly on your site.
Back to Byword: The biggest reason I landed on Byword as my go to composer is how super-smart it is about Markdown. There are quick shortcuts to the most common codes, and special behaviors to make the syntax even easier.
If, for example, I’m editing a numbered list with “1.,” “2.,” etc., I just hit return after each line and the next number is generated. Ditto for bulleted lists. Also, on the Mac, all the Markdown codes fade into the background, and keyboard shortcuts will insert codes for bold, italics, links, lists, and images.
Always-on preview: I have just one more Power Tip. Once you have started using Markdown, it is worth popping on over to the Mac App Store and picking up Marked for $3.99. Wen you open a Markdown file in Marked, you get a constantly updated preview of your formatted file. This is as opposed to hitting Preview in Byword every few minutes to see what your end result will look like. Marked also offers the best HTML and rich-text export for pasting into email or your blog.
The end result
I guarantee, if you follow these simple recommendations, the combo of Dropbox + Byword + Markdown will rock your writing world. I wish you a happy life of letters!
It’s official: Macs are finally vulnerable to nasty viruses. There are malicious programs that can infect a Mac without the user having to do anything accidental or unwise. It ain’t an apocalypse, but we should be increasingly careful.
Last week saw the emergence of a version of the Flashback trojan. This bad bug sneaks into your web browser when you visit an infected web site, and starts reporting things like your browsing history and logins.
There are really good writeups about Flashback, like these from TidBITS, MacWorld, All Things D, and this nerdy one from Basics4Mac, with plenty of technical details and descriptions of the . For the purpose of this article, I’ll simply say that Flashback uses the programming environments Flash and Java to run. (These names may sound familiar, from discussions about how the iPhone has neither of them.)
Apple has also now, for the first time, posted a response to an emergent Mac malware. It’s brief and worth a glance.
So now I am going to try to distill, in as few words as possible, what the average Mac user should do about the virus.
1. Run Software Update from the Apple menu.
Apple has released a patch to Java that prevents Flashback from infecting your Mac.
2. Don’t click on unknown or untrusted links to web sites.
Even some legit web sites have been infected, but they will be cleaned up. When you see a link in an email, before you click, hover your cursor over the link and read the address that pops up. If it doesn’t look right, don’t click.
3. Don’t enter your password…
…unless you know why you’re being asked to do so.
4. Test your Mac for infection.
This takes just a bit of effort, but is not hard. You have three reasonable options:
- Download this small app by long-time Mac nerd Mark Zeedar. Once the file test4flashback.zip (lowercase) is in your downloads folder, double-click it to “unzip” it, and then double-click the resulting file called Test4Flashback (with capital letters).
- Go to this web page by security firm Kaspersky. It can supposedly compare your Mac’s unique ID against a database of known infected machines.
- Open the app called Terminal. You can find it using Spotlight or in the /Applications/Utilities folder. Copy and paste each of the following commands into the Terminal, hitting return after each.
defaults read /Applications/Safari.app/Contents/Info LSEnvironment
defaults read /Applications/Google\ Chrome.app/Contents/Info LSEnvironment
defaults read /Applications/Firefox.app/Contents/Info LSEnvironment
defaults read /Applications/iCab\ 4/iCab.app/Contents/Info LSEnvironment
defaults read ~/.MacOSX/environment DYLD_INSERT_LIBRARIES
The result should look like the screen shot below, with the words “does not exist” after each line.
5. Remove the infection.
If one of the above techniques revealed that your Mac is infected, you have three options:
- Call us and we’ll take care of it.
- Download this removal tool from Kaspersky.
- Or follow these brief-but-nerdy instructions posted by F-Secure.
But what then? How should Mac-o-philes stay vigilant against these intruders?
Please understand that all of the following are just suggestions, not prescriptions. All of us want our Macs to just keep working, without the tinkering and worrying characteristic of Windows users. But to that end, I have myself adopted the following methods, and I believe they help protect my computers and my data from the bad guys.
1. Uninstall Adobe Flash from your Mac
Adobe has this page, from which you can download the Flash uninstaller for Mac.
I know, I know, you’re saying it’s going to break your internet. Read on, dear reader.
2. Use Google Chrome instead of Apple Safari for web browsing
Chrome is a fantastic, free web browser that Google created to make the web better and faster.
Google built their own version of Flash into Chrome, and Chrome updates itself on a regular basis behind the scenes. So you don’t have to keep up with Flash updates, and you’ll never be tricked into downloading a fake version of Flash.
Sometimes I browse in Safari, but mostly I use Chrome.
3. Should I disable Java?
You can read in the other articles how you can disable Java entirely, both for your browser and on your whole Mac. The problem is that, as of this moment, Java is even more important than Flash. Many of our clients are using CrashPlan for internet backups, or LogMeIn for remote access to their computers. Both services rely on Java.
As an experiment, I have disabled Java on Safari, in Safari menu > Preferences > Security. Ping me if you’re curious whether that has affected my experience on the web.
Back up, and be vigilant
If you follow the 3–2–1 rule of backups, then you can recover from anything that happens to your computer.
And from here on out, it behooves us to keep an eye on what goes on on our computers. The days of cavalier surfing are over for Mac users.
It’s just an application in the Applications folder, but there are lots of quick ways to get at the deep information stored in the Mac’s Dictionary.
There are two ways to view Dictionary: as a pop-up panel, an unobtrusive semi-transparent window with basic information; or as a normal application with a full-fledged window. Use it either way.
There are two ways to access Dictionary: through a contextual menu, which is what you get when you right-click on items; and through Dictionary’s main window, like any other application.
Try right-clicking on a word in a web page or a text document. You’ll see Look Up in Dictionary in the contextual menu. Choose it, and whammo! You’ve got your definition. It’s that easy.
You can improve on that little definition, however. Open the Dictionary application, then go to its Preferences (in the application menu, to the right of the Apple menu:
- Check the boxes for all the sources you want information from when you look up a word. (I’ve got them all checked.*) Selecting individual sources in the list sometimes gives you more options: for Dictionary, for example, you can choose which pronunciation you want displayed.
- (10.6 and earlier) In Contextual Menu, below the list of sources, choose whether you want a panel or a full window to open when you right-click on a word.
- Choose a font size as well. There are buttons for enlarging and reducing text size in the main window so don’t think too hard about this setting now.
Close the Preferences window and you’re done!
- Ctrl-Command-D on any word in almost any Mac app, including browsers. (Yet another benefit of ditching Microsoft Office!)
- Lion Users: try a 3-finger tap on a word to get a definition. Sweet.
- When reading in Dictionary, you can click on words to get their definitions too. It’s a great way to delve further. Use the forward and back buttons like in Safari and Finder.
*If you have languages besides English enabled on your Mac you might have the option of a language dictionary too.
I’ve got Lion. I’m in Finder. I look for “full-screen.” Computer says no.
Apple has made a whole lotta hoopla about all the full-screeniness of Lion. But no love for Finder. What’s the deal?
I’m trying to work out something about that Finder icon, that innocuous cubist grin that was the face of Mac for 18 years.
Macheads had for decades relied on that smile to tell us, “Whatever else might be wrong, your Mac is healthy and ready to go.” And once everything had started up, we would see the Happy Mac throughout the system — inviting, reassuring.
Then, with the arrival of OS X 10.2 Jaguar in 2002, the Happy Mac was gone. The only remnant on the system is the Finder icon in the dock.
Is this, or isn’t this, the face of the Mac?
The irony is that, since the very beginning, the Finder has been the single worst, most uninspiring, most gripe-attractive application ever written for the Macintosh. (All due respect to the creators, who giveth homes to all good documents.) Apple has made OS X the most advanced and stable OS on the planet, replete with security and useful eye candy and productivity enhancers… but Finder has just never evolved. To this day, so many of the people we work with, as comfortable as they have gotten with their Macs, don’t have any solid idea where their stuff lives on their computer.
Perhaps in Lion, Apple made the biggest changes ever, moving the hard drive and other devices to the bottom of the Finder sidebar, and leaving volumes off the desktop by default. These items were cues to confusion: a user saw them, and was immediately reminded of how much they don’t know about their computer. What the heck is a “Macintosh HD”? Why does it say “Macintosh” when I own a “Mac”? What does the “HD” stand for? And when I open “Macintosh HD,” what the hell is a “System” or a “Library”? (Coincidentally, Microsoft’s own file browser has had an even more ugly lifecycle, made no better by the recently announced Windows 8.)
Apple has given priority to showing people their “Places,” a name I have issues with because it further abstracts the situation. My Places are in my Home but when I want a new Place, I go to File > New Folder? Shouldn’t that be New Place? And is a File a Document?
So why don’t they just lose Finder altogether? I don’t know if it’s out of neglect, nonchalance, or fear.
Or loyalty. It could be loyalty. A tiny acknowledgement of the devotées who recognized, from Day 1, the personality and love that went into Apple products.
Maybe Apple feels that files and folders are an arcane idea. The iPhone and iPad are successful because their users don’t have to think in files. They think in contexts, locations: “I go there, to get to that.”
But the laptop and desktop computers that Steve Jobs called “trucks” still work in the old file-and-folder mode, no matter how much Apple is trying to friendly that mode up. Perhaps that Happy Mac still works on people. “Don’t worry about what you don’t know. I’m your friend. We’ll get through this together.” (It is funny that the new iPhones have a voice that actually responds to you in a tone that, while helpful, is not exactly friendly.)
Without question, if they took Finder away right now, I’d be way ticked off. But I’m starting to think that maybe they should be honest with us. Apple doesn’t want to be your friend, and they don’t want the Mac to be your friend. They want you to have an assistant to help you get things done.
So maybe it’s time to say goodbye to my old nemesis Finder, and likewise to my dear old friend the Happy Mac. Apple could give us a new starting point for productivity. And it should probably have full-screen mode.
What a fantastic bunch of new toys and tools to talk about! Since Lion, iPhone 4S, iOS 5, and iCloud have come out, we have some recommendations to make. Here goes:
iOS 5: Go get it!
The free update to iPhones, iPads, and iPod touches is nothing but awesome. Better notifications, better messaging, faster camera access, readable web pages in Safari, and location-based reminders… Whew. I’m really pleased by the whole lot of features. Run, don’t walk, to update your iTunes to 10.5, and then plug in your iPad or iPhone (3GS or later).
You’ll be invited to begin updating your device to iOS 5.0. Agree to the license, yadda yadda, and it will start downloading. Might take a while, depending on your internet speed, and then iTunes will start applying the update to your gadget.
The entire process can take between 30 minutes and an hour, depending on how much stuff you keep on your phone or tablet, so set it running when you can be without your little digital lifeline for a bit. (I know. I get the shakes too, sometimes.)
iPhone 4S: Can I have mine now, please?
(Many of you already have Siri Assistant on your phones, because we put it there, starting about two years ago. As of today, that older version is defunct.)
I chose not to pre-order my iPhone 4S, because I remember the 3GS+MobileMe debacle two years ago. As eager as I can get for the latest-and-greatest, I don’t need it badly enough to justify downtime. But anyone ordering from now on will receive the phone long after iCloud is in full swing, thus enabling some very cool features, including photo sync between devices.
Lion: Hold Til Ready
OS X 10.7 “Lion” is lovely. A tasty chocolate coating around a very solid, nutritious walnut of a system that was 10.6 Snow Leopard.
They called me Coleridge in pre-school.
Most people will want to upgrade to Lion, and will be very happy with the new system. Installing is easy: If you have Snow Leopard, and you keep up with Software Updates, you can buy Lion for $29 from the Mac App Store in your Dock. It will install itself right in place, restarting when it needs to.
Many features in Lion are refreshing, especially the full-screen modes available in many apps. Schedule us at j2mac.com and we’ll show you how to use multi-touch gestures, recover auto-saved versions of your documents, and organize your workspaces!
Auto-resume of apps and documents after a reboot is easy to get used to. Scooting around your workspace with a trackpad instead of a mouse is the wave of the future. Apple has reduced visual clutter, and aimed at keeping their users productive. (Some of the prettiness in Lion I can do without. A lot of it I turn off, grateful there’s a switch.)
But Lion is still young, and a bit wobbly. We’ve found instabilities in iChat and elsewhere, and some things just don’t seem to work like they should. A second update, 10.7.2, just hit on October 12, and we are hoping it will clear up some of the inconsistencies.
Another issue affecting long-time Mac users is that programs written before 2006 won’t run on Lion. At all. This includes Microsoft Office 2004 and Internet Explorer. Good riddance and all, for sure; but a lot of you don’t have Office 2008 or 2011, and at least one office still needs IE for the Mac for time tracking.
We’ll look at iCloud in a sec. It’s very slick… and it requires Lion. I’ve upgraded my MobileMe to iCloud, so because I can’t live without Address Book syncing between all my computers, I am going to have to upgrade my second laptop this weekend. I just have to go through my applications and figure out what I need to export from those older programs. Most newer Mac users won’t have to deal with this process at all, but we are happy to help those who do.
Organizations with a bunch of Macs should hold off for now, until a hardware or software upgrade requires them to move forward. For businesses using a Mac server, I’m also officially recommending against upgrading to Lion Server until at least 10.7.3.
iCloud: The point is moot, the cloud is yours
iCloud is the very worthy successor to MobileMe. If you are using MobileMe, you will transition to iCloud services by June 2012. If you have a new iPhone or iPad, or you update to iOS 5, you’ll be living in the iCloud.
When it launched, iCloud had some trouble, and I couldn’t sign up until a day later. But everything seems clear now, and I am so far very pleased by iCloud’s function: Photo Stream syncs your photos from iPhone to iPad to iPhone. The Find My Mac feature could recover your computer from theft.
It does appear that all your MobileMe configurations will continue to work until next year, so if you are hanging onto older phones and computers for a bit, you don’t have to be rushed about making the move. Give us a call at 210-787-2709 or email our new Help Desk! at email@example.com and we’ll make sure it all goes smoothly.
Steve Jobs is directly responsible for my livelihood, my passion for technology, and even many of my hobbies and pastimes. Even for this 1984-baptized Mac geek, computers were clunky, nearly pointless contraptions until Steve returned to Apple in 1997. (Perhaps the internet helped a little.) I may no longer be the Apple fanboy that I once was, but I’m awed to have witnessed this fundamental change in our civilization that this one guy helped usher in.
“If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.”
Your man in the cloud,