Macintosh Efficiency Utilities — my favorites
If you use shareware please pay the requested fee. These folks work hard on this great software. They don't make a penny during development — and they don't have to do this for us. Imagine putting a year of work into something, paying for a website to host it, even providing support — only to find that people take your work for granted.
NOTE: I need to update this page.
Want your Apple Menu back?
Fruitmenu, by Unsanity Software is the answer. This is a favorite staple on my Macs.
- Like the old Apple menu, it lets you put folders & files under your Apple, making them easily accessible no matter what app you're in or what documents cover your desktop. Properly set up, the Dock is very powerful, but I still like having one more place to stash stuff for easy access. Additionally, my customized Apple menu even tells me my IP number at a glance.
- Lets you create your own keyboard shortcuts to launch/open docs/folders.
- And my favorite: adds several contextual menu features. I use this many, many times a day to launch apps, open much-used files, and file things.
Miss Command-N creating your folders?
N Commander, by DJ Gamble Software fixes that for you. In OS X Apple changed the New Folder command, adding the Shift key to it's combo. Command N became the shortcut for a new finder window. This tiny app reverses those two menu commands with just a click. (Wait while it relaunches the Finder for you.) Keep it on hand though, in case you want to change back to the old way. (Thanks to Bill Catambay, for telling me about this.)Freeware at VersionTracker
I have not tried this with Leopard, having decided to get used to the new shortcuts.
Want your Application Menu back?
ASM, by Frank Vercruesse is the answer — and gives you a bit more too. Classic Window Mode (orders all windows of an application to front when it becomes active). Single Application Mode (automatically hides applications other than the front-most one).
Windowshade, by Unsanity Software is the answer. Gives you the good old-fashioned windowshade and it's cool sound effect, plus some other fancy options.
Miss knowing the Date when you click the time? — A better menubar clock!
How about going one better and having both the date and time right there in your menu bar at all times? I wouldn't have it any other way now!
There have been a couple of solutions that I've loved and lost: first PTH Clock which is now part of You Control. Then I really loved wClock, donationware by Christopher Wolf, but it's gone now for some reason.
For about a year now, I have been using and loving MenuCalendarClock.
- It's basic features are free and give me the features I seek first — both the full date and the time right in your menu, then see the calendar when you click the date or time.
- For $19.95 you get very nice integration with iCal or Entourage, enabling you to see your events and to-do items. You can have all dates that have events, appear in color — with the event appearing as a tooltip and below the clock. You can choose which calendars you'll see reflected there. You can also see your to-do list.
Tip: Under Menu Item you can choose the look of your clock but I wanted day, date without year, a divider, then the time without am or pm. Starting with what they offer, I copied, pasted, and deleted to get my ideal. If you'd like, copy this into the field to try it: %a %b %d • %I:%M
This one of my staples, a must-have.
Shareware, free or $19.95, by objectpark software.
Miss seeing PDFs inside your browser window"?"
In the current versions of OS X (or Safari) when you click a link to a PDF the PDF document opens in your Safari window.
However, in the first versions, the PDF downloads to your hard drive instead of just appearing in the browser window. This is frustrating as it clogs your download area with often unnecessary files. The solution is easy thanks to Manfred Schubert's PDF Browser Plugin, which displays Quartz compatible PDF documents within web browsers. A full set of toolbar controls enables you to view PDF documents in your browser, print them, and save them to disk after viewing.
Shareware, free for private use at home for not-for-profit. US$69 for business site license, available at schubert-it.com.
NOTE: This entry needs to be updated.
Avoid Redundant Typing
If you type your name once a day, you're typing it one time too many!
Why waste keystrokes when you can have your name typed for you with a simple 2-character abbreviation. For example, "ds" gives me Deborah Shadovitz, Likewise, abbreviations can type entire phrases or blocks of text — case, punctuation, returns, and all. Just let Riccardo Ettore's TypeIt4Me type it for you. And if you can't recall a trigger abbreviation, don't worry; you can choose it from a pull-down list right in your menubar.
You can save your text in colors, fonts, etc. You can have a picture appear via trigger... Many innovative features. It's available in several languages.
TIP: If you don't want T4M to type a space after the expanded text, check "Don't Append Trigger" in its Preferences. I choose that so I can add punctuation to the end of a sentence or use "hw" to expand to "http://www." in order to type full URLs out.
Shareware, $27, available at TypeIt4Me.com
Still my most-used app.
1Password is a password manager that goes beyond simple password storage by integrating directly with your web browser to automatically log you into websites, enter credit card information, fill registration forms, and easily generate strong passwords. All ofyour confidential information, including passwords, identities, and credit cards, is kept in one secure place, protected by the only password you will need to remember.
Shareware by Agile Web Solutions, available a AgileWebSolutions.com
1Password is available for Mac, Windows, iPhone, iPad, and Android.
Need to Track Your Passwords?
Password Wallet, by Selznick Scientific Software, is a great way to store your passwords, but it does more that just store them. It also brings you to the site and enters the username and password for you. You also get to store notes along with each password. And thanks to timers, it automatically clears the clipboard and/or closes your file after your preset time choice so no one can come along and get to your info.
Thanks to Password Wallet I have tracked my myriad passwords for years, always knowing they are safe. Now, with Password Wallet for iPhone, I have access to all of this sensitive information - with no worries that others can get to it. My iPhone just became even more indispensable!
Thats' right! Password Wallet sends your password records to your iPhone as well, where it is accessed without need of the web. No hacks needed.
Shareware, US$20, by Sandford Selznick, available at www.selznick.com
Password Wallet for iPhone component, just $10 more.
(Available for PalmOS & OS 8/9 too. And iPhone)
Backing Up (or Moving on up to Another Drive)
I love SuperDuper! -- the easiest, clearest interface I have ever seen for backing up a hard drive. SuperDuper! clearly tells you what your options are and what will happen when you click ok, that I'm not afraid of accidentally deleting all of my stuff.
Use it for backup. Use it to move to a new hard drive. When my clients need to send their Macs in for repair we make sure their SuperDuper! backup is up to date on an external hard drive, then I set them up on a loaner Mac running off the external. When their Mac is back I run SuperDuper! in reverse, putting their backup + new work onto the Mac. No work lost. Easy to do.
SuperDuper! is shareware by Bruce B. Lacey, published by Shirt Pocket.
Available at shirt-pocket.com/SuperDuper
If you Chat
You can set iChat to save your chats so you can refer back to them. But to search the using Spotlight is a pain. Chat Transcript Manager by Unsanity enables you to search your chats much more easily. And since with iChat, saving is all or nothing, Chat Transcript Manager also lets you delete unwanted chats.
Shareware, US$20, at unsanity.com
Need to Clean up Text from emails and such? — TextSoap
I first wrote about TextSoap in MacEfficiency 101 at MacCentral back in 1998 and I've used it ever since.
- Do people send you info in emails and when you try to use it, the lines break in the wrong places?
- Are you ready to pull your hair out over people who still put 2 spaces between sentences? (Or have you not fully broken the habit yet, yourself?)
- Need to change the quote marks thoughout a document?
- Any other issues with text that you have to clean up?
TextSoap to rescue. There are plenty of pre-defined cleaners, or you can create your own. Use the app or use it from the Services menu.
I use it to write articles, for text on websites, and even to paste clean text into my iCal To-Do list. It saves plenty of time!
There's a Windows version too, for those inclined.
TextSoap is Shareware by Unmarked Software.
Available at Unmarked.com. Various prices and packs.
Gain Scroll Flexibility
You can make it easier to scroll through your pages by putting double scroll arrows (a set of up & down arrows) at both the top and bottom of your pages and windows. And the same goes for left and right arrows. The Finder doesn't give us this option though. So John Goodchild of Fixamac Software generously created a simple tool for you to do this. All it does is activate a hidden preference, that even after all the years we've had OS X, Apple has not included in System Prefs for us. There is no way it can harm your system or cause conflicts.
This easy to use application was created by John just for me — in the car en route to Macworld — as a free gift from him and me to the people who came to my Macworld San Francisco 2003 Mac Beginnings or Aladdin sessions. And he's sharing it with all of you who discover this web page. This is the only place you can get Scroll Switcher.
Trackpad Scrolling for PowerBooks & iBooks that Missed Out
In 2005 during the Aluminum Age Apple introduced 2-finger scrolling on the trackpad. Great feature, but those of use with older laptops missed out. Happily, there is iScroll2, which provides this cool feature for aluminum PowerBooks introduced from 2003 to 2004 as well as all G4 iBooks.
I love having this on my 1.25ghz Aluminum! The trackpad scrolling is so convenient. It's hard for me to go to a Mac that lacks this feature. (Thanks to Mark Hartman for showing it to me.)
Free, but a donation is appreciated. Available at iscroll2.sourceforge.net.
Works with Leopard!
Want Spelling Help — and more?
Spell Catcher has long been a favorite of mine, mostly because it gives us a universal spell checker.
- Checks spelling as you type or after you select text to check.
- Dictionaries in nine languages
- Instant Thesaurus and Dictionary Definition look up
- Works in just about every Mac OS X app!
- Does shorthand too
- Provides writing statistics
Note: Originally called Thunder 7, then Spell Catcher, it's been distributed by a couple of companies, but it has always been written by the great folks at Rainmaker Software.
$39.95, available at rainmakerinc.com.
Wanna Find Addresses in Google Faster?
I love Google maps! They're pretty, smooth, each to use. They even give you satellite and hybrid views.
And Brian Toth's Google Maps Plugin has even made it simple to get to your map right from you Apple Address Book. Just click any address's label (work/home/etc) and hold until the menu pops up, then choose Google Map to get directly to the map. Once at the map you can use Google's Get Directions feature — or you can enter that info right from Address Book by choosing Brian's Google Directions option from Address Book.
This was one of my everyday needs — a must-have — until perhaps Leopard built the mapping into Address Book. But this does more.
Dontationware, available from BrianToth.com
I need to see if this is still good in Snow Leopard.
For the Easiest Document Saving or Opening
Even with the helpful Sidebar and column view, it drives me crazy to have to navigate through the hard drive to get to a folder — even when that folder is open and in sight!
Default Folder X by St. Claire Software changes all that by adding a side do-hicky to your Open and Save dialog boxes. It lets you get to any open folder, to any folder you set as a favorite, and more. It now also provides a Dock icon that helps you do more. This is an app that it is frustrating to be without.
Shareware, US$34.95, available at www.stclairsoft.com
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Gotta Count Your Words or Characters?
I happen to love Microsoft Word, which counts words beautifully, but I don't always launch it and often compose text in TextEdit. Typically, we're out of luck when it comes to counting words or characters, but not with Word Counter. Actually, Word Counter does more things: it can count the number of times you're used a specific word, can give you a breakdown of word frequencies, and more. (Sorry, it only works for the English language.)
I've relied on Word Counter for a few years now.
The website explains it well. Have a look at Supermagnus.com/mac/Word_Counter.
Freeware (but please consider donating), by David Hanauer. Available at Supermagnus.com.
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When Size Matters
Have you ever resorted to holding a ruler up to your screen? I used to. So I love having an on-screen ruler. These apps provide horizontal and vertical rulers that can be positioned anywhere on your screen.
- Free Ruler by Pascal www.pascal.com/software. My choice, has everything I need.
- AquaRuler by dot sw is US$11 at dotsw.com. Lots of helpful features.
- xScope's Rulers (part of a $14.95 set of 6 tools).
Cite File Paths a Lot — or Ever?
CopyPath by Jonathan Baumgartner will save you a lot of time! It's an author's or programmer's dream. It's also very helpful when you're writing to someone for help because you can easily and accurately state exactly what file you're discussing and where it is.
CopyPath does just one thing: Just point to an item and choose Copy Path from the contextual menu. You get the full path to that a document, application, folder, mounted volume, zip disk, or such. You have 2 options — to copy a path UNIX style, or HFS style (with slashes or with colons). Then all you have to do is paste. Works fine in Panther.
Freeware, available at www.BergenStreetSoftware.com
Note: CopyPath now has a new name but I have not gotten it to work yet so now update on that yet.
Want to program your own menu commands?
Check out Unsanity's Menu Master "haxie" which works like Now Menus used to. It lets you change, remove or invent your own menu shortcut keys in any application.
(The first thing I did was remove the Send shortcuts from Entourage so I wouldn't send messages by mistake as I saved them.)
Shareware, US$12, available at unsanity.com
As of the end of 2007 not all Unsanity software is Leopard compatible, so check their site.
Still need classic — and still on 10.1 or 10.2?
If you're using 10.1 or 10.2 the best way to gain control over it is Classic?, by xgadgets. It'll show you when Classic is running and does more as well.Shareware, US$8, available at xgadgets.com
Need a Special Character?
The Character Palette is kind of odd and Key Caps, which is pretty poor. The shareware option is Macility's PopChar X, successor to the classically popular PopChar & PopChar Pro. It gives you a little black "P" that hangs out in the top corner of your monitor. Click it, then choose your font, and you'll see every character available in that font. No guessing possible modifier keys like with Key Caps. Of course there are more helpful features as well.
Shareware available at www.macility.com
I haven't been using this recently though.
A Better Way to Copy and Paste
Copy PasteX by Script Software is provides you with multiple clipboards so you can store more than one copied item to call upon later on. (There is also a Windows 98/2000/ME/XP version.)
Shareware, US$20, available at www.scriptsoftware.com
I have not been using this recently so I can't report first-hand right now.
Gain More Screen Capture Abilities
If you only take the occasional screen shot and Apple's built-in abilities do the trick for you, you don't need Snapz Pro X. But, if you want to record your actions to show someone what to do, or if you do screen shots for instruction guides, you'll definitely want Snapz Pro X.
I could never have done any of my books or articles without it and I continue to depend on it daily.
Shareware, US$69, available at ambrosiasw.com
Launch a LOT of software?
LaunchBar, by ObjectiveDevelopment, lets you launch apps and files by typing just a short abbreviation or the start of the program or file's name. You can set up your own abbreviation or use the ones LaunchBar comes up for you. (I don't use this myself so I can't say more.)
Shareware, just US$20 or so, available at www.obdev.at
And the final efficiency app...
Keep Your Software Up to Date
Ever since it started, I've been writing about VersionTracker.com as the place to seek and discover software that fits your needs, as well as the place to check for updates. A few years ago, VersionTracker added a Watch List feature. Now, while they maintain a free searchable website, they have also added more automated features, VersionTracker Pro, for a yearly fee.
Got Printer Setup / Print Center Errors?
When you can't print, you have two choices. You can search the AppleCare Knowledge Base for the steps you can take to solve your problems, then, if needed, search the Mac websites even further for more processes hidden within OS X. Then you can type all the code from these steps into the Terminal.
- Print Therapy for 10.5.
- Printer Setup Repair for 10.3 and 10.4
- Print Center Repair for 10.1 and 10.2
Its author, John Goodchild has managed to build a simple-to-use little program that'll perform these procedures for you. It sure helped me! The interface is easy to use and very clear — but I encourage you to follow the documentation because it takes you thru the steps and what they do, giving you a foolproof understanding.
It can also give you back hard drive space, depending on which printers you actually use. By default you get over 600 mgs of drivers for HP, Canon, Epson, and Lexmark printers. If you don't own those printers you can use PSR/PCR to delete them. Hard drives are inexpensive these days but we still all have better uses for that space. Also, why risk an unneeded driver causing a conflict? AND it's a brilliant aid in properly installing PPD files.
Printer Setup Repair (PSR) additionally helps you remove all preference files. It also enables you to install PPDs into both OS X and Classic. Doing so manually results in incorrect permissions.
Need to Rescue Your Data?
What do you do when regular maintenance and disk utilities fail? You're got two options.
Data Rescue II by Prosoft lets you rescue your data yourself. You just start off the Data Rescue CD and copy your data to a spare drive. (Have a FireWire or USB external drive handy, or a Zip disk if your data will fit on one.) There are versions for OS X, for 8.6-9, and for 7.6 and pre-PowerPC Macs.
I have used Data Rescue II with amazing success! Several times now, Apple Geniuses and other certified techs have told people their drive cannot be read or that their files will be gone, and I got them back. An Apple Store does not retrieve data. It's not one of their services. So do yourself a favor and try Data Rescue II, or turn to a consultant you trust. If Data Rescue doesn't work...
...if your hard disk is physically damaged and you cannot rescue your files yourself, you can turn your hard drive over to the pros at DriveSavers. These folks actually take apart your drive in a clean room and seek out your data sector by sector. They've fixed drives that have been run over by cars, fallen into the ocean, and well... you just wouldn't believe it unless you saw the drives. Check out their Museum of Disk-asters. They're amazing folks.
I'm really pushing it now, listing this stuff here but I just don't have time to do a proper program page.
Need to copyright your images?
When you put your images on the web it is all too easy for people to pick copy it and use it for themselves. I see this happen all the time and tell people they're wronging someone, but these people don't care. You can partially alleviate this problem by embedding a watermark in your image. The easiest, least espensive way to do this is a great little app called CopyrightInserter by Robert Ziefel. How it works: create a copyright image and drag it onto this app; drag a folder full of images, drag a destination folder; choose positioning and transparency; click. I love it.
Freeware (donation would be nice), available at www.smoonstore.com/silverstreaksoftware.
Not tried with Leopard.
Here are some places you can get some great folder icons. Remember to read the Read Me and respect the author's licensing.
Oh! If you'd like some help learning how to customize your folders, see my article about folder icons at Mac Efficiency.
- Icon Factory: IconFactory.com
This is the longest existing site full of icons that I know of. These guys also do excellent icon design for software applications. They also have icon-building software and other related software.
- Pixel Girl's site offers icons by various authors: PixelGirlPresents.com
It's often difficult for a person who finds a lost item to find the owner. You migth think that a person can turn on your Mac and see it's yours, but what if the battery is dead or you have a password lock? I know of two solutions that solve this.
- StuffBak — I learned about StuffBak from RadTech because the good folks there like and resell the system. You buy labels — for $4-6 each — and stick the on your Mac (or iPhone), then activate it. If someone finds your item, they call the toll-free number on the label or go online. The StuffBak person and the finder work out a return method. Perhaps it was found in your town, or maybe it's far away. They arrange the return of your property. Depending on the service you've purchased you pay for shipping, get it back already-paid, or whatever they work out.
Each tag gives you 2 years of the handling. After that, you can buy more years.
- ImHONEST.com — You buy the labels (6 for $15 or 12 for $19) and put them on your equipment, then register them. If it is found the finder drops it at a UPS Store or calls toll-free or uses online form. You pay shipping back to you. (No transaction or finder's fee.) Finder gets a reward.
Labels come with 1 year activation. Renewal is $1.95 per item year.
International shipping by arrangment.
Labels are made of "highly durable, abrasion-resistant polycarbonate material."
Activation can be transferred upon sale.
I do not have any drect experience with this company yet.
Company was started in 2004.
- ArmorTag — is another label option, about $8-9 per label held in place with a high-powered adhesive and cannot be removed. You register your tag, as with the other two options. No annual fees. If it's found, you pay the shipping to get it back to you. No fees for the recovery process.
Note: These are not just for Macs or laptops. Use for camera, phone, keys, any equipment...
One nice thing about these systems is that you don't have to put your name, address, or phone number on your items. That gives you privacy. Of course, if your name is on it, the finder may be able to hand your item directly to you at the party or event where you've lost it.
But what if your Mac was really stolen?
No one will simply return it. So how to find your Mac?
- LoJack for Macs — the name kind of says it all. More on it later.
- MacPhoneHome by Brigadoon Software — secretly sends an invisible email message to a pre-determined address each time you get an Internet connection. If your Mac is lost or stolen, you file a theft report with the local police and then notify Brigadoon's Tracking Center, and next time your Mac goes online, they'll know where it is and provide full recovery support. They explain that theiri recovery agents work with us, global ISPs and the investigating law enforcement agency to recover our stolen property. Their site says there are no other costs. I will be trying it but can't speak first-hand yet.
There are versions for businesses and schools. There is a PC version available too.