Macstock 2017 Notes - Shifting Into High Gear: Customizing Your Mac for Maximum Productivity

Here are some notes on my session from Macstock 2017:

Launch Bar by Objective Development- launching and clipboard utility

Zoom It by Appatit,Inc.

The Dock
 - 2 criteria for things that go in the dock: Apps that i want to drag items to to open, or apps that I need to know are running. Frequently opened apps if it suits you.
 - Put it where you want - left or right theoretically gives you more space, but it can get very confusing if you are using multiple monitors or switch set-ups where one is on the left or the other is on the right.

Decorate if you want but I prefer to keep the default desktop for the system software I’m running. That gives you a visual cue for what OS is on the particular Mac you’re working on if you have more than one. I usually have too many windows open anyway, but you can always create a graphic with some useful information. I’ve never found that particularly useful, but many do.

Finder Window Customization
 - Status Bar - turn it on using VIEW-STATUS BAR to know how much storage is on your Mac at all times; also how many files in the folder.
 - Path Bar - turn it on using VIEW-PATH BAR - not only can you see the path to a particular file, but you can open those windows that are in the path list so you are free to move up and down the file path with just a click.
 - Tab Bar - turn it on using VIEW-TAB BAR. I use and love tabs in my browsers, and learning to use them in the Finder makes moving between frequently used windows a breeze.
 - Have a whole lot of windows open in the Finder and want to consolidate them? Use WINDOW-MERGE ALL WINDOWS to create a single Finder window with all the previously open windows in tabs on that window.
 - Customize the Toolbar - Select in VIEW-CUSTOMIZE TOOLBAR. Put apps or folders that you frequently drag items to at your fingertips. Putting a Trash icon makes it quick and simple to delete items with a click rather than a drag. If you don’t use Tags, why is it in every single Finder window you open? Make the Toolbar work for you.

Touch Bar Customization
If you have a Touch Bar Macbook Pro, don't overlook this option to put commands of your choice in the Touch Bar. Select it in VIEW-CUSTOMIZE-TOUCH-BAR.

Sidebar Customization
 - Some programs and services like Dropbox and iCloud Drive automatically load items into your Sidebar, and that’s fine, because you often need frequent access to those locations on your drive. But if not, you can get rid of them by right-clicking and removing them.
 - Add frequently-accessed folders here and folders that you drag things to in addition to the OS-standard folders like Downloads and Documents. Adding is simple: Just drag a folder into the Sidebar and move it up and down a little until a horizontal line appears, indicating where it will be placed, and then release the click. and it is there!

Keyboard Shortcuts
 - Hopefully you are already using cut, copy, paste, screenshots and most of the common ones built in. You can spend days learning all the keyboard shortcuts that are built into the Mac OS, and even more learning those in your favorite applications. But if there is one that you need and it doesn’t exist, you can make it yourself. Open SYSTEM PREFERENCES and go to KEYBOARD, then either APP SHORTCUTS or FUNCTION KEYS will let you assign a new shortcut. The macOS will let you know if your creation conflicts with something already assigned by the system.Shortcuts will let you assign a keyboard shortcut to any app, and will warn you if there is a conflict with an existing shortcut.
 - In SYSTEM PREFERENCES and then TEXT, you can sample text expansion by assigning your own abbreviations and what they expand to. See if text expansion is for you, then step up to TextExpander if and when you need more power and easier organization.

 - Also in KEYBOARD PREFERENCES is Dictation.  Note that if you want to dictate offline, be sure to turn on Enhanced Dictation.   And if you want your Mac to be able to be voice controlled in some areas, that’s in the ACCESSIBILITY panel in SYSTEM PREFERENCES.

Menu Bar Apps
- It is absolutely easy to put too much up in that menu bar, to the point you can’t remember what they all are. So many applications believe that they are so important that they must have space in your Menu Bar, and install themselves with the menu bar option turned on. Turn off as many as you can, and keep the ones that are important to you.
 - If you just can’t stand not to have a huge number of menu bar apps, then get the third party utility Bartender, that gives you a second row of menu bar apps. This is also great for having those menu bar apps readily available, but not cluttering up your main working environment. For example, I keep Bluetooth and Duet available but hidden in Bartender.

Open/Save Dialog Boxes
 - One feature that everyone has to use is the Open and Save dialog boxes. The customization you do in your Sidebar carries over to the Open and Save dialog boxes, to help quickly access where you want to put and get your documents, but a different and essential third party utility is Default Folder from St. Clair Software. You can set favorites and access all sorts of functions on the right side of the dialog box, but the one that I use the most is the Recently Used Files and Folders.

Print Dialog Box
 - Don’t overlook the PDF option in every print dialog box. By pulling it down, you can do a wide variety of things with the PDF of your document, rather than just saving it. You can email it directly from here or send it to other programs, but my personal favorite is the "Save to Web Receipts" option where it creates the PDF and names it with the title of the page it comes from, and places it automatically in the Web Receipts folder in your Documents folder.

 - Learn the built-in Trackpad swipes, pinches and zooms because there are some terrifically usable ways to manipulate files and images straight from the trackpad itself. You can find them in the System Preferences in the Trackpad panel.
 - Once you get used to two and three finger gestures, get the third party app Better Touch Tool by  Andreas Hegenberg and you can basically program gestures and taps with multiple fingers. I tend to use it with Final Cut, but am experimenting constantly with functions that I would like to do without taking my hands off the Trackpad.

 - In System Preferences, the Displays panel will let you choose various options, especially if you have a MacBook: try out the various resolutions that make the text larger, or that give you more screen real estate. I usually use the MORE SPACE setting because I like to have as much as possible, but not always.

Custom Icons
 - Don’t forget custom icons, especially if you prefer the icon view of your windows. Because they don’t show up as custom in the Side Bar, nor are they in color, they aren't as useful as they used to be.

 - You probably know about QuickLook - the ability to highlight a file, tap the spacebar, and get a preview of the file's contents. But did you know or remember that you can extend QuickLook with third party plug-ins? has an extensive collection. Some work less than ideally, but it is worth checking out if you have a file format that isn’t natively supported.

Launch Bar
 -  Launch Bar is my choice for a launcher utility, but it has another function that is invaluable: the built-in Clipboard history, so that with COMMAND-SPACE-K, I get access to up to the last fifty items that were on the Clipboard. There are plenty of clipboard utilities out there, but none that are so seamless, take up no screen real estate, and that are so easily accessed.

Moving, Resizing and Laying Out Finder Windows
 - Move two windows close together and they snap together. This works side-by-side or top-and-bottom.
 - There are so many great window layout utilities that you can get lost. My favorite is Moom by Many Tricks software. Not only do you get pre-defined window positions with a click, but also a grid where you can drag out the size window you want.
 - You can also click and hold on a window's green icon to put the window in split-screen mode.

Customizing Apple's Productivity Apps
 - Don't overlook the fact that you can customize the tool bars in Keynote, Numbers and Pages to access the tools you really use, or remove the ones you don't.
 - Bonus tip: The tabs and MERGE ALL WINDOWS features works in these apps as well!

 - Tabs
 - The Sidebar contains options for your bookmarks, and this is where it is easiest to arrange and edit them, place them in order, and organize them in folders. It also is where you can use Reader mode to read pages you have save for later reading. Finally, it can show your social media feeds.
 - Folders in the Favorites Bar: by placing several bookmarks in a folder, and then clicking on the folder when it is in the Favorites Bar, you can opt to open all of the links in that folder into different tabs at one time.

Want More?
 - Look in the preferences of every single app you use
 - Look at all the panels in System Preferences. There are all kinds of options you may have known about and forgotten, or that you never knew about to start with.







Missing CES Shows In Your Podcatcher?

MacVoices' CES coverage included sixty-three interviews from the show floor and press events.  You can find them all in the MacVoices Archives on the site, but I also wanted to mention a potential issue if you are subscribed to the audio or video podcast feeds:

Depending on how your podcatcher is configured, you may have missed some shows getting automatically downloaded. Why? Let's say your podcatcher checks for new shows every morning before you leave for work, and (this is the important part) it is set to retrieve "the latest episode" or some similar setting. If I released four shows since yesterday morning, you would only get the latest one. The other three would be skipped, and you might never know about them.

Since this is a local setting in your podcatcher, there's nothing I can do about it other than mention it to you. So, if you see episodes on the site or here in the Dispatch but don't recognize them, that is most likely the reason.

The solution is to manually download them, or to watch them online, either on the MacVoices site or on MacVoices on YouTube, where there is a playlist of all the CES shows for 2017.

The MacVoice Holiday Gift Guide on Flipboard

Looking for a quick way to browse all the picks our MacJury panels have done this holiday season? Then you need to flip through the new MacVoices Holiday Gift Guide - 2016, our new Flipboard magazine that consolidates all of our picks, and the shows themselves, and puts them in an a format that can be browsed easily.

Of course, you will need to watch or listen to the shows to find out why a particular product was picked, what it offers, and what other panel members had to say about it. This Flipboard magazine is designed to help you scan all the choices, especially as shopping time starts to grow short.

As more panels provide their gift choices for this year, their selections will be added, so check back often.

Like MacVoices Magazine, the MacVoices Holiday Gift Guide - 2016 is free on Flipboard, the iOS app that is also free, and is one of the best ways to view content on your iOS device.

Happy Holidays!

MacVoices' Holiday Shopping Strategies

With the holiday shopping season almost upon us (or has it already overtaken us?), use these tips to get the most from all the sales and specials on tech gear and other items, and make your life a little easier in the process.

Make A Wish List
No, not the kind you made when you were a kid. Make a realistic list of items you plan to buy, or are at least in the market for. That helps cut down on impulse buys, and focuses you on the items you really want.

Do A Little Research
We all have our favorite sources of information on which products are best. I’ll leave it to you to pick yours (and hope that MacVoices is part of the process), but a couple great sources include:

  • The Wire Cutter and The Sweet Home for analysis of tech and non-tech products alike. They tell you what they pick, why they picked it, and what their qualifications are.
  • Consumer Reports: Some of their content is behind a pay wall, some is not, but it is always worth a stop, especially for big-ticket items.
  • Amazon Reviews: As long as you take them with a grain of salt, and recognize that there are always going to be a few people who are unhappy with everything, Amazon reviews can be a good thing. Give a little more weight to those marked “verified purchase” since they are less likely to be false reviews. If you really care, click though on the individual reviewer to see what other reviews they have done, and then decide if you think they are both legit and credible.

Do A Little More Research
Once you’ve made your list and then determined what the best products are for you, check some of your favorite sites NOW to see what the price is, and make note. Then, when you get that email or banner add that screams about a fantastic sale, you will know whether it really is a great deal, a good deal, or no deal at all. You may be surprised how often a site tells you they are offering an amazing price when it is really no discount at all.

Web Resources
There are plenty of great deal sites out there who will be monitoring the best deals starting before Black Friday and running through the holiday. You can even sign up for alerts to help you pounce on a special offer the moment it is offered. My favorite is dealnews because of their extensive coverage and long history of posting actual deals, not just promotions.

Consider Returns And Refunds
Price is always a key driver during holiday shopping, but don’t overlook things like the ease of returns or refunds. Make sure you understand how long you have to return something, whether there are restocking fees, who is paying the freight to ship an item back, and how many hoops you may have to jump through to do the return or get the refund. Are you limited to an exchange, store or site credit, or an actual refund?  Whether an item is defective or turns out to be something you really don’t want, dealing with it can be a hassle at the time of year you don’t have extra time.

Check Your Email
Vendors will flood your In Box with all sorts of promotions, limited time offers and deals. Some will be legitimate, some will be marketing spam. Triage the barrage by deleting those that you obviously have no interest in, and then scan the rest to see if there is anything worth pursuing.

Cross Check
Think you found a deal? Do a quick search of Amazon or your favorite online vendor as a double-check on what the going rate might be that day for that product.

Look at Total Cost, Not Just Price
Before you hit the "Buy" button, be sure to look at that bottom line total to see if shipping and any other special charges are driving the price up beyond the "good deal" range. If you have Amazon Prime, sometimes paying a little more there with free shipping ends up being a better bottom-line deal than a cheaper price elsewhere.

Act Fast
When you see a deal, evaluate it, and find that it fits your criteria, buy it! Popular items can sell out in a matter of minutes or less, so don’t think too long. Just because it says that the deal is good through tomorrow doesn’t mean that there is an unlimited quantity.

Allow For Impulse Buys
No matter how diligent you are about the preparation, you're going to see something that punches your button. Consider setting a budget for such items, be extra careful about the return/refund guidelines, and stop feeling guilty.

Receipts and Packing Slips
Sooner or later, whether you shop online or down the street, you’re going to have to deal with paper. Receipts, invoices or packing slips…they all can stack up. If you have adopted a paperless work flow, you know what to do. If not, put a folder somewhere in a drawer where you can throw all those pieces of holiday paper until the dust clears and you know that you can safely discard them without endangering return or refund options.

Set a reminder on your calendar right now for, say, January 31, 2017 to empty that folder. When you do, shred the contents so you aren’t exposing yourself to credit card fraud or identity theft.

Monitoring Returns and Refunds
I know, I know…this is a little more hassle, but if you have a high-priced item that has a limited return period, invoke Siri on your iPhone, Apple Watch or Mac to set a reminder a few days before the deadline. Then, once the return is made, tell Siri to remind you to check your credit card statement in a month or so to be sure you received the credit.