Category Archives: OS X

Where I profess my love for Alfred

Alfred is one of my besties. Without needing to reach for my trackpad, I have so many cool activities available from my keyboard, and I’m pretty sure I haven’t dug into all of its features. Most of these are work related.

Alfred usage 2014-04-23

Forty custom searches helps speed my workflow. A few dozen snippets, such as:

  • pre–defined replies, some with dynamic placeholders to be substituted for a URL
  • my home address
  • email addresses
  • frequent usernames and URLs; the latter used when replying to site owners at work
  • email signatures (personal and work)
  • ASCII art

Handy calculator. Blazing fast file navigator (I rarely use Finder). A custom workflow that opens my work applications with a single keyword. Several other nifty workflows from talented, determined people. System commands, like Sleep, Shut Down, Empty Trash, or Quit All Applications.

Display large text across your screen so you can share with someone across the room — and everyone in between. (Command-L, or Command-Option-L to display a phone number rather than a calculation.)

Most importantly, instead of using Google to check spelling:

Why do you love Alfred? I’d love your suggestions — please leave a comment!

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Review: Cloak Personal VPN

If you’re using your smartphone or laptop on a free Wi-Fi connection, you totally need a personal VPN service. At WordCamp Los Angeles 2013, Jason Cosper mentioned his favorite personal VPN service, Cloak. Now, I’m a fan of Cloak! It’s fast and simple to set up.

I have the 5GB Mini Plan for $2.99/month, which is sufficient for now since I don’t stray too far from home with an unsecured connection on my iPhone. It’s seems easy enough to upgrade to their Unlimited Plan for $9.99/month. My wife and I use iPhones and MacBook Air laptops, and we can share a single account.

If you’re worried about how long they keep personal session information (data related to your Cloak account), their Policies page is written in plain English.

Another notable read on their blog: Why Trust Matters When Choosing a VPN

Give it a try! :)

FaceTime audio calls are excellent

While I’m in Budapest, I’ve been using FaceTime audio–only calls with my wife on our iPhones.

Free WiFi access at our apartments means:

  • Amy doesn’t need to setup Skype. We can use the built–in iOS app.
  • I don’t worry about minutes.
  • Audio quality is great (as long as the internet connection is stable).

Here is the data usage from our calls so far:

  • 27 minutes (18 MB)
  • 5 minutes (4 MB)
  • 56 minutes (30 MB)
  • 9 minutes (7 MB)

Mac users can also use the FaceTime app if you aren’t an iPhone user.

How? In iOS, view the contact information, and tap the phone icon next to the FaceTime video camera icon.

FaceTime options

Happy chatting!

View an article with Instapaper Text only using the keyboard

As a happy, longtime Instapaper user, I need the Instapaper Text bookmarklet often when settling in for a lengthy read on my MacBook Air.

I’d like to share a tip that’ll save time of switching to your mouse or trackpad.

When the bookmarklet is saved to your browser, you can use it with the page you’re viewing by following these steps:

  1. Move your cursor to the address (a.k.a. location) bar by pressing Command + L.1
  2. Type the first few letters of the bookmarklet name (or the whole thing if you type quickly).
  3. Press Enter.

If you use folders in Instapaper2, you can take this a step further by saving the bookmarklet for those folders as well.


  1. Mac: Works with Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Safari
  2. Pro tip. If you send saved articles from Instapaper to your Kindle, don’t mix text articles with media so those particular entries aren’t wasting space in that periodical (Amazon’s term, not mine). I have video, audio, and photo folders as well. 

Mac menu bar minimalism with Bartender

I bought a copy of Bartender for these features:

  • “Show an app in the menu bar when it updates.”
  • “Menu bar apps still work the same.”
  • Minimalism.

It’s also easy to adjust its settings.

I hope Apple acquires them for direct integration with OS X. (Yes, Windows XP had some of these features.)

Fifteen dollars to help me focus? You got it. I should’ve tried it sooner.

Disclaimer: This is an unsolicited post, and I purchased the app with my money.

How Things makes me even more awesome

Things 2 screenshotAround nine months ago, Isaac Keyet persuaded me to try Things for Mac by Cultured Code. I usually prefer plain text, but that’s too simple for the stuff I jot down.

With keyboard shortcuts galore, I quickly fell in love with this app. It costs $49.99 for Mac, $9.99 for iPhone, and $19.99 for iPad — and it’s worth every penny. I’ll explain how I manage tasks with Things.

At work

At Automattic, we communicate internally through IRC, private P2–themed sites, and Skype. However, I do receive email notifications regularly because it helps with my workflow.

At the beginning and end of each shift, my routine consists of processing my email (new post or comment notifications), and reviewing IRC or Skype messages I missed when I was offline. I skim messages, open batches of five to ten browser tabs, and delete the corresponding emails.

When I come across a post that requires more digging (i.e. longer than a minute), I press Control–Option–Space bar to use Quick Entry, which automatically inserts a link in the notes. That item gets saved to Things. (Inbox, by default.)

Without moving my hands from the keyboard, I can enter a title and tags for the item. When I’m done, pressing Return saves the item in Things and the Quick Entry window disappears, leaving me where I left off.

If there’s a block of text that’s perfect for the notes, highlighting it before pressing the Quick Entry with Autofill keyboard shortcut adds it to the notes after the link.

I also sort my Inbox items into Next or Scheduled after processing email. (This might be against GTD methodology, but I equate the Scheduled focus to my digital tickler file.)

If I have an idea that isn’t linked to a webpage or email, or if someone pings me and I can’t get to them right away, I can press the Quick Entry keyboard shortcut (Control–Space bar) and jot it down in seconds.

It’s exhilarating to know that I’m not missing anything as long as it’s in Things (or my calendar, of course).

Pro tip: Read through the keyboard shortcuts a few times, or print it as a reminder. I’ve been using my trackpad too much.

Not at “work”

Away from my desk, I can write new items or ideas quickly with Things for iPhone. I add items from the Things home screen, saving to the Inbox by default.

When I get home, I add additional context (tags, notes). If I’m browsing a site or Twitter, and something piques my interest, I’ll take the extra few seconds to copy the URL in my clipboard to paste in the item notes.

I used their mobile app with local sync via Wi-Fi (before cloud sync), and I think it’s superb now that cloud sync works perfectly.

Wading through tasks

I’m infatuated with tags, making sure I assign the correct one for each item. By doing this, my Next screen is super focused, allowing me to ignore stuff I can’t handle at the moment. Here are a few examples:

  • At work, my Automattic tag allows me to ignore errands and tasks I need to do at home. (Tag management side note: computer is a parent tag, while Automattic is a child tag since I’m in front of a computer when working.)
  • My home tag removes items I need to do at home and away from a computer.
  • My errand tag focuses my view to tasks when I’m out and about.

Relevancy

This process allows me to batch tasks. I’m not constantly changing gears between P2s, Trac, updating support pages, helping people using WordPress.com through email/forums, processing photos, or writing posts (like this one).

I’m also not worried about forgetting the context of an item. I add just enough notes to describe what needs to be done.

Conclusion

If you work on a Mac every day, you should check out the 15–day free trial. I’m pretty sure you’ll love it.

Thank you, Things, for keeping me sane. :)

An OS X Mountain Lion setting revealed with Option

I work with my MacBook Air connected to a Apple Thunderbolt Display. Sometimes, I’ll find that my Thunderbolt Display shows my screen, but my MacBook Air remains black. Boo.

In OS X Lion (and possibly Snow Leopard), the Display preferences pane had a Detect Displays button which fixed this for me.

That button doesn’t appear in Mountain Lion. Or does it?

If the detect displays option is not available, hold down the Option key while you are in the Display pane.

Oh. Thank you, HT5369.

Link

Shortly after OS X Mountain Lion was released, James — or J–Huff, as I’d like to call him — let me know that I should give Mail another try. (I’m a longtime Mozilla Thunderbird user.) While I don’t have a HiDPI (retina) laptop, he said I would settle into Mail just fine, and will wonder why I ever used Thunderbird.

While getting accustomed to Mail, I tried to figure out a way for a keyboard shortcut to move selected messages to a folder I designate. (Reason: Mail uses a default “Archive” folder that I can’t change like my Drafts, Sent, Trash, or Junk folder. I previously setup an “Archives” folder.)

So, I’m really glad I stumbled onto Matt Gemmell’s post, “Favorite Mailboxes in Lion Mail”. I now have keyboard shortcuts to move one or more messages to any of these folders very quickly:

  • Inbox (Command-Control–1)
  • Archives (Command-Control–2)
  • Automattic (Command-Control–3)
  • @Action (Command-Control–4)

By the way, the reason why I used Thunderbird because it’s open source, and I could switch easily from Eudora. Isn’t that a blast from the past?

If you have any other Mail tips, please leave a link in the comments. Thanks!

Photo workflow and my iPhone

I’m annoyed with the disorganized amount of photos I’ve accumulated on my iPhone, and I currently synchronize (backup) my iPhone photos to my laptop with iPhoto. My slight frustration was more obvious after my recent trip to Tybee Island, GA to meet up with my coworkers because I had to process photos taken on two different devices.

I never pondered this issue with my Android phone because I didn’t take pride in those photos.

Problem: I don’t use iPhoto for anything else, so why do I keep using it?

Solution: Plug my iPhone into my laptop with the USB cable, then import directly from Lightroom for culling and processing. Then, I believe I can delete the photos from my iPhone with Apple’s Image Capture.

Last night, I processed photos taken from my iPhone with Camera+, but since I was at home, I’ll do this from now on. (If I’m out and about, and I’d like to post a photo here, I’ll process from Camera+ and upload right away.)