Macintosh Blog Posts

August 25, 2017

Fluid Mask 3

fluidmask

Fluid Mask is an easy way to remove/replace background images. People use this when they want to extract people or objects out of photograph.

This is a professional graphic tool that is more powerful than mask functionality that you may encounter in Pixelmator or Photoshop. This gives the user more power to strip out unwanted backgrounds. The net-net results is a cleaner cut with no ugly pixelated edges.

Some example uses:

  • Change the background from a cloudy day to a nice sunny one.
  • Add someone to a photograph to make it appear that they were at the family outing even though they couldn't make it.
  • Take the 'Welcome to Boston' sign out of a picture and place it on your website header.
  • Remove unwanted objects from your photos.
  • An tool in your photography toolbox to create great images for social media.

From their website:

Extract the true character of an image -- fast! Make super fine mask selections and apply the most powerful blending algorithms for truly professional results.

Good Tools have a Learning Curve

It takes a while to understand how to use this tool. Fortunately, there are plenty of video tutorials to watch and understand the fundamental ideas. Every image is different so learning the fundamentals can help tackle the toughest task.

I did find the layout to be a bit hard to understand but watching the videos and playing around with the software help with the learning curve.

Start off slow. I would recommend just doing a basic background replacement and slowly work your way to more complex masking.

Some Examples of Work

Here are a couple of images that I was able to extract using Fluid Mask.

yosemite at night
A little touch up with Pixlr to keep the colors about the same.

trump white house

Getting Fluid Mask

You don't need Photoshop to use Fluid Mask. It works perfectly fine as a stand alone application. The downside of the standalone version is you can't drag and drop images to open - you need to open the image via the File -> Open option within the application.

You can download a trial version from their website. If you find the tool to be a time saver you can purchase a license for $99.

This might seem a bit expensive for the casual photographer and blogger. However, the tool will save you a lot of time which could justify

August 18, 2017

Smartmockups

Smart Mockup makes it easy to display any image as if it was on a monitor/computer/displays. The application has 458 templates whereas the website only has 157 mockups.

The nice thing about using SmartMockups is that you can present a website in a different view. You simply pick out the design first and then add your image or enter a URL.

Pro Tip: If your website requires a login, you'll need to do a screenshot import since you can't interact with the URL Screen capture in SmartMockups. When you do your screen captures, I would recommend using different browser resolutions. This will give you some choices when you select the right mock-up.

You have the option of exporting the image or simply use the 'Share' link to instantly share the image in Slack or Jira.

Framingham MBTA Train

Some Notes about the application

  • There is no glare reflection effect on the mockup image. (Instructions on how to add it in Photoshop.)
  • In order to run the SmartMockups app you need to be connected to the Internet.
  • Check out some of the designs and use the 'Favorites' feature on ones you like. This will save you time later.
  • After you upload an image, you have the opportunity to resize it so that it fits in the placeholder template.
  • There are four image sizes on export. If all the sizes are big, you can always resize the exported image to whatever you want.
  • There a Suggestion box where you can add and vote on other ideas. You can also see what ideas that might get implemented soon.
  • Keep checking the application once and a while, you never know when new designs come in.
  • Smartmockups now support GIFs. However, they don't support GIFs larger that 8 MB.

This is a useful tool to have if you do any type of blogging or social media advertising. It can help make screenshot and photos look better than by themselves.

There is a one-time fee of $49 for the application. The software is available for Windows and Macintosh users. You can download the application from their website. Check around the Internet, you may find discounts from various vendors. I was able to pick up a license for $19.

August 11, 2017

Transmit 5

Transmit is a communication software that allows you to transfer files. This is a great tool to use for anyone managing websites.

I have been a long time Panic's Transmit customer. My first Transmit license was purchased on September 27, 2006 (Version 3). I upgraded to version 4.0 on March 15, 2013. ( Checkout my earlier blog post)

I have been a very happy customer of Transmit and pretty much every file that has been moved to the cryan.com server was done using Transmit.

Finally an Update

On July 18, 2016 Panic.com announced a major upgrade to Transmit. This is the first major update since 2010. I decided to take a look at what's new with my favorite software.

Panic's press release has highlighted three major changes:

  • Connect to More Servers
  • Faster Connection
  • New UI

Here's a couple of things that caught my attention when I tried out the software for a few days.

More Servers

It's nice that Transmit can now connect to a lot more services. They went from supporting four to ten.

Transmit Feature

My file transfer needs are a bit basic. Currently, I don't have any account on the other services, but that may change. I basically use Transmit to copy from my own SFTP server.

I am pretty sure that it's only a matter of time before I'll be having accounts on Amazon S3, Blackblaze B2 or Microsoft Azure. Cloud storage is growing and you're better off storing files there than on a DVD.

Places Bar

The Places Bar is very cool. When you open up a connection there's a new bookmark type of bar on the top of the file listing. The bar stores all your favorite locations that you use for that location.

Now I can navigate between folders a lot easier. It's easier to zoom between folders - definitely a huge time saver.

In Transmit 4, I had set up different 'Favorite' locations on the same server. In version 5, I can simplify things and have my website as a favorite and then use the Places Bar to navigate around common folders. I can quickly move between the Template folder and my Includes folder.

Overall View

I am very happy that Transmit has gotten an update - even happier that they didn't go to a yearly subscription plan like other software vendors have done.

Right now I can't justify upgrading. But it's nice to know that when I get onto additional clouds solutions, that Transmit will be a solution that I can use.

If you're moving files between services, I would highly recommend checking out Transmit. The seven-day trial is plenty of time to see how it's a great time saver.

August 4, 2017

Apple Mail HTML Support

I encountered this paragraph in the Take Control of Apple Mail book By Joe Kissell. Google added the Book to a search I was doing for 'raw HTML apple mail'

Take Controlof Emailwith Apple Mail

It hard to believe that it took several versions of OS X before the default Mail application supported HTML in emails.

July 29, 2017

Save-As Dialog Boxes

Today’s post is about what makes a great Save dialog. This is going to be short because a good graphic 'Save-As' dialog box should be simple.

This is a comparison of the Save-As dialog box three main graphic applications that I use:

Omnigroup's OmniGraffle

OmniGraffle Save Dialog
Great Dialog Box, easy to use and very practical tools.

OmniGraffle gets it right with their version of the save dialog. The Omni Group puts in a nice preview and the option to export different sizes of the graphic. They also have the ability to have a margin around the graphic, which is perfect when the graphic border is a bit too close to the edge.

Nice to Have: A zoom feature in the preview area would be very useful.

Graphic Converter

Graphic Converter 10

The Before/After Preview feature is really good. I also like the ability to change up on the Codec and Subsampling. Deciding what metadata to include can help make the file size a bit smaller.

Nice to Have: Ability to add the margin around the image.

Photoshop Elements 13

Adobe Elements13

Adobe Photoshop gives you a lot of control on how to setup the final output image. You can easily customize the Width/Height to whatever values that you want. The Preview section gives you additional information about how long a file will take to download, however, this seems to be a bit out of date as there are not many people with 56.6k internet connections.

Nice to Have Features: Ability to add a margin around the image. Ability to save different sizes in the same dialog.

July 28, 2017

Using the Keyboard in Dialog Boxes

Did you know that you can navigate various dialog boxes in MacOS using the keyboard?

dialog
Sample Save Dialog Box

If you look carefully in the above dialog box, you'll see that the 'Cancel' button has a blue glow around it. This is to indicate that this is keyboard actionable item.

Keys to Navigating the Dialog Box

If I click on the 'Space Bar' the dialog box will close and the file will not be saved.

If I click on the 'Tab' the blue highlight will move to the next actionable item, and I can keep clicking 'Tab' until I get the choice I want.

Keyboard Settings Adjustment

If this is not working as you expect, you may need to change the Full Keyboard Access Settings.

  • Open up System Preferences
  • Select the Keyboard icon
  • Select the Shortcuts top menu
  • On the bottom of the dialog you'll see the following information:

Full Keyboard Access

Make any adjustment that will work how you want to use the system dialogs.

July 21, 2017

Sips

Sips Side Bar2

Sip is cool utility when you need to track colors for design purposes. This is handy if you need to always have the corporate color pallet handy.

How Sips Works

On the side of the screen is a color bar that shows you the colors that you have in that pallet set. You can have as many color pallets as will fit on the side of the screen, and you can put the pallets on any side of the display. The color pallet is always available, except when an application is in full screen mode.

When you want the Hex value of a color click on the pallet, then the color you want. You'll see the color appear briefly in the menu bar. The color Hex value is now available to be paste into any application.

In the menu bar is a color selector magnifying glass. This makes it easy to grab a pixel color any time that you want - regardless of the application that happens to be open. This is handy when your browsing a website and see a color that you like to add to a design.

Red Sox Pallet
Sample color pallet that the Red Sox might use.

To change a color

  • Open the Pallet
  • Click on a color
  • Change the Hex Color to something else
  • Click Return

Overall Assessment

Sips is a pretty cool application. It works really well and found it very easy to use. I don't work with colors that much to justify spending $9.95 on it, but can see that this would be a great tool for anyone doing work for UI.

When playing about with the Sips application, I learned a lot about the various colors that I have on this website. I finally got a pallet of all the website colors. I did this by simply browsing the site and using the menu bar color magnifying glass to get the Hex value of the website.

I think it's very handy to know what colors that I am using, and can help keep things simple.

Check it Out

You can download a 14-day trial from their website.

Sip cost $9.99, and you can purchase it from their website. It's also available as part of the SetApp collection. SetApp is a group of applications that you can use by paying a simple monthly fee.

July 16, 2017

Screen Capture Help

I am using both Monosnap and Skitch for my screen capture. I decided to create a quick handy cheat sheet infographic to remember which key combination performs what actions.

Why two Screen Capture Apps?

Skitch integration with Evernote is great, but I don't want to capture every screenshot into Evernote, and that's when Monosnap comes in handy. Monosnap does have a few more tools for those shots that I need to touch up.

The key combination that I have in Monosnap is something I created. Use whatever works for you.

I kept this cheat sheet guide as simple as possible. I wanted something where only the critical functionality is shown.

Monosnap Shortcut

Skitch Shortcuts

July 15, 2017

Finder Search Techique

If you're a long term Macintosh User - i.e. before MacOS X. You may have some files on your computer that you can't use anymore as they only will work in Classic OS mode. Apple create a 'Rosetta Background Utility' that allowed Intel-based computers to read PowerPC applications.

Rosetta was discontinued in Mac OS X Lion, which was introduced in 2011 (5 years ago!) These PowerPC applications won't work on any computer less than 5 years old.

Finding the Classic Applications.

Using the Finder, change the Kind type to Other and type in: Application (Classic)

Searching Mac
Example of some files on my computer.

These are all the applications that you can't use on your computer. You might be better off moving them to a CD and then removing them from your computer since they are just unusable files taking up space.

July 14, 2017

Keynote Slides for iMovie

iMovie comes with 48 different templates to display title in your video.

Did you know that you can create your own template design? Using software that you already have on your computer.

You can use Apple's Keynote to generate some professional looking text graphics.

It's very easy to do and can make your YouTube videos stand out. I suggest practice doing this a couple of times and before you know it, you'll be adding more text overlay to your videos.

Superi Movie Header

Steps to create a Lower Third text box

Setting up the Document

  • Open up Keynote
  • Create a new Document
  • Select 'Wide' Black Theme
  • Change the Background to Blue

The background has to be blue because it acts as a Blue Screen in iMovie and will be transparent.

Creating the Text Field

Step2 Keynote Text2

  • Type in Command-A, to select all the objects. Then hit the delete key to remove it.
  • Click the Text box in the Header to add some text
  • Add some text, such as "My Cool Video"
  • With the text field still selected, Change the Position of the Text by selecting the Format - Arrange - Position. I suggest 900 pt.
  • Click on Animate, and then Click on Add an Effect Button.
  • Choose whatever effect that you want, I suggest starting with Dissolve, and keep the basic settings

Now to Export the Slide to Video

  • Select File->Export to->Quicktime
  • I recommend to change the Format to 1080p and Click Next
  • Save the Name as anything you want, recommend saving to the Desktop for now.

In iMovie

  • With your iMove Project in Edit Mode, Drag and Drop the Keynote Movie to a location in your timeline.
  • In the Preview Header, change the Video Overlay style to Green/Blue Screen.
  • If the Text appears to slow or fast you can always change the speed.

Touchupi Movie

That's the basics to get this done. You can experiment with various Text/Font sizes, in addition, you can always add background shapes.

Download Sample

You can download the Sample Lower Thirds Keynote File as a starting point. The background box flys out from the left and a second later the text appears.

July 7, 2017

Using Microsoft Shapes and Smart Art in Affinity Designer

Microsoft has some pretty cool looking Shapes and Smart Art. These are available in Microsoft Word and Microsoft Powerpoint. Check out some of the designs that are available:

Microsoft Shapes Smart Art

There are 190 SmartArt practical designs and 181 Shapes to choose from!

These are great when you want to visually display data relationships or list items in a nice graphical form. Microsoft does provide some nice editing capabilities, but applications like Affinity Designer have more power tools.

You can start the basic design in Microsoft Word or Powerpoint and then use Affinity Designer to touch it up. Why limit yourself to the capabilities of what's possible in one application?

Example Touch Up

Poor Planning Example2
Top image is the touch up version that was created in Microsoft.

Getting to other Apps

If you are using Affinity Designer or other Apps, it's a bit tricky to get these designs into a document via copy and paste. For some reason when you copy and paste a Microsoft Shape or Smart Art, it copies as a text object.

The best way to get the shapes is to 'Save As' a PDF Document

  • With the Microsoft Document open, go to File -> Save As
  • Select PDF as the File Format
  • Save it any place you want, Desktop is good choice.
  • In Affinity Designer Open the PDF document.
  • You will see that the shapes will be in Curve format, which will allow additional editing and staying in Affinity Designer.

Alternative Way: Use the Preview.app

  • With the Microsoft Document open, select the Shape or Smart Art that you created.
  • Copy the Object (Command - C)
  • Open up the Preview App
  • Create a new document, Use the shortcut (Command - N)
  • Copy the Contents of the window. (Command - C)
  • In your Affinity Designer document paste the content.

The downside of the alternative way is that it pastes as a single image. You can't edit the object as easily. This is a good solution when you don't need to edit the Shape or Smart Art and just want to put it in some Affinity Designer file.

Getting Microsoft Office for Mac

Office 2016 is available online, or at the Apple Retail Store. The home version cost $99 a year for 5 users and includes 1 TB of OneDrive cloud space. If you only plan on using Office on one machine it cost $69 a year.

June 30, 2017

DropZone 3

DropZone is a very cool utility that makes it easier for Macintosh users to take action on files. For example, you can easily move files to your favorite cloud service.

Description from the Website:

Dropzone is a productivity app for the Mac that makes it faster and easier to move and copy files, launch applications, upload to many different services, and more.

Drop Zone

Dropzone comes with several pre-installed actions that will satisfy most users:

  • Open Application
  • Move FIles
  • Copy Files
  • Email
  • AirDrop
  • Facebook
  • Flickr
  • Imgur
  • Messages
  • FTP Upload
  • Amazon S3
  • Share Text
  • Save Text
  • Shorten URL
  • SFTP Upload

As if that's not enough, you can download the following actions from their website:

  • YouTube Downloader
  • SCP Upload
  • Bitly
  • Dropbox
  • Google Drive
  • ImageShack
  • Install Application
  • Zip Files
  • Create DMG File
  • Print
  • Image Search
  • Finder Path
  • Screensaver
  • Say Text
  • Sleep
  • Desktop Picture
  • Open Terminal at Path
  • Mail Link
  • Send Message with Attachment to Phone Number
  • YouTube Uploader
  • Rackspace Cloud Files
  • Bundle Script

Installing the additional actions is super easy, Simply click on the Install link on the website and it's done in no time.

I was hoping that there would be one for Smugmug and Evernote. The nice thing about Dropzone is that it's fully expandable. I'll be reading the developer documentation to see if I can add additional actions that can help out my team.

Slack Advantage

If your using Slack, and haven't upgraded to a paying tier, you may know that there is a file storage limit. You are only allowed 5GM total file storage for the entire team. Once you reach that limit you will need to delete files before you can upload any more images.

This file storage limit can be achieved pretty quickly if your team likes to upload a lot of files.

So how can DropZone help?

Instead of dragging the image to Slack, you drag the file up to DropZone and then to the Imgur icon. The file will get uploaded to Imgur.com. Once completed, your clipboard will have the URL to the image.

You then just paste the URL into Slack. Bam! No more file upload limits.

Other users will see the image that you uploaded within Slack as if you uploaded into Slack.

Here is the difference between an uploaded file and a link file at Imgur:

Drop Zone Slack

Basically you loose the ability to have a custom title. You certainly can go wrong with the DropZone way.

There's a great animated GIF on Imgur on how this all works.

Download DropZone

DropZone is available in Apple Apps store or from their website. If you're unsure, the version on their website offers a 15-day trial which is plenty of time to test the functionality.

June 28, 2017

Evernote Helper

Have you ever worked on a document and then an idea came up for something completely unrelated to what your working on?

Ya, it happens to everyone.

The problem is if you completely stop what you're doing - you'll loose focus on the task at hand.

EverNote Helper (Menu Item) can be a real life saver. When you encounter a distraction thought, such as "I should really check out that Tom Cruise - Tom Gun Music Video" you can just make a quick note without closing the program you're in. This is possible because EverNote Helper is a Macintosh/Windows system-wide utility.

Evernote Helper Graphic

I have found that EverNote helper is good way to remember things when you don't want to interupt your current task.

Screen Capture

As an added bonus, you can take a quick screenshot with your quick note. You don't need to take a full-screen shot - you can just take a picture of a selected area of the screen or any window.

Audio Recordings

Macintosh users can add a voice recording but I don't see any use for that. At my office it's pretty quiet - I don't think I would ever use this.

Some real world examples

Don't think it's something you need to use? Check out some real world tasks that have happen to me:

  • Thought of a cool gift idea while browsing Amazon? Take a screen shot and make a note.
  • See a cool graphic design on social media that you would like to duplicate? Take a screenshot of it and comment on why you like it.
  • Need to bring some supplies to work tomorrow? Take a note.
  • Found a bug but don't have time to file a report? Take a screenshot and jot down some notes.
  • Wouldn't it be great if.. Take a quick note.
  • On a call, need to jot a phone number or address?
  • Discovered a cool Alexa saying? Take a note.

At first I thought having another menu item didn't make any sense. However, I discovered that it makes perfect sense for just a quick note.

Once you remember the keyboard commands you'll be using this feature all the time.

Evernote Menu Help
Quick Cheat Sheet Guide.

One last Thought

Think about it - when was the last time your desktop sticky note had a screenshot?

June 23, 2017

3 Quick Preview App Tips

Preview App IconMost people use Preview App as the go-to app to open up PDF files and Images. There are a few hidden features that you make not know about. Here are three cool things that you can do with Preview App.

Sort the Order of Photos in the Sidebar

When you open up a bunch of pictures in Preview, by default the pictures appear in alphabetical order. If you right click on any of the images, you can change the sort order to be by Name, Path, Date, Size or Kind.

After you change the sort order the text under each of the images will show additional information, such as the size of the photo or the date it was taken.

Sort the Order of the Contact Sheet

Did you know you can create a Contact Sheet in Preview. Simply drag a drop photos or folder on the Preview App. Select all the images in the sidebar, using Command - A, then type in Command - Option - 6 to open the images in the Contact Sheet.

Just the tip above, simply right click on any image and you can change the sorting order.

In the Contact Sheet you can change the orientation of multiple images, simply select the image that needs to be rotated Right or Left, then type in Command - R to adjust the image right or Command - L to adjust the image to the left.

Combine PDF Documents

You can easily combine several PDF documents into one document. This is useful when you may create a bunch of documents in Pages, for example, envelopes in a mail merge.

Simply open up the document to be on the first page. Then type in Command - Option - 2 to open up the Thumbnails sidebar. Now you simply Drag and Drop the PDF files you want to add to the PDF document. So from the Finder (or Desktop), drag the file to the sidebar of the open Preview window.

You don't need to worry about the order because after you complete, you can reorder the thumbnail images in the PDF document.

Once your done Save.

I find this useful when I need to print a bunch of documents at FexEx Office or Staples. I simply combine the printable documents into one and send it off. It makes it simple when there's only one document that you have to deal with.

Lots more to Explore

Apple packed a lot of features in Preview, including a simple Annotate tool, Adding Keywords to Images, Magnification, Bookmark and more.

A good place to learn is the Apple support section:

If there's any cool tips/tricks you like to do in Preview, please share!

June 16, 2017

GraphicConverter 10

Graphic Converter Icon_sm

There is a reason why the Swiss Army knife is in the icon of Graphic Converter. Graphic Converter is your go to application when you need to open up a file created in a different format.

Thorsten Lemke created GraphicConverter in 1992 out of a need to open graphic files created on his Atari. He just switched from Atari to Macintosh and found it frustrating that there wasn't a single app that could handle simple image conversions.

Over the years, customers requested support for additional graphic formats. In version 10, the application can open files in over 200 graphic formats. Users have the option to save images in at least 80 different format types.

Thorsten Lemke has looked for new ways to improve the functionality of GraphicConverter to be more than just a basic image converter application. The application can now touch up and enhance files.

Today the application is one of the most popular shareware applications with a very loyal subscriber base.

Yet Another Graphic Application?

You may be wondering if you have Affinity Photo, Pixelmator, Artboard, do you really need another Graphic Application?

Simple Answer: Yes.

Graphic Converter has the ability to open graphic files that were created in other applications. It will be there when you need it.

For example, I recently downloaded a file with a .xps file extension I tried all my usual graphic applications and couldn't open the file. Graphic Converter opened the file without a problem. I was able to save it in a different format so that I could use it later.

Cost just as much as a Swiss Army Knife

Just like that Swiss army knife that people carry around, It will be there when you need it. Incidentally GraphicConverter cost the same as a Victorinox Swiss Army knife.

Swiss Price

GraphicConverter might be the better long-term investment, at least you won't have to worry about losing it at the airport.

Toolbar Views

Here's a look at the toolbars in various applications that I have on my computer:

Graphic Tools

Opening Apple QuickDraw

If you used a Macintosh before OS X, chances are opening up some graphic files can be challenging. I was disappointed that Quickdraw images are still distorted when I open them in GraphicConverter.

Check out my previous post on how to fix images in Apple QuickDraw format.

Collage Functionality

New in version 10 is the ability to create collages from images. You don't have as many layout options as you would in TurboCollage. However, it's a nice feature when you have a few images and want to make a quick collage

Graphic Collage

You can find the collage button in the top of the folder browser window. Simply drag and drop a folder to the GraphicConverter icon and select the images that you want.

TurboCollage cost

Getting GraphicConverter

As noted earlier, GraphicConverter cost $39.99. You can download and purchase GraphicConverter 10 from their website.

There's a lot of cool things that you can do with GraphicConverter, check out their full list of features.