Back in November, the Escapers announced a new updated to their graphic application called Biff. Since I reviewed version one of Biff in March of 2017, I thought it would be good to check out the changes
Three big changes in Biff: Scenes, SVG Import and Code Generation. This is text from an email that announced the new features
Scenes allow you to add perspective to your work, ideal for publicity shots. SVG import allows Biff to take advantage of great resources like The Noun Project, quite simply, you can now use thousands of free SVG resources in Biff. Finally, we've got code generation for both Mac and iOS. This means you can draw out anything you like in Biff, then export the Swift code to draw the elements in your Mac or iPhone app.
This is a pretty cool feature. One of the neat things is the ability to easily create isometric images. Simply create a design, a couple of clicks later you can have an isometric layout.
There are six different perspectives: Reset, Left Tilt, Right Tilt, Left Angled, Flying and lie Flat.
Anything can be made a Scenes, including text. (Think logo design?)
This didn't work at all. Epic failure is one way to describe it.
I dragged and drop several SVG files and they didn't render correctly. One file, a "happy face," rendered upside down and other SVG files didn't render correctly at all.
Looks like there's some work needed with the import. (In fairness, they do say that Biff doesn't rasterize SVGs, it imports and converts them into regular Biff shapes.)
Files I tested were downloaded from the internet, no special compression or features.
Not sure what happened to the image when I dragged/dropped into the workspace.
This is pretty cool, there's support for UIKit and Cocoa. I don't do any coding that requires this functionality but it's neat to see an application that has this feature.
Worth the Upgrade?
Biff 2 cost $24.99 and I still don't think it's worth getting - especially since SVG Import didn't work for me. Many of the features can be found in other products, such as Affinity Designer, for a bit more money but they do offer additional functionality.
Having said that, the repeater/tile functionality is pretty cool. It's really easy to use and I have seen it available any place else.
Getting Biff 2
Try Biff 2 and see if it meets your needs. You can download a 30-day trial from The Escaper's Website.
Liquivid Photo Fisheye Removal App
If you take pictures with the GoPro camera you'll notice that the pictures may look distorted because of the fisheye effect. The photo can easily be fixed so they look good - a process that some people call defishing.
Affinity Photo and PhotoScape
Affinity Photo, PhotoScape, and Photoshop Elements have various tools to fix the images. Here's are some quick tips on ways to fix the fisheye effect in these applications.
- In Affinity Photo, you would use the Len Distortion Live Filter Layer tool. Simply select the Distortion amount that works best for you image.
- In PhotoScape X, the Lens Profile Correction tool does the work. It's located in the Transformation section. The GoPro x2192 Hero5 Black is the one that worked for me.
- In Photoshop Elements, the Correct Camera Distortion is the tool to fix FishEye. Simply use the
But the fastest and easiest way I found is to use an App that is specifically designed for that task. Save time from looking for different filters in various applications, and use a dedicated resource to make things easier.
Liquivid Photo Fisheye Removal
Liquivid Photo Fisheye Removal by Razvan Chisu is a quick and easy way to fix the photos. Simply drag and drop the photo to the app and presto it's fixed.
The application checks the photo meta-data for the camera type and automatically applied the best fix for the camera type. Yes, there is an option for GoPro 7.
Seven Things I learned about Liquivid Photo Fisheye Removal
I have been playing around with the application for a few days, and here are some of the things that I have learned.
- Liquivid Photo Fisheye Removal is free - you can download it from the app store. There is a similar tool for video, but that cost $7. Full details of all their apps are available on their website. (Check out the liquivid Video to HTML5 LITE app)
- There isn't any configuration needed, there is a settings option but it just opens to an empty dialog box.
- You have the ability to change the distortion strength. You get a live preview of the image as you adjust the slider.
- There is an "eye" icon underneath the picture, that's where you can see the before version of the image.
- There are 68 Distortion Camera settings - including Other/Unknown camera.
- There's a slider to adjust the JPG quality but you don't get a live preview of how reducing the quality impacts the image.
- The is no "batch mode" simple drag and drop one image at a time onto the window.
Example Photo Transformation
I would recommend trying out Liquivid Photo Fisheye Removal if you have any photos taken with the GoPro. Its simple design makes it easy to use.
Fix GoPro FishEye in Filmora
GoPro is a really cool camera. It's great because you can set it up and record videos over a long period - such as time-lapse or recording going down the slopes.
The camera lens on the GoPro is a “Fish Eye” type of lens that can make some shots look a bit weird. This can easily be fixed in post-production without impacting the overall shot.
Unfortunately it is not possible to fix in iMovie. You'll need to use a different Movie Editor or use something like liquivid Video Fisheye Removal ($7.99) to fix the clip.
I recommend getting Wondershare's Filmora since it offers a lot of very cool functionality.
Fixing FishEye Effect in WonderShare Filmora 9
It's really easy to fix GoPro Video clips in Filmora. First, Upload your video to your computer, the easy way is to connect the GoPro cable to the computer and open up Photos. Then drag/drop the clips to the dashboard.
- Open up Filmora 9 and create a new Project
- Drag/Drop the video clip to the timeline.
- Double click on the video, and you should see the top left has change to some new editing options.
- Scroll down the video section until you see Lens correction.
- Select the checkbox to the left of Lens Correction
- For the GoPro 7 Silver, I found that selecting GoPro Hero 5 Black with 1080p Wide was the best selection to “defish.”
The good thing about this is that you get a “live feed” of the changes, so you can see what works best for your particular shot.
This is a Timelapse video clip using the GoPro 7 Silver on the Framingham/Worcester MBTA Commuter Rail.
Apple's Dock is a great way to quickly launch all your everyday applications. Simply click on the icon.
But what if you want to access other applications? Usually, it involves Spotlight or opening up the Application folder.
TabLauncher lite is a better way to launch applications that are used often. With TabLauncher there are category tabs on the side of the screen where you can access applications quickly and easily. Now you can combine work-related apps, or graphics apps into simple categories that's easy to find and launch.
TabLauncher will help you find and launch your favorite programs, web pages, folders, or any type of files in a fast and easy way. Taking up fewer resources as possible, and allowing you to personalize the appearance in many ways, by changing colors, images, transparency, animations, and many other options to make it blend in with your desktop.
Six Things I learned about TabLauncher
- The free version has a limit of three tabs, the paid version has unlimited tabs and is only $3.99
- You can have the tabs on any edge of the screen - the paid version allows you to have tabs on either side of the screen at the same time.
- You can put any application in the Tabs, in addition you can add scripts to perform any type of function.
- You can hide TabLaunch that way it's out of the way until you need it.
- There is no share functionality- so you can't share tab settings/configurations between computers.
- There are special tabs with built in functionality - such as Running Applications, Music
TabLauncher Lite uses a lot less memory than LaunchBar. This might be a good solution for computers that don't have a lot of memory.
LaunchBar: 584.4 MB
Tab Launcher Lite: 85.1 MB
LaunchBar does offer a lot more features than launching applications, but if that's all you need to do then TabLauncher might be a good solution.
Getting TabLauncher Lite
Top 8 Macintosh Post of 2018
This year I tested and reviewed a lot of great Macintosh Applications.
This year I posted a lot of great tips and tricks on many applications that I use all the time, such as Pages, Affinity Photo, Photoshop Elements and Macintosh Tools.
Here are the top 8 Macintosh Post of 2018:
- Magnet for MacOS - Great tool to help properly align application windows on the screen.
- File Juicer - Great application to extract files from PDF documents or IOS Messenger.
- Wondershare Filmora - Looking for the next step up to iMovie? Checkout out Filmora, there’s lots of great transitions. The Text capabilities are very cool.
- Smart Converter Pro - I use this to batch convert lots of old media files to my iPhone XS Max.
- Apple System Services - Do you know about all the neat tools that are available in the Services menu?
- LaunchBar Actions - Learn some quick ways to perform simple actions using LaunchBar.
- Quadro Sync - Cool tool, but the company recently announced that they are discontinuing the application. Check out my review from January.
- Gif Brewery - If you want to convert any video to a GIF format, this is the software that makes it easy.
What's Planned for 2019?
I'll continue looking at new applications and giving my thoughts on them. Media seems to be the big thing that I might focus on, as well as storage solutions.
If you have any ideas, let me know!
Numbers - Year on a Page
Did you know that you can create a Year-on-a-Page calendar in Apple Numbers? Creating a custom calendar will be more productive to hang up near your desk work or on the back of a kitchen cabinet.
You can put all the important dates and customize the month's colors to your liking. This template gives you more flexibility than some websites. (I wasn't able to find similar functionality in Excel or Word.)
Five Things I Learned about the Calendar Template in Numbers
To get the Year-On-A-Page, simply open up Apple Numbers, select new, go to the Education category and select Academic Calendar.
To change the start date, simply, click on the month (September - by default) and then select the month. You can change the year by selecting the year and then up/down arrow the year.
There is a Month tab that allows you to fill in specific details for each month. Data entered here doesn't get carried over to the Description area on the Year-On-A-Page view. (That would be very nice)
You can highlight the background of days but you can't change the text, for example, add an Emoji on your birthday.
The Header text has no effect on the Calendar, so you can enter whatever you want.
On December 12th, Wondershare officially released the latest version of their video editor - Filmora 9. This update allows users to have up to 100 video tracks, audio keyframing, and more tools that people are looking. They are able to do this while keeping the interface as simple as possible.
Filmora 9 makes it super easy to create quality videos.
What's New in 9
The first thing Mac users will notice is the application window is now using dark mode.
The split screen functionality has been removed from the toolbar.
By default the title inspector no longer opens up a separate window, the area above the timeline becomes the title inspector. If you want the previous functionality click on the advance button to see the Title Inspector window.
Music category has been renamed Audio
You can now better sort the various assets under each category. Before you could only sort by large thumbnail or small thumbnail. Now you can do a list view, and group by category.
To get to the Instant Cutter Tool, right click on a video in the Project library and select 'Instant Cutter Tool'
When Exporting to YouTube, there are more options when identifying the Quality. Users can now separately change the video and audio tracks quality.
Getting the Update
Anyone that purchased the previous update and selected the Lifetime option of previous versions of Filmora. This is definitely a better option since Wondershare is actively working on making Filmora better and better. The current lifetime price is a one-time fee of $59.99.
You can download a trial of Filmora 9 from their website.
SoundConverter for Alexa
If you need to convert any audio file SoundConverter is the quick go-to app. All it does is convert sound from one format to another format. There's no editing capabilities and may crash if you try to convert a very large file.
I was working on transcribing a bunch of Real Audio files so that I could play them on the Alexa. I simply set the desired output format and dragged and dropped the files on the SoundConverter Window and within a minute all the audios were successfully covered to the recommended format.
Amazon's own documentation recommends only has two methods to convert sound files: ffmpeg and Audacity. While you can write up a quick bash script to convert a bunch of files using ffmpeg, it's so much quicker to use SoundConverter.
Alexa SSML Settings
This is the recommended setting to play audio on the Alexa devices when playing it through a skill.
SoundConverter is available on the Apple Store for free. There are other applications that can convert sounds, but this is the quick app to convert a bunch of audio files in a batch mode.
The application is a bit old, and hasn't been updated in a few years - six years to be exact! It still works, it may crash every once in a while, but just restart the App and it just keeps on working.
After converting the sounds, I used Fission to check the audio and Normalize some of the clips.
Photolemur is a great application that will make digital pictures look much better. You don't have to configure anything - there's no figuring the color temperature, tone or saturation / vibrance. Simply drag and drop any image and be amazed at the transformation.
Description from the Site
The world's first fully automated photo enhancer that makes all your images great automatically with the help of Artificial Intelligence.
Who says you need loads of free time and expensive software to perfect your images? Photolemur does all the heavy lifting, so you can spend more time having photo-worthy adventures!
Sample Before/After Images
Check out these two before/after examples:
Cape Cod Shore - Original on the left, Photolemur version on the right. I like how blue the sky is and the bring green color of the trees.
Disney Haunted Mansion at Night - Original on the left, Photolemur version on the right. Notice, in the Photolemur version, you can see more of the tree on the left of the haunted mansion. Also, notice that you can see more of the walkway brick under the light.
Five Things I Learned using Photolemur
Simply drag an image, and the software does all the work enhancing the photo. It might take 10-15 seconds. Afterward, you can see the before/after and then if you like it to save the image to your desktop, email or smugmug.
When exporting, there's advanced settings button. This is where you can set up presets to common settings - such as file location, naming, format and resize.
You can add additional Export Options by adding accounts to the 'Internet Accounts' in the System Preferences. This will allow you to export to Twitter, Facebook etc.
There are additional styles available that help enhances photos better in certain situations, such as fashion, street photography, sunsets, and landscapes. I have found that the default "No Style" had the best results. I did find it difficult to figure out which styles work best for which images situation.
The File Size minimum is 800 by 600. If you try to transform a smaller image you will get a warning.
Very Cool Application
I had this application in my app folder since July and finally paid for it during the Black Friday promotion. I have found that it's a great way to bring images to life. Pictures that I thought were just 'okay' transformed into amazing photos.
Applications like Luminar give you a lot more options, but if you want a quick image fix. I would highly recommend adding Photolemur
Photolemur cost $35 for a single license, there is a trial version where you have all the image enhancement capabilities of the full version. You're only limited to batch processing multiple images.
2018 Black Friday Watch
Every year I put out my list of things I am seeing if they offer any special deals during Black Friday or Cyber Monday. Most of my “watch” items are centered around the Macintosh.
Notion - Great App. Some people think it’s a substitute to Evernote, but I think it still lack key features - such as a web clipper. They are working on making it awesome. They may have some great incentive this weekend.
PhotoStyler - Cool application, but it hasn’t gotten an updated in a few years. At $29.99 it’s a pretty steep price.
Photolemur - I have seen deals around $35, I might pick it up if it goes just below that amount.
Wondershare Filmora - I have the application, but they may have some deals around the pack subscriptions
Services to Watch
uDemy - I have several courses that I have on my wishlist and if the price is right then I will sign up for them. They are running a $9.99 deal, which is pretty much the same deal they run several times a year.
Flickr - Earlier this month Flickr announced some changes to their membership plans. Who knows if they will have any Thanksgiving Deals. Worth a watch.
Dropbox - They haven’t had deals in the past, but who know’s this year could be different.
Creative Market - Haven’t purchased anything this year. Might have some good deals. Great place to find stock art and vector designs. They are a great source for font and templates.
envatoMarket - Large selection of graphics, audio and code. They do have some unique files that can’t be found any place else.
Fiverr - Thinking ahead to 2019 and to a new video intro for my YouTube channel. Fiverr is a great place to find it.
These are some of the things I am looking at in 2018:
- Mini-Tripod - Amazon is the place to find, but BestBuy or Target might have some deals.
- Levenger Circa Paper - My Annotation Rule paper supply is running low. They are currently running a 30% Black Friday sale.
- 128 GB Flash Drive - While I don’t really need one, but the prices have dropped a lot over the past year, so there might be some excellent deals. SanDisk Cruzer are currently selling for $24.99 on Amazon. Places like Walgreens and Best Buy are places to find the deals.
Not Everthing a Deal This Weekend!
Be sure to check out LifeHacker’s “When is the Best time to Buy Anything.” While you might see a lot of good deals this weekend, you can find good deals all year long.
Have a fun 2018 Black Friday shopping!
Convert Multiple markdown to HTML
MultiMarkdown is now showing up in more an more applications. It's an easy way to write content when you just want to focus on the content. It's also popular because you copy the content to different applications and keep the layout/formatting intact.
Easiest Way to Convert Markdown to HTML
Brett Terpstra wrote an excellent Service tool to make it easy to convert Markdown to any style that you want. Here's his description of the tool:
The Markdown Service Tools are a collection of OS X Services designed to make writing Markdown text that much easier. Services work in any Cocoa-based application (which is most of the apps on your Mac). The Services are prefixed with "MD" to keep them grouped in your Services menu.
Installation of the tool is pretty simple, and Brett does a good job explaining how to use it on the Markdown Service Tool page.
What's nice is that once you install the service tool, you can assign your own universal keyboard shortcut to trigger the service with the select text.
Easy to configure a shortcut, and use it where ever and whenever you need it!
What about Utility Applications?
There are many applications that can also convert Multiplemarkdown to HTML, and they may be a better option if your day-to-day job depends on converting then an application might be a better long-term solution. One of the "downsides" to Brett's Service tool is that is works based on the selected text. So if you're converting a bunch of Markdown file, this may not be the best choice for you.
Notion and Bear
Having a lot of DVDs and Books can be overwhelming. You may not what books you have and where they are - what is in the box in the basements or attic?
Delicious Library 3 solves that. It super easy to track inventory and find the books that you have.
Create Smart Group Shelves and always know which books you have!
Seven Things I learn about Delicious Library
- iOS Scanner App is a quick way to scan books in a library. If you have a lot of out-of-date books Delicious Library may not have an image for it.
- In Delicious Library, you can set up shelves to where the books are located. This is how you can separate books in the attic and the basement. You can also create ‘ virtual shelves’ so you can have a quick view of all your business books.
- There is a ‘ Charts’ feature so that you can see your current inventory levels. Here’s where you can find the items that are worth the most on the market.
- Delicious Library is useful to determine what should be sold at a yard sale (in a $5 box) and what should be sold on eBay.
- The Wishlist is a good feature to track things that you may want for the birthday, simply drag items from Amazon.
- You can share shelves with friends, so they know what you have and can borrow books your not reading.
- Delicious Library isn’t just for books and DVDs, you can tag tools, which is great when you're looking for a blade for a particular saw.
Not Free - But Worth the Cost
Delicious Library cost $39 and worth the money in time savings. Also, you may find that you have some valuable books that could easily offset the cost of application.
Not sure if it’s right for you? Try the demo and see how useful it is to digitally organize all your stuff.
Add Signature in Preview
Did you know that you can electronically sign PDF documents? Simply add your signature to Apple's Preview application and you can sign off on documents without having to print them!
Adding Your Signature
You don't need fancy software or hardware to add your signature, this can be done using your camera and a plain white piece of paper.
- Get a clean white paper (any size) and sign your name as you would regularly do. Use a dark pen or pencil for your signature.
- Open up the Preview Application
- Go to Tools, Annotate, Signature, Manage Signatures then click on Create Signatures
- Follow the instructions on the Manage Signatures dialog box. Tip: I would recommend putting another while sheet of paper behind the signature sheet so that you get a nice clean scan of your signature.
The whole process is very quick and probably takes longer to brew a cup of Nespresso coffee than it takes to create your signature file.
You can add as many signatures as you want. For example, you can have a professional business signature and a regular signature.
Adding a Signature to a PDF Document
To add your signature to any PDF document:
- Open up the PDF Document
- Go to Tools, Annotate, Signature and pick your signature (There is no Keyboard Shortcut)
- Drag your signature to the correct location.
- Save your file.
Note: You should save your file as a different name, for example, expense-signature.pdf. That way you know which documents have a signature file.
Set it and Forget it
Take a few minutes to do this now and you won't need to think about it in the future. This is because your signature image is saved in the Cloud. So when you log into your iCloud drive, you'll always have access to the signature.
How cool is that?
Adding Hyperlink in Apple Numbers
When opening up a CSV file from Jira, you may want to add a link to the tickets. The easiest way to do this is to create another column and then add the following Hyperlink function.
Easy way add a link using Apple Numbers
What the formula does is take the value in Column B and then appends it to the standard URL for your company Jira account. The final linked text is also the value in Column B. (Simply change the URL to point to the correct location.)
Apple Converts the formula to identify the columns.
Couple of Basic NotesRight-click the column that contains the values that you want to have links to and select the 'Add Column After'
Simple do the first item, then use the cell fill down functionality (Yellow dot in the bottom cell, and drag down)
Once completed, Hide column B so you don't see duplicate ticket ids.
I wasn't able to find a way to apply the HYPERLINK formula so that it uses an existing cell data. If you know of a way, let me know!
If your adding songs to iTunes, from outside the iTunes store, such as importing from CDs or something that you created in GarageBand, chances are that you'll need an Artwork.
The official way to add an artwork is to using the "Get ArtWork" functionality:
- Select the Song
- Go to File > Library > Get Album Artwork
That's great, but iTunes may not find an Artwork for your song, especially if it's a custom audio clip.
No album ArtWork really shows up when viewing albums in iTunes.
Google Images for ArtWork
The better way is to use Google Images to find the perfect artwork image.
This used to be a complex task, as I would have to search and then save the image to the desktop and then drag the image to the song. I then end up with a bunch of images on my desktop, where I would save them in a folder for "future" usage. In fact, I really don't use them again because it would be just as efficient to search for them image in Google.
I found a simple way.
Simple Tip on using Google to Add ArtWork
Here's what I do now:
- Go to Google Images and search for a particular image.
- Click on the Image.
- Right Click on the larger image, and select 'Copy Image'
- Go to ITunes, find the song I want.
- Select the Image and do a Command-I
- Then past the image in the box in the top left of the dialog box.
Doing this method, I can quickly get 10-15 songs added in minutes - especially with dual monitors.
Good tip on the image size of a Song ArtWork:
Here's an interesting tip from Apple on the size of the Artwork to use in iTunes. This advice is for Podcast, but it probably a standard convention for any iTunes artwork:
"Artwork must be in the JPEG or PNG file formats and in the RGB color space with a minimum size of 1400 x 1400 pixels and a maximum size of 3000 x 3000 pixels at 72 DPI."" - itunespartner.apple.com
This is good to know so that your artwork will look good today and for a while.
Based on the suggested size from Apple, here's a few links to popular searches that I perform:
Remember: Images searched for through Google Images may be subject to copyright. Just don't steal people images and take credit for them. The above tip is good for personal use.