Nice update to Liquid for OS X

I’m a big fan of Liquid, a handy utility for Mac OS X. The so-called “Swiss army knife of text” is one of those tools you “get” as you use it.

The most recent update offers to shorten long tweets, lets you copy text results with a tab and adds a user-configurable timer for triggering menus. Well done.

Daily Tip: Use Alt to resize Finder windows

Today’s tip comes from Robb Lewis, who notes that if you hold Alt while resizing a window in OS X, the window will resize while staying centered on the screen. Very nice. Add the shift key to keep everything proportional.

Note: I tested this in Mountain Lion and it worked, but it didn’t work in Snow Leopard. I did not test in Lion. If you do, let me know what happens.

This post is part is one of 31 tech tips I published in March, 2013You’ll find the rest here.

Daily tip: Make quick text shortcuts on OS X

Last year I explained how to create text shortcuts on the iPhone for faster typing. You can do the same thing on a Mac, using text replacement. There’s a preference pane that will let you set it up. To get started, just follow these steps:

Launch System Preferences and click Language & Text.

langprefpane

  1. Click the Text tab.
  2. The Symbol and Text Substitution field appears. Its three columns show 1.) if a given substitution is enabled, 2.) the trigger text you’ll type 3.) the resulting replacement.
  3. Click the “+” at the bottom of the list to create a new substitution.
  4. Choose your trigger text. This is what you’ll type. For example, “thx” (minus the quotes).
  5. Choose the replacement text. This appears in place of your trigger text. For example, “Thank you.”

That’s it. But there’s a caveat here.

This does not automatically work with every app that accepts text input. To use it with Apple apps like Messages, iPhoto, Mail, Safari, and TextEdit, simply select Text Replacement from Substitutions under the Edit menu (below). Also, it’s a 1970 Chevy Nova compared to the LaFerrari that is TextExpander. But for light work in those apps, at least, it’s a help. It would be nice if we could sync these between Mac OS and iOS.

enabletr

This post is part is one of 31 tech tips I published in March, 2013You’ll find the rest here.

Use Alfred to remap “iCal” and “Address Book” (or, Stephen Hackett is a genius)

Stehpen Hackett explains how to use Alfred to make a change in Mac OS X less annoying.

Apple’s OS X Mountain Lion re-names Address Book to Contacts and iCal to Calendar. That’s fine, but I keep typing “iCal” and “Address Book” into my beloved Alfred. [1. Seriously, I love Alfred. Here’s how I use it every day. Federico Viticci uses it to create logs in Day One. Finally, here’s my TUAW review of version 1.0. It’s only gotten better since. This is not an ad, I just love the app. Go get it.] It’s not the end of the world, but annoying. Fortunately, Stephen has a fix.

He points out that you can use Alfred’s custom keyword mapping to forgive your forgetfulness. Well done.

Update: Thomas Borowski points out that Mountain Lion’s Spotlight does that for you (below).

Apple giving Snow Leopard to MobileMe customers for free

Apple has sent an email to MobileMe customers [1. So I’m told. My Apple email hasn’t worked for almost two days.] explaining how they can request a free Snow Leopard installer DVD, according to Macgasm. Installing Snow Leopard will let stragglers upgrade to Lion and then install iCloud.

It’s unclear if Snow Leopard will be made available for free for everyone or just select MobileMe customers.

[Via Macgasm]

Clean out the Downloads folder with Hazel

If you’re like me, your Mac’s Downloads folder is full of long-forgotten mystery items, much like a college student’s refrigerator. Fortunately, Hazel from Noodlesoft ($21.95) can keep it tidy.

I hate the Mac OS X Downloads folder. It’s where Safari places downloaded files by default and, in my experience, is an out of sight, out of mind landfill of forgotten PDFs, photos, installers and who knows what else. Before long, its contents commandeer a significant portion of your drive’s storage and that’s just unacceptable.

Yes, you can tell Safari to deposit downloads elsewhere. Many people choose the Desktop. It’s a logical choice, as you’ll see your downloads every time you sit in front of your Mac, which will prompt you to act. But the path of least resistance is beautiful and tempting. I typically ignore the junk on my digital desk, figuring, “I’ll clean that up later.” Of course, that never happens.

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Loving Lion’s Resume feature

Mac OS X Lion introduced Resume, a feature that restores a compatible app’s most recent window location(s) and save state with each launch. Today I experienced just how helpful Resume can be.

I was working on an article earlier this afternoon. As usual, I had several Safari tabs open as well as iTunes and TextEdit. A few minutes into working I had to leave to meet my kids at the bus stop. My Mac’s battery was low, so I shut it down and plugged it in to charge while I was gone.

About an hour later, when the kids were home and we had unpacked their things and chatted about the day, I re-started the Mac and it was like I never stepped away. Safari re-launched my tabs, iTunes opened and TextEdit was ready to go, with the cursor blinking where I had left it.

All I had to do to accomplish this was choose Shut Down from the Apple Menu. No more juggling startup items, running AppleScripts at startup or even hitting Save. I love it.

Note: to prevent Resume from restoring an app’s state the next time you launch it, hold down the Option key when quitting or just hit Command-Option-Q.

Defending Launchpad

Launchpad is one of the marquee features of Mac OS X Lion. It’s an app launcher that closely resembles an iOS device’s home screen. You can even create folders and arrange your icons, much as you do on an iPhone, iPod touch or an iPad. I like it, but many Mac veterans do not, dismissing it as a beginner’s tool.

I’d wager that “home users” get more use out of it than Mac veterans. I also feel that it does so spectacularly well. Apple has done a great job with Launchpad, and it’s easy to see how it benefits a huge number of users [1. Remember, geeks like you and me are the minority of Mac customers.]. Here are a few things Launchpad gets right.

Beyond alphabetical order

For years, the Applications folder has stored apps in alphabetical order. Other sort options are available, like modification date, size, kind and label. That’s great, but one very useful criteria has never been available: frequency. Launchpad lets you sort your app icons by frequency. For example, you can put your most frequently-used apps right on the first page or even in a folder. Likewise, move the apps you rarely use out of the way. For many users, “swipe-click” will be much faster than clicking through several folders to find an app.

A cluttered desktop without the clutter

I’ve met many computer users whose desktops are scattered with icons. Most of them aliases to applications and other files buried within the hard drive. Why do they keep these things scattered about the desktop? Convenience. Each is reachable with a click. Now, they can invoke a screen littered with app icons when it’s needed and dismiss it when it’s not.

No Applications folder

If you’ve worked with as many novice users as I have, you’ve probably heard this question: “Where is my Applications folder?” Remember, this stuff isn’t second nature to a huge number of people. Launchpad provides a simple answer: “It’s a swipe away.” No matter where you are, what application is open or what you’re looking at, you are a single gesture away from the contents of your Applications folder.

Simple because it should be

Many of you pine for a more robust Launchpad. Documents would be nice, maybe folders, or even Dropbox integration. If you need those things, check out LaunchBar or my beloved Alfred. Launchpad is an introduction to the idea of an app launcher for those who aren’t used to one. Apple will add to it when it’s darn good and ready. For now, it’s just what it should be. Effective and simple.