Tag Archives: Mac

PTJ 223: Ahead, Warp Factor Four!

Things down here on Earth may be business as usual — mergers, lawsuits, taxes, paradigm shifts, feature updates and so on — but exciting things are happening Up Above as well as Out There. SpaceX had another successful rocket launch and resupply mission to the International Space Station, the Juno craft decided to take the long way around Jupiter for bonus science, NASA announced the discovery of seven possibly life-supporting exoplanets and Winston Churchill was writing about life beyond Earth way back in the 1930s. El Kaiser and J.D. discuss it all on this week’s episode of Pop Tech Jam, so Mr. Sulu, take us out!

Links to Stories in This Week’s News Segment

PTJ 216: So Long, 2016!

After a tumultuous 12 months in tech, culture and politics, this annus horribilis (as many found it) is finally on the way out the door. On this last episode of the year, El Kaiser and J.D. discuss the week’s tech news before exploring the highlights, lowlights and other notable events of 2016. Thanks for listening this year, Jammers, and we’ll be back in 2017!

Links to This Week’s Stories

Words Without Toolbars

Sometimes we just have to get a lot of writing done in a short amount of time and we don’t want distractions. Maybe it’s your family holiday newsletter, a big work report,  a 50,000-word novel for NaNoWriMo, or a thesis or dissertation. Stuff needs to get done.

Full-featured word-processing programs are around to handle everything from a grocery list to a complicated mutli-page advertising brochure. But with more power comes more toolbars, windows, widgets and other user interface elements floating around your screen all trying to pull your attention.

If you need to knuckle down and crank it out, consider a free or cheap text editor or minimalist word processors that puts less stuff in the way between you and words. Once you get that first draft banged out, then you can go back to your standard word-processor for editing and formatting.

Want cheap? Just fire up the free text editor that came with your operating system, like Notepad or Wordpad for Windows or TextEdit on the Mac. These programs may have basic toolbars for formatting things like type styles, but overall, there’s not a lot of extras. But maybe you want something with a little more power under the hood, like the ability to sync with your online storage site of choice. To get a sampling of the many options out there, fire up your search engine and look for a variation of minimal word processors or distraction-free text editors. Here are a few to consider:

  • Notepad Classic or Notepad Next (Free for Windows 8 and Windows 10). A free, customizable old-school text editors from the Windows Store. Notepad Next works on mobile devices as well as on PCs.
  • Writer (Free for the Google Chrome browser). The free Writer extension for Chrome  calls itself a big Internet typewriter. It asks you to create an account and displays a classic fullscreen plain-text window in which to start composing. You also get basic tools like a word counter and can customize the look of the interface. Documents can be exported as text or PDF files.
  • OmmWriter Dana II ($5.11 for Windows, Mac, iOS for iPad). The program wants to be your private little writing space within the confines of your computer— where you can really focus on your work. While the user interface goes minimalist, the program does provide soothing background colors and audio soundtracks to sooth your mind so you can write.
  • Write! ($25 for Windows, Mac and Linux). In addition to a simple interface for composing your thoughts, Write! gives you cloud syncing, progress trackers, unlimited undos, a smart spellchecker and a bucket of other features.
  • WriteRoom ($10 for Mac). This Mac app is another full-screen writing environment that dumps ribbons, button and menus. If you first started using computers back in the 1980s, you can go retro and opt for the familiar old VDT green-text-on-black color scheme with a blinking cursor to get you going.

Once you pick a word processor that doesn’t drag your eyeballs away, go hardcore if you really need to get something done: Unplug your computer’s network connection — or just want until all the unsecured DVRs and webcams take down the Internet again. Sweet productivity at last!

A Snapshot of Photos for OS X

Apple released an update for Yosemite earlier this month, and this new OS X 10.10.3 boots the crusty, trusty old iPhoto program out of the Dock to make room for a new app simply called Photos for OS X. (The new software is also intended to replace Aperture, Apple’s higher-end management tool for professional photographers.) To start using it, just click the new rainbow Photos icon in the Dock and walk through the Welcome and Setup screens Apple has provided to get your Mac’s existing pictures introduced to Photos for OS X.

welcome

So how is Photos for OS X the same — or different — from iPhoto?

If you use iOS 8, the new Photos for OS X visually looks quite similar. Same white background and borderless thumbnail images. Same browsing by groupings known as Moments, Collections and Years. Same importing powers to pull all the images off your camera card, phone or tablet into the computer’s picture library.

If you turn it on, though, there’s now online syncing and storage between your computer and iOS devices with the iCloud Photo Library in the sky. These photos are stored in your iCloud account at their original size and resolution too, so there’s so inferior quality for the uploaded versions. But remember, big photos mean big file sizes and that free 5 gigabytes of space you get with an iCloud account will get eaten up a lot faster. So you may want to acquaint yourself with Apple’s price list for additional iCloud storage.

iPhoto devotees who need to supply steady pictures of grandchildren to eager grandparents may be relieved to know you can still create photo books and other picture gifts through the new Photos program. You also have new printing options for square and panoramic shapes.

You can move around your library and navigate using the Photos, Shared, Albums, and Projects tabs at the top of the screen, And yes, you still have the cropping, color-adjustment tools, filters and other photo-editing sliders to make your pictures look better. Finding and using the tools just may take a little extra effort at first.

iphototools

Apple did throw a few features overboard to make way for the new stuff. For example, although your ratings are preserved for older photos, you can’t apply star ratings to pictures anymore and have to make do with the Favorites heart.

But what about the people who hate change, forced upgrades or having to hang ten on the learning curve? Even though the update sticks a Photos icon in your dock  — and removes iPhoto or Aperture from view — the actual programs are still in your Mac’s Applications folder. If you choose to go back and dig up your old editor, the Mac asks if you want to open your library there or in the Photos app. Keep in mind that any changes or edits you make in iPhoto or Aperture do not appear in Photos, and vice versa.

iPhoto was getting a little long in the tooth, and those of you with large picture libraries probably had some issues with sluggishness. So even though the user interface is pretty different, give it a try first. Apple even has a quick-start guide on its site to help you through the transition.

And if you hate it? Off to the Applications folder to dig out your old mothballed program of choice.