by Tom Nelson

This is the last of our four-part guide to using the Mac’s accessibility features. If you missed the previous installments, you can catch up by reading:

Our last group of Accessibility options includes the Media and Hearing options, plus a couple of general tips.

Media and Hearing are the last two Accessibility categories we will look at. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

To open the Accessibility preference, launch System Preferences by clicking its Dock icon, or by selecting System Preferences from the Apple menu.

In the System Preferences window that opens, select the Accessibility preference pane.

Scroll down the list on the left-hand sidebar until you come to the Media section.

Accessibility Media
The first media option we’ll look at is Descriptions.

Descriptions: This is Apple’s implementation of Audio Descriptions, which involves playing back narration that has been added to the soundtrack of movies, videos, TV programs, and other visual media.

The narration service attempts to describe what is displayed on the screen with concise descriptions of settings, costumes, even sight gags. The narration occurs during pauses between dialog, songs, or major sound effects.

Not all video media includes Audio Descriptions.

To enable Audio Descriptions, launch System preferences, and select the Accessibility preference pane.

Select Descriptions from the list in the Accessibility sidebar.

If Siri is enabled, you can use Siri to bring up the Descriptions configuration by saying, “Hey Siri, open Accessibility Descriptions.”

To turn the description service on, place a checkmark in the box labeled Play audio descriptions when available.

Captions: The Mac’s accessibility options include the ability to display subtitles and closed captions from any media that has embedded captions. Captions are available in two different formats (when provided by the media being viewed): as standard closed captions or as subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing (SDH).

The primary difference between closed captions and SDH is their appearance on the screen; additional contextual clues are included in SDH, such as who is speaking, background sounds, or music lyrics. SDH also uses a more film-friendly font format that doesn’t block as much of the screen as standard closed captions.

The Captions feature allows you to select a caption style as well as choose between closed captions or SDH. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

To configure Captions, bring up the Accessibility preference pane and select Captions from the sidebar.

Once you select the Captions item in the sidebar, you can select or create a subtitle style to use. The Captions feature comes with a few styles already created; you can choose one of the available styles from the list or create your own.

Subtitle styles are displayed in the box above the style list, so you can easily see how each style will look.

To create your own style, select one of the existing styles to use as a template. New styles you create inherit the settings of the currently selected style. Press the plus (+) button below the list of styles.

In the dropdown pane that appears, enter a name in the Style Name field.

Set the color that will appear behind the caption text using the Background Color dropdown menu. You can select from various predefined colors.

The Background Opacity can be set using the dropdown menu. Choose from:

  • Opaque
  • Semi-Transparent
  • Transparent

Set the caption’s color with the Text Color dropdown menu. You have the same color choices as the Background color menu. Remember not to pick the same color or the text will vanish into the background.

You can create your own subtitles style sheet to customize how captioning will look. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

Use the Text Size dropdown menu to choose:

  • Extra Small
  • Small
  • Medium
  • Large
  • Extra Large

Use the Font dropdown menu to choose any installed font on your Mac.

You’ll also find that each dropdown menu has a checkbox next to it labeled Allow video to override. Selecting this option allows the embedded settings for the captions to take precedence over the style you created. If you want to ensure your style is always used, remove the checkmark from every “Allow video to override” box.

You may want to let the embedded caption settings override the Background Color and Text Color selections to ensure good visibility against the video. You can always force your style to be used after trying the settings out.

Once you’ve made your choices, click the OK button.

Your caption style will be added to the style list, and will become the selected style. If you would like a different style to be the default, you can select it from the list of styles.

If you would prefer the closed captions to use subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing (SDH), place a checkmark in the box labeled Prefer closed captions and SDH.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog


by Tom Nelson

This is the third installment in the Using the Mac’s Accessibility Features series. If you missed the previous installments, you can catch up by reading:

In this installment, we will look at the Interacting category of the Accessibility preference pane.

Accessibility’s Interacting category covers how you can interact with the Mac’s user interface. It includes a number of features that allow you to use dictation for both typing text and controlling basic Mac functions, modify how the keyboard, mouse, and trackpad work, and set up and use alternate physical controllers to interact with the Mac.


The Mac’s dictation system is controlled using two preference panes. Basic dictation, that is, using dictation to enter text wherever you would normally type text, is configured from the Keyboard preference pane. Controlling your Mac by speaking, or by creating custom dictation commands, is configured using the Accessibility preference pane’s Dictation options.

Basic Dictation Services:
Launch System Preferences, and select the Keyboard preference pane. You can let Siri perform the task by saying, “Hey Siri, open keyboard preference pane.”

The basic dictation system needs to be enabled before you can make use of the advanced dictation features, including voice command. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

With the keyboard preference pane open, select the Dictation tab.

Use the Dictation radio button to turn dictation on or off.

The option to enable enhanced dictation is available by placing a checkmark in the Use Enhanced Dictation box. I recommend using this option. When it’s selected, Apple will download an extension to Dictation that allows the service to be used offline; the extension also enables dictation commands, a very powerful part of the dictation service.

Use the Language dropdown menu to select the language you wish to use for dictation.

Use the Shortcut dropdown menu to select a keyboard shortcut for turning dictation on and off. This is an important shortcut to remember, as you probably don’t want your Mac trying to convert everything you say to text.

Dictation can use any of the Mac’s audio inputs. You can change the default microphone by clicking on the Microphone icon, and then selecting a mic from the dropdown menu.

You can create custom dictation (voice) commands to control your Mac in the Accessibility preference pane. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

To create a custom command, click on the plus (+) button.

Enter a phrase to use to trigger the custom voice command.

Use the While using: dropdown menu to select an app (including Any Application) that the voice command will be used with.

Use the Perform dropdown menu to select what the command will do. You may be taken aback by seeing only a few options available, such as Open Finder Item, Open URL, or Paste Text. But within the list are three very powerful options:

Press Keyboard Shortcut: This allows a voice command to be used to cause any keyboard shortcut to be performed. Most apps have a large number of keyboard shortcuts available, and if the function you wish to perform doesn’t have a keyboard shortcut, you can either create one using the Keyboard preference pane, or use the next option below.

Select Menu: Enter a menu name exactly as it appears in the app’s menu.

Run Workflow: This will allow you to run any Automator workflow you have created. The Automator item must have been saved as a workflow, and not one of the other options.

Click the Done button when complete.

You start Dictation using a voice command by placing a checkmark in the box labeled Enable the dictation keyword phrase. Once you place a checkmark here, enter a phrase to use to activate dictation.

The last two options are:

Play sound when command is recognized.

Mute audio output while dictating.

Place a checkmark in the appropriate box to enable the above options.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

by Tom Nelson

Last week, we started our foray into the Mac’s Accessibility features with an overview of the services available, and a look at the General category, which provides quick access to many of the Accessibility features. If you would like to review Part One of this series, you can find it at:

macOS 101: Getting Started With the Mac’s Accessibility Features.

In Part Two, we’re going to look at the Vision category, including:

  • VoiceOver: The Mac’s built-in screen reader.
  • Zoom: The ability to enlarge or shrink the view on the Mac’s display.
  • Display: Options to enhance the display for easier viewing.
  • Speech: Using the Mac’s speech options to read alerts, speak text, and modify characteristics of the voice used in the VoiceOver application.

VoiceOver is the Mac’s screen reader app, though it does quite a bit more than just telling you what’s happening on the screen. It provides voice descriptions of each onscreen item, suggestions about how to use them, supports 35 languages and braille display, and offers a wide range of voice options, including the ability to control your Mac with just a keyboard.

Once VoiceOver is enabled, the caption panel will be displayed. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

VoiceOver is often thought of as an app that’s included with the Mac OS, but actually it’s a core service of the operating system. This allows third-party developers to integrate VoiceOver into their apps to provide simplified navigation with their products.

To configure and use VoiceOver:

Launch System Preferences by clicking on its Dock icon, or by selecting System Preferences from the Apple Menu.

In the System Preferences window that opens, select the Accessibility preference pane.

If you have Siri up and running, you can say “Hey Siri, open the Accessibility preference pane” as an alternative.

In the Accessibility preference pane, select VoiceOver from the sidebar.

The VoiceOver options will be displayed in the configuration pane.

To enable Voiceover, place a checkmark in the Enable VoiceOver box, or use the command + F5 keyboard combination. You can also use Siri by speaking, “Hey Siri, turn on VoiceOver.”

VoiceOver can also be turned on using the Accessibility Shortcut panel. See Part One of this series, macOS 101: Getting Started With the Mac’s Accessibility Features, for details.

Once VoiceOver is enabled, a caption panel will appear in the bottom left corner of the screen. Within the panel, the text that VoiceOver speaks will be displayed.

VoiceOver will speak and display descriptions of each element on the screen as you interact with them. Besides speaking a description, the VoiceOver caption panel will provide hints and instructions for how to interact with the various elements you encounter.

VoiceOver provides a large number of ways to interact, including an extensive collection of keyboard shortcuts, gestures, and other input methods. A complete list of all the ways to interact are a bit beyond the scope of this overview, however, VoiceOver has a built-in training system that takes the user through the process of using the Mac via VoiceOver commands.

To launch the VoiceOver training, return to the Accessibility preference pane.

Make sure VoiceOver is selected in the left-hand pane, then click the Open VoiceOver Training button.

The training instructions will be displayed. You can move through the training pages using the arrow keys on the keyboard. Use the Escape key to end the training.

Apple also has a VoiceOver Getting Started Guide that I highly recommend. The guide is also available in an English Unified Braille version, and an embossed braille version is available to order.

The Getting Started Guide covers working with text, navigation, VoiceOver basics, working with tables, navigating the Internet, and much, much more.

VoiceOver tip: Control + Option is the default set of VoiceOver keyboard modifiers, and is referenced in most VoiceOver keyboard commands. If you’re using OS X El Capitan or later, the caps lock key also works as the VoiceOver modifier. It lets you press a single key, and when VoiceOver is enabled, the caps lock key doesn’t function as a normal caps lock anyway.

The VoiceOver Utility allows you to customize VoiceOver to meet your needs. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

The last component of VoiceOver we will cover is the VoiceOver utility, which provides a way to customize VoiceOver to work the way you would like it to. You can customize the following:

  • Verbosity: Specify the verbosity level for speech, braille, text, announcements, and hints.
  • Speech: Select the voice, rate, pitch, and volume, as well as how certain text is pronounced.
  • Navigation: Customize how VoiceOver works with cursors, groups, redundant items, and more.
  • Web: Control how web pages are navigated.
  • Sound: Change basic sound parameters.
  • Visuals: Control VoiceOver cursor size and movement, caption panel size, braille panel font size and color, and menu font size.
  • Commands: Allows you to assign VoiceOver commands to keyboard characters
  • Braille: Customize settings for an attached braille display.
  • Activities: Create sets of preferences for use with specific activities.

To access the VoiceOver Utility, return to the Accessibility preference pane.

Make sure VoiceOver is selected in the left-hand pane, then click the Open VoiceOver Utility button.

You can also ask Siri to do it by saying, “Hey Siri, open VoiceOver utility.”

VoiceOver tip: Use the Speech options in the VoiceOver utility to try out different voices. Alex Compact and Fred are popular VoiceOver voices to use. Be sure to try a voice with different speaking rates and pitch to find one that intones clearly.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

by Tom Nelson

This is the first in a series of articles that will explore the Mac’s built-in accessibility features that are designed to make using a Mac as easy as possible for everyone. Is the mouse cursor a bit too small? You can change the cursor size within the Accessibility preference pane. Is a standard keyboard difficult or nearly impossible to use? Once again, within the Accessibility set of features you can modify how a standard keyboard works, or create an onscreen keyboard you can control with head or eye tracking technology.


The range of capabilities in the Accessibility preference pane is so large that one article wouldn’t do them justice. So, let’s get started with a quick overview and a look at some of the more general settings and capabilities.

Accessibility Overview
The Accessibility API became an official part of the Mac with the release of OS X 10.2 (Jaguar), though it was known then as Universal Access. The name change to Accessibility didn’t occur until the release of OS X 10.8 (Mountain Lion). While the initial release lacked many standard features that are taken for granted today, it did include tools for those with partial vision loss, though in its original offering it lacked an important tool for those with visual impairment: a full-screen reader.

With each release of OS X, and later, macOS, the accessibility features grew and were refined to bring equal access to the Mac to all users.

As we delve into the Accessibility options it’s important to point out that not every feature we mention is available in all versions of the Mac operating system. Apple moved the location of some features around within the Accessibility preference pane from time to time. Where possible, I’ll attempt to mention if a feature has been moved, and where it used to be located. I’ll also concentrate on the versions of the Accessibility preference pane starting at OS X Mountain Lion and going forward, with emphasis on the version included with macOS High Sierra. The earlier versions, known as Universal Access, have many of the same features, but the user interface is different enough to make including the older versions cumbersome at best. If I miss any changes, be sure to leave a comment below, letting us know.

The Accessibility options are currently organized into five categories:

General: This category was added with macOS Sierra. The general pane is primarily used to select which Accessibility options will be available in the Accessibility Options Shortcut panel.

Vision: This category was originally called Seeing, but it underwent a name change in OS X Yosemite. This group includes Accessibility options useful for anyone with vision-related impairments.

Media: The Media category was added in OS X Yosemite. It allows the use of subtitles and spoken descriptions in media that supports the feature.

Hearing: Basic audio controls involving alerts and converting all stereo sound to mono.

Interacting: This is the largest accessibility category and covers all the user interface elements used to interact with the Mac, including keyboard, mouse or trackpad, Siri, Dictation, and Switch Control.

The General settings are used to specify which options will be displayed in the Accessibility Shortcut pane. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

Accessing the Accessibility General Category
All of the Accessibility options are accessed through the Accessibility preference pane. To bring up the pane, do the following:

Launch System Preferences by clicking on its Dock icon, or selecting System Preferences from the Apple menu.

Select the Accessibility preference pane.

The Accessibility preference pane will open, displaying a sidebar on the left-hand side that contains a list of all of the Accessibility options, organized by category. On the right is the configuration pane, which allows you to control how each of the accessibility options is used.

In the sidebar, select the General item. The General category was added in macOS Sierra to support a new feature: the Accessibility Shortcut panel. You may need to scroll to find the item. If you’re using an earlier version of the OS, you can skip down to the Accessibility Status section, below.

In the configuration pane, you’ll see a list of accessibility services that will be shown in the Accessibility shortcut pane when it’s displayed. You can select which items you wish to have shown by placing a checkmark in the corresponding box.

Note: Placing a checkmark in the box doesn’t enable the feature; it only allows it to appear in the Accessibility Shortcut panel.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

by Tom Nelson

I’ve heard it said that an SSD or hard drive that isn’t used for extended periods of time will likely have performance issues, or worse, actually lose data in the span of a few years. I’ve even heard it said that SSDs could lose their information in less than a year, and in the worst case, within a few days.

Of course, I’ve heard a lot of things, and not all of them bear up well when looked at closely. So, let’s find out if we need to keep exercising our storage devices to maintain information and performance.

Data Retention
The ability of a storage device to keep the data it contains intact is known as the data retention rate. The actual rate cited for various devices is predicated on the storage device being non-powered, undergoing no refresh of the data it contains, and being kept in an ideal storage environment, usually mentioned as around 25 C / 77 F.

Under those ideal conditions, hard drives are predicted to be able to retain their data for 9 to 20 years. The long range is due to the different architectures used in the manufacturing of modern hard drives.

SSDs (Solid State Drives) have a reputation for having a very low data retention rate. Numbers commonly cited suggest one year for consumer grade SSDs, and as low as one week for enterprise class SSDs.

If you believe the reputation is true, then SSDs would need to be exercised at defined intervals to ensure they keep the data stored intact. However, is that reputation valid? We’ll find out in a bit, but first, let’s look at hard drives.

Hard Drive Failure Mechanisms
The length of time your data will be retained on a hard drive in storage, one that isn’t powered and kept in a controlled environment, is based on four primary factors:

Magnetic Field Deterioration: Permanent magnets generally lose their field strength at the rate of 1% per year. After 69 years, the field strength would have dropped by 50 percent. That much field strength loss will likely lead not only to general data corruption of the stored data, but also to the loss of the index tracking marks which tell a drive where a sector starts and stops. So, not only is the stored data lost, but the ability to read the drive may be gone as well.

Magnetic Field Corruption: Magnetic fields external to a stored hard drive can adversely affect the stored data by altering the charge at one or more locations on the drive’s platters. Magnetic disruption can be caused by nearby high power magnets, motors, or even by unusually strong geomagnetic storms caused by solar mass ejections on the sun.

Environmental Conditions: Humidity and temperature ranges for stored hard drives differ by drive manufacturer. Western Digital recommends storing their hard drives between 55 F and 90 F. Extreme high temperatures increase the risk of damaging mechanical components, such as warping heads or platters, while extreme cold temperatures can cause bearing failure, or allow the spindle and motor to become misaligned. (Related: Keep Your Electronics Warm and Safe This Winter)

Mechanical Failure: Even with the proper storage conditions, mechanical failure, such as the platters failing to spin up due to motor failure, or spindle bearing failure, can happen. These types of failures tend to occur when drives are stored for exceptionally long periods of time without ever being powered on.

Mitigating Hard Drive Storage Failures
Of all the possible issues with hard drive storage, two of the most common ones can have their effects mitigated by exercising the drive. In the case of mechanical failure over long time frames, the simple approach is to power on the drive occasionally, ensuring the bearings, motor, and grease are all warmed up, and preventing them from becoming stuck in one location.

Refreshing the stored data can reduce magnetic field deterioration. This would require the drive to be powered on and connected to a computer system. Reading the stored data isn’t enough; to refresh the magnetic charge the data must be read and then rewritten to the drive. An easy way to accomplish this, assuming there’s enough room on the drive, would be to copy the content to a new location on the drive, or create a disk image and copy that to a new location on the drive. Another option would be to clone the drive to another storage device, and then clone the drive back again.

How often you should perform this exercising of a hard drive is difficult to say, but once a year or once every two years would be a good starting point. While a longer time frame is actually possible between exercising a hard drive, the task tends to get overlooked when the time frame becomes longer. It’s much easier to remember a yearly exercise routine than to try to remember to perform this task once every x number of years.

Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

SSD Failure Mechanisms
A few years back, a presentation was made at the JEDEC Standards Committee for solid state drive requirements at which a slide showing expected data retention rates for SSDs in a powered-off stored state was shown. That slide indicated the very poor ability of an SSD to retain data for any length of time when powered off. Specifically, it mentioned the following data retention rates:

Consumer grade SSD: 1 year at a 30 C storage temperature.

Enterprise grade SSD: 3 months at 40 C storage temperature.

In both cases, as the power off storage temperature increases, the data retention rate falls. In the case of consumer grade models, data retention can fall at one month at 50 C, while enterprise class SSDs can see less than one week at 50 C.

Pundits quickly picked up this information and it spread around the Internet, leading to the poor reputation SSDs can have for data retention when powered off. The problem is that it’s simply not true. The information being conveyed in the original presentation pertained to a worst-case scenario, one where the SSD under question has nearly reached its end-of-life, and has had its P/E count (Program/Erase cycle count) reach the point where data cells would start showing write failures. But when the background information was removed and only the information on the slide was presented, a legend, or at least a reputation, was born.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

by Tom Nelson

Do you have a few USB flash drives lying around? Chances are you have at least a couple, or maybe even a small drawer full of them. In my case, I have about a half dozen, with no specific use assigned to them. That means I have a source of flash drives for trying out a few unusual uses for these handy take anywhere storage devices.

Image courtesy of MacSales.com

There are lots of uses for flash drives, including using them as an easy way to copy files between computers, as intermediate storage for photos, music, and videos, and what may be a primary use this time of year, sending tax return data to and from your tax preparer.

But those are more mundane uses. In this article, we’re going to take a look at four more interesting uses for flash drives you’re currently not using.

RAID 0 Security Array
A USB flash drive can make a surprisingly versatile and reasonably fast Striped RAID array (RAID 0). All that’s needed is a powered USB hub with enough ports to accommodate the flash drives you’re going to connect. The speed you can get out of a USB flash RAID 0 array is based on three factors: the number of flash drives you use, the speed of the flash drives, and the speed of the USB interfaces.

You can use flash drives to create a small but reasonably fast striped RAID array. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

Assuming you’re using USB 3.1 gen 1 ports, hubs, and flash drives, the maximum theoretical speed is 5 Gbps, which you’re not likely to ever actually see, but it does set an upper limit. In actual use, the flash-based RAID array is going to be limited chiefly by the write and read speeds of the USB flash drives. Some of the fastest flash drives available can have write speeds a bit better than 150 MB/s, and read speeds coming close to 200 MB/s. However, most USB 3.1 flash drives have much more modest write and read speeds, with sub 25 MB/s write speeds and sub 100 MB/s read speeds being a bit more typical.

Even with the slower flash drives, if you put enough of them together, you can get pretty surprising write and read performance out of them in a RAID configuration.

To build the USB flash drive RAID array, plug as many flash drives as you have on hand into a USB hub. It’s best if the flash drives are the same size, speed and manufacturer, but it’s not a requirement.

You can use the RAID Assistant built in to all versions of the Mac OS (except OS X El Capitan), or you can use SoftRAID or SoftRAID Lite to create the RAID 0 array.

Even this modest three flash drive RAID set achieved write speeds of 70 MB/s and read speeds of 240 MB/s. Not bad for scrounging together some leftover parts. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

You can use your USB flash-based RAID array for just about anything you would use a normal external RAID for, but these two uses may be of interest:

As an old-fashioned secure data storage system: Data stored on the flash array is effectively divided between the flash drives that make up the array. Split those drives apart and store them separately and the data on them can’t be reconstructed. Bring all of the flash drives back together and you can access the information they contain. For even more security, you can encrypt the array using the FileVault encryption options built into your Mac.

As a fast array for scratch space for graphics, audio, or video apps: Be a bit careful here, because if you’re using low-cost flash drives, the write speed may be a bit low for this type of use. On the other hand, the read speed is probably quite good.

As with any RAID 0 storage system, there’s a danger of data loss should one of the drives fail or is lost, so be sure to use a backup system if you plan to use this RAID array beyond just trying out the idea.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

by Tom Nelson

Safari Technology Preview is yet another browser available for your Mac, but this special browser lets you see into the near future. Even better, you can bend the future to your will.

If that sounds a bit fantastic, it’s because it is. If that seems a bit ambiguous, well, that’s the problem with peering into the future.

Safari Technology Preview is essentially a beta of Safari, stuffed full of new technologies and features that may show up in future release versions of the Safari browser. Unlike most Safari betas that are only available to Apple developers, Safari Technology Preview is open to anyone interested in trying out new features and capabilities today that may make their way into tomorrow’s version of Safari on the Mac and iOS devices.

The crack about bending the future to your will is a bit of a stretch, but Apple hopes you’ll provide feedback in the form of suggestions for improvement, as well as information about bugs you may uncover. Apple really does read user suggestions for improvements. Those that are explained well and pique the interest of a reviewer may end up on the desk of an Apple engineer for consideration.

What’s New in Safari Technology Preview
Safari Technology Preview is updated on a fairly frequent basis, making it a bit difficult to specify what will be new when you download and install a copy. But in general, Safari Technology Preview concentrates on the following areas:

Web technologies: HTML, JavaScript, and CSS technologies will always be the most current, and in some cases, be ahead of the curve. WebKit, the rendering engine that powers Safari, Mail, and the AppStore, is almost always a newer version than what is available in Safari for the Mac.

Responsive Design Mode lets you see how your website will look on different devices as well as with different browsers. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

Developer tools: If you’re a website developer, that may be reason enough to use Safari Technology Preview, with its access to the newest versions of the Web Inspector and Responsive Design Mode to allow you to modify, optimize, and debug your website.

Bug Reporter: This easy-to-use tool lets you send feedback to Apple. You can report issues you encounter or suggest improvements to make.

iCloud: iCloud, of course, isn’t new, But many of the new iCloud-based features are likely to be tried out using Safari Technology Preview.

Safari Technology Preview is completely standalone. It doesn’t make use of any of the normal Safari browser components, which allows you to run both concurrently without any interaction between them.

You’ll find plenty of experimental features to try out in the Develop menu. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

How to Download and Install Safari Technology Preview
Safari Technology Preview is available from WebKit.org, an Apple sponsored open source developer of the Safari rendering engine. You can find the Safari Technology Preview download at the WebKit Downloads page.

Select the Download for macOS link.

You’ll be taken to the Downloads for Safari page at the Apple Developers site. You do not need to be a registered Apple developer to download the Safari Technology Preview. Other downloads from the developers site may require you to register as a developer.

Make sure you select the version of Safari Technology Preview for the specific version of the macOS you’re using. Apple usually provides versions of the preview for the two most current versions of the Mac operating system.

The download consists of a disk image saved to the default download location, usually your Downloads folder. Double-click the SafariTechnologyPreview.dmg file.

Installing Safari Technology Preview is straightforward and won’t have any effect on an existing copy of Safari. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

This will mount the disk image on your desktop. Inside you will find a .pkg file; double-click the .pkg file to install Safari Technology Preview. Follow the onscreen instructions to complete the install.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

by Tom Nelson

Do you keep your Macs for longer periods of time than do most of your friends? I’ve been accused of hoarding my old Macs; for example, keeping an original 2006 Mac Pro running long after it should have been retired. The same is true of a 2011 MacBook Pro; I only need to replace the battery, which is no longer holding a charge, and it will be as good as new.

The point is, Macs routinely have longer lifetimes than most personal computers, and it only takes a few tips, a bit of maintenance, and an upgrade now and then to keep a Mac running well, and extend its usable lifetime well beyond the norm.

Keep Your Mac Clean and Help It Keep Its Cool
Keeping your Mac clean can help it run at lower internal temperatures, which can prolong its life by not putting undue strain on internal components. At one time, it was an easy task to open a Mac up and clean out the dust bunnies that had collected over time. Now, except for the Mac Pro and Mac mini, the inside of a Mac is somewhat difficult to get to. But you should still inspect your Mac to ensure none of the intake and exhaust vents are clogged by dust and debris. If you need a bit of help in cleaning the interior, check out the Rocket Yard Tech Tip: Have You Cleaned Your Mac Lately?

Once you have your Mac’s cooling system shipshape, don’t forget that when you’re actively using your Mac, its location can have an impact on its ability to keep cool. When using a MacBook, don’t place it on pillows or soft material that can block airflow. Likewise, with desktop Macs, make sure the position they’re in doesn’t block airflow.

As long as we’re on a cleaning spree, don’t overlook the keyboard, mouse, trackpad, and display. MacSales.com has a nice collection of cleaning products that will help keep these peripherals looking good and working well.

Perform Routine Maintenance
Routine maintenance can do a lot to extend the life of your Mac. It not only can keep everything operating in top shape, it can also help find possible trouble spots before they start severely impacting you or your Mac.

Disk maintenance is often overlooked even though it can find, and in many cases, repair issues before they become problems. Disk Utility has long included a Disk First Aid feature that can be used to verify and repair problems. Running the First Aid tool regularly can help keep your drives performing at their peak, as well as let you know when problems are beginning to appear.

Another maintenance task that can be run to keep your Mac in good shape is Safe Mode, a special boot environment that will run a few tests as well as delete font, system, and kernel caches that can cause some very strange behavior when any of them become corrupt. You can find out more in the Rocket Yard guide: Safe Mode & Single-User Mode: What They Are, How to Use Them.

Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

Upgrade Hardware
Over time, your Mac’s hardware may seem to be slowing down; more likely, you’re just using a lot more of your Mac’s resources than when you first got it. One way to help alleviate the slowdown is to increase the resources available to your Mac: more RAM, larger disk storage, or perhaps faster storage. All or some of these can speed up your Mac, giving it a longer usable life.

RAM upgrades: I try to buy Macs that have user upgradeable RAM, but this isn’t always possible, especially when Apple has soldered the RAM directly to the Mac’s motherboard. However, you may be surprised to learn that even some Macs that don’t provide easy user access to their internals still have RAM that can be upgraded.

When I need to upgrade my Mac’s RAM, MacSales.com’s memory guide is where I look to see what upgrades are available, and in many cases, view the upgrade video that may be available for a specific Mac model.

Storage upgrades: One of the best upgrades that I’ve performed for many of my older Macs is to replace the rotational disk drive with an SSD. This type of upgrade can really put the spring back into your Mac, and remind you of how impressed you were with your Mac’s performance that first day you brought it home.

Even if you have a more recent Mac with an SSD already installed, increasing the SSD size can be helpful, and the old SSD can be put into an external enclosure for additional storage.

You can use the MacSales.com SSD Flash Storage Upgrade guide for information about the SSD you need for your specific Mac.

Another storage upgrade option is to use a fast port, such as Thunderbolt 2 or Thunderbolt 3, to connect a high performance external storage solution to your Mac. This lets you enjoy the benefits of faster storage without having to take your Mac apart to replace disks. It also provides the possibility of building high performance RAID storage systems to meet your particular needs.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

by Tom Nelson

In an earlier article, we looked at 10 Mac Features You Probably Don’t Use But Should. While researching that article we came across a bit more than 10 notable Mac features, so a follow-up article was born.

This time, we have seven more Mac features that are worth checking out. On the premise that there’s no such thing as a free lunch, we’d like to know in return what favorite feature you think doesn’t get enough respect from the typical Mac user. You can add it to the Leave a Comment section, below.

Mine is Stacks, I use them all the time to quickly access the content of folders and smart folders without having to dig through the Finder to locate them, and to have them available no matter how many apps and windows are cluttering up my desktop.

Stacks are one of my favorite features of the Mac’s Dock. At its basic level, a stack is just a folder containing items that you’ve dragged to the right-hand side of the Dock. But a stack has a few more capabilities than just a plain folder; you can view the content of a stack by clicking on its Dock icon. You can specify how the content is to be displayed, and you can specify the sorting order of the content when viewed from the Dock, independent of how you have the sorting order set when manually opening the same folder in the Finder.

Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

To give you an idea of the power of Stacks, we’re going to create a Stack to house all the items we’ve marked using Finder Tags, as mentioned in last week’s article: 10 Mac Features You Probably Don’t Use But Should.

Open a Finder window, and scroll down in the sidebar ’til you see the Tags section.

Drag one of the tag colors from the Finder sidebar to the right-hand side of the Dock.

A new stack will be created in your Dock, which you can use to quickly view all of the items on your Mac that you’ve tagged with that specific Finder Tag color.

Stacks have a number of options you can set that control how they look and behave. To find out more about Stacks and the options available, stop by Spacers, Stacks & Swapping: Mastering the Iconic macOS Dock, Part 2.

There are other Stacks you can create in your Mac’s Dock; another favorite is the Recent Items stack. You can find instructions for creating this stack in the article: Terminal Tricks: Mastering the Iconic macOS Dock, Part 3.

Add Glyphs Directly From the Keyboard
If you use your Mac for just about any type of correspondence, sooner or later you’re likely to need to produce diacritical marks that are placed above a letter to indicate a special pronunciation. In the past, these special marks were hidden away in the in the Mac’s Character Viewer, Emoji & Symbol Viewer, or Keyboard Viewer app (the names of these special character viewer apps change depending on the version of the OS you’re using).

Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

The viewers can be added to the Apple menu bar:

Launch System Preferences, and select the Keyboard preference pane.

Select the Keyboard tab, and then place a checkmark in the Show Keyboard and Emoji Viewers in Menu Bar box.

You can now access the character viewers directly from the right-hand side of the Apple menu bar.

Of course, there’s an easier way if all you need to do is add the accent glyph for a single character. Ever since OS X Lion, it’s been possible to add an accent glyph by holding down the letter’s key for a second or two, at which point a popover menu will appear directly above the character, listing all of the correct diacritical marks associated with that letter. Simply click on the mark you wish to use, or type the number that appears below the mark.

If none of the glyphs are the correct one, you can hit the Escape key to dismiss the popover menu.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

by Tom Nelson

With each release of the Mac OS, new features are added, older features may be updated, and in some cases, removed or replaced. Over the course of a few OS updates, it’s easy for some very useful system features to be forgotten. That’s why we’re going to take a look at 10 features that don’t get as much use as we think they should.

1) Tabbing Between Fields and Control Elements
The tab key can get quite a workout on the Mac. Besides its obvious use in text editors and word processors to move the cursor a predefined distance, it’s used on the Mac to move between fields in various apps. This makes the tab key extremely helpful when filling in an online form, letting you move quickly to the next field to enter information, or to the next list item to make a selection.

Further Reading: OWC Announces Cutting-edge Thunderbolt 3 Products at CES 2018

Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

You may have noticed when filling in forms that the tab key will jump past dropdown menus and other types of controls used in forms and dialog boxes. You can make the tab key stop at just about any type of user interface element with this small change:

Launch System Preferences and select the Keyboard preference pane.

Select the Shortcuts button at the top of the Keyboard window.

Near the bottom you’ll find options for Full Keyboard Access. The default is to have the tab key only move between text boxes and lists. You can change the setting to have the tab key move between all controls.

You can also change the tab key behavior on the fly, without returning to the System Preferences, by using the keyboard shortcut Control + F7 to toggle between the two options.

2) New Folder With Selection
This useful Finder feature has been around since OS X Lion, but is still often overlooked when it comes to file management and organization. As long as you select two or more files, you can have the Finder automatically create a new folder and move the selected items into the folder for you.

Open a Finder window and navigate to the files you would like to have placed in a new folder. Select the files; remember you must select at least two files (or folders) for this trick to work.

Right-click or control-click on one of the selected items, and then choose New Folder with Selection (X Items) from the popup menu. The X in the menu name will be replaced with the number of items you actually selected.

You can also select multiple items in the Finder and from the File menu select New Folder with Selection (X Items).

3) Use a Document’s Icon to Move a File or Duplicate a File (Proxy Icon)
The proxy icon is the thumbnail of a document icon that appears in the title bar of the document window of most Mac apps, usually at the top center of the window. It’s called a proxy icon because it’s a stand-in for the actual icon of the document you’re working on.

The proxy icon is more than just a bit of eye candy. It can be used just like the document’s real icon, which means you can:

Drag the proxy icon anywhere on your Mac to create an alias to the original file at the new location.

Option + drag to create a copy of the document at the location you drag the proxy icon to.

Press command or control for a pop-down menu that shows the path to the document.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog