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Archive for May, 2019

by Tom Nelson

The Notification Center was added to the Mac with the release of OS X Mountain Lion in the summer of 2012 and was meant to corral a stampede of push services that was threatening to inundate users with uncontrolled notifications popping up everywhere, or at least so it seemed.

The Notification Center unified how notifications are handled, displayed, and controlled by the user. It does such a good job of containing and controlling notifications that some users may not be aware of how they can exercise control over the service.

In this Rocket Yard guide, we’ll look at how to make use of the Mac’s Notification Center.

Accessing the Notification Center

The Notification Center resides along the far right side of your display. Normally the Notification Center is hidden, so as not to take up desktop real estate, but you can quickly access it using one of these techniques:

The Notification Center includes a menu bar icon located at the far right corner of the menu bar. Clicking or tapping the icon will cause the Notification Center panel to slide out, or slide back to its hidden state.

The Notification Center showing today’s notices and the highlighted menu bar icon used to access the feature. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

You can also use Mission Control’s Hot Corner feature to pick a corner to automatically activate the Notification Center when you move the cursor into that corner:

Launch System Preferences, and select the Mission Control preference pane.

Click or tap the Hot Corners button.

A sheet will drop down, with a dropdown menu positioned at each corner of an image of your desktop.

Pick the corner you wish to use by clicking or tapping on that corner’s dropdown menu and selecting Notification Center from the list.

Click the OK button when done.

Managing Widgets and the Today Tab

The Today tab is where active Notification Center widgets are displayed. Widgets are usually extensions that allow apps you’ve installed on your Mac to display additional information, via the Notification Center Today Tab. Some examples of widgets you’re likely to use, or at least come across, are Weather, Calendar, Social Media, and iTunes.

You can add, remove, and rearrange Today tab widgets:

Open the Notification Center using one of the methods outlined above, and select the Today tab.

The red circle icons are used to remove a widget, while the green circle icons are used to add a widget to the Today tab. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

Press the Edit button at the bottom of the Today tab.

  • Remove Widgets: Widgets present in the Today tab will have a minus sign within a red circle. Clicking the minus sign associated with a widget will remove it from the active Today tab and return it to the list of available widgets.
  • Add Widgets: The list of available widgets is shown in the far right pane. Each widget will have a plus sign within a green circle. Clicking on the plus sign will add the widget to the active widgets displayed in the Today tab.
  • Rearrange Widgets: You can rearrange active widgets by grabbing a widget by its title bar and dragging it to a new position within the active widget list.

Adding New Widgets to the Notification Center

You’ve probably noticed that many apps have Notification Center widgets that can be added to the Today pane of the Notification Center. But there are also third-party widgets, such as scientific calculators, delivery-tracking widgets, mini calendars, even an iStat Menu add-on for monitoring your Mac’s performance, all available from a specially curated section of the Mac App Store.

The App Store has a collection of Notification Center widgets you can add to your Mac. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

To add additional widgets, open the Notification Center and select the Today tab.

Select the Edit button at the bottom of the Today tab.

Click or tap the App Store button at the bottom.

The App Store will launch and display all Notification Center widgets that are available.

If you add a widget, it will appear in the Notification Center’s widget list, where you can add it to the Today tab (see Add Widgets, above).

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by Tom Nelson

Menu Bar apps sit in your Mac’s menu bar and provide access to an array of features and services, all with just a simple click or tap of the app’s menu bar icon. They can bring additional productivity, utility, or security, or add useful information to your Mac’s menu bar.

The basic menu bar with Apple-supplied menu items shown. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

Our list of 15 menu bar apps is by no means all-inclusive; there are so many apps available that it would take quite a while to combine them into a single list. Instead, I’ve gathered a list of menu bar apps that I’ve either used or are popular in the Mac community, and are worth trying out.

Let’s start our list of favorite menu bar apps with ones that enhance your productivity.


Calendars

Yes, your Mac comes with its own Calendar app, which does a pretty good job of keeping track of dates and notifying you of upcoming events. But to add, edit, and view the calendars, the app needs to be running. That’s where menu bar-based calendar apps shine, letting you work with your calendars directly from the menu bar.

Fantastical

Currently at version 2, Fantastical started life as strictly a menu bar app but has grown into a full-fledged Mac app. Thankfully, the folks who make Fantastical didn’t abandon the menu bar; version 2 has all the original benefits of a lightweight menu bar app, as well as the power of a full app when you need it.

Fantastical provides easy access to your current calendar and upcoming events. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

Fantastical supports multiple calendars, and calendar sets, which can automatically switch their active/inactive states depending on your location. This lets you set up calendars for work as well as home, and automatically switch between them.

• Fantastical 2 is $49.99, with a 21-day free trial.

Itsycal

If the Mac’s Calendar app is performing well for you, and the feature you’re really missing is access to Calendar from the menu bar, Itsycal is the menu bar app for you. Itsycal can display a monthly view of your Calendar app’s information, including showing events that are scheduled. If you need additional information, you can open the Calendar app directly from Itsycal.

• Itsycal is free.


Contact Managers

There are a number of contact managers for the Mac but most are full-fledged apps, with only minimal, if any, menu bar support. One of the exceptions is the app below.

Cardhop

Cardhop is the preferred way to access, edit, add to, and just work with the Mac’s Contacts app. For many Mac and iOS device users, Cardhop is the only method they use to manage their contacts; that’s how powerful this menu bar app is.

Cardhop can show upcoming events and recent contacts, as well as all of the cards in the Mac’s Contacts app. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

Cardhop makes use of a powerful search capability that allows you to find contact information based on just about any detail that may be present in a contacts card. Search by name, address, birth date, or any criteria; it’s as easy as clicking or tapping the Cardhop menu bar item and starting to type. Cardhop will display any matching cards it finds.

Adding or editing contacts is just as easy; just enter the name and details and Cardhop takes care of the rest. Cardhop also includes the ability to add note fields, to enter personal details about your contact, and a timestamp field to create a history of your contacts.

One of the best features of Cardhop is its ability to act on a contact you select. If you need to send an email or make a phone call, Cardhop can launch the appropriate app to send an email or connect to your Bluetooth phone, use Wi-Fi calling, or get the macOS Continuity feature to make calls for you.

• Cardhop is $19.99 and is available with a 21-day free trial.

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by Tom Nelson

The Mac Pro has long been the choice of both amateur and professional content creators and developers who expect performance and the ability to customize their workstations. Beginning with macOS Mojave, Apple started paring back support for some Mac Pro models, leaving many to wonder if it’s time to consider updating to a new workstation.

While there may be a bit of a thrill in updating to something new, the truth is, at least in this case, if you’re using a 2010 through 2012 Mac Pro, or the newer 2013 and later models of the Mac Pro, you may find that instead of updating, upgrading may be a better choice. With just a few changes, you can upgrade your Mac Pro and ensure it’s compatible with macOS Mojave; you can also increase its performance to meet your needs.

Mac Pro models from 2010 and later can all be upgraded to increase performance and ensure compatibility with macOS Mojave and later.

Memory Upgrades

The 2010 through 2012 versions of the Mac Pro were available in single and dual processor configurations that supported up to 12 processor cores. Each processor supported up to 4 DIMM (Dual-Inline Memory Modules) memory slots, resulting in the Mac Pro having either 4 or 8 memory slots that could be populated with DIMM modules.

The tricky bit about upgrading the 2010 through 2012 Mac Pros is that while there are 4 memory slots per processor, there are only 3 memory channels available to each processor. Memory channels are the means by which the processor or memory controller communicates with the RAM module. With a single processor Mac Pro, memory slots 1 and 2 each use a discrete memory channel, while slots 3 and 4 share the remaining memory channel. The same architecture is used for Mac Pros with dual processors; memory slots 1, 2, 5, and 6 are each connected to their own dedicated memory channel, while slots 3 and 4 share one of the remaining channels, and slots 7 and 8 share the final memory channel.

The way the memory channels are divided up has implications for how you add memory to your Mac Pro. To achieve the best available memory performance you should follow this sequence for installing RAM modules:

In a single processor Mac Pro:

  • 2 DIMMs: Install in memory slots 1 and 2
  • 3 DIMMs: Install in memory slots 1, 2, and 3
  • 4 DIMMs: Install in memory slots 1, 2, 3, and 4

For best results, all DIMMS should be of the same size and speed; this is especially true when using both slots 3 and 4 since they share a memory channel. The slowest module will dictate the speed at which a memory channel operates. Placing a slow module in slot 4 will cause slot 3 to operate at the same speed.

Memory module for use in 2010 through 2012 Mac Pro models.

In a dual processor Mac Pro:

  • 2 DIMMs: Install in memory slots 1 and 2
  • 3 DIMMs: Install in memory slots 1, 2, and 3
  • 4 DIMMs: Install in memory slots 1, 2, 5, and 6
  • 6 DIMMs: Install in memory slots 1, 2, 3, and 5, 6, 7
  • 8 DIMMs: Install in memory slots 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5, 6, 7, 8

Once again, it’s best to use the same size DIMMs in all channels, and especially important to make sure DIMMS in slots 3, 4, and 7, 8 use the same size and speed.

OWC offers memory for the 2010 through 2012 Mac Pro in 2 GB, 4 GB, 8 GB, and 16 GB sizes, allowing you to install up to 64 GB in a single processor Mac Pro and 128 GB in a dual processor model.

The 2013 cylindrical Mac Pro has a total of four memory slots, two on each side. Apple recommends that memory slots be populated with identical DIMMs in the following configurations:

  • 12 GB: 4 GB DIMMs in slots 1, 2, and 3
  • 16 GB: 4 GB DIMMs in slots 1, 2, 3, and 4
  • 32 GB: 8 GB DIMMs in slots 1, 2, 3, and 4
  • 64 GB: 16 GB DIMMs in slots 1, 2, 3, and 4

While the configurations suggested by Apple will provide the best overall memory performance, you’re not limited to these configurations. As an example, you could create a 20 GB system by adding an 8 GB DIMM in the open fourth slot in the standard 12 GB configuration. Or, you could create a 24 GB configuration by removing the 4 GB DIMM in slot 3 of the 12 GB system, and adding two 8 GB DIMMS in the two open slots.

The only real restriction for the 2013 Mac Pro is that UDIMMs (Unregistered Dual Inline Memory Modules) can’t be mixed with RDIMMs (Registered Dual Inline Memory Modules). Generally, the smaller size DIMMS will be of the unregistered variety, while larger ones with be the registered type.

OWC offers memory upgrades for the 2013 Mac Prousing 4 GB UDIMMs, and 8 GB, 16 GB, and 32 GB RDIMMs.

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by Tom Nelson

For many of us, the Mac’s Mail app is the most often used app in our collection. It has so many features that for most of us, we only touch the surface of what it can do. In this Rocket Yard guide we’ll check out seven features that are often overlooked, most likely left in the default setting, or simply not used.

If you’re a Mac Mail user, take a look at our Mail tips and give them a try.

Set How Often to Check Mail

Has Mail become a distraction? It either rarely or never updates, leaving you wondering if Mail is actually working, or it updates too often, flashing notifications that distract you from your work. In most cases, the problem is the update interval that Mail uses to check for new messages.

You have a few choices in setting the mail check interval, from Automatic to Manual; there are also quite a few preset times, from every minute to every hour and lots of times in-between. The following steps will let you set the interval to use for checking mail:

You can set how often Mail checks for new messages in the preferences. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

Launch Mail, and select the Preferences option from the Mail menu.

In the Preferences window that opens, click or tap the General button.

Look for the “Check for new messages:” item. You’ll find the following options in a dropdown menu:

  • Automatically: (Default) According to Apple, Mail will vary the time frame for checking messages based on whether the Mac is plugged into a power source or using batteries. I’ve found that if someone is using an Exchange mail account or an IMAP account that supports the “Idle” command, Mail will deliver messages as soon as they become available on the server. Otherwise, new mail checking is performed at 5-minute intervals when your Mac is connected to an AC source.
  • Every minute
  • Every 5 minutes
  • Every 15 minutes
  • Every 30 minutes
  • Every hour
  • Manually: Checks for new messages when you click or tap the Get Mail button in the mail toolbar. Additionally, if you’re using IMAP or an Exchange-based mail account, it will check whenever you click or tap an IMAP or Exchange mailbox in the sidebar.

Select the check mail interval you wish to use from the dropdown menu.

You can close the Mail preferences window.

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by Tom Nelson

Have you found that some websites are using text that is too small or too big, forcing you to either squint to see the text, or perform excessive scrolling to take in the entire site?

Most browsers have methods to allow you some control over how a website appears, including adjusting the size of the web page’s text and images. In this Rocket Yardguide, we’ll look at how to use the Safari browser to adjustfont size and zoom levels for the site you’re currently viewing, and for all sites you view, as well as only for a specific site, whenever you stop by for a look.

Web developers spend a good deal of time designing their websites to appeal to most of their users, but it can be difficult to always get the size right, what with so many different devices and screen sizes viewing the website. If you’re having difficulty viewing text or images on a website, you can try these various tips to get a site looking just the way you like it.

Safari Zoom

Safari has long had the ability to zoom in or out of a web page, letting you see more of the page at one time, or get in close to see details. Safari’s zoom feature normally affects both text and image sizes, but you can also choose to just expand or decrease the text size, leaving the images alone.

Keyboard zoom commands:

  • Zoom in: Press the command and plus (+) keys at the same time.
  • Zoom out: Press the command and minus (-) keys at the same time.

If you would like to just increase or decrease the text’s font size while leaving the images at their original size, give the following a go:

  • Zoom in, text only: Press the option, command, and plus (+) keys at the same time.
  • Zoom out, text only: Press the option, command, and minus (-) keys at the same time.

Note: If the zoom function isn’t working as expected with the keyboard commands, chances are the keyboard shortcuts are being used by the Accessibility preference pane, to zoom the display in or out. You can change the Accessibility settings, if needed, by following the instructions in the Rocket Yard guide: macOS 101: Using Accessibility’s Vision and VoiceOver Options.

Menu zoom commands:

  • Zoom in (menu): From the Safari View menu, select Zoom In.
  • Zoom out (menu): From the Safari View menu, select Zoom Out.

OS X El Capitan and earlier included an option in the View menu to force the Zoom command to only apply to the text on the page, leaving everything else at the original size. To set this option, do the following:

From the Safari View menu, select Zoom Text Only. This will place a checkmark next to the Zoom Text Only menu item, indicating that any subsequent use of the Zoom menu item will affect only the text on the website.

  • Zoom in, text only: From the Safari View menu, select Zoom In.
  • Zoom out, text only: From the Safari view menu, select Zoom Out.
  • macOS Sierra and later did away with the Zoom Text Only item in Safari’s View menu; instead, you can use this trick for increasing or decreasing only the text size in a web page:
  • Zoom out, text only: Hold down the option key, then open Safari’s View menu and select Make Text Smaller.

Safari Toolbar Zoom Options

Safari’s toolbar does not show any zoom options by default, but you can add the zoom capacities using the toolbar’s customization options.

Open a web page in Safari, and then right-click or control-click on an empty area of the Safari toolbar.

From the popup menu, select Customize Toolbar.

A sheet will drop down, displaying a number of buttons that can be added to the Safari toolbar.

Drag the Zoom buttons to an empty place on the toolbar, and then click the Done button.

The Zoom buttons in the toolbar affect the entire webpage, increasing or decreasing the size of both text and images.

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