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Archive for the ‘macOS’ Category

by Tom Nelson

With the release of macOS Mojave Public Beta, we went hunting for features that might be hiding amongst all the changes to the OS. What we found were some nifty capabilities hiding, for the most part, in plain sight.

Even more features are expected to show up over time as more users work with the macOS Mojave beta, but for now, here are our top 6 hidden features of macOS Mojave.

Oh, and one quick note. Since Mojave is still in beta at the time of the original publication of this article, some of the features may have slightly changed or even be missing once the full release of Mojave sees the light of day later this fall. When the fall release occurs, we’ll check to see if any of the features need to be updated.

Recent Apps in Dock
The Dock gets a new organizational tool; it can show three of the most recent apps you’ve used in a special area of the Dock. This new feature is located after the Apps section of the Dock, and before the Documents and Trash section of the Dock.

A new section of the Dock is reserved for displaying up to three recently used apps. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

If this seems similar to the Recent Applications Stack that you can create in the Dock, it is, but with a few differences. First, the recent apps aren’t displayed in a stack but as individual icons in the Dock. Second, only apps that don’t already have a home in the Dock are displayed. This prevents duplicate apps from showing up in your Dock.

The recent apps section of the Dock has very basic controls you can set:

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

Select the Dock preference pane.

Place a checkmark in the box labeled, “Show recent applications in Dock to enable the feature or remove the checkmark to turn off the feature and reclaim the Dock space.”

The Dock preference pane includes a checkbox to enable or disable the option to Show recent applications in DockScreen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

Currently, the recent apps Dock section is limited to three apps; it would be nice to have the ability to set how many can be seen.

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by Tom Nelson

Sometime this summer, macOS Mojave will be made available to participants in the Apple Beta Software Program. Since the Beta Software Program is open to anyone who wishes to sign up, it’s easier to think of this as a public beta for anyone whose Mac meets the minimum requirements for using macOS Mojave.

The macOS public betas are very popular with a large number of Mac users anxious to put the latest Mac OS through its paces. To help you get the most out of the betas, the Rocket Yard is lending a helping hand with a collection of macOS Mojave guides.

Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

To pique your interest, we started off with What’s New in macOS Mojave: A First Look at the Developer Beta.

The follow-up article described How to Get Your Mac Ready for the macOS Mojave Beta.

And that leaves this article, which covers how to perform the actual install of the macOS beta.

Developer or Public Beta of Mojave?
Apple developers already have access to the beta of Mojave, and since the public beta isn’t quite available yet, we’re going to base our install guide on the developer version, and then come back and update the guide for any changes that occur when the public beta is released. I don’t expect too much to change between the developer and public beta versions. The usual changes seen in past betas were primarily differences in file names, installer commands, or menu names; there’s rarely a dramatic difference in the actual install process. But be sure and check back; you never know what may happen between now and then.

How Many Ways Are There to Install the macOS Mojave Beta?
More than you might think, but we’re going to look at two primary methods: the upgrade install and the clean install. We’ll also take a look at installing the beta on Parallels, a popular virtual machine app.

  • Upgrade Install: The easiest of the install options. It will upgrade your current version of the macOS to the beta version of Mojave. It will also update all of your Apple apps to the beta Mojave versions, and may also update the document formats of some apps. Because the upgrade install of the beta is an all-or-nothing process, I recommend that you install the beta on a copy/clone of your current startup disk. This will leave your current system intact and usable for your normal daily tasks, and still allow you to test and try out the beta on a different drive, one that contains copies of all your apps and data.
  • Clean Install: This install process creates a pristine copy of the macOS Mojave beta on a target drive. It can completely erase the destination volume and then install a fresh copy of the Mojave beta. I don’t recommend using this install method on your Mac’s normal startup drive since you would lose all your current data. Using the clean install method on an empty external drive is a better option.

Back Up, Please
Before using any of the install methods outlined here, be sure to start the process by making sure you have a current backup of your startup drive, as well as any other drives that contain important information you can’t afford to be without.

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by Tom Nelson

Itching to get your hands on the macOS Mojave beta so you can experience all the new features? There are some very important steps to take before you expose your Mac to any beta software, and when the beta is of a new operating system release, you really should consider building a wall between the beta software and the Mac OS and apps you use daily for work and play.

Before we begin constructing the beta wall, let’s take a moment to look at the macOS Beta programs available to you.

Apple Developer Program
This is probably the best-known method of gaining access to the resources needed to develop for the Mac. If you have a hankering to build an app, develop an extension, or integrate tools with the Mac operating system, the Apple Developer Program is the place to start.

There are various developer memberships levels, from free, which gives you access to documentation, the Xcode developers’ suite, and the Swift programming language, to paid yearly memberships, which include the ability to distribute your applications through the appropriate App Store, as well as access the various operating system and app betas that Apple provides to its developers.

The macOS Mojave beta was made available to developers shortly after the WWDC 2018 keynote speech.

Apple Beta Software Program
Apple also provides betas of its operating systems to the general public through the free Apple Beta Software Program. This program is open to all Apple users willing to sign up for the program and participate by providing feedback on the betas they’re working with.

The public beta releases are expected mid-summer. Sign up now if you wish to participate in any of Apple’s beta programs.

Betas provided through the public Beta Software Program lag slightly behind those given to Apple developers. I’ve always thought of the difference between the two this way: Apple gives the latest beta version to the developers to help find major issues, like a bug that deletes all the files on your startup drive. After a week or so of being in the developers’ hands with no catastrophic bugs showing up, the beta (usually under a slightly different version number) is released through the public beta program.

Having more eyes on the beta operating system through the public release should cause additional bugs and issues to be discovered and reported to Apple. The macOS Mojave public beta is expected to be released mid-summer.

Building the Beta Wall
As noted above, the purpose of betas is to help discover bugs and issues in a beta app. This means that anyone participating in either beta program should expect to encounter problems that could range from a funny misspelling in a menu, to a minor annoyance in how an app works, to system freezes or data loss.

Which brings us to the first rule of working with Apple betas: Never install a beta on your primary computer.

This rule, however, tends to be impractical for most users of a public beta. Many of us don’t have multiple computers, and if we do, we probably don’t have one that we can dedicate for use only with beta software. A more practical approach is to isolate the beta, and keep it from interacting with the startup drive and the data you use daily.

The usual methods to isolate a beta are to install it on an external drive that you can selectively boot from when you wish to work with the beta, or install it on a virtual machine, such as Parallels, that runs the beta as a guest OS, with any interaction with your main Mac being performed through the virtual machine software.

Each method has its advantages. Installing on an external bootable drive allows you to work with the beta in its normal environment; no virtual software performing translations, or pretending to be hardware devices. You experience the beta operating directly on your Mac’s hardware.

The major disadvantage is the inconvenience of having to reboot your Mac whenever you wish to use the beta software.

When you choose to install the beta in a virtual environment, you can work with both the beta and your normal Mac OS at the same time. The disadvantage is the virtual environment is generally slower, especially graphics performance, which can be subpar during the beta phase and even prevent some new OS features from working as intended.

In this article, I’m going to assume you’re installing the beta on an external drive that you will selectively boot from when you want to use the macOS beta. Because the beta install process may also update your drive to APFS, I don’t recommend installing the beta on any current internal drives your Mac may have. I’m not saying to avoid APFS; I just don’t think it’s a good idea to let a beta installer convert a drive that likely contains precious data. It’s far better to dedicate an external drive for use with the macOS beta.

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by Tom Nelson

I was expecting a version of the macOS that would mostly be about security and performance, but while I expected a fastball, Apple threw us a curve. Apple announced that macOS Mojave not only included the expected security, performance, and privacy improvements, but also an OS loaded with new features.

I installed the developer beta of Mojave on an external SSD that housed a recent clone of my High Sierra startup drive. The upgrade install of macOS Mojave went without a hitch.

I also tried to install Mojave beta as a guest OS in my favorite virtual machine app. That didn’t go as well, but it’s the first beta, and the VM people will need some time to track down what appears to be graphics display issues.

I chose to test Mojave on a 2014 27-inch Retina 5K iMac with a 4 GHz i7 processor and 16 GB of RAM. Mojave will support most Macs from the year 2012 on, however, there are exceptions that can allow older models to work, as well as prevent newer models from being able to install Mojave. You’ll find all the details in A Complete List of Mojave Compatible Macs.

This is a first impression of macOS Mojave, which was just made available in a developer beta. As such, features we see today may not make it all the way through the beta, or they may undergo significant changes before a public release.

With the background out of the way, let’s move on to what’s new in macOS Mojave.

Dark Mode
One of the new features that’s getting a bit of press is Dark Mode. This system-wide theme is an extension of the current Dark scheme introduced with OS X Yosemite that can be enabled for menus and the Dock. The new version of Dark Mode extends the dark theme to most of the system, and applications that Apple bundles with the OS. The apps most of us routinely use, including Mail, iTunes, Finder, and Photos, have all moved to the dark side.

The new Dark Mode theme is applied not only to menus and the Dock, but also to most Apple apps; in the near future, third-party apps will be able to use the theme as well. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

Apple is also making the Dark Mode API available to third-party developers, so your favorite apps will likely support Dark Mode sometime in the future.

Dark Mode is a user-applied theme; you can turn Dark Mode on or off as you wish, using the Mac’s General preference pane. You can also customize Dark Mode slightly by selecting from one of eight accent colors used to highlight menus you select.

Dark Mode can be helpful when working within certain apps and workflows. Generally, apps that benefit from having work surfaces, such as menus, toolbars, and palettes, blend into the background while the creative content you’re working on takes center stage, will benefit from Dark Mode. Other apps, such as web browsers, don’t seem to benefit as much. Give Dark Mode a try with Photos, video editing apps, audio production, CAD, CAE, and 3D modeling apps; even Apple’s Maps app seems to benefit from this UI change.

Dark Mode is a system-wide selection; you can turn it on or off across the entire system, but not by individual apps.

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by Tom Nelson

Disk Utility’s Restore function can be used to copy the content from one volume to another. In this respect, it’s similar to the process of cloning a volume, and indeed, the Restore function can be used to create bootable clones. But if this is your primary reason for using the Restore function, I recommend the use of dedicated cloning apps, such as Carbon Copy Cloner or SuperDuper, that have a great deal more features that are highly serviceable in the cloning process.

The Restore feature can also be used to copy disk images to a target volume, restore an image of your startup volume, or simply copy the content of one volume to another.

We’ve already covered the basics of using the Restore feature for cloning in the Rocket Yard article: Tech Tip: How to Use the Restore Feature of Disk Utility to Clone a Drive.

In this guide, we’re going to look at how Disk Utility’s Restore feature has changed in macOS High Sierra; specifically, the new support for APFS containers and volumes, and how they bring new capabilities as well as limitations to how you restore data from one storage device to another.

When you select a destination volume from the Disk Utility sidebar, you can verify the file system in use on the selected volume by checking the information pane. In this example, the destination volume is formatted with APFS.Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

What Hasn’t Changed in the Disk Utility Restore Function
The basic concept remains the same; you use Disk Utility to select a destination volume from the sidebar, and then choose a source to copy from. Once the copy (Restore) starts, the destination device is unmounted and erased, and the content from the source is copied to the new location. Once the copy is complete, the destination is mounted, and you’re ready to make use of the information.

Restore can also make copies of disk images, as well as just about any device that can be mounted on the Mac’s Desktop. This means you can make copies of just about anything you wish, including creating archives of videos from your camera’s flash drives before you perform any type of edits, creating clones before upgrading an OS or important app, and just as important, being able to return to a known good state should something befall an upgrade.

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by Tom Nelson

Securely wiping a drive, removing all of its data, and ensuring that no meaningful information can be recovered, has long been a feature of Disk Utility and its erase function. Even though the default for Disk Utility is a simple erase, a secure wipe was just a few clicks away.

Two recent changes have made the traditional secure wipe, performed by overwriting a volume multiple times with various types of data patterns, largely a thing of the past. The first change, leading to less reliance on the various secure wipe options, has been the proliferation of SSDs, both as original equipment provided by Apple and by resellers, such as OWC, which bring higher performance storage systems to the Mac.

Using the Security Options to sanitize a volume may be a thing of the past. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

The second change that directly affects the Mac community, at least in the way free space can be securely erased, is the release of the APFS file system, and how it makes use of shared space between multiple volumes.

In this guide, we’re going to look at erasing volumes, partitions, and containers. We’ll be looking at drives formatted with APFS as well as those formatted with the traditional HFS+ file system. If you’re working with macOS Sierra or earlier, you may find the Rocket Yard Guide: How to Use Mac’s Disk Utility to Securely Wipe a Drive a good source of information for erasing your drives.

We’ll be using the Disk Utility app included with macOS High Sierra and later.

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by Tom Nelson

Disk First Aid, currently part of Disk Utility, has long been the go-to utility for verifying and repairing a Mac’s storage system. Included as a standalone app with the original Mac OS, it was later folded into Disk Utility when OS X was released.

Disk Utility, and its First Aid system remains the first line of defense for drives that are experiencing a number of issues, including:

  • System crashes
  • Files disappearing
  • File sizes changing on their own
  • Inability to copy files
  • Inability to open or save files
  • Startup issues
  • Drives unmounting or ejecting on their own
  • And a host of other errors and issues

In this guide, we’re going to take a look at using Disk Utility’s First Aid tool in macOS High Sierra to repair APFS and HFS+ file systems. First Aid can actually be used on any file system that macOS supports, but APFS and HFS+ are the most popular, and the ones you’re most likely to encounter.

We’ll start by going through the actual process of using First Aid, and then take a more in-depth look at the process; we’ll also provide a few troubleshooting tips.

Before you use First Aid, make sure you have a current backup of the drive or volume you’re having issues with. If you’re using First Aid as part of a routine maintenance program, you should still have a working backup of any volume that you’ll be checking.

The Disk Utility app underwent a few updates with the release of macOS High Sierra to support the APFS file system. If you’re working with OS X El Capitan through macOS Sierra, you may find the instructions in How to Use macOS Sierra Disk Utility to Verify or Repair Disks a better fit.

Disk Utility’s Sidebar in macOS High Sierra and Later
Launch Disk Utility, located at /Applications/Utilities.

Disk Utility’s default settings use a sidebar that only displays storage volumes. Since you may need to use the First Aid tool on volumes as well as partitions, catalogs, and physical devices, it’s a good idea to change the sidebar settings to display all devices.

The View button in Disk Utility’s toolbar will expand the sidebar to show all devices. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

Click the View button in the Disk Utility toolbar and select Show All Devices from the popup menu, or select Show All Devices from the View menu.

The sidebar will now display all devices, including the physical drive and any APFS containers it may have, as well as any APFS or HFS volumes associated with the physical drive.

The organization of the devices is hierarchical, with the physical drive listed first, using the manufacturer’s name, or the model name or number, or both. At the next level under the physical drive is the Container (APFS file system), followed by the volumes. If this is an HFS-formatted drive, there won’t be any containers under the drive level, just volumes.

Each item can be selected and repaired using the First Aid tool.

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by Tom Nelson

AirDrop is a peer-to-peer file sharing system for local Mac and iOS users. It’s easy to set up with just a click or two; no special information or settings are needed. Just drag-and-drop a file to share with others.

In this Rocket Yard Guide, we’re going to take a look at AirDrop’s history, the basics of its use, and a tip or two for improving its use, including adding AirDrop to the Mac’s Dock for easy access.

AirDrop History
Originally developed for the Mac and released with OS X Lion, AirDrop made use of a new Wi-Fi standard called PAN (Personal Area Network) that allowed for the creation of an ad-hoc wireless network. To make setting up the network automatic, Apple made use of its Bonjour service, which allowed Macs to broadcast that they were part of the Wi-Fi network and could receive files from others.

When iOS 7 was introduced, it included its own version of AirDrop, but replaced the use of Bonjour with Bluetooth LE, and kept peer-to-peer Wi-Fi for sending and receiving, though it dropped the use of the PAN protocol.

When OS X Yosemite was released, it included support for both sets of AirDrop protocols, allowing supported Macs to use AirDrop with other supported Macs, as well as iOS devices.

Not all Macs or iOS devices are compatible with AirDrop. You can check this AirDrop support document to see if your Mac or device supports AirDrop.

Using AirDrop
AirDrop requires the use of either Wi-Fi or Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, depending on the version of AirDrop being used.

You can open an AirDrop Finder window by selecting AirDrop from the Finder sidebar, or from the Finder’s Go menu.

The AirDrop window displays nearby devices that have AirDrop enabled. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

AirDrop appears as a special Finder window folder that displays any nearby Mac or iOS devices that have AirDrop enabled.

You can drag any file or folder onto a device listed in the AirDrop window. You can also use the share button within an app to send a file via AirDrop. Depending on the version of AirDrop being used, you may be asked to confirm that you wish to send a file to the selected user.

The destination device will display an alert, asking the user if they wish to accept the files being sent.

On the Mac, files being sent will appear in the Downloads folder, once accepted. On iOS devices, the files will be associated with specific apps, such as images being placed in the Photos app.

Can’t find one of your older Macs? Later versions of AirDrop changed the method used to detect AirPort-enabled devices. You may need to use the Search for an Older Mac option. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

OS X Yosemite and later support both sets of protocols, but are set to Bluetooth LE/Wi-Fi as the default. To access older Macs, you must select the option to search for older Macs. This will reset the protocol to the older version, allowing you to connect with older Macs, but not with iOS or newer Macs using Bluetooth LE/Wi-Fi. In OS X Yosemite and later, you’ll find this option labeled “Don’t see who you’re looking for?” at the bottom of the AirDrop folder window. Clicking in this text will bring up the option to Search for an older Mac.

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by Tom Nelson

Content Caching is one of the new services available in macOS High Sierra. Designed to reduce Internet data usage and increase the speed of updating Macs, iOS devices, and Apple TVs, Content Caching can also speed up iCloud storage by keeping a local copy of the iCloud data on your local area network.

Content Caching: History
Content Caching was originally one of the services included with Mac OS Server. By using the caching service, a system administrator could designate local storage as a repository for all of the software updates distributed by Apple for its various product families.

This allowed all devices connected to the local network to access the stored information without having to re-download the data from the Internet every time a device needed an update.

Caching was an effective way for administrators to reduce the Internet bandwidth used, while actually increasing overall system update performance for the end user.

Content, such as macOS updates, is cached, allowing others on your network to enjoy faster updates. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

Apple ceased development of the Mac OS Server product, but the Content Caching capabilities have made the migration from the server product to the Mac, as long as it’s running macOS High Sierra or later.

Content Caching: How It Works
Once Content Caching is enabled on a Mac, it keeps copies of all of the software updates, App Store downloads and updates, and iCloud data, including backups to iCloud that are initiated by any client connected to your local network.

The next time a client on your network needs to download the same data, such as a macOS update, the data is retrieved from the content cache instead of being downloaded from the Internet. All subsequent client devices that need the data get it from the local network at what will normally be a much faster connection than is possible from the Internet.

Data Types That Are Cached
Not everything that is downloaded from the Internet is cached. Content Caching supports the following data types:

  • iTunes purchases (iTunes 11.04 and later)
  • iBooks Store content (iOS 6 or OS X Mavericks and later)
  • iOS app purchases and updates
  • iOS updates over the air (iOS 7 and later)
  • macOS updates
  • Mac App Store purchases and updates
  • GarageBand downloadable content
  • iCloud photos and documents for OS X El Capitan or iOS 9 and later
  • Apple TV apps and updates
  • iOS 10 and tvOS 10 On-Demand resources
  • iTunes U course material
  • Mobile assets, including high-quality Siri voices and dictionaries

Setting Up Content Caching
To make use of Content Caching, you’re going to need:

  • A Mac that is on 24/7, or at least whenever a client device is connected to your local network
  • A Mac connected to your local network via wired Ethernet (preferred) or Wi-Fi
  • A Mac with either a large amount of free space on the startup drive or an external drive
  • macOS High Sierra or later

Note: Apple recommends that the Mac being used for caching be hard-wired to your Ethernet network using Gigabit Ethernet or better. The caching system can serve hundreds of clients concurrently. To ensure adequate throughput, a high-performance wired Ethernet connection to the Mac is encouraged.

If you’re implementing Content Caching for your home or small business, with a limited number of client devices (Macs, iPhones, iPads, iPod Touches), a Wi-Fi connection may be adequate, though the caching Mac may see some negative performance effects if the cache is undergoing heavy use.

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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.

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