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Archive for the ‘Tom’s Mac Tips’ Category

by Tom Nelson

For some reason, it seems as if iTunes is the app people love to hate. So when macOS Catalina drove a stake through the heart of the iTunes app, splitting it into three different apps, I expected peals of joy from the masses. Instead, it seems more like a bit of gloom and doom. Many are worried about their vast collections of music already stored in iTunes becoming inaccessible, or that the new Apple Music app is going to cut them off from music not originating with Apple.

Fear not; the Music app is akin to iTunes, retaining many of the same features, though the interface has been modernized, requiring some effort to adjust to for diehard iTunes users.

Using the Apple Music App

When you upgraded to macOS Catalina, the Music app acquired your existing music collection. Every song you purchased, ripped, or uploaded; no matter how you acquired the tune, if you imported it into your old iTunes library, it will be available in the new Music app. You’ll also find your playlists, ratings, and any music file metadata, such as composer, writer, lyrics, or artwork, that you may have.

You may notice some content appears to be missing. Actually, Apple just reorganized things a bit, and some media types are now handled by the new Podcast and TV apps, as well as the Finder.

The Music app is dedicated to music, including content stored locally on your Mac, as well as music you may have in the cloud, such as from iTunes Match or from the streaming Apple Music service (subscription required).

MusicLayout640.jpg

A typical Music app display showing the user’s music library organized by album. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

The Music app interface is much easier to use than the cumbersome iTunes app. It has three basic panes:

Toolbar: Located on the top of the Music app window, the toolbar contains the basic playback controls: volume control, current track info, and an Up Next menu and Lyrics menu.

Sidebar: Located along the left side of the window, the Sidebar is used to control the type of content that will be displayed in the main viewing pane. Currently the sidebar allows you to select from the three basic Music app services: Apple Music, the subscription streaming service; Library, which allows you to access both local music and music you’ve stored in iCloud; the iTunes Store, which lets you purchase new music.

There are other optional categories that can appear in the Music app sidebar, depending on how you use the app. If you have playlists, they will be listed in a Playlist category, and if you connect an iPod, iPad, or iPhone, it will be listed in the Devices section. CDs or DVDs will appear in the Devices section as well.

Main Viewing Pane: This centrally located windowpane lists the content of whatever function you’ve selected in the Sidebar. You can browse Apple Music content, select Apple Music Radio channels to listen to, see your music library lists by artist, album, song, or by recently added, visit the iTunes Store to purchase new music, or manage your playlists.

Playing Your Music Library

Use the sidebar to select one of the possible Library functions: Recently Added, Artists, Albums, or Songs.

The main pane will display your library content as selected in the sidebar.

  • By Album: Hover over an album title to display a Play button.
  • By Artist: Select an artist’s name to view all of their content. You can click the Play button and select individual albums and songs, or click the Play button at the top of the page to play all of the artist’s content.
  • By Song: Double-click or tap an item from the song list to start playing the music.

You can also use the Sidebar to select a playlist, which will provide the options to play the playlist in the current order, or to shuffle the list when it plays.

Playing the Apple Music Service

If you’re an Apple Music subscriber, you’ll find the usual controls for the streaming service in the Music sidebar:

AppleMusicBrowse640.jpg

Apple Music’s subscription service is available from the Music app’s sidebar. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

For You: Apple Music can use your musical history, that is, the songs and artists you’ve already been listening to, to suggest new artists or songs you may enjoy.

Browse: The Apple Music subscription service has over 30 million song titles. Go ahead and browse through them. Apple Music will lend a hand, guiding you through the vast music collection, organizing music genres, tastes, what’s new, recently added, or updated. Or, you can plow ahead on your own.

Radio: Beats 1 is the primary radio offering, with DJs from around the world programming music content to match your preferences; or, you can be bold and strike out to find new curated selections of music, interviews with leaders in the music industry, music news, and more.

The Radio offering is much more than just a music channel. It’s a great way to be exposed to new music as well as listen to your old favorites.

iTunes Store

Not much has changed with the iTunes Store; you’ll find the usual Best of the Week, Top Songs, Top Albums, featured new music, and music by genre. You can still buy and redeem gift cards.

You can access the iTunes store from the Music app sidebar.

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by Tom Nelson

A bootable version of the macOS Catalina installer is one of the often-overlooked tools a Mac user should have on hand before upgrading to or performing a clean install of Catalina. The bootable installer you create in this guide will be housed on a USB flash drive, but you can use any bootable device you may have lying around, including internal or external drives.

Image of a small OWC flash drive

A bootable flash drive is the preferred method, however; here’s why:

  • It’s small and easy to store in a safe place.
  • It’s inexpensive. You can buy a new USB flash drive large enough for this project for less than $10.
  • All current Macs support booting from a USB port. Macs with Thunderbolt 3 can also use a USB flash drive as bootable media (an adapter may be required).

Why Make a Bootable macOS Catalina Installer?

There are multiple reasons for having a bootable macOS Catalina installer. The four primary reasons are:

  • It allows you to perform a clean install of the operating system on your Mac using the existing startup drive. By booting to the installer, you can perform a full erasure of your normal startup device before installing the new OS.
  • It lets you install the OS on multiple Macs without having to download the installer multiple times.
  • It allows you to archive a copy of the macOS installer, which you may need if you ever want to downgrade to the version on the installer. You may have noticed that with each new version of the macOS that’s released, there are usually some users who have one or more issues with it and wish to return to a previous version. This can usually be done provided you have a copy of the installer for the version of the Mac OS you wish to return to. This bootable installer meets that requirement.
  • It can be used as a bootable troubleshooting tool, letting you access the same apps that are found in the Recovery Volume.

What You Need to Create a Bootable MacOS Installer

The list of items needed to complete this project is fairly basic, and I suspect you may already have everything you need.

A connection to the Internet: You’ll need an Internet connection for downloading the installer from Apple.

A USB flash drive: 8 GB is the minimum size required, at least for all the versions of the macOS through macOS Catalina. Future versions may require larger flash drives, but for now, 8 GB is big enough. Going larger isn’t a bad idea, though; you can use the extra space on the flash drive to store apps and utilities you may need for troubleshooting purposes.

You should also consider using a fast flash drive. A USB 3 flash drive with fast read speeds would be a good choice.

CatalinaInstaller640.jpg

Be sure to quit (Command + Q) the macOS Catalina installer if it starts up after the download is completed.

A copy of the macOS Catalina installer.This is usually downloaded via the Software Update preference pane (macOS Mojave and later), or the Mac App Store (macOS High Sierra and earlier). If you’re working with the beta of the OS, you can find the downloadable version either on the Apple developer site, or Apple’s public beta web site.

About 30 minutes of your time: The amount of time it will take is difficult to estimate; making the bootable flash drive is dependent on the speed of the flash drive you’re using, and whether you’re including the time it will take to download the installer, which is dependent on your Internet connection speed and how much traffic exists when you’re downloading. So, take my 30-minute estimate with a grain of salt.

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by Tom Nelson

The Apple Maps app has been included with the Mac OS since the release of OS X Mavericks. The Maps app provides mapping services that include directions, turn-by-turn navigation, transit time for car, public transit, and walking, 3D modeling of terrain and buildings, trip planning, Flyover, traffic, and quite a few other features.

MapsIcon256.jpg

While the Maps app for the Mac is a powerful mapping tool, it really shines when paired with an iPhone or iPad as a navigation aid. You can even make use of an Apple Watch to guide you to your destination.

Maps History

The Maps app hasn’t always been a hit; some would go so far as to say the original implementation was a flop, with so many errors in the underlying map base that it wasn’t uncommon to hear about people being directed onto farms, or into fields or lakes as part of a route to get from here to there.

Over the years, Apple has been making improvements to the Maps app, adding features and correcting underlying problems with the map base. Eventually, Apple came to the conclusion that mapping was more than a feature needed for Apple devices; it was a core technology needed for the future of Apple.

In 2018, Apple announced that it was rebuilding Maps from the ground up, using mapping data that it was generating from Apple mapping vehicles, as well as crowd-sourced location data gathered from participating iOS users.

Apple has already started rolling out the new mapping data, incorporating it into current versions of Maps, and slowly replacing the mapping data provided by third-party sources, such as TomTom.

Using Maps

We’re going to take a look at a few of the features found in the Maps app for the Mac, specifically for versions included with macOS Sierra and later, with an emphasis on Maps 2.1, which was released with macOS Mojave.

Maps has many uses, including looking up locations, making travel plans, and getting directions. The Maps search bar is likely to be where your trip begins.

If you haven’t already done so, launch Maps, located in the /Applications folder, or click on the Maps icon in the Dock.

Search: Maps includes a search bar located front and center at the top of the Maps window. Click in the search bar and enter the location you’re interested in. You can try searching on addresses, business names, parks, schools, street names, cities, states, and countries.

As you enter the search criteria, Maps will generate search suggestions. You can select from suggestions as a shortcut to entering a full name.

If the search query returns a result (and it usually will), Maps will display the location and drop a red pin, indicating its exact location on the map.

Favorites: Over time you’ll likely build up a number of locations you keep returning to. You can make returning to these locations easier by adding them to your list of Favorites.

Favorites640.jpg

Store the places you keep returning to in your Favorites for quick access. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

  • Add to Favorites: Favorites are added from within the information card associated with a red pin or a pin you drop on the map. Click or tap the information icon in the banner next to a pin. If no banner is visible, try clicking or tapping the pin to make it visible. Once the information card is displayed, select the Favorites button to add the location to your list of favorites.
  • Accessing Favorites: In the search bar, click or tap the magnifying glass. From the dropdown suggestion list, select Favorites. A list of your favorite locations will be displayed.
  • Deleting or Editing Favorites: Bring the list of Favorites up using the instructions above. At the bottom of the list, click the Edit button. You can delete a Favorite by clicking or tapping the remove (X) icon to the far right of the favorite’s name. You can edit a favorite’s name by clicking or tapping its name and then entering a new name. Click the Done button when finished.

Pins: Pins are used to mark a location and are helpful for getting directions to a location, or as marking points of interest on a route. Pins you add are purple in color, while location pins generated from the search bar or favorites list are red. You can only have one purple pin in a map at a time. Pins you add are temporary, and will be deleted when you quit the Maps app. To make a pin available to use later on, add the location as a favorite.

  • Add a Pin: Place the cursor at the location where you wish to add a pin. Right-click or control-click and select Drop Pin from the popup menu.
  • Remove Purple Pin: Place the cursor over the purple pin and right-click or control-click. Select Remove Pin from the popup menu.

Directions: Getting directions to and from a place are one of the most often used Maps features. Maps offers a number of useful direction options. To access directions, it’s best if you start with the map oriented on one of the start or end points, but this isn’t a requirement.

Directions640.jpg

 Maps supports turn-by-turn directions for driving, walking, and taking public transit. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

  • Select the Directions button in the Maps toolbar or in your Mac’s Touch Bar (if so equipped). If a location pin is currently showing, it will be used as the end point of the directions. If you would like to use a dropped (purple) pin as the end point, select the purple pin’s information banner and choose Directions.
  • Your current location as determined from the Mac’s location service (if enabled) will be used as the start of the directions.
  • You can change both the start and end points by typing in new locations. When you manually enter a start or end point, the text field takes on the same characteristics as the search bar, making suggestions and giving you access to your favorites and recent searches.
  • You can choose to have the directions tailored to driving, walking, or taking public transit by selecting the appropriate button.
  • One or more directions will be listed in the Directions sidebar, each with a time estimate and distance traveled. You can see turn-by-turn instructions for each route by selecting the Details button to the right of each set of directions.
  • Clicking or tapping each step in the directions will highlight that point on the map.
  • Directions Options: You can tailor the directions to avoid tolls or highways, as well as change public transit options, by using the View, Driving Options or Transit Options menu.

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by Tom Nelson

Beginning with macOS Catalina and iPadOS 13, the new Sidecar service allows you to utilize your iPad as a secondary screen. If you’re thinking this is not new, that third-party developers have already been providing this service in apps like Duet Display, Luna Display, or Air Display, you’re more or less correct; Sidecar, though, offers a few extra features you’d be hard pressed to find in the others.

But that doesn’t mean you should toss the other dual display apps away. Sidecar has a number of restrictions that aren’t present in its competitors, so either keep those apps around or look into them if your Mac or iPad doesn’t measure up to Sidecar’s requirements.

Special Features

Sidecar sounds pretty good; it allows to use your iPad as a second display. Even better, Sidecar allows you to use the iPad Pencil and, I imagine, other styluses (although I haven’t tried them) as drawing input devices. This means you can open a Mac drawing app on the iPad and use the stylus for drawing, as well as make use of a limited amount of touch-based input from the iPad.

Sidecar isn’t meant to provide a full touch-based interface to your Mac, and so far, at least in the betas, no one will be thinking it does. It does, however, place the Touch Bar controls on the iPad screen even if your Mac doesn’t have a Touch Bar built-in.

You can use Sidecar to expand your desktop and hold an apps tool palettes freeing up screen space on the main display. (Image courtesy of Apple.)

Apple says that any Mac app that supports stylus input will work with Sidecar and will accept the iPad’s Pencil input, as well as Touch Bar input. Apple has a preliminary list of Mac apps that will work with Sidecar, the Apple Pencil, and the Touch Bar on the iPad:

  • Adobe Illustrator
  • Affinity Designer
  • Affinity Photo
  • Cinema 4D
  • CorelDRAW
  • DaVinci Resolve
  • Final Cut Pro
  • Maya
  • Motion
  • Painter
  • Principle
  • Sketch
  • Substance Designer
  • Substance Painter
  • ZBrush

Sidecar Requirements

Sidecar appears to be limited to use only with fairly recently released Macs. While Apple hasn’t yet released an official list of supported Macs and iPads, Steve Troughton-Smith, a High Caffeine Content developer, suggests that the following Macs make the grade:

  • iMac 27-inch 2015 or later
  • Mac mini 2018 or later
  • Mac Pro 2019 or later
  • MacBook Pro 2016 or later
  • MacBook Air 2018 or later
  • MacBook 2016 or later

So far, a list of supported iPads hasn’t been discovered, but it’s a fairly good bet that any iPad that will support the new iPadOS 13, announced at WWDC in the summer of 2019, will be able to be used as a Sidecar display.

If your Mac isn’t on the list for supporting Sidecar, there’s a simple workaround that, at least in the beta, can get older Macs working with Sidecar with just a Terminal command or two. We’ll present the Terminal workaround a bit later.

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by Tom Nelson

Starting with macOS Catalina, Screen Time is making the transition from an iOS app to the Mac. Screen Time can monitor app and device usage. Mac users can think of it as similar to the old Parental Controls used to restrict and monitor Mac usage for children.

Screen Time does a lot more than just limit access, though. It provides daily and weekly reports you can use to see just how you’re using your Mac, as well as any of your iOS devices. That’s right; you can use Screen Time to monitor and set limits for other devices you use, or that other family members use.

Screen Time icon

Screen Time replaces Managed Accounts and Parental Controls on the Mac, though when I looked at the beta of Catalina, I didn’t see any way to transfer Managed Accounts or Parental Control settings to Screen Time. It’s very early in the beta process, though.

Here’s an overview of an early beta of Screen Time and what it can do for you.

Screen Time

Screen Time is both a monitor that can build usage reports for each user account, reporting how much time is spent with various apps, and a way to limit app usage, and limit communications, either in general or from specific contacts. It’s also capable of enforcing some much-needed downtime, ensuring that users spend some time away from their Mac, iPhone, or iPad, doing other things.

All of the Screen Time settings on the Mac are controlled via a preference pane. This includes creating limits, as well as viewing usage reports. In order for Screen Time to do its thing, the app needs to be enabled.

Weekly report showing app usage over the first two days of testing. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

Turning Screen Time On or Off

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

Select the Screen Time preference pane in the System Preferences window.

If this is the first time you’re accessing the Screen Time preference pane, you may see a list of Screen Time features. Click the Continue button.

Click or tap the Options button near the bottom left corner.

Click or tap the Turn On button to enable Screen Time for your Mac, or the Turn Off button to disable the service.

Screen Time Across All Your Devices

Screen Time works across all of your Mac and iOS devices, allowing you to monitor how much time you’re spending with apps, social media, entertainment, or other services, no matter which device you’re using. Screen Time reports are shared via iCloud, and require that you be signed in with the same Apple account on each device.

To enable Screen Time across devices, return to the Screen Time Options screen and place a checkmark in the Share Across Devices box.

Don’t forget you need to be logged into the same iCloud account for sharing.

Screen Time’s Options are where you turn the service on or off, enable other devices to use Screen Time, set passwords, and use Family Sharing to monitor other accounts. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

Password Protect Screen Time

Screen Time settings can be password protected, preventing anyone who doesn’t know the password from making changes. This can be helpful for those using Screen Time to monitor and control usage for their children. The password can also be used to extend the time an app may be used. This is a very handy feature when the time limit on an app is up, but you need a few more minutes to complete a task.

From Screen Time’s Options screen, place a checkmark in the Use Screen Time Passcode box.

A sheet will drop down asking for a four-digit passcode to be entered. Supply a passcode. You’ll be asked to reenter the passcode. Once it’s reentered, the passcode will be saved.

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by Tom Nelson

Mission Control, originally released with OS X Lion, allows you to organize your windows, apps, and virtual desktops, as well as run small apps known as widgets, in a dedicated space. If it sounds like Mission Control is the Mac’s built-in window manager for users, you’re on the right track, but Mission Control does a good deal more.

A Bit of Mission Control History

Mission Control is actually a conglomeration of three earlier OS X Technologies: Dashboard, Exposé, and Spaces. Exposé, the oldest of the features, dates back to 2003, and the introduction of OS X Panther.

  • Exposé allows you to hide documents and app windows, or just as easily expose a window, app, or document you need to work on.
  • Spaces lets you create and manage virtual desktops, allowing you to organize activities to specific desktops, and then switch between them as needed.
  • Dashboard is a dedicated desktop that can run mini-apps called widgets. These small apps were based on web technologies: HTML, JavaScript, and CSS.

Mission Control united these similar technologies under a single roof, or in this case, a single preference pane, to control, configure, and make use of the windows and desktop management system.

What Mission Control Does: The Basics

Mission Control’s main task is to help you de-clutter your desktop and be able to work more efficiently, even when you have dozens of apps or windows open.

There are six key tasks that Mission Control allows a user to do:

  • View all open windows: Display all windows as thumbnails to ensure every window can be seen at the same time.
  • View all windows of a specific application: Displays all windows used by a single app. If needed, the windows will be displayed as thumbnails to ensure all of the app’s windows can be seen at once.
  • Hide all windows and display the desktop: All windows are hidden, revealing the underlying desktop.
  • Manage windows across multiple monitors: Allows windows to be moved to additional displays.
  • Manage apps and windows across multiple virtual desktops: Multiple desktops can be created, each having its own set of apps and windows assigned to it.
  • Manage Dashboard widgets: Controls how Dashboard widgets are displayed.

Mission Control uses a combination of keyboard commands, gestures, and mouse shortcuts to control its various capabilities. Learning the various shortcuts is the basis for making effective use of Mission Control and its ability to help you manage the workflow on your Mac.

Mission Control allows you to find any open window no matter how many other windows it may be hiding behind. Clicking or tapping one of the thumbnails will switch you to that window. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

Setting Up Mission Control

The heart of Mission Control is its preference pane, which you can access using the following method:

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

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

The Mission Control preference pane allows you to configure basic options as well as assign shortcuts to the various functions.

Place a checkmark in the box to enable any of the following functions:

  • Automatically arrange Spaces based on most recent use: If you’re going to use multiple virtual desktops (Spaces), this allows the most recently used desktop to be the easiest to access.
  • When switching to an application, switch to a Space with open windows for the application: This rather convoluted description just means that if an app you want to use is already open on a virtual desktop, it will switch to that desktop.
  • Group windows by application: When viewing all windows in Mission Control, have the windows organized by app.
  • Displays have separate Spaces: If you have multiple monitors you can assign each monitor its own virtual desktop.
  • Dashboard: This dropdown menu controls how the Dashboard feature is used. You can find out more in the Rocket Yard guide: Get Dashboard Up and Running Again in macOS Mojave. Although the article was written for Mojave users, its information is general enough for understanding the Dashboard options.

The Mission Control preference pane lets you customize shortcuts and adjust options. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

Besides configuring the basic options, you can also set up shortcuts to use Mission Control by selecting a shortcut from each dropdown menu. You may have one or two dropdown menus for each item listed below. The second dropdown menu allows you to assign an alternate shortcut for the specific function. The alternate options are usually present when you have input devices with many I/O options, such as a multi-button mouse:

  • Mission Control: Use the dropdown menu to assign a shortcut to open Mission Control and display all open windows.
  • Application window: Set the shortcut that will be used to open Mission Control and display the windows of a selected application.
  • Show Desktop: This shortcut you assign will hide all windows and display the current desktop.
  • Show Dashboard: If Dashboard is enabled (see the option, above), this shortcut will display the Dashboard.

You’re not done assigning shortcuts to access Mission Control yet; you can also assign the corners (Hot Corners) of your display to be shortcuts to access Mission Control, as well as a few other functions of your Mac. Hot Corners are activated when you move the cursor into the corner of the display. If a Hot Corner is assigned for that corner, the function is activated.

Use Hot Corners to assign Mission Control features to the four corners of your monitor. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

Click or tap the Hot Corner button in the Mission Control preference pane.

A sheet will drop down, displaying a thumbnail of your desktop with dropdown menus at each corner.

Use the dropdown menu to assign a function to any of the corners. The available functions are:

The first three are Mission Control options; the remaining ones involve other Mac OS features that are dependent on the version of the operating system you’re using.

Make your selections; you can then close the Hot Corner sheet as well as the Mission Control preference pane.

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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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