Taking Screenshots: Three Tricks for the Mac and One for iOS
by Aaron Bryson | Jul 22, 2016 | Blog
Did you ever want to capture what’s on your screen, or at least a part of it? Screenshots aren’t just for technical writers trying to document app behavior—you might also use them to provide feedback on a photo, to document an error message for someone who helps you with your Mac, or to record a particularly funny auto-correct fail in Messages on your iPhone.
OS X and iOS have both long included built-in screenshot features that make it easy to take a high-resolution picture of what you see onscreen. (You can, of course, use a camera to take a photo of your screen, but that will never look as good.)
Taking a screenshot in iOS is super simple, and it works the same on an iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch. Just press the Home and Sleep/Wake buttons simultaneously. You’ll see the screen flash, and iOS saves the screenshot to your Photos app—look at the bottom of the Camera Roll or, if you’ve turned on iCloud Photo Library, the All Photos album. The same technique works on the Apple Watch, where you press both the digital crown and the side button simultaneously. (Accidental presses of those buttons explains why random Apple Watch screenshots might appear in Photos.)
On the Mac, you can take your pick from three built-in methods of taking screenshots:
If you take a lot of screenshots, consider memorizing OS X’s keyboard shortcuts. For a full-screen screenshot, press Command-Shift-3. For a screenshot of an arbitrary size, press Command-Shift-4 and drag out a rectangle. To capture just an object like a window, press Command-Shift-4, hover the pointer over the window, press the Space bar to show the camera cursor over the highlighted object, and then click to take the screenshot. The Command-Shift-4 shortcut is the only way to capture a menu. All screenshots are saved as PNG files on your Desktop and automatically named with the date.
If that sounds geeky and hard to remember, try Apple’s Grab app, which is hidden away in the Utilities folder inside your Applications folder. It’s a simple app, but it can take full-screen, window, and selection screenshots, and it walks you through the process. You can also use Grab to capture a full-screen screenshot with a timer, which is handy if what you want to record appears only while you’re dragging an icon or other object, for instance. Captured screenshots appear in Grab as Untitled TIFF documents that you can close, copy, save, or print.
Want to mark up a screenshot with circles and arrows and a paragraph of text, just like the photos in Arlo Guthrie’s Alice’s Restaurant song? For that, use Apple’s surprisingly powerful Preview app, which can take screenshots and opens them as graphic documents that you can edit. Choose File > Take Screenshot > From Selection, From Window, or From Entire Screen. That last option is automatically a timed screenshot so you can set up any temporary conditions while the timer counts down. To access the tools you need to add shapes or text to your screenshot, choose View > Show Markup Toolbar. When you’re done, you can save the screenshot in a variety of formats.
You can also take screenshots using a cornucopia of third-party screenshot utilities. In general, they don’t offer much more than Apple’s options when it comes to capturing screenshots. Where they stand out is providing better tools for marking up and manipulating screenshots, and in offering an interface for managing and sharing screenshots. Choosing among them is largely a matter of personal preference, but check out Evernote’s free Skitch, Global Delight’s $29.99 Capto, and Aged & Distilled’s $39.99 Napkin.
Whatever method you choose, remember that a picture is worth a thousand words, and the right screenshot can be even more valuable.
Drag Finder Icons to Open and Save Dialogs
by Aaron Bryson | Jul 2, 2016 | Blog
Ever wanted to jump to a specific folder on your Mac while opening or saving a file? You can, thanks to a clever Finder trick. Whenever you have an Open or Save dialog open in an app, switch to the Finder, find the folder you want to access, and drag its icon into the dialog. Presto—instant navigation to that folder! This trick even works with the proxy icon—the little icon in the title bar of any window—for any folder.
Why IMAP Is Better than POP for Email
by Aaron Bryson | Jun 14, 2016 | Blog
When you read an email message on your iPhone and delete it, do you have to trash it again when you check mail on your Mac? Or is your email kept in sync such that if you delete a message on one system, it never even appears on the other?
If you fall into the first camp, your Internet service provider probably has you using an email technology called POP. Conversely, if you’re in the second camp, you’re probably using a different email technology called IMAP. Don’t worry what POP and IMAP stand for—they could be called Fred and Jane for all that it matters. What does matter is that if you’re using POP to read email on more than one device, you’re wasting time and effort.
Put simply, POP was designed in 1984 so that every email message would be downloaded from your mail server and immediately deleted from the server, so the only copy would exist on your Mac. But that made it impossible to check email from more than one computer, so POP’s designers made it possible for a message to be downloaded but not deleted, so it could be retrieved again by another computer. But the POP server has no way of knowing that the message was transferred multiple times, so each computer that gets it sees it as a fresh message, forcing you to delete or file it in each place.
In contrast, IMAP, which came along just a couple of years later in 1986, was designed to keep all your email on the mail server itself so multiple computers could access the same set of messages. And, most important, anything you do to a message—delete, file, or reply—in your email app on one computer also happens on the IMAP server, so if you check email from another computer, your email collection reflects all those previous actions.
Fast forward to today, where you might check email with your Mac at work, with your iPhone while at lunch, and on your iPad at home. If your Internet service provider is using IMAP, anything you do on any of your devices is reflected on all the rest. As an extra bonus, you can search through all your email at any time, from any device, which is great when you realize you need the address for today’s meeting after you’re in the car.
But some ISPs still rely on POP, and for those of you who have had the same email account for many years, even if your ISP supports IMAP, they may not have switched you over. If your email is stuck in the POP past, call your ISP and bring your email into the 21st century. If they aren’t willing to help, remember that you can always use your free iCloud email account instead or sign up for a free account with Gmail or Yahoo.
For those who are shaking your heads because you don’t want some IMAP server in the cloud to hold the only copy of your precious email, rest assured that it doesn’t have to be that way. By default, Apple Mail downloads a copy of every message and keeps it locally on your Mac too, so even if something bad were to happen in the cloud, you’d still have your local copy and your backups of it.
Life is too short to waste time dealing with the same email messages on multiple devices. Computers and smartphones are supposed to make things easier, not harder, so if you’re not already using IMAP for email, do yourself a favor and switch.
Enhance Copy & Paste with Clipboard Utilities
by Aaron Bryson | Jun 9, 2016 | Blog
One of the most important technologies of the computer age is Copy & Paste. You may not think about the humble clipboard much, but Copy & Paste has saved you incalculable amounts of work by letting you copy something you’ve done previously to the clipboard, paste it into another document or app, and make any necessary changes. Whether you’re updating a monthly report, tweaking graphics for an annual party, or entering sales numbers in a custom database, Copy & Paste ensures that you don’t have to retype data or start from scratch.
What if you could make Copy & Paste even more powerful? With the right clipboard utility installed on your Mac, you gain two major new features:
- Use clipboard history to access previously copied data. By default, every time you copy something to the clipboard, it replaces whatever was there before. With a clipboard utility, though, you can see a list of items you’ve previously copied to the clipboard and paste any one of them, which is way easier than finding and copying the data again. Clipboard utilities even preserve your clipboard history across restarts!
- Edit or filter the data on the clipboard before pasting. This is useful, for instance, if there’s a mistake in the contents of the clipboard, if you copied styled text but want to paste plain text, or if you want to replace all double spaces in the copied text with single spaces.
Which clipboard utility is right for you depends on what else you might want it to do, or you might even have one installed already without realizing. That’s because clipboard enhancements are a bit like blades in a Swiss Army knife: they tend to be bundled into other utilities. You won’t go wrong with any of these clipboard boosters: the macro utility Keyboard Maestro, the launcher LaunchBar, and the dedicated clipboard helper Copy’em Paste.
Keyboard Maestro ($36) is a macro utility, which means that it lets you string together a series of actions—copy this, switch apps, click here, paste, switch back, for instance—and then invoke that series with a trigger such as a hotkey, menu command, timer, or system activity. Keyboard Maestro offers hundreds of actions and numerous triggers, but from the clipboard perspective, it provides a persistent clipboard history, multiple named clipboards, filtering of clipboard contents when pasting, removal of styles from pasted text, and a user-specified hotkey for anything you want to do. You cannot, however, edit clipboard text manually.
LaunchBar ($29) is a launcher, so its primary feature is opening or switching to an application or file by typing a hotkey followed by a few letters from the name of the app or file. That’s hugely useful in its own right, but LaunchBar also maintains a filterable clipboard history across restarts, lets you paste a clipping as plain text, and can merge copied text with whatever is already on the clipboard. Other apps in this category include Alfred (with the optional £17 Powerpack), Butler ($20), and QuickSilver (donationware).
Copy’em Paste ($14.99) focuses on clipboard enhancements, wrapping nearly every clipboard-related feature you could want in an attractive interface. It offers a full clipboard history, makes it easy to paste multiple items quickly or even in a batch, can transform pasted text in a variety of ways, and lets you organize clippings into groups. It also enables you to edit text clippings, search for text in your clippings, and ignore apps whose clipboard changes just clutter your clipboard history. Competitors include CopyPaste Pro ($30) and iClipboard ($9.99).
Regardless of which of these utilities you choose, you’ll soon be juggling the contents of your clipboard like a pro…and wasting a lot less time!
Check Internet Speeds to Troubleshoot Netflix
by Aaron Bryson | Jun 9, 2016 | Blog
Whether you watch Netflix on your iPhone, iPad, Mac, or Apple TV, the quality of the video—and whether it stutters or skips—is determined by the bandwidth of your Internet connection. Netflix recommends 25 megabits per second (Mbps) of download speed for Ultra HD quality, 5 Mbps for HD, and 3 Mbps for SD. Netflix says that 1.5 Mbps is the lowest recommendation for a broadband connection, and notes that 0.5 Mbps is the minimum required. So how do you tell what your real-world download speed is? Check Netflix’s new fast.com Web site, which is a quick and easy way to determine how much bandwidth you get. And if what you see doesn’t match with what you think you’re paying your Internet service provider for, call the ISP and make sure your connection is working properly.