Mira 1.2.8r2

If you’ve got a Mac that works with Apple’s Remote—recent Mac laptops, iMacs, and the Mac mini—you know you can use the Remote to control Front Row, as well as to perform basic functions in iTunes, iPhoto, DVD Player, Keynote, and other applications. But wouldn’t it be nice if you could use that remote to do more in those applications—and to control other applications, as well?

As it turns out, a number of third-party developers have created utilities that let you do just that; among these utilities are iRed Lite, PocketMac Remote, Remote Buddy, Sofa Control, and Telekenesis. But my current favorite is Twisted Melon’s $16 ($33 for three computers) Mira 1.2.8r2 (   ). Not because it has the most features; it doesn’t. Rather, because it’s the easiest to set up and use.

(If you’ve got a Mac without an Apple Remote and IR receiver, Twisted Melon sells the Manta TR1 [$20, or $32 in a bundle with Mira], an infrared receiver that plugs into the USB port of any Mac; however, you’ll still need to purchase " target="_blank">Apple’s $29 Remote or Sik’s $20 Rex remote separately. Alternatively, Mira also works with several third-party infrared receivers.)

Mira main window

Install Mira and it appears as a new pane in System Preferences. In Mira’s main screen you’ll see, on the left, a number of default application configurations—over 60 in all, including many of the most common Mac apps. (A useful feature is the ability to hide configurations for applications not installed on your Mac.) You can also add any other application by clicking the plus (+) button below the list.

Mira button settings
On the right are the settings for the currently-selected application: what action should occur in that application when you press each button on the Apple Remote. (The Global Profile settings apply whenever you’re using an application that doesn’t have its own configuration.) Click on a button icon to choose a new action for that button:
  • Perform a Global Action: the button will use the corresponding setting in the Global Profile.
  • Perform a keystroke you define. A nice touch is that you can direct the keystroke to a different application; for example, you can send a command to iTunes when Keynote is the active application.
  • Perform a system action: these include scrolling up or down; changing screen brightness; toggling Exposé; toggling Dashboard; toggling Dock hiding; put the Mac to sleep; restarting; shutting down; or ejecting the optical-drive.
  • Adjust system volume: up, down, or mute.
  • DuoPress, which is a pre-configured pair of actions; one occurs when you press and release the button, the other occurs when you hold down the button for over one second. (For example, in iTunes, Mira is configured to use a short press of the Remote’s Play/Pause button to toggle playback, and a long press to toggle iTunes’ full-screen visualizer; in DVD Player, one set of actions can be used to control playback, while the other can be used to navigate DVD menus.)
  • Bring up the Launch Menu, a special Mira-configured onscreen launcher (see below).
  • Open an item: an application, an AppleScript, a document, a URL, one of the applications you’ve set up in Mira, Front Row, your default browser, the Finder, or System Preferences.
  • Bring up Mac OS X’s Command+Tab application switcher.

This may seem like a confusing array of options, but the actions menu (pictured above) is clear and understandable; you’ll be customizing your application configurations in no time. You can also export and import configurations, so you can share them between Macs.

Mira launcher
Although you can assign OS X’s Command+Tab application switcher to any button, the switcher shows only running applications. If you want to be able to easily launch one of several applications from the remote, Mira provides its own Launch Menu. Configured in the Launch Menu screen, you just add the applications you want to appear in the menu; choose a vertical or horizontal orientation; and choose how large you want the display to be (from 3 to 12 items visible at once; at lower settings, the menu will be large enough to read from across a room, but will scroll to display additional items). From that point on, whenever you press a “Launch Menu” button, this menu will appear on the screen; you use the up and down (for a vertical menu) or left and right (for a horizontal menu) buttons on the Apple Remote to highlight the desired application, and then press the Play button to launch or switch to that application.

Mira also includes a few features for managing the Apple Remote. For example, while the preference pane is open, each button on the onscreen image of the remote will light up when you press the corresponding button on the actual remote, a useful feature for testing your “connection.” And Mira will alert you when your remote’s battery is getting low. You can also disable the remote receiver completely, so that not even a paired remote can be used with your Mac.

As I noted above, there are other Apple Remote utilities out there that provide more features; for example, Mira can’t currently control the mouse cursor. There are also powerful solutions for controlling your Mac from a mobile phone via Bluetooth ( Salling Clicker ) or from an iPhone over WiFi ( Remote Buddy ). But if you’re just looking to get more out of your Apple Remote, Mira offers a good combination of features and ease of use.

Mira 1.2.8r2 requires Mac OS X 10.4 or higher and is a Universal binary.

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