Although macOS looks deceptively simple to end users, anyone who’s launched Activity Monitor may be shocked to discover just how many helpers, daemons, services, and other processes actually run behind-the-scenes, helping power your favorite software. Such background tasks often feed off available internet bandwidth, consuming precious memory at the same time.
If you’d like to curtail this kind of covert background activity, there’s an inexpensive, well-designed, and easy-to-use Mac utility designed to not only keep tabs on which apps are beaming signals back to the mothership, but also selectively block them from doing so.
Earlier this year I reviewed Disk Drill 2, a highly recommended utility for recovering data from any storage volume attached to your Mac, regardless of which file system it was created with. While the software exceeded expectations in terms of functionality, it was sorely lacking in visual flourish, with a user interface that seemed out of step with the current operating system.
I’m happy to announce this grievance has been addressed with the new Disk Drill 3, which not only sports a much-needed fresh coat of digital paint but also nicely spices up the existing buffet of tools.
Every Mac user knows how to delete a file. But did you know this method doesn’t technically remove anything from your drive? Instead, that space is simply marked as available to the system, making it a trivial matter to recover provided other files haven’t been saved in the same spot.
Think you don’t need extra software for managing internet downloads? If your web browser gets only an occasional workout transferring files one at a time, you’re probably right. But if you frequently pull down multiple things at once, you could certainly benefit from a management utility.
In years past, the choice was simple: Yazsoft’s excellent Speed Download tackled everything you could throw at it with a familiar, iTunes-style user interface. But in early 2014, the developer suddenly called it quits. The application continued working until OS X El Capitan 10.11, at which point I finally had to say goodbye.
Yazsoft did recommend an alternative to Speed Download, but it wasn’t quite the same. This supposed heir apparent wasn’t as user-friendly, and worse yet, the user interface was downright ugly.
There was a time not so long ago when Adobe Illustrator was one of the only ways to create and manipulate graphic-rich text on the Mac. But even then, its relatively high retail price and the steep learning curve required to use it kept the software out of reach for many consumers.
Fortunately, there are plenty of budget-friendly alternatives now available. Most are intended for a specific purpose, such as creating business logos or web-based content on the cheap, but this software tends to be underpowered for the task at hand or worse yet, plagued with bugs and published by companies that offer little or no technical support.
BeLight Software aims to fill this void with an alternative feature-rich enough to empower users to create spectacular results with very little effort, yet offered at a deceptively low price that sounds almost too good to be true.
Born from the ashes of the former Voila, Capto ($30 single user; $20 student/educator; $80 family pack) was built from the ground up as a completely new Mac application to handle not only screen capture, recording, and annotation, but also basic video editing in up to 4K resolution.
Voila users will feel right at home—aside from the darker appearance and a few user interface nips and tucks, Capto could be mistaken for Voila 4 at first glance. You organize a library of images and videos from the left-hand pane, with buttons across the top for accessing the key tools.
As you start moving beyond the basics of editing images—past general exposure and color adjustments—you’ll discover a semi-secret truth: a lot of your time is spent selecting specific areas for editing. Making a foreground object brighter, for instance, can reveal a telltale halo if the selection doesn’t match well with the object.
Selections have traditionally been a strength of Adobe Photoshop, but the granddaddy editor is overkill for many people who don’t need its extensive feature set, or don’t want to pay a Creative Cloud subscription fee (which starts at $10 a month with an annual plan, and can cost up to $80 a month for the full CC suite).
Instead, Pixelmator 3.5 Canyon (Mac App Store link) has been a popular and inexpensive ($30) Photoshop alternative. The main improvements in version 3.5 make it easier and less time-consuming to create good selections. This version also brings selective editing to Apple’s Photos app by introducing a new Photos Editing Extension, Pixelmator Retouch, that brings many of its retouching tools to images in your Photos library.