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.
Twitter is great for sharing short bursts of information with followers, but the official Mac app is restrictive when it comes to videos—files must be progressive, no larger than 15MB in size, and on it goes. Wouldn’t it be great if you could just open a video, select the best part, and tweet without having to worry about all those specifications?
Critics are quick to dismiss Apple’s built-in Mail app on OS X, but I prefer Mail over the new kids on the block, simply because it works and doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel. Of course, that doesn’t mean there aren’t some features in those rival apps I’d like to see make their way into Mail; the ability to schedule outgoing emails for a later date or save messages to Evernote, for example. As it turns out, I don’t have to abandon an old favorite for greener pastures to get these cool features.
At your service
Billed as “your personal assistant for Apple Mail,” MailButler is a bundle of plugins that extend the capabilities of Apple’s email client. I’m talking about new features like uploading attachments to cloud services other than iCloud Drive, following up on sent emails that have gone unanswered, and both of my wish list features noted above.
While many Mac shutterbugs cling desperately to Aperture in the wake of Apple’s abandonment, I’ve been quite content since moving to OS X Photos. The only feature I do miss is editing library images from external applications without extension support, like Adobe Photoshop CC. But now there’s a clever workaround to enable this feature.
External Editors for Photos (EEFP; $1 on the Mac App Store) allows OS X Photos users to seamlessly edit images using any Mac image editor, no export/import required. EEFP works like other Photos extensions, but hands the actual editing duties off to standalone applications already installed on your system.