Early in OS X’s evolution, only a handful of system items appeared by default or by choice in the menu bar at the far right. Over time, Apple has larded on more drop-down options as monitors have stretched as much as the features you might want quick access to. At the same time, third-party developers have found endless reasons to stick sometimes quite sophisticated controls up there as well. It can be a mess: my basic set comprises 20 items!
Bartender ($15) appeared a few years ago to provide a way to reduce the clutter with a lot of control. It seemed briefly imperiled when El Capitan’s technical features were announced, as it relied on modified system settings in a way that the new System Integrity Protection (SIP) mode, turned on by default, wouldn’t allow. Fortunately for Surtees Studios, they had a revamped version 2 already well underway, which works entirely within the new SIP guidelines for El Capitan. It also works with Yosemite.
When Information Architects released their Mac app iA Writer nearly five years ago, it was one of the first distraction-free text editors. When I did a round-up of text editors in 2014, iA Writer was my top choice because of its simplicity.
Information Architects later released Writer Pro, an app that I found confusing, and that I felt contained some needless features. The company has now backtracked, returning the app to its minimalist origins, with iA Writer 3 (Mac App Store link), which restores the simplicity of the original app while retaining some of the additional features of Writer Pro. (If you already own Writer Pro, iA Writer 3 is a free upgrade from the Mac App Store.)
This type of text editor is for people who don’t need the complexity of full-fledged word processors, with their buttons, ribbons, and menus full of complex commands. Many people use Markdown with this type of text editor. This is a simple markup syntax that can be easily converted to various formats; iA Writer can export files in HTML, RTF, PDF, or Microsoft Word formats.
While Photos is streamlined and zippy compared to iPhoto, its stripped-down approach can be confusing. PowerPhotos takes some of the shock out of Photos for OS X by helping bridge the gap between old and new. Fat Cat Software’s app offers assistance in migrating iPhoto libraries, managing multiple Photos libraries, and a different way of viewing images and videos. It’s more flexible, to be sure.
When launched, PowerPhotos shows—under an Operations listing—Migrate iPhoto Libraries, which can also be selected later from the File menu. This lists all iPhoto libraries that it can find via Spotlight; you can add others manually.
The migrate operation lets you manage creating Photos-compatible libraries without babysitting the Photos app, and shows progress and errors. It can also migrate several libraries from the same interface instead of requiring multiple iterations of quitting and launching Photos with the right key held down.
First, the obvious: Unicorns has the best Mac app icon. Who doesn’t love unicorns? How can you hate on a unicorn Mac icon?
OK, now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about the app itself. Unicorns are magical mythical animals, and what the Unicorns app does could be considered magical: On a Mac, it allows you to view a stream of the screen of a connected iOS device, with no need to install any iOS software. Not only can you view the stream on your Mac, but you can also broadcast it over the Internet so others can watch. And Unicorns does all of this for free.
So you’ve been using Spotify for a while, and you’ve got a sidebar full of playlists, with songs and albums you’ve been saving. That’s quite a digital collection you’ve got there.
But now Apple Music has come on the scene, and you want to switch. Spotify won’t help you—you can’t export your playlists, at least not in any usable format—and iTunes has no way of importing your music.
What do you do? Go through each and every song on Spotify and search for it on Apple Music? Nah, that’d take too long; you want to listen to music, not fuss around. Fortunately, the $5 Move to Apple Music can help you out. Working with both Spotify and Rdio, this app makes a pipeline between your accounts, finding what you’ve stored on the former services, and adding them to your Apple Music library.
It’s hard to pinpoint when it happened, but email has turned from a modern, convenient form of communication into an awful nuisance. It’s not just spam and unwanted solicitations; without strict attention, emails that actually need to be dealt with will pile up and important ones will inadvertently get pushed to the bottom of your inbox.
What we need is a better way to communicate. Where text messages and tweets encourage short, rapid-fire conversations, emails tend to be lengthier—and therein lies the problem. We put off responding because emails inherently require more time; even when a simple answer is all that’s needed, we tend to labor over what we write.
With the untimely demise of iPhoto earlier this year, Apple appears to have finally abandoned the last vestiges of the iLife concept introduced in 2002, leaving iMovie and GarageBand as the sole remnants of a once-great legacy of whimsical creative applications for average folks.
Many third-party developers are keeping this storied tradition alive in an unofficial capacity with spiritual successors to iLife, treading new ground with inspired Mac software that retains the familiar, user-friendly look and feel of Cupertino’s classic consumer software.