Review: Fantastical 2 ups the ante for events in OS X

As Apple’s calendar app for iOS and Mac OS X moved across recent releases from inconsistent, inadequate, and irritating to more or less just fine, the market for replacements grew and matured. Fantastical for iOS, now in its second release, filled a gap there by not just presented a clean list and offering strong support for different calendar systems, but also its natural-language processing. Type in a semblance of an event, and Fantastical would parse it and place it for you without fuss.

Fantastical’s makers, Flexibits, brought a kind of snippet of Fantastical to OS X in its first version: a drop-down day view closely reminiscent of the iOS version. With the release today of version 2, Fantastical on the Mac is now a full-fledged replacement for Apple’s Calendar and a strong competitor to similar products. The previous version now appears as the Mini-Window, an optional system menu bar pop-down that gives a capsule view.

The guiding philosophy for the program is that it’s a calendar app that focuses on upcoming events in a list view, keeping that view active no matter whether you’re looking at a graphical layout of day, week, month, or year. I live in the week view, and the combination of the upcoming list and a glance at the current week tends to work well together.

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WhatSize review: Easily shed files on a bloated hard drive

Millions of files lurk in your OS X installation, many of them useful! In an age of spinning hard-drive plenty, in which a 3-terabyte drive is cheap and fits in the space a 250GB or 500GB one did a few years ago, many of us are still constrained by the size of an SSD—or the irritation of a Mac model that has a hard drive it’s nearly impossible to safely upgrade. WhatSize will help you figure out the mystery of what’s filling your drive, and give you both advice and tools to trim the fat.

WhatSize combines the functions of analysis and utility. Its analysis scans every file and folder on the disk and builds sortable, browsable, and visual directories. Its utilities can suggest files to remove. It all starts by selecting a drive in the Devices list: WhatSize goes about its indexing business or loads a previously completed scan.

The analysis part is divided into Browser, Outline, Table, and PieChart. Browser and Outline correspond to the columns and views in the find. Table comprises every file and folder on a drive, and can be sorted and filtered. For instance, you can find every file that’s two years or older that occupies 100MB or more on your drive. This can help spot standout problems easily.

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Audio Hijack 3's improved interface makes capturing audio a breeze

Rogue Amoeba’s Audio Hijack Pro has been a longtime favorite of many who wish to capture sound routed through their Mac—whether from apps or audio input devices. Inventive and powerful though the app was, however, its interface could be challenging to the uninitiated. With the release of Audio Hijack 3, the company has taken a large stride forward in making the app both capable and easy to use.

Jumping in

If you were a person not accustomed to capturing audio you could be forgiven for launching previous versions of Audio Hijack and thinking “Now what do I do?” The app offered a lot of power under the hood, but the way forward wasn’t always clear. This should no longer be a problem as Audio Hijack 3 includes a template chooser. Just create a new session and you can choose the kind of task you’d like to perform—pull audio from an application, record audio from a DVD, jack your Mac’s audio beyond its normal limits, record from an input device such as a microphone or audio interface, create a podcast, digitize an LP, improve existing audio, capture your Mac’s audio, record VOIP conversations, or grab audio from a web browser. Just select the task you’d like and click Choose.

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3

Waltr converts and copies just about any media file to your iPhone and iPad

iPhones and iPads are limited in the media file formats they can play. You can listen to MP3 and AAC music files, as well as Apple Lossless (ALAC), AIFF and WAV, and you can watch MP4 and M4V video files. But you can’t play FLAC or MKV, APE, or AVI. Plenty of third-party apps will let you play these files, but first you have to manually sync your files, either using the file sharing feature in iTunes, or over a network.

The $30 Mac app Waltr takes a different approach. Relieving you of the hassle of converting files, Waltr does it for you, and copies the files to your iOS devices. Drag files onto Waltr’s window, and it will convert and copy files in most any media format. There are no settings and no preferences, just a window onto which you drag items.

waltr1

Waltr is drag-and-drop simple. You just connect your iOS device to your Mac with a cable...

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Review: Need a mellow Markdown editor? Typed delivers

Markdown editors come in all shapes and sizes. Typed, the newest entry from Realmac, is a decidedly small one. You won’t find a sidebar of documents or a bevy of exporting options. It doesn’t crowd you with drop-down menus or overload you with formatting options. Everything about the experience is designed to help you stay focused on what you’re writing, no matter how long you’re going to be doing it.

Of course, Typed isn’t the first writing app with an ultra-minimal interface, but there’s an understated and meticulous elegance that sets it apart from others I’ve used. Each time you open a new blank template you’re met with an inspirational quote about the writing process, a trademark Realmac touch that makes even more sense here than in the company’s Clear app. There’s nothing in the window to draw your eye—turn off the word count option and there’s barely an interface at all—and even the font and theme menus are cleverly hidden on the left side of the document window. There are only five fonts to choose from, but each was carefully chosen for its weight and spacing.

typed1

An example of Typed's elegant interface.

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Mac Gems: Denied auto-skips annoying songs in Spotify, Rdio, and iTunes

Meghan Trainor might be all about that bass (’bout that bass, no treble) but frankly, we’re already sick of her ode to her own butt. But if you spend any time listening to Spotify, Rdio, or iTunes, it’s easy to grow tired of the latest pop earworm. That’s where Denied comes in. With a few clicks, you can banish your least-favorite songs or bands from earshot for good.

Denied installs a menubar icon in the shape of a palm-up hand. Click on it, and you’re presented with a list of filters you’ve created, and the option to build new ones. Type in the name of your least-favorite band (the developers have their own vendetta against Nickelback)—or the title of that awful song your ex used to sing all the time—and Denied will spare you the indignity of ever having to hear it again.

denied screen

Some of us just aren't all 'bout it. And that's OK. 

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Mac Gems: Calcbot syncs your calculation history between Mac and iOS

Tapbot's apps carry a distinctive aesthetic, looking like they were fused together from sheets of metal. You will find this design at work in Tweetbot, a popular Twitter app on OS X and iOS, and in the $2 iOS calculator Calcbot.

Calcbot joins Tweetbot in leaping to the desktop. It's a tougher sell on OS X than iOS, as Apple's Calculator app, built in to OS X, is already full-featured. Just like Apple's stock option, Calcbot does RPN, has a scientific mode, converts units of measurements, and saves the displays the calculation history in a pop-out tape. 

calcbot tape

The pop-out tape is easier to read in Calcbot than in Apple's stock Calculator app.

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