Chris has covered technology and media since the latter days of the Reagan Administration. In addition to his journalistic endeavors, he's a professional musician in the San Francisco Bay Area. More by Christopher Breen
Do you love Pandora? No, not just enjoy it, but really love it? If so, $5 and a Mac buys you Industrious One’s Muse, a desktop Pandora player that gives you all the Pandora goodness you’d find in a web browser, and a worthwhile bit more.
When you first launch Muse, you see a window that appears to be nothing more than a container for Pandora’s website. And that’s exactly what it is—complete with your stations, the New Station field for adding more stations, playback controls, thumbs up and down buttons, and any other elements Pandora has chosen to put on the page (including its ads).
So where’s the advantage? Muse provides additional—and welcome—control over Pandora in a couple of forms. To begin with, you no longer need to keep your web browser running (or even keep its resources busy) to listen to Pandora. And, unlike with a browser, you can close Muse’s window and the music continues to play.
Serenity has been writing and talking and tinkering with Apple products since she was old enough to double-click. In her spare time, she sketches, writes, acts, sings, and wears an assortment of hats. More by Serenity Caldwell
As someone who mainly works at home, I’m well aware of just how silent a lonely home office can be—and how quickly it can grate on your nerves and distract you with its lack of sound. Some people rely on podcasts to offer background noise, but the constant chatter can be distracting when I’m attempting to write up the latest tech gadget. Music is often lovely, but there are days when even that won’t do. Enter the odd—yet useful—free app Coffitivity (Mac App Store link), which livens up your silent home office with the soothing sounds of a busy coffee shop.
Given that I often wish my local coffee shop was quieter, I didn’t expect to like this little app, but it’s quickly grown on me. In part that’s due to the app’s three alliteratively wonderful soundscapes, accessed using Coffitivity’s systemwide menu: Morning Murmur, Lunchtime Lounge, and University Undertones. The mixes are a nice blend of shop background noises—cash registers, coffee brewing, plates clinking, and the like—along with little snippets of conversation.
Roman has covered technology since the early 1990s. His career started at MacUser, and he's worked for MacAddict, Mac|Life, TechTV, PC/Computing, and Windows NT Systems. More by Roman Loyola
For over eight years, Plasq’s Comic Life has provided an easy way to present your photos and other images in comic book form. (We previously reviewed version 1 and version 2 for Mac Gems.) Now at version 3, Comic Life offers more features geared toward people who have a serious interest in storytelling using the comic book medium.
It’s likely that most folks use Comic Life to throw a few pictures together to create simple, humorous anecdotes, and the app works well for that. But if you want to tell more detailed, complicated stories, Comic Life now has a Script Editor to help you form your comic’s storyline. The Script Editor uses keywords to automatically format the text in the proper way. For example, If you type a person’s name, Comic Life recognizes that you want to format the text as speech and will put it in a speech bubble. When the Script Editor recognizes a keyword (Comic Life has a set of default keywords, but you can also add your own), it creates an icon specific to that keyword that appears in an icon column on the left side of your script. You can then drag and drop the icons into your comic and easily adjust the formatting to your liking.
Dan writes about OS X, iOS, troubleshooting, utilities, and cool apps, and he covers hardware, mobile and AV gear, input devices, and accessories. He's been writing about tech since 1994, and he's also published software, worked in IT, and been a policy analyst. More by Dan Frakes
As longtime Mac Gems readers know, I rarely cover bundles or promotions—only when a particular sale offers readers a great deal on a number of great Mac apps.
That’s the case with the current ProductiveMacs bundle, which includes seven quality apps—five of them past Mac Gems, with another also earning a high Macworld rating—for just $30. Here’s what three Hamiltons will get you:
Jonathan has been covering the tech industry since 1998. He loves watching TV shows on his iPhone while exercising, and has already indoctrinated his young twins in the ways of the Apple TV. More by Jonathan Seff
Among the many (somewhat jarring) changes in iTunes 11 is that you can no longer open and display multiple iTunes windows. This feature of iTunes 10 and earlier was useful for a number of tasks, not the least of which was building playlists.
In those older versions of iTunes, you could create a new playlist, open it up as a separate window, and then drag and drop tracks from your iTunes library into that window to build a custom and organized collection of items. iTunes 11 instead offers a new Playlists view, accessible only if you hide iTunes’s sidebar. To add items to a playlist, you find or create that playlist, click the Add To button, and you get playlist-building functionality somewhat similar to what you had before, with the playlist appearing in its own sidebar to the right—you can drag items to it and arrange items within it. This approach works, but if using multiple windows is the way you like to build playlists, you’re out of luck. (There are other ways to make and add to playlists in iTunes, including by dragging and dropping from the main window to a playlist in the sidebar, but none provides the same two-window ease of use as before.)