One of the best features introduced in Lion (OS X 10.7), and available on every version of OS X since, is OS X Recovery. The OS X installer creates an invisible, bootable, 650MB partition—a portion of a drive that the operating system treats as a separate volume—on your startup drive called Recovery HD that includes a few essential utilities for fixing problems, restoring files, browsing the Web, and even reinstalling OS X.
The Lion, Mountain Lion, and Mavericks installers should automatically create the invisible Recovery HD partition the first time you install one of these operating systems. However, that doesn’t always happen. You can find out if your Mac has the Recovery HD partition—and, thus, OS X Recovery capabilities—by launching the Terminal app (in /Applications/Utilities), and then typing diskutil list and pressing Return. Locate your Mac’s startup drive in the resulting list of volumes; if you have a Recovery HD partition, it will show up as “Recovery HD” (preceded by “Apple_Boot”) just below the name of the startup drive. If you don’t see a Recovery HD partition on your Mac’s startup drive, you can’t use OS X Recovery.
When taking screenshots, selecting oddly shaped items in an image is usually a task saved for your favorite image editing application. Screenshot FX (Mac App Store link) makes selecting a specific area of an image something you can do right as you take a screenshot.
Installing the app adds a menu extra to your menubar and a Command-5 keyboard shortcut to your system. Invoking the app using the shortcut or menubar brings up a specialized selection tool you use to trace the edges of the portion of the image you want to snap.
Compared to the best-known RSS feed readers on the market today, News Notifications (Mac App Store link) is as straightforward and uncomplicated as its drab title implies. You won't find cloud sync to an iOS app, community-driven article recommendations, or a directory of top sites to add. It's simply a Mac app that lets you add feeds from your favorite Web sources and have them appear in your Notification Center—that's really about it. For the Mac user who has no need for social sharing features or the ability to carry his/her reading history over to other computers or an iPhone or iPad, this single-minded reader should do the trick.
Simply input the URL of a favorite site and News Notifications will seek out the correct feed link, although you can manually point it towards a specific RSS feed for sites with specialized categories or sections. From there, you can choose how many stories you'd like to see from the site at once and how often you want the app to check for updates, and then stories will pop up throughout the day via notifications with the title and posting time listed.
Good, affordable, lightweight word processors are rare finds on the App Store, and that’s what makes Document Writer 1.2 (Mac App Store link) such a compelling product. It’s not going to rival the full product of Microsoft Word, but it’s certainly a step up from Open Office and even may get some defectors from Google Docs.
Document Writer has a fairly intuitive interface, with tools that you’ve come to expect: paste, cut, undo, redo, print, save, text size, color, insert image, insert boxes, find, URL creation, and numerous formatting buttons. Changing from normal spacing to double is a breeze, and creating numbered lists, columns, and other more particular formatting demands are equally easy. Again, it’s not as expansive as Microsoft Word, but understanding the numerous unmarked buttons takes only a few seconds.
If you spend a lot of time copying and pasting formatted text from the Internet or Microsoft Word, you might just adore PlainTextMenu: It strips out colors, formatting, bold text, and all the pesky things that make sharing or pasting text a pain between programs.
Sometimes, of course, it’s the rich text you want; the app offers a trigger so that you can have all text automatically converted or choose when to manually de-decorate your copied text. There are also options to auto-convert to all uppercase letters (if you’re feeling a HULK RAGE coming on), all lowercase (dabble in the poetry of e.e. cummings), or sentence capitalization.
Connected drives are the lifeblood of my workflow. No matter how much internal storage I have in my machine, I still keep an arsenal of external drives around for backups, music, videos, and anything else I don’t want bogging down my day-to-day.
Once they’re plugged in, though, I tend to forget about them, to the point where I often pull them out without properly ejecting. StorageStatus’ (Mac App Store link) active menu bar icon didn’t just alleviate my absent-mindedness, it taught me to identify each drive’s cycles so to better maximize efficiency.