The Mac Gems blog is all about reviews of great, inexpensive software, but I occasionally highlight a good deal on Gems, as well. Today is one of those times, as I’ve got a couple notable promotions to cover.
First, the time-sensitive one: Over at $2 Tuesday, you can get two past Mac Gems and a future Gem (though you didn’t hear that from me) for the paltry sum of $2 each:
Fitts’s Law: If you’re like most computer users, you’ve never heard of it, yet it’s one of the foundations of a good software interface. To oversimplify, Fitts’s Law says that the larger an onscreen object is, and the closer that object is to the pointer, the less time it takes to access the object. Thus, it takes less time and effort to access bigger interface elements (buttons, menus, folders, and the like) than smaller ones at a given distance.
One of the most significant applications of Fitts’s Law relates to the edges of your computer screen. Because the pointer can’t go beyond those edges, any interface element positioned along a screen edge effectively has an infinite dimension: height (along the top or bottom of the screen) or width (along either side of the screen). In other words, the screen edge eliminates an entire dimension of precision. This is why it’s so easy to access menus and the Dock in OS X, and why screen-corner activations for Mission Control and Exposé are so easy to use: Flick the cursor to an edge or corner of the screen, and the pointer stops at exactly the right distance. Fitts’s Law is a large part of why the Mac’s menu bar is attached to the top of the screen.
Unfortunately, one of the Mac’s other great features, support for multiple displays, conflicts with Fitts’s Law. When you add a second display, you remove the boundary along the screens’ shared edge, and the cursor moves freely between the two displays. This is often what you want, but if you’ve got stuff—folders on the desktop or application palettes, for example—along that edge, accessing those items requires much more precise pointer movement, because the screen edge no longer keeps you from overshooting.
I was a big supporter of reminder-and-timer app Due for iOS when it launched back in 2010. The app was—and remains—simple and well-designed, and it kept me actually updating my tasks rather than starting a list and ignoring it for months. Since that debut, Due has added integration with calendar app Agenda, the capability to share reminders, and syncing between iOS devices using Dropbox or iCloud.
Now, Phocus, the developer of Due, has released Due for the Mac (Mac App Store link), offering the same reminder, timer, and log support as the iOS version in an OS X-optimized interface. The program retains the simplicity of the original app while effectively transitioning to the Mac’s point-and-click environment.
Moving an item between two different folders or drives usually involves opening two Finder windows: one for the folder currently hosting the item, the other showing the place to which you want to move the item. (Mac OS X’s pop-up folders can help, but they still require that the destination folder, or some folder or drive enclosing it, be visible in the Finder or in the Dock.) Similarly, if you use OS X’s Mission Control or Spaces feature, or the full-screen mode of Lion (OS X 10.7), it can be a hassle to move files and content between applications and workspaces.
Back in January, I reviewed Yoink, a utility that gives you a virtual shelf for temporarily storing content. DragonDrop (Mac App Store link) is a new utility that offers similar functionality, albeit in a package that’s simpler but less intrusive.
Launch Lion DiskMaker, and it checks your Applications folder for a copy of the Lion installer app. Assuming it finds the installer in that location, Lion DiskMaker then asks if you want to create an installer DVD or a boot disk, with the latter meaning a flash drive or an external hard drive.
Mine was originally a mixed marriage: I’m a Mac, my wife was a PC. Years ago, though, after yet another virus had rendered my beloved’s Windows machine unusable, I insisted she switch. (She did so begrudgingly, but she’s since become a contented Mac user.) I smoothed the transition by copying all of her old files from her Windows PC to her Mac, but some tracks from her iTunes library, for whatever reason, didn’t made the leap.
At the time, we didn’t bother to figure out which tracks were missing, but for my wife’s birthday this year, I decided I’d finally find those tracks and bring them over to her Mac. I’d assumed it would be a painstaking process: I’d need to look for a couple hundred songs—out of thousands—that existed on the old PC but not her Mac. And, of course, her library has grown substantially since the switch, so comparing the two libraries would be far from simple.
Luckily, I discovered Mashduo, a free Mac app that makes quick work of the process. You just feed it a pair of iTunes-library XML files, and it shows you which songs exist in one library but not the other.
Back when I had a morning commute, I would often pop in some earbuds before hopping on the bus and rock out to one of the many tunes on my iPhone as we rode through Chinatown. The problem, of course, came when I reached my desk mid-song: Did I pause and try and find the song on my Mac’s iTunes library? Or did I continue to listen through my iPhone, only to look up hours later and realize I’d drained my phone’s battery when I should have switched to my desktop?
Seamless allows you to easily transition a song, podcast, or audiobook mid-play from your Mac to an iOS device, and vice versa. The Mac and iOS apps even coordinate fades on each device, bringing the volume of “Don’t Stop Believin’” down on your Mac as it cranks up the volume on your iPhone. Both devices need to be on the same Wi-Fi network at the time of the transition, and, of course, each must have access to the same audio file to pull this off, but fulfill those two criteria and you’ve got yourself a magic trick.