Given the increasing popularity of solid-state drives, with their smaller-than-hard-drive capacities, and the prevalence of drive-hogging media files, sometimes it feels like we’re back to the days when we constantly had to worry about filling up our drives.
Last November, I reviewed FreeSpace, a nifty app that displays, right in the menu bar, the boot volume’s free space, with a drop-down menu displaying the free space on every other mounted volume, organized by type (internal, external, network, disk image, and so on). It also gives you quick access to any mounted volume—choose one from the menu to open it in the Finder—and it’s the easiest way to unmounted connected volumes, thanks to the little eject button next to each volume in the menu. (A nice touch: The FreeSpace icon blinks to let you know when the volume has successfully unmounted.) There’s even an Eject All command to unmount everything but internal drives with a click.
Whether it’s the body of an email message that’s been forwarded too many times, or content you’ve copied from a PDF, sometimes you find yourself with messy content—text that has lots of odd characters and stray line breaks, for example—and you need to make it presentable. Previous Gem TextSoap is perhaps the best of text-cleaning utilities for Mac, but if you don’t need all of TextSoap’s features and capabilities, Clean Text (Mac App Store link) does an admirable job for only $10.
You can use Clean Text’s features in a few ways. The first is to simply paste your messy text into the Clean Text window. You can then click any of the program’s 35 preconfigured modifications, listed to the right, to perform that action on your text. The options are organized by type: Fix (reflowing paragraphs, removing quote characters, removing stray characters, converting tabs to multiple spaces and vice versa, and more), Transform (for example, converting simple punctuation to “smart” equivalents and vice versa, sorting lines, removing duplicate lines), Change Case, Convert (changing line-ending encodings, converting period runs to elipses, stripping non-ASCII characters), Reverse (to reverse text at various levels), and Fun (making text flow backward or upside down). There’s also a Quick Clean option that performs the most-common cleanup tasks with one click.
Have you ever wished you could change the background of OS X Lion’s Dashboard or Mission Control features? Or the look of the login screen or LaunchPad? If you browse the tips on Mac OS X Hints, you’ll find a bunch of individual hints—most requiring trips to Terminal or digging into system-level folders—for making these kinds of tweaks. But an easier approach is to use Lion Designer.
Like previous Gem Lion Tweaks, Lion Designer consolidates a bunch of Lion-tweaking procedures in a single window, letting you make any of those changes with the click of a button. But whereas Lion Tweaks focuses on changing the way Lion behaves, Lion Designer lets you alter the way the OS looks.
Back in 2009, I reviewed Bluetoggle, a nifty utility that lets you toggle Bluetooth on and off using the keyboard, as well as disable the Bluetooth menu extra to free up a bit of space in your menu bar. The very first comment on that review? “I would love to have this for the Airport menu.”
Two and a half years later, Axonic Labs, the developer of Bluetoggle, has obliged—Airtoggle is the AirPort (Wi-Fi) equivalent. Open the Airtoggle System Preferences pane, and you can choose your preferred keyboard shortcut: any function key (F-key) along with any combination of Shift, Control, Option, and Command. I chose Command+F12 on my MacBook Air.
Spaces wasn’t used as widely as OS X’s Exposé feature, but it became quite popular with a good number of users. Then Apple essentially killed the feature in Lion (OS X 10.7), replacing it with Mission Control. Though Mission Control also allows you to have multiple workspaces, it’s much less flexible. For example, Spaces let you configure up to nine permanent workspaces in a 3-by–3 grid—so you always knew the virtual location of a workspace—and let you easily navigate those workspaces using keyboard shortcuts; Mission Control arranges workspaces in a single, left-to-right virtual line, and a particular workspace may disappear if you close all the windows and apps in it. In other words, it’s no longer easy to create, say, a writing space and know exactly where it sits and what it contains.
ReSpaceApp is a new app, currently in beta, that aims to bring back much of Spaces’ functionality, but it does so by using Mission Control for the underlying functionality—it just changes the way your Mission Control workspaces appear to be arranged.
I’m a huge fan of the Instapaper service for saving Web articles for later reading, sans ads and messy formatting and layout. It’s great when you don’t have time to read a longer article immediately, or when you want to save an article you found on your iPhone so you can later read it on your Mac or iPad’s larger screen. Read It Later is a similar popular service. Both are also useful for archiving interesting articles for later browsing or sharing.
But for both services, the best experience for reading your saved articles has been found in iOS apps—specifically, when using the official Instapaper or Read It Later app on an iPad. When sitting at your Mac, you’ve been limited to reading saved articles via the Instapaper or Read It Later website in your browser. Though each site lets you browse and view the reformatted versions of your saved articles, the experience just isn't as nice as with native app. In addition, neither site offers as many features as its app, with the biggest omissions being the capability to download articles for offline viewing and to search the text of saved articles.
Fortunately, both services offer an application-programming interface (API) that lets other developers create apps that work with the services. (You can get more information about Instapaper’s API and Read It Later’s API.) Which means it was only a matter of time before we’d see Mac apps that aim to make the desktop reading experience more similar to that of the aforementioned iOS apps. Read Later 2.0.3 (Mac App Store link) is one of the first, and it works with both Instapaper and Read It Later.
Among the many distraction-free writing apps available for OS X, OmmWriter Dana (Mac App Store link) tries to go the furthest in distancing the writer from his or her computer. Not only is full-screen mode the program’s only mode, but a number of the program’s features are specifically designed to create an all-encompasing environment.
(Note: OmmWriter Dana is available in a paid version, OmmWriter Dana II, and a free version, OmmWriter Dana I. I review the paid version here, but the only difference between the paid and free versions are that OmmWriter Dana I includes fewer of the screen backdrops and audio soundtracks described below.)
One of these features is a set of seven full-screen backdrops: all-white, a snowscape with leafless trees, a gray-linen background (that in my opinion doesn’t contrast enough with the program’s black fonts), and several colored-gradient backgrounds. There are no user-customizable options here—if you want your own colored background, you’ll need to look elsewhere.