Mac Gems: Package-tracking app Deliveries breaks free of the Dashboard

Obsessively tracking packages is something we can all relate to. Yet no matter how often we click Refresh, there’s nothing we can do to speed up the delivery planes, trains, and trucks scurrying around the globe. To give yourself a break, you can let an app manage your tracking numbers, alerting you when the status of a package has changed.

Deliveries is a new package-tracking app for OS X that launched alongside OS X Yosemite. Developer Junecloud is no stranger to managing your tracking numbers, having offered an iOS app and OS X Dashboard widget for several years. The combination of iOS app and widget was more than sufficient for my use—that is, up until the Mac app launched and made everything better.

Services, services, services

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iStat Menus 5 provides more system information in a prettier package

No matter how many features OS X borrows from iOS, one big difference Mac and iOS users is that we want to know what’s going on under the hood of our computers. Where you might be content to quit a wonky app or restart an iPad, on your Mac you want to investigate the problem up close and personal, even tracking page outs and diving into crash logs.

Apple offers such tools as Activity Monitor and Console for monitoring system performance, but Bjango has always understood that this information is most useful when it’s instantly at your disposal, not tucked away in the Utilities folder. With the fifth version of its popular iStat Menus app, the company has improved on nearly every aspect of the multitasking menu bar monitor, bringing the interface in line with Mavericks and Yosemite, and putting a greater emphasis on which apps are slowing you down.

Whether you’re a longtime iStat fan or a first-time user, you’ll immediately be struck by its modern look. From the settings to the dropdown graphs, no pixel has been left unturned, and a modern, minimal elegance pervades every element. iStat’s wealth of information has been thoughtfully calibrated and organized, and all of your data is even easier to see at a glance. And if you’re running Yosemite (and its accompanying dark menu bar and Dock feature), iStat will blend right in. The classic white background is still available, but once you see how vibrant the various graphs look using the black theme, you’ll have a hard time switching back.

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Review: Notability for Mac brings ink to the desktop

For anyone who reaches for a pen and paper to take notes, reaching for an iPad app like Notability is already an adjustment, let alone a Mac, which of course doesn't even have a touchscreen.

On iOS, Notability is a popular and elegant note-taking app with an ink-first mentality. Now it's on the Mac, promising to bring that same design sense to the desktop and sync up all your notes with iCloud—and it largely succeeds. Though with free, note-taking powerhouses like Evernote and OneNote out there, is Notability worth your $10?

Notability's strengths

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Mac Gems: Recovery Partition Creator adds OS X Recovery to any drive

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.

terminal output no recoveryhd
The results of this diskutil list command show a drive with a Recovery HD partition (top) and a drive without (bottom).
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Screenshot FX review: Take precise screenshots on your Mac

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.

Screenshot FX

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.

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News Notifications review: Add RSS feeds to OS X's Notification Center

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.

News Notifications

News Notifications

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.

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