Andrew Hayward is a Chicago-based games, apps, and gadgets writer whose work has been featured in more than 50 publications. He's also a work-at-home dad to a wild toddler. More by Andrew Hayward
Google has been cleaning house of services and features over the last year or so, with Google Reader and iGoogle among the most notable casualties. While not so widely mourned, the recent scrapping of Google Notifier was also disappointing, as the app had been a rather helpful way to stay on top of incoming Gmail messages on Mac.
Notifier Pro for Gmail (Mac App Store link) effectively picks up where Google left off, as the third-party option puts a tally of unread emails on the menu bar, letting you click to drop down a preview of the last ten inbox messages with sender name and subject listed. Clicking a note immediately pulls it up in your default browser without hassle, plus you can quickly hit the Go to Inbox link and be there within seconds.
Cloud storage is a great way to sync up content to access on multiple devices and platforms, and provides an offsite backup for important files. But if you’re like me, you’ve got numerous cloud accounts, with files scattered among them. Cloud Commander (Mac App Store link) decreases the insanity by letting you connect to your Dropbox, Box, Microsoft OneDrive, Google Drive, SugarSync, Copy.com, Bitcasa, Picasa, and Flickr accounts in one place. It can also act as a WebDAV or FTP client.
Once you’ve connected your accounts, double-click one to open it in the Cloud Commander window. From there you can drag and drop files and folders to and from that service, either moving or copying the items, depending on how you’ve configured Cloud Commander’s preferences. Control- or right-click on a file or folder to rename, delete, or (for most services) get a sharable link for it. You can select an item and press the spacebar for a QuickLook preview. You can even open multiple Cloud Commander windows to, say, copy files from your Dropbox account to your OneDrive account.
As long as the Mac has stored files in virtual folders, those folders have been messy. So over the years, a variety of products have come along to help you clean those folders up. Hazel is perhaps the best known of these. But if Hazel is overkill for you, Folder Tidy (Mac App Store link) is worth a look.
Dan writes about OS X, iOS, utilities, cool apps, and troubleshooting. He also covers hardware; mobile, audio, 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 worked as a policy analyst. You can find him on the web at danfrakes.com. More by Dan Frakes
OS X’s built-in Time Machine feature makes backing up your important data a relatively painless process: You just connect a drive to your Mac, tell the OS to use that drive for Time Machine, and then, to quote a famous Apple ad, “There is no Step 3.” As long as Time Machine doesn’t run into any problems, it works great.
But when Time Machine does experience a glitch, it’s not always clear what went wrong. The Time Machine pane of System Preferences provides a red Info (i) button that can sometimes fill you in on the details, but not always, and if Time Machine should face multiple issues, that button provides only the latest error message.
The info you really want is buried in OS X’s system logs...along with thousands of lines of information that has nothing to do with Time Machine. You could use the Console utility (in /Applications/Utilities) to try to uncover the relevant info, but Ron van Rens’s $2 LogViewer for Time Machine (Mac App Store link) is a better approach.
Michael Simon has been obsessed with Apple since before there was an "I" in fanboy. More by Michael Simon
If there’s one constant across every Mac we’ve ever used, it’s the calculator. From System 1 to Yosemite, there’s always been a basic number cruncher baked right into the operating system, but for the most part, the calculators on our desktops still aren’t much smarter than the ones in our desk drawers.
Numi (Mac App Store link) breaks that mold. A calculator built for the iOS generation, the minimal utility eschews the traditional keypad in favor of casual, text-based equations that let you see exactly what’s been added and subtracted.
Chris Barylick is an Apple-Certified Macintosh Technician living in the San Francisco Bay Area. In his 25 years of tinkering with Macs, he has accidentally lit two (and counting) hard drives on fire. He also wouldn't mind being Gonzo the Muppet when he finally grows up. More by Chris Barylick
In spite of the criticism levied against it, I tend to give iTunes the benefit of the doubt. It’s there, it does a serviceable job of managing and playing my music, it functions as a device hub and it does a good job of it. Tim Murrison’s BitPerfect 2.0.1 (Mac App Store link) shows what iTunes music is capable of and is an audiophile’s dream. BitPerfect opens a world of clearer, more present sound that you never thought was possible from your Mac’s speakers.
BitPerfect is sleek, minimal, unobtrusive, and powerful. The program, which resides in your OS X menu bar, can be quickly enabled or disabled with a click of the mouse. Launch BitPerfect for the first time, designate which audio library you want it to use and it’ll quickly scan your iTunes library, inform you that it’s made changes to the library and is ready to begin working. Enable BitPerfect, run iTunes as you normally would and the sound difference is like night and day—BitPerfect upscales the audio sent to the output device. Add in a slew of preference and customization options and there’s enough to keep happy any audiophile within the vicinity .
Marco Tabini is based in Toronto, Canada, where he focuses on software development for mobile devices and for the Web. More by Marco Tabini
The art of retouching photos has come a long way since the Soviet used crude cut-and-paste techniques to remove unwanted people from black and white shots in the Fifties. These days, even the most basic photo editing software is capable of performing sophisticated alterations on all kinds of images.
Snapheal 1.2 (Mac App Store link) is one such tool, but with a twist: it’s designed to allow users to selectively alter parts of an image by tweaking its technical parameters, adjusting exposure settings, and removing unwanted features.
Let’s start with the latter, which is a modern equivalent of the old Soviet edit jobs. Once you load an image in Snapheal, the app gives you three different tools for selecting a specific area, which can then be excised using several algorithms that replace it with content cloned from elsewhere in the photo. As you can imagine, this tends to work well when you try to remove subjects against a uniform or abstract background like the sky or a sandy beach. The app fares particularly well when it comes to removing overhead wires against the sky—a quick and easy way to greatly enhance the look of many photos.