Jackie is always looking for creative mischief to get into. So it's fitting that she oversees photography, video, publishing, music, and Web design. More by Jackie Dove
Developer MacPhun focuses on photo-editing apps, including previous Mac Gems Snapheal and FX Photo Studio, as well as the recently released Intensify. The company has just expanded its image-enhancing portfolio by acquiring the app Focus and updating it to Focus 2, an image-editing program with a specialized and dedicated workflow.
Like MacPhun’s other apps, Focus 2 is part of the company’s strategy of providing refined tools that accomplish discrete goals, rather than building vast functionality into a single, enormous, complex package. Specifically, Focus 2 covers specialty edits such as selective focus, lens blurring, and tilt-shift effects, including depth of field and vignetting. (Focus 2 is an upgrade to the original Focus app from the developer Coppertino. If you own the original version of Focus, Focus 2 is a paid upgrade.)
Dan has been writing about all things Apple since 2006, when he first started contributing to the MacUser blog. Since then he's covered most of the company's major product releases and reviewed every major revision of iOS. In his "copious" free time, he's usually grinding away on a novel or two. More by Dan Moren
I recently had a problem with one of my mail accounts (and before you ask, no, it wasn’t Gmail under Mavericks). The issue was that the account, which is provided by Dreamhost, is located on a mail server named one thing (mail.doombot.com), but is secured with a certificate for a different mail server (mail.dreamhost.com). The result was that every time I opened Mail, I got an error saying that the two certificates didn’t match.
The easiest way to fix this type of issue is to edit a file on your drive called hosts, but it’s located in the hidden /private/etc folder. That’s where Lars van de Kerkhof’s free Hosts System Preferences pane comes in.
If you’re not familiar with the hosts file, it’s essentially a local override for the DNS (Domain Name Server) system. DNS is what takes nice, pretty website addresses (a.k.a., hostnames, such as macworld.com) and translates them into their hard-to-remember, IP-address equivalents (say, 188.8.131.52). The hosts file lets you override the DNS system for particular addresses or ranges of addresses. You just enter, in the text file, the necessary IP addresses and their corresponding hostnames.
Think about how much time you spend dealing with chunks of text, big and small: the search queries you type into Google, the words and phrases you look up on Wikipedia, the chunks of words you copy from one app and paste into another. I deal with such text-based tasks of one sort or another all day every day, which is why I find Liquid (Mac App Store link) so handy. This utility makes many of those tasks a whole lot easier.
Launch Liquid, and it sits quietly in the menubar until you need it. Select a bit of text—in an app, on a website, wherever—and hit Liquid’s keyboard shortcut (Command-Shift-2 by default, but you can change that if you prefer via the Services list in System Preferences’ Keyboard pane.), and up pops a neat, compact window containing your selected text plus six menu options: Search, Reference, Convert, Translate, Copy, and Share, each with a letter next to it (S, R, C, T, 2, and E, respectively). Those letters are reminders of the keyboard shortcut for each menu—so, for example, you can press S to open the Search menu.
Chris has covered technology and media since the latter days of the Reagan Administration. In addition to his journalistic endeavors, he's a professional musician in the San Francisco Bay Area. More by Christopher Breen
Do you love Pandora? No, not just enjoy it, but really love it? If so, $5 and a Mac buys you Industrious One’s Muse, a desktop Pandora player that gives you all the Pandora goodness you’d find in a web browser, and a worthwhile bit more.
When you first launch Muse, you see a window that appears to be nothing more than a container for Pandora’s website. And that’s exactly what it is—complete with your stations, the New Station field for adding more stations, playback controls, thumbs up and down buttons, and any other elements Pandora has chosen to put on the page (including its ads).
So where’s the advantage? Muse provides additional—and welcome—control over Pandora in a couple of forms. To begin with, you no longer need to keep your web browser running (or even keep its resources busy) to listen to Pandora. And, unlike with a browser, you can close Muse’s window and the music continues to play.
Serenity has been writing and talking and tinkering with Apple products since she was old enough to double-click. In her spare time, she sketches, writes, acts, sings, and wears an assortment of hats. More by Serenity Caldwell
As someone who mainly works at home, I’m well aware of just how silent a lonely home office can be—and how quickly it can grate on your nerves and distract you with its lack of sound. Some people rely on podcasts to offer background noise, but the constant chatter can be distracting when I’m attempting to write up the latest tech gadget. Music is often lovely, but there are days when even that won’t do. Enter the odd—yet useful—free app Coffitivity (Mac App Store link), which livens up your silent home office with the soothing sounds of a busy coffee shop.
Given that I often wish my local coffee shop was quieter, I didn’t expect to like this little app, but it’s quickly grown on me. In part that’s due to the app’s three alliteratively wonderful soundscapes, accessed using Coffitivity’s systemwide menu: Morning Murmur, Lunchtime Lounge, and University Undertones. The mixes are a nice blend of shop background noises—cash registers, coffee brewing, plates clinking, and the like—along with little snippets of conversation.
Roman has covered technology since the early 1990s. His career started at MacUser, and he's worked for MacAddict, Mac|Life, TechTV, PC/Computing, and Windows NT Systems. More by Roman Loyola
For over eight years, Plasq’s Comic Life has provided an easy way to present your photos and other images in comic book form. (We previously reviewed version 1 and version 2 for Mac Gems.) Now at version 3, Comic Life offers more features geared toward people who have a serious interest in storytelling using the comic book medium.
It’s likely that most folks use Comic Life to throw a few pictures together to create simple, humorous anecdotes, and the app works well for that. But if you want to tell more detailed, complicated stories, Comic Life now has a Script Editor to help you form your comic’s storyline. The Script Editor uses keywords to automatically format the text in the proper way. For example, If you type a person’s name, Comic Life recognizes that you want to format the text as speech and will put it in a speech bubble. When the Script Editor recognizes a keyword (Comic Life has a set of default keywords, but you can also add your own), it creates an icon specific to that keyword that appears in an icon column on the left side of your script. You can then drag and drop the icons into your comic and easily adjust the formatting to your liking.
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. More by Dan Frakes
As longtime Mac Gems readers know, I rarely cover bundles or promotions—only when a particular sale offers readers a great deal on a number of great Mac apps.
That’s the case with the current ProductiveMacs bundle, which includes seven quality apps—five of them past Mac Gems, with another also earning a high Macworld rating—for just $30. Here’s what three Hamiltons will get you: