One of OS X’s strengths has always been that it combines a great graphical user interface with the underlying power of UNIX—a power that extends to making dozens of scripting languages like PHP, Python, and Ruby available to all users.
App Factory 1.2 allows you to harness the power of these scripting languages and use them to create apps that can be launched directly from the Finder, without having to write a single line of OS X-specific code.
Thanks to the Internet, comparison shopping has never been easier. And if you want to get the best deal for your dollar, the free Prices Drop Monitor (Mac App Store link) is a handy Mac utility that can help you out—assuming you do most of your shopping from Amazon.
Prices Drop Monitor displays a little shopping cart in your menu bar; selecting Manage Items from it brings up the app’s main window, a list in which you can add items from Amazon whose prices you want to track. Click the plus button and paste in an Amazon URL to add an entry, or drag a URL from Safari onto the menu bar icon. The app then checks every 4, 8, 12, or 24 hours to see if the prices have changed, and notifies you. By default, the app badges its menu bar icon and turns it blue when there’s a change; you can also opt to be notified by Growl, Notification Center, a beep, or an email to a specific address.
Our music comes from a variety of local and streaming sources these days, and having a single, consistent interface to control them all makes listening on a Mac that much more enjoyable. Equilibrium is menu-bar item that can control iTunes, Spotify, Rdio, and Vox (as well as connect with your Last.fm account to scrobble tracks). It displays album art, artist, song title, and album name as a popover when you click on the icon. There you can control playback—including turning shuffle or repeat modes on or off—and access AirPlay options for sending the audio to other speakers in the house. Finally, when controlling iTunes, there’s an equalizer option that selects the corresponding setting within iTunes (when used with other apps the EQ button vanishes).
Additionally, you can enable a desktop controller that displays album art for the track currently playing. When you mouse over it, the controller changes to show song, artist, and album, along with controls for play/pause and previous and next track. It’s a nice thing to have, but potentially distracting to some users. Thankfully, it’s entirely optional.
Whether you want to beef up your home security, save a few bucks on a baby monitor, or just pretend you’re James Bond, Appologics UG’s AirBeam Pro (Mac App Store link) provides an inexpensive, powerful way to turn your existing Macs, iPads, and iPhones into a sophisticated home security system.
After a simple installation, AirBeam Pro starts looking for AirBeam-enabled cameras on your Wi-Fi network. It won’t work with third-party cameras, but if you’ve purchased and installed separate copies of AirBeam for your iPhone or iPad, or have AirBeam running on other networked Macs, the program will find them and start displaying crisp real-time video streams. You can also make your own Mac a camera, and broadcast that video to AirBeam on your portable devices, or to anyone on your local network via a Web connection tied to your Mac’s local IP address. (There’s a separate free Mac client for simply watching streams from other devices.) AirBeam even supports Motrr’s Galileo motorized mount for iPhones, letting you pan and tilt remote cameras.
There are two kinds of emailers: Filers, who meticulously file away their messages into folders, and Dumpers, who just keep everything in one vast Inbox and rely on search to find messages they want. Nisus’s InfoClick has something to offer both of them, but particularly the latter.
InfoClick is essentially a supercharged search tool for Mail. (Note that it’s a separate application on its own, not a Mail plug-in.) When you first launch it, it indexes all of the messages in your various mailboxes. (It took roughly 15 minutes to do this on my 75,000 messages.) Once that indexing is done, you can use InfoClick’s Normal interface, which includes six search fields: contact (who sent or received the message); text (in the subject or content of the message); date (year, month, or day); kind (sent, received, trashed, and so on); attachments (including file name); and location (the mailbox where the message(s) are stored). There’s also a Detailed Search interface, which offers those same search options in their own specific search fields (email account; contacts in CC: and BCC: fields; and so on).
The Mac platform boasts an abundance of free, low-cost, and great-value software. (That’s partly because of the convenience and popularity of the Mac App Store, though the concept of excellent, inexpensive Mac apps has been around for decades.) In fact, one of the biggest challenges these days, at least when it comes to software, is that the Mac has a veritable overabundance of apps. How do you know which are the good ones—and which ones are truly great?
That’s where we come in. Here at Macworld, we call apps that give you great functionality for the price Mac Gems, and we review one or two of these products each week in our Mac Gems column. Veteran readers know that Gems reviews are special to us, because they epitomize why we do what we do: to help you make the most of your Mac without breaking the bank.
But at our usual rate of Gems reviews, we can’t keep up with everything that’s out there. So each summer, our editors, along with a number of regular Macworld contributors, collaborate on an annual Gems-review marathon, which we call GemFest (a.k.a., the Summer of Gems).
Over the past decade or so, TiVo and similar DVRs have changed the way we watch TV—so much so that many of us take for granted that we can pause live TV, rewind to watch something again, and jump forward to skip commercials. These features have become such an ingrained part of my media-consuming experience that I often miss them when listening to music on my Mac.
Sure, iTunes has a pause button, and if I’m listening to tracks in my iTunes library, I can skim forward and back. But I’ve got plenty of other ways to listen to music on my Mac that don’t necessarily provide such features: In addition to iTunes and other apps for playing local music tracks, I’ve got streaming-audio apps such as Pandora and Spotify (and, of course, iTunes Radio), and I’ve got myriad websites and online services providing music, podcasts, and online “radio” shows. Some of these let me skip forward and back, but not all; some have ads, while others don’t. And while most have a pause button, I have to remember which app I’m currently using, switch to that app, and then pause or resume—I don’t have a universal Pause button.
At least I didn’t until I started using Rogue Amoeba’s Intermission, which aims to bring TiVo-like features to your Mac’s audio, regardless of the source of that audio. Like TiVo on your TV, Intermission constantly records your Mac’s audio in order to create a buffer you can browse.