Automate your Mac: three hacks for managing apps

Auto-hide apps

Tool: DragThing
I work with a lot of apps throughout the day and I keep them open at all times. This could lead to a lot of window clutter if it weren’t for DragThing. Within its General preference you find the Hide Other Applications When Switching option. Now, when I click on an icon in my DragThing app palette, the selected app comes to the fore and all other running apps disappear in the background.—Christopher Breen

breen hide apps dragthing
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Automate your Mac: three smart hacks for managing files

Managing files and folders is one of the most obvious—and easiest—chores to automate on your Mac, thanks to specialized tools like Hazel, as well as generalists like AppleScript, Automator, and Keyboard Maestro.

Clear the desktop

Tool: Automator
I’m one of those people who litters his desktop with files throughout the day. I’ve created an Automator workflow that moves these files to a Desktop Moved folder I’ve created within my Documents folder. To create, I opened Automator, and selected Calendar Alarm as the type of document. I then added the following actions, in order: Get Specified Finder Items (adding my Desktop folder to its list); Get Folder Contents; Move Finder Items (specifying my Desktop Moved folder as the target). I set up this alarm to go off every Sunday at 5:00 p.m., so I can start my work week the next morning with a clean desktop.—Christopher Breen

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The top iOS 8 features for business users

When it shows up in the coming weeks, Apple’s iOS 8 is set to bring several new features, including its HealthKit and HomeKit platforms, to the iPhone and iPad. Many of the advances are consumer-oriented and focused on creating a seamless experience across iOS devices and Macs running the forthcoming OS X Yosemite.

Even with that consumer focus, however, there are some incredible features for business users in iOS 8.

Better keyboards

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Four Finder timesavers every smart Mac user should know

For some users, “organizing files” in the Finder begins and ends with creating folders and moving files into them. But there are a bunch of other things you can do to manage your files in OS X that, whatever your workflow, will make things way easier.

Smart folders

When you perform a standard Finder search by pressing Command-F or using the search bar in any Finder window, you can save this search as a smart folder by clicking the Save button in the top-right of the window. This will save the search as a Smart Folder which, when opened, will only show the files that match your search criteria. (You can also create smart folders by selecting New Smart Folder from the File menu.)

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Beyond the basics: advanced Mac keyboard tricks

If you’re like most Mac users, you probably don’t give your keyboard much thought: You press a key, it relays that key-press to your system, and that’s all there is to it. But there can, in fact, be much more to it, if you take avantage of OS X’s support for multiple keyboard layouts.

When you initially set up your Mac, the OS X Setup Assistant gives you the option of choosing a default keyboard layout. Many users never deviate from that initial choice. You can, however, choose a different keyboard layout any time you want. For instance, if you’re composing in French, you might be better off using AZERTY instead of the standard QWERTY. Same goes for composing in non-Roman alphabets, such as Chinese or Russian: You can switch your keyboard layout to any number of those. And many users prefer to use the Dvorak (or other alternative) layout for more efficient typing.

keyboard layout

Select your desired language from the list on the left, then select the layout you want on the right. Note that Dvorak and Colemak layouts are under the English language.

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Improve your presentation skills: the emergency road-show toolkit

As I’ve traveled around the world giving presentations, I’ve seen Murphy’s Law in action, up close, many times. Much as I might prepare ahead of time, things still go wrong all the time. And every time something does go wrong, I add another item or two to my emergency toolkit, the better to be prepared for next time.

Here are some of the things that have ended up in that toolkit. If you have a big presentation—especially if it’s out of town, where you won’t have access to your usual resources—consider putting together a similar toolkit of your own.

Gadgets and software

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Improve your presentation skills: how to make smoother slide transitions in Keynote

Modern presentation apps like Keynote and PowerPoint still encourage you to think in terms of “slides”: discrete, isolated objects to be presented one after the other, as though we were still using those old slide projectors to show film-in-square-frames slides. Our audiences may even expect to receive printed or PDF copies of our slides, one tidy image per page.

But that metaphor is a relic of an earlier time. Technology has moved on, and you can create far more interesting and appealing presentations if you move beyond the idea of “slides” and adopt a more fluid, seamless approach.

The best-known tool for presentations-that-are-not-slides is Prezi (4.0 mice), which gives you a huge canvas on which you place individual elements; you then pan, zoom, and rotate the view to highlight specific items. It’s a neat effect, but I prefer to downplay animations and transitions, not to call extra attention to them.

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