How to work at home with kids

Joe Kissell Senior Contributor, Macworld

Joe Kissell is a senior editor of TidBits and the author of numerous ebooks in the Take Control series.
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My wife and I recently welcomed our second child, and our older son has just turned four. When we tell other parents that we both work from home, their expressions predictably turn from envy to horror in a matter of seconds. On the one hand, yes, it’s wonderful that we get to spend so much time with the kids at this age. On the other hand, the work we do requires extended periods of uninterrupted concentration, and those little bundles of joy are nothing if not distracting. How do we pay adequate attention to both our preschool kids and our work?

I don’t pretend to have all the answers, because every situation (and every child) is different. But I can tell you a bit about what’s worked for us.

Not for us

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Tools of the trade: Why I prefer Nisus Writer

Joe Kissell Senior Contributor, Macworld

Joe Kissell is a senior editor of TidBits and the author of numerous ebooks in the Take Control series.
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Word processing isn’t the most amazing thing a Mac can do. But back in 1991, it was a word processor called Nisus that convinced me to buy my first Mac, because there was nothing like it for PCs. Nisus was my primary application for years, and now—after more than a decade in which it was all but useless to me—this app (now called Nisus Writer Pro) is back on my A-list. Here’s why I’ve re-adopted it, and why I think more people should consider it.

The everything tool

You could say I have a bit of history with Nisus Writer. After learning about Nisus in grad school, I became a user, then a fan, and then a trainer. I later got a part-time job working for the developer, Nisus Software, and eventually became the product manager for Nisus Writer. (So, disclaimer: I worked for the company from 1994 to 1997.) And my first real book, published while I was still an employee, was called The Nisus Way. It was written both about and with Nisus Writer.

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Solving the mysteries of the Mail Downloads folder

Sharon Zardetto , Macworld

Find several of long-time Mac author Sharon Zardetto's current ebooks at Take Control Books.
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The scenario is straightforward: You receive a message with an attachment in Mail and double-click the attached file to open it in the appropriate app. But what happens next is anything but straightforward: file attachments are stored in a hard-to-find folder; they are sometimes downloaded more than once; and different apps treat these opened files in very different ways.

Where is /Mail Downloads?

When you open a Mail attachment with a double-click, it opens in its parent app, just as you’d expect. But it’s also automatically (and secretly) downloaded into the aptly named Mail Downloads folder.

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The easy, DIY system for group-editing big documents

Joe Kissell Senior Contributor, Macworld

Joe Kissell is a senior editor of TidBits and the author of numerous ebooks in the Take Control series.
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When you’re collaborating on documents with other people, sharing a folder on a cloud-based storage system like Dropbox is convenient way to keep everyone’s copies of those docs updated automatically. But nothing in that system prevents two people from opening and changing a given document at the same time. That can lead to version conflicts and confusion.

You could avoid this problem—and make it easier to see who made which changes and when—with a formal version-control system. Teams of programmers working on a project often use tools like Apache Subversion (SVN), Concurrent Versions System (CVS), or Git to manage their files. These tools ensure that only one person can modify a file at once, let everyone know who’s working on a file at any moment, and keep a historical record of changes so that any earlier version can be recalled in the future.

But for a lot of projects, a complex version-control system and its associated software and repositories are overkill. There is, however, a compromise: Those of us who work on TidBITS’ Take Control ebooks—authors and editors—have over time developed a simple manual system, based on Dropbox, that mimics version control but requires no extra software. Here’s how it works.

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Four reasons you should use OS X's System Information utility

Topher Kessler , Macworld

Topher Kessler has been an avid Mac user since 1991. He was the primary contributing author to CNET's MacFixIt blog from 2008 to 2014 and currently posts at MacIssues (macissues.com).
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When troubleshooting your Mac, you often need to get information about your system and what’s going on inside of it, either to help you identify and fix the problem yourself or so you can convey that information to others who might help.

One tool that can help with this is a utility that used to be called System Profiler but as of OS X 10.7 (Lion) was renamed System Information. By either name, it’s a handy app that lets you look up all kinds of details about your system's hardware and software, from the serial number and firmware version of your particular Mac to information about peripheral devices attached to it.

You can access this system profiler in a couple of ways. One is to go to Applications > Utilities and find System Information (or System Profiler if you haven’t upgraded lately) and open the program directly from there. Or you can open the Apple menu, click More Info, then select System Report.

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MacBook in the cloud: Work with the same files on multiple Macs

Serenity Caldwell Associate Editor, Macworld

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.
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For most people, one computer is probably sufficient. It might be a desktop, or a laptop, or you might just make do with iPads or iPhones. But somewhere down the line, you might adopt more. You get a work computer. You decide you want a traveling laptop. You might replace your old Mac, but it still runs fine for basic Web browsing and writing emails.

macbook air

When you buy multiple iOS devices—an iPad to go along with your iPhone, for example—you don’t have to worry about transferring your software or syncing your passwords. By default, they’re tied to your Apple ID, and that data downloads over to your new device when you set it up. Macs, however, are not quite so lucky. Apple’s iCloud service offers limited sync capabilities for your passwords and user account data, but doesn’t widely support app data; and worse, new computers require you to either clone your old drive to your new computer or copy over any non-Mac App Store applications. And, of course, the big whopper: Your average Mac laptop has a whole lot less storage than its desktop cousins, especially if you value the speed of a solid-state drive (SSD).

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Scheduling success: Four tech tricks for planning meetings

David Sparks , Macworld

David Sparks is a practicing attorney, editor of the MacSparky blog, co-host of the Mac Power Users podcast, and author of the Email, Paperless, and Markdown Field Guides.
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Let’s face it: Despite all the technology at our fingertips, scheduling and planning meetings is still a pain in the neck. Nobody can agree on where to meet or when. When meetings do get scheduled, people forget or show up unprepared. You’d think we could do better.

Using your Mac, iPhone and the Web, of course, you can, but you have to use them right. Here are four tricks I’ve learned that use technology to plan meetings better.

Automate the meeting confirmation

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