Joe Kissell is a senior editor of TidBits and the author of numerous ebooks in the Take Control series. More by Joe Kissell
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.
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). More by Topher Kessler
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.
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
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.
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).
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.
Mail might not be a perfect email client, but it’s the one most of us use. Fortunately, there are things you can do to make it work better. Here are five of my favorite tricks for making Mail more efficient.
Swap the Find shortcuts
Mail lets you search two ways: through your list of messages (“Where’s that note from my lawyer?”) and inside the current message (“Did he say ‘nolo contendere’?”). While there are keyboard shortcuts for both searches, the easy (and standard) Command-F combo is assigned to the less-common search inside the currently selected message, while Command-Option-F is used for the more common search through the message list. Fortunately, you can swap them easily.
When you write in a word processor or text editor on OS X, you might want the app to do more than record your words as unadorned plain text. In addition to specifying formatting (such as font style and type size), you may want to insert things like smart (or “curly”) quotes and live, clickable links. You may want your spelling and grammar to be checked as you type. And you may wish to insert certain bits of text automatically, to save time.
While some word processors and text editors have built-in tools to do all of the above and more, others don’t. That’s why it’s a good thing that OS X has its own system-wide text-manipulation tools, which allow you to substitute and transform characters and words in a variety of ways and which are available in many apps where you have to type text. But these settings aren’t necessarily easy to find, and it’s not always obvious what they do.
You’ll find these features in all Apple apps where you can type text—including Pages, Mail, and TextEdit—as well as in many third-party apps; notably, they aren’t available in Microsoft Office. In OS X apps that do support these text manipulation features, you can see the available tools by right- or Control-clicking in an app’s editing window to summon a contextual menu. Some, but not all, of these settings are also available from the Edit menu.