The easy, DIY system for group-editing big documents

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

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

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

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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My nine must-have plug-ins for Apple Mail

In a recent story about simplifying your email system, I mentioned nine plug-ins for Apple Mail that I use to transform it from a fair email client into a much more powerful tool. A number of people have asked me what those plug-ins are, so here’s my list. (For even more suggestions, see Maximizing Mail: Add-ons for Mac OS X's Mail.)

Attachment Tamer

attachment tamer
Attachment Tamer lets you customize the way attachments appear to your recipients.
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