Automator workflow of the month: Automatically file downloaded items

Christopher Breen Senior Editor, Macworld Follow me on Google+

Chris has covered technology and media since the latter days of the Reagan Administration. In addition to his journalistic endeavors, he's a professional musician in the San Francisco Bay Area.
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Like all good Automator workflows, this one is hatched from something I find to be an annoyance. I download a lot of files—disk images, songs, pictures, and books. All of them go into the Downloads folder within my user folder. After downloading them I don’t always retrieve these files, but rather let them molder away for days or weeks. When I finally get around to using them, I rummage around in this folder, which now contains hundreds of files. Wouldn’t it be easier if all the disk-image files were in one place, pictures in another, and so on? With Automator you can make that so. Here’s how.

Create the workflow

In the Finder, create two folders on the Desktop. Name the first Disk Images and the second My Pictures.

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Help with OS X's Help

Kirk McElhearn Senior Contributor, Macworld

Senior contributor Kirk McElhearn (@mcelhearn) writes The Ask the iTunes Guy column and writes about Macs, music and more on his blog Kirkville. He's also the author of Take Control of iTunes 11: The FAQ.
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No matter how proficient you are with OS X and the apps you use, there will still be moments when you need a helping hand. The quickest way to find out how to accomplish a task is to get help; the kind that’s included with OS X. Using OS X Help is easy, but there are some tricks that will help you use it more efficiently.

Help!

You’ve certainly noticed the Help menu everywhere in OS X: it’s the rightmost menu in every app. The menu that displays when you click on Help may vary from a simple menu with a search field and a menu item to provide help for the current app, to a menu with links to a developer’s website, support page, user forums, manual and much more.

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Five iCloud email tricks you probably missed

Kirk McElhearn Senior Contributor, Macworld

Senior contributor Kirk McElhearn (@mcelhearn) writes The Ask the iTunes Guy column and writes about Macs, music and more on his blog Kirkville. He's also the author of Take Control of iTunes 11: The FAQ.
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If you have an Apple ID, then you have an iCloud email account. This free account gives you up to 5GB storage for your emails, minus what you use for documents and other data you store in the cloud. It’s easy to work with your iCloud email from Apple’s Mail, on the Mac, or on an iOS device. Still, you may not know about the many extra options and features available if you log into iCloud on the Web.

Before you can take advantage of any of the following tips, you need to turn on iCloud. If you already have an Apple ID, which you use on the iTunes store, you may never have set up iCloud. Read this article to get it up and running. Once you've done that, you can use your email account and these five tricks.

1. Access email anywhere 

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How to solve the worst email annoyances

Christopher Breen Senior Editor, Macworld Follow me on Google+

Chris has covered technology and media since the latter days of the Reagan Administration. In addition to his journalistic endeavors, he's a professional musician in the San Francisco Bay Area.
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You’d think that after 25 years of mainstream experience, the job of sending and receiving email would be dead simple. Yet we continue to face situations that cause many of us to rend our garments and tear our hair. And because we do, I return to address this year’s crop of email annoyances.

Change your default email client

Annoyance: You’ve given Mail a try, but it just doesn’t float your boat. Though you’d prefer to use a different email client, Mail invariably launches when any email-related chore crops up.

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What to do (and not to do) when traveling overseas with Apple gear

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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When I’m at home, I have an Apple device for almost everything. My iPhone is my travel buddy, my iPad mini is my reading and writing companion, and my computer takes on all the other heavy lifting. But for a visit to Italy earlier this year, I knew I had to pare down my collection: An iPhone, Mac, and iPad all seemed a bit unwieldy for a trip that involved a lot of walking and travel; also, you don’t necessarily want to bring every piece of electronics you own to a foreign country.

So instead, my companion and I made an electronics game plan. We made a list of what, between us, we should take, and packed accordingly. For the most part, we did really well. If you’re planning on venturing out overseas anytime this summer, here are some of our tips.

Don’t: Bring a laptop

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Automator workflow of the month: Easily encrypt folders

Christopher Breen Senior Editor, Macworld Follow me on Google+

Chris has covered technology and media since the latter days of the Reagan Administration. In addition to his journalistic endeavors, he's a professional musician in the San Francisco Bay Area.
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You can use Apple’s Disk Utility to convert a folder into an encrypted disk image—a protected archive that you unlock with a password. Such images are particularly helpful when you’re working on confidential company documents away from the office or when your business card reads: International Person of Mystery. But the truth is that creating encrypted disk images with Disk Utility is cumbersome. Thankfully, with a simple Automator workflow, you can secure documents in an instant. It works like this:

Create the workflow

Launch Automator. In the template chooser, select Application and click Choose. Select the Utilities library and from it drag Set Value of Variable into the workflow area to the right. Now select the Files & Folders library and from its list of actions drag New Disk Image into the workflow area, after Set Value of Variable. Return to the Utilities library and drag Get Value of Variable into the workflow. And finally, return to the Files & Folders library and add Move Finder Items to Trash to the workflow.

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The Mac office: Picturing a better way to communicate

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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An AT&T commercial from 1993 asked, among other things, “Have you ever tucked your baby in from a phone booth?” We see a mother making a video call to her child in a public phone booth, and the voice-over assures us, “You will.”

Twenty years ago, the vision for video calling in the future was that it would be universal—and as simple and interoperable as telephones. Now we all have cameras built into our Macs, iPhones, and iPads, and maybe even our TVs. And it is indeed possible to buy a device called a videophone. Video communication is commonplace, but the problem is that there are dozens of competing systems, services, and protocols. Whichever one of these you choose on a given occasion may or may not work for the party on the other end. And if two people have several options to choose from, figuring out which works best can be an exercise in frustration.

Because I work at home and my colleagues and clients are scattered around the world, I regularly rely on video for meetings, presentations, demos, and other business get-togethers. So I have software installed, and accounts set up, for Facebook Video Calling, FaceTime, Google+ Hangouts, Messages, Skype, and a few other services—each on several different devices. And yet, I rarely have a truly satisfactory voice- or video-chat experience. Nearly every time someone wants to conduct a video call with me, we have to go through multiple rounds of negotiation and fiddling, and even then something often goes wrong.

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