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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Ten fabulous Finder commands you should be using

Sharon Zardetto , Macworld

Find several of long-time Mac author Sharon Zardetto's current ebooks at Take Control Books.
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Think the Finder’s menu commands are simple and straightforward? Think again. Add to your desktop repertoire by using hidden menu (and keyboard) commands. All you need to make them appear is the right magic key: Shift, Option, or Control.

1. Try wily ways to open folders and documents

The standard Open command changes to Open in New Window when you hold down the Control key, or to Open in New Window and Close with the Option key pressed.
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Secrets of the paperless office: optimizing OCR

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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Since I started using a document scanner about seven years ago, I’ve scanned many thousands of pages and used OCR (optical character recognition) software to convert those scans into searchable PDFs. I’ve also written extensively about the paperless office. But when you try to reduce the amount of paper you use, you inevitably increase the amount of hard-drive space you use. I began to wonder what combinations of scanner settings and software would get the best quality scan results while using the least hard-disk space.

What sparked my investigation was a claim that some OCR apps increase the file sizes of scanned images dramatically, whereas others (Acrobat Pro in particular) shrink them. When you plan to store and read scanned documents on an iOS device, compactness is especially important. Unfortunately, Adobe’s $499 Acrobat Pro XI () can no longer be driven externally by AppleScript, which means it requires tedious manual clicking to perform OCR. Were other OCR apps really inflating file sizes, and was there any way around this problem without resorting to Acrobat?

Hundreds of experiments later, I came up with some surprising results. Read on for all the details or skip to the “So, where’s the sweet spot?” section for the bottom line.

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The Mac office: Embracing the nearly paperless future

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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I have a nice document scanner. I have great OCR and document-management software. I have a solid system for converting paper into digital documents. I hardly ever print anything. I even wrote a book on the paperless office. And yet, somehow, I still have tons of papers in my home office, and despite my best efforts, more appear all the time. What’s happening?

The old joke goes, “The paperless office has about as much of a chance as the paperless bathroom.” For the moment, let’s ignore the fact that paperless bathrooms are apparently becoming a thing. Is the paperless office really that hopeless?

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Our top five Dropbox tricks

Macworld Staff Editors, Macworld

The Macworld staff occasionally work on articles together. You're reading one of those articles right now.
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If you asked Macworld editors to name the technologies they can't live without, you’d inevitably hear about Dropbox. This file-synchronization service lets you access your files from anywhere—not just your Mac, iPad, and iPhone, but also any Web browser. It provides easy cloud-based backup, too. But all that’s just the beginning. Here are five of our favorite ways to use it:

1. Share big files

Anyone who passes around photos, videos, or other big files has most certainly discovered the puny file-size limits of most email servers. Dropbox can help. First, make sure you’re running the very latest version of the app by downloading it from Dropbox’s website. Then, in the Finder, find a file in your Dropbox folder, and Control-click, right-click, or two-finger-click it. In the contextual menu that appears, select Share Dropbox Link. (In older versions of Dropbox, choose Dropbox > Share Dropbox Link.) Select this option to copy a shareable URL for the file in question to your clipboard, ready for pasting into an email message or a chat window. Recipients don’t even need a Dropbox account to use links. There’s no quicker way to share large files.—Lex Friedman

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