Automator workflow of the month: Quick media manipulation

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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Much as we depend on text, a lot of us deal with images, audio files, and movies as part of our workaday world. And it’s not unusual that when working with such files you need to perform a minor tweak—rotate a picture, convert a music track to something that better harmonizes with iTunes and your iPod, or trim a movie that won’t fit through an email gateway. All these tasks are possible, but it’s a bother to launch an application, import the media, and do the deed for such seemingly minor tweaks. Thanks to Automator, you needn’t. All this and more can be performed in the Finder. Let’s see how.

Rapidly rotate an image

In the Windows OS, you can right-click on an image and choose a Rotate command. The Mac OS lacks such a feature, but you can produce something darned close with Automator.

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Fact or fiction: Eight Mac energy-saving techniques tested

James Galbraith , Macworld

James is the director of Macworld Lab.
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We’re all interested in saving energy. Maybe you conserve to be a better global citizen or to save money on your utility bills. Maybe you use your laptop on the go and want to squeeze every possible minute of battery life out of it. But what if the daily computing practices you follow to save energy end up wasting it instead? What if your assumptions about Mac power usage are wrong? To investigate this possibility, Macworld’s lab compiled a list of eight widely held opinions about energy conservation, grabbed our trusty power meters, and started logging power usage.

We used two systems: a 2011 21-inch iMac and a 2011 15-inch MacBook Pro. We connected them to a Watt’s Up Pro power meter equipped with a USB connection that allowed us to capture energy usage logs while we ran various tests. Here’s what we found out.

1. ‘Laptops use less energy than desktops.’

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Make Mail and Gmail play nice

David Chartier Contributor, Macworld Follow me on Google+

David has been covering Apple and how to get the most out of its products since 2005. Now a freelance tech writer, he runs Finer Things in Tech, jots down thoughts at, occasionally starts outlining the great American tech novel, and might still get to snowboard Breckenridge one more time.
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As of the Mountain Lion version, Apple’s Mail is better than ever at helping you manage your email. And Google’s Web-based Gmail is also pretty good—but how do you combine the two in just the right way so as to get the best of both?

The answer is simple—follow my guide below, wherein I describe my favorite way to balance a few features and compromises to make Mail and OS X work best with the Gmail Way.

Step 1: Enable IMAP

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How to take meeting notes that really work

Jeff Taekman, M.D. , Macworld

As a doctor, educator, and administrator, I attend a lot of meetings. That means taking lots of meeting notes and, after those meetings are over, making sure that all of the action items we’ve decided on get done. Over the years, I’ve tried many different ways to do so.

For ages, I regularly hauled my MacBook Pro along with me, and relied on a variety of apps to capture notes and to-dos. Next, I transitioned to taking handwritten notes with the Livescribe Echo smartpen; that pen translated my scrawl into computer-readable graphics. But—true to the physician stereotype—I have awful handwriting, and my notes were illegible. To make matters worse, that workflow offered me no good way to hand over my action items to OmniFocus, my task manager of choice.

Finally I hit upon an effective workflow: Using an iPad coupled with a Zagg Folio keyboard, I take notes that are immediately available on all my other devices in a format I can search quickly, and to-do items get into OmniFocus almost seamlessly. Here’s how it works.

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Control Time Machine from the command line

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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Backing up your data is the most important thing you can do with your computer—even more important than tweeting or posting on Facebook. If you don’t back up your Mac regularly, you may lose those photos that you want to share; you may find that your latest holiday videos are missing; and your music library may go poof!

Time Machine is a great tool for ensuring that your data is safe, and it’s pretty easy to set up and use. But for some users, the basic Time Machine interface isn’t enough. As with most of OS X’s functions, there is a command-line tool that lets you do many things with Time Machine. Here’s how you can use the tmutil command to control and tweak Time Machine from Apple's command-line tool, Terminal.

The basics

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Six ways to master the Mac App Store and the iTunes Store

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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Feel like shopping? Both the Mac App Store (Apple menu > App Store) and the iTunes Store (accessed through Apple’s iTunes) may appear to be applications, but they are actually websites. That means you don’t have to fumble through menus or wait for iTunes to launch in order to access the stores. It also means that you can use powerful Web-based tools—like Google search—to find apps, music, movies, and more. Here are six tips for using a Web browser to access the stores more quickly and efficiently.

1. Search from the Web

When you want to search the Mac App Store and iTunes Store apps, the limitations can be frustrating. For example, iTunes doesn’t let you search for record labels. If you’re looking for a song that’s been covered by 100 bands that makes it hard to find the version you want. Try Google to search instead.

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The seven best OS X tricks you're not using

Sharon Zardetto , Macworld

Find several of long-time Mac author Sharon Zardetto's current ebooks at Take Control Books.
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It’s a tough job, but somebody’s got to do it: find overlooked OS X tricks. Sometimes I hunt for them; sometimes I just run across them. Here’s a collection that I bet includes items you’ve missed, too.

1. Force Quit the current app

Press Shift-Apple menu and the generic Force Quit command changes to one that force quits the current app.
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