While OS X has brought us a lot of improvements — primarily stability, although I will admit that I’ve grown to like the Aqua interface — there are a bunch of things the Next crew should have borrowed from the traditional Mac OS when they were crafting our “modern” OS. At the top of my list has been Location Manager: by the time OS 9 rolled around, it was a piece of cake to change your network, printer, time, and related settings based on where you were working. Two years after OS X’s release, we’re still limited to changing only the network settings. (I know you can switch printers in the Print dialog box, but why should I have to do that?) For all the hype about the Year of the Notebook, that’s sad — I want more portability features.
On a more charitable day (not one when I actually worked in three separate locations), I would say that Apple had created an opportunity, not failed to follow through. The good news is that two developers, Alex Keresztes and Greg Novick, saw the opportunity and wrote a little application called Location X (
), which does most of what the old Location Manager did, and a bit more.
The problem is simple: you work in more than one place, you have different network settings and printers, and you even have to use alternative mail-server settings in order to send mail. Location X takes your network settings as a starting point and lets you change all that stuff and more, via a very clean interface. In addition to the application, which lets you create and edit your locations, the duo has included a menu that allows you to move easily between locations.
If you move back and forth between work and home and need to use different SMTP settings in order to e-mail, Location X can do that (for Apple’s Mail or Microsoft Entourage). It can also execute an AppleScript or a shell script when you select a location. And Location X’s architecture is open, so enterprising third parties can create plug-ins that take advantage of location switching. All in all, Location X is not a huge deal, which is probably why Apple didn’t include its features, but it certainly makes my life a lot easier as I travel, even between home and one of my offices.
Complete This Sentence
Typing stinks. I don’t know how many characters I type in the space of a month, but it’s way too many. For as long as I can remember, there have been utilities that expand abbreviations into words, phrases, and even whole documents. Microsoft Office v. X has a nice autocompletion tool, but it works only for the Office applications, and only for words and short phrases.
Riccardo Ettore’s TypeIt4Me (
) is a more powerful and systemwide autocomplete utility that has been around for a while on the classic Mac OS, and more recently on OS X — and my fingers haven’t been quite so happy in a long time.
TypeIt4Me is easy to use. It gets implemented as a keyboard type via the International preference pane’s Input menu, and you can either create abbreviations to be expanded directly from the main window, or copy text to the Clipboard and add it to TypeIt4Me’s list of abbreviations.
It’s not perfect; if you type pretty quickly, you’ll occasionally find yourself getting ahead of TypeIt4Me and will need to go back and fix part of an item. Also, it would be nice if it launched whenever you restarted your system — you need to start it from the Input menu each time, although Ettore says this is a limitation of OS X. But much of the typing I do is repetitive (count the number of times I mention the PowerBook G4 in a review of one to get an idea), and TypeIt4Me is extremely useful for keeping me on task.
Just Your Type
One of my first jobs was setting type, which led to a lifelong love of fonts. Over the past 15 years, I’ve built a fairly extensive collection of digital fonts that’s hard to corral when I want to find that special font for the project I’m working on. They’re not all installed, of course, but they’re all handy — and I’m nowhere near organized enough to have ordered specimen books of all my type.
For years I swore by Semplice Software’s Font Gander Pro. It was the ultimate type-reference utility: fast, customizable, and stable (loading 500 fonts into a type-reference tool takes up a bunch of memory, and Font Gander Pro did it phenomenally well). It made looking for the right font a breeze, either on screen or on paper. Unfortunately, Font Gander Pro isn’t available for OS X, and I’ve pretty much given up on using it in Classic mode. Luckily, there are options for font lovers who use OS X.
The best one I’ve found so far is Lemke Software’s $10 FontBook (
), which also comes free with Extensis’s Suitcase font-management utility. Primarily designed as a tool to print specimen pages of your fonts, it has many of the features I liked in Font Gander Pro — including the ability to open fonts that aren’t currently installed — and offers a wide range of good specimen pages for printing. It doesn’t perform well when you’re looking at hundreds of fonts, but most people don’t need to be as crazy as I am. The only downside for me is that I would also like the ability to design my own specimen pages, something Font Gander Pro excelled at.
Vizspring Software’s Typeset (
) is another good type utility, although at $25, it’s pricier than FontBook. Typeset is worthwhile if you want to look at type comparisons on screen, although it can print limited text samples as well. It has a nice slide-show mode for displaying customized text, and as with FontBook, you can load uninstalled fonts. Borrowing from the iTunes interface, Typeset lets you build favorite sets of fonts and search for fonts by name.
Addressing the Issue
If you use Now Software’s Now Up-to-Date & Contact, a full-featured mail application such as Entourage or Qualcomm’s Eudora, or Palm Desktop, Apple’s Address Book might not be your favorite — but it has been growing on me, and I’ve found that it’s easy to move contacts between applications and Address Book.
Where Address Book shines is in its cross-application connectivity. For instance, with a Bluetooth-connected phone, SMS messaging or call management is as easy to use as Apple’s iChat. And Apple has allowed developers to access names and addresses in Address Book for other things. Enter A Sharp and Ampersandbox, which have developed applications for printing envelopes and labels from the contents of your Address Book.
A Sharp’s Addressix (
) prints envelopes in any of 12 U.S. and international envelope sizes; you can also create custom ones. Addressix reads your contacts and groups from Address Book, although you can enter addresses directly or import a text file with addresses in it. The program is smart — it remembers the addresses you’ve printed, lets you add multiple return addresses, and will even use a picture file as your return address, which is helpful if you want to use your logo (it should be sized properly for printing, however). It also prints PostNET bar codes and will print groups of envelopes — the best way to do this is to create a custom group in Address Book, which shows up in Addressix’s pop-up address list. Overall, Addressix is a clean, well-lit program, one that does its simple task very well.
If you want to print labels in addition to envelopes, take a look at Ampersandbox’s Imprint (
). While I don’t think the interface is as smooth as Addressix’s, it is as — if not a little more — powerful. Like Addressix, Imprint can read all the names and groups from your Address Book file, include PostNET bar codes, change fonts easily, and print on standard and custom envelope sizes. It also includes templates for more than 100 label types, including most common Avery labels, and can print on labels for Dymo’s LabelWriter series of printers (800/426-7827, www.dymo.com).
As is the case with all the gems mentioned this month, you can download demo versions of both Addressix and Imprint and choose the one you like best — I think each program is a great example of how smart developers add value to the Mac OS.
to see an index of all of our Mac Gems reviews.