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Tech Tuesday: Jumbo Shrimp

As graphic designers, we have a staple of everyday applications: Photoshop, InDesign/Quark, Freehand/Illustrator, etc. Our operating system - the most used application - is what makes it all tick. As with most creative types, my choice of operating system is Mac OS X. While beautiful and stable, it’s not perfect. Fortunately, along with Apple’s operating system redirection three years ago, Mac OS X has inspired a host of talented and motivated developers to fill in the gaps.

In today’s Tech Tuesday installment, I’ll introduce eleven small utilities that can play a big role in any designer’s day.

A Better Finder Rename by publicspace.net Price: $19.95 System Requirements: Mac OS X 10.1 or later

“A Better Finder Rename is a powerful Macintosh Finder enhancement that transforms the tedious and time-consuming task of renaming multiple files into a simple matter of seconds.”

This utility has saved me hours. Transferring files from one operating system to another can cause headaches among filenames. Although it can accomplish a tremendous about of conversions, it’s very easy to use. Select a group of files from the Finder, right click, and select “A Better Finder Rename…” A window will open (see above) where you can modify the selected filenames in a variety of ways. In this instance, I made them all uppercase. If you find yourself going through the same renaming scheme frequently, you can create a “droplet,” and save it to the desktop. To apply that same renaming scheme to a group of files, you just drag and drop them onto that droplet and you’re done. Bonus: They make a version for Windows.

Cocktail by Kristofer Szymanski Price: $9.95 System Requirements: Mac OS X 10.2 or later

“Cocktail is a general purpose utility for Mac OS X 10.2 or later. The application serves up a scrumptious mix of maintenance tools and interface tweaks, all accessible via a comprehensive graphical interface and tool set. It is a smooth and powerful utility that simplifies the use of advanced UNIX functions.

All of Cocktail’s major features are arranged in five basic categories. In addition, a “Pilot” lets you optimize your system with one click of the button and schedule miscellaneous maintenance tasks.”

I haven’t used Cocktail much but from what I hear, it’s one of the top system utilities available for Mac OS X. For instance, you can repair permissions, clean out caches, force empty the trash (Panther has something similar in “Secure Empty Trash” under the Finder menu), lock or unlock files and folders, renew DHCP lease, optimize your system, and schedule maintenance tasks. It’s quite geeky, but for a low price, it let’s you do some advanced things usually reserved for Terminal.

DragThing by James Thomson Price: $29 System Requirements: Mac OS X 10.2 or later

“DragThing is the original dock designed to tidy up your Macintosh desktop.

The main purpose of DragThing is to make items on your Mac such as files, folders, applications, disks, URLs, and even windows, quickly and easily accessible, while taking up as little space on your screen as possible.

The main elements with which DragThing enables this speedy access are its docks. DragThing’s docks, unlike the Mac OS X system dock, are highly configurable and you can have multiple docks, customized to suit your specific circumstances.

DragThing also allows you to define a huge variety of hot keys. These hot keys can open items in docks, control various other aspects of DragThing and even control the visibility of and switching between other applications running on your Mac.

DragThing can also provide you with a Trash on your desktop, play sounds in response to actions like ejecting a CD, and a lot more.”

DragThing has been around for a while, I tried it once on OS 9. There are many people that are dissatisfied with Apple’s Dock and DragThing is their usually replacement. Instead of having one dock, this utility lets you have many. You can even have docks that launch frequently used folders, files, and web sites. You can have one dock for each application type such as “office” and “graphics”. It also has a process dock, which shows you what applications are running like OS 9 did. DragThing is insanely customizable, you could waste a lot of time configuring its functionality and aesthetics.

Little Snitch by Objective Development Price: $24.95 System Requirements: Mac OS X 10.2 or later

“You start an application that tells you that a new version is available. You suddenly realize that with every start this application connects to the developer’s server. Even statistics information about your computer may be sent this way. Little Snitch helps you avoid this situation.

Trojan horses - i.e. programs transmitting unconsciously data stored on your computer - can be detected by Little Snitch and prevented on the transmission of data. On a more general basis, network connections to certain servers can be denied.

Little Snitch runs in the background and hooks into the operating system kernel while you are logged in. When an application tries to establish a network connection, Little Snitch intercepts the attempt and brings up an alert panel, telling you all the connection details including the name of the application which initiated the connection. You can either allow the connection, deny it or add a permanent rule for similar future-connections.”

I wonder if I’ll get flak for mentioning this utility. Try it and you will be amazed at how many connections are being made to and from your machine. It’s nice to be safe — or at least not so exposed.

Quicksilver by BlackTree, Inc. Price: Free System Requirements: Mac OS X 10.3 or later

“Quicksilver is an evolving framework for accessing and manipulating many forms of personal data. Existing modules include a launcher, a clipboard recorder, and a shelf.

Nice online manual and great online forum. Hottest talked about utilities in a long time. It’s even replaced the dock for some people”

Quicksilver is one of the hottest talked about utilities lately and for good reason too. Among other things, you can launch applications without touching your mouse. To get started, just hold down Command and Space bar and a window (see above) appears in the middle of your desktop. Then type any information you want which Quicksilver will then show you what it thinks you want. For instance, holding down the / key shows you all the Hard Drives on or attached to your machine. You then navigate with the arrow keys. Instead of launching your browser and either typing in the URL or clicking on a saved bookmark, just type the first few letters of the web site. In the above screen shot, my choice was Speak Up. Upon hitting enter, the selected web site will launch in your default browser. As you can see it also shows me a second Speak Up site, the MT portal to post. It’s smart! Finally, instead of going to your email application, just type the name of the person you want to email. In the above screen shot, I chose Armin. Upon hitting enter, a new email message is ready to be composed in my default email application. There are a host of other slick things QuickSilver can do, I just mentioned a few. If you have any tips and tricks, please share them. Bonus: It’s free.

Remote Desktop Connection by Microsoft Price: Free System Requirements: Mac OS X 10.3 or later

“Remote Desktop Connection Client for Mac allows you to connect from your Macintosh computer to a Windows-based computer and work with programs and files on that computer.”

Unfortunately, I do keep at least one Windows machine running. Instead of spinning in my chair to face the PC or (heaven forbid) getting out of my chair and walk to the machine, I take the lazy route. This utility lets you control PC machines running Windows NT4/2000/Server 2003/XP Pro operating systems over your network or the internet. You can control the display size and colors which is great when using slow machines. It’s a very convenient utility and unlike Timbuktu (without as many features of course), it’s free.

Transmit by Panic Price: $24.95 System Requirements: Mac OS X 10.1 or later

“Take the most Mac OS X-like FTP client available, and make it about a zillion times faster. The result? The new Transmit 2.6, Panic’s powerful, flexible, and actually-almost-fun FTP client!

Transmit is our next-generation FTP client for Mac OS X. With its famously clean drag-and-drop interface, Transmit makes maintaining files and folders through the FTP protocol as easy as, well, the Mac!”

The best damn FTP application for OS X. Amazingly simple interface, stable, fast, and a cute icon to boot. Panic rules!

ClearDock by Unsanity Price: Free System Requirements: Mac OS X 10.2 or later

“ClearDock removes the semi-transparent white background from the Dock so the Dock icons are “floating” on top of your desktop picture. Additionally, it can change the colors of application triangles and of the Dock background to customize your desktop!”

This is a free utility that gets rid of the cloudy background in Apple’s dock. I’m a designer so I’m allowed to waste time eliminating stupid things like cloudy backgrounds.

WindowShade X by Unsanity Price: $10 System Requirements: Mac OS X 10.2 or later

“WindowShade X provides an exciting and useful way of organizing your work on Mac OS X. With this handy tool, you can redefine the way window minimization works by assigning customizable behaviors to the action, including popular WindowShade, Minimize-In-Place, slick Make Transparent and more!”

From the same company that makes ClearDock, I’ve use WindowShade since Mac OS X was released. It brings back the same feature from OS 9. It’s probably the only thing from OS 9 I missed.

URL Manager Pro by Alco Blom Price: $25 System Requirements: Mac OS X 10.2 or later

“How many bookmarks do you have by now? With the ongoing exponential growth of the Internet, many people are finding that the built-in bookmark capabilities of today’s browsers are just not good at handling the number of URLs that most people want to maintain. URL Manager Pro solves many of the problems of keeping track of your bookmarks. URL Manager Pro offers you an array of powerful features for collecting, manipulating, and using very large collections of URLs. Not just URLs of Web pages, but also the URLs of email addresses, newservers, FTP sites, Telnet hosts, and more.”

I have thousands. I don’t look at them, but I do save them. URL Manager Pro helps organize them. This utility puts a small icon in the menu bar. When you are at a website you want to bookmark, click on the icon, and then select a folder to add it to. You can also dump in the “Drop Basket,” a catch all for web sites you want to quickly bookmark but visit later. It has some nice features like automatic save and the ability to create backups. URL Manager Pro is indespensible for heavy web surfers or web developers. It’s the best utility for organizing URLs that I’ve found.

WeatherPop Advance by Glucose Development Corporation Price: $8 System Requirements: Mac OS X 10.2 or later

“Are you bleary eyed from staring into bright white phosphor all day? Download WeatherPop Advance for Mac OS X only and you can be in touch with what it’s like outside right now. Let the current conditions and temperature in your menu bar serve as a gentle reminder to get outside, go for a walk, and stop working so hard.”

Sitting in a windowless office under fluorescent lights being surrounded by multiple computers… Well, it’s not the ideal environment. WeatherPop Advance comes in handy when daydreaming about being outside. It shows you the current weather (by icon) and the temperature of your favorite city. You can add other cities including international ones. It’s my little sunshine (or rain) throughout the day. Bonus: A freeware version is available but it only supports cities in the US, covered by the National Weather Service.

After spending $130 on Mac OS X you may not want to fork over another $151+ on further enhancements. But if you spend as much time in front of the computer as I do, these little shrimps provide huge benefits.

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ARCHIVE ID 1963 FILED UNDER Hardware/Software
PUBLISHED ON May.25.2004 BY Kiran Max Weber
WITH COMMENTS
Comments
JLee’s comment is:

I'm really diggin' the Tech Tuesday series Kiran! Thanks for taking the time to put these comprehensive posts together.

On May.25.2004 at 05:46 PM
James ’s comment is:

Thanks for the info Kiran! It's great to find out what appications are out there that make working a little easier.

I'd just like to add Launchbar 4 from Object Development to your list. It's very similar to Quicksilver (it even opens with the same keystroke), except it learns from your previous searches, it's much faster, it allows you to perform searches on any number of search engines (as well as sites like eBay) without opening a browser, and it has a tidy little interface. It's the most useful utility I've ever used, if only for saving me the trouble of click-click-clicking through the finder (or scanning through my overstuffed Dock) when I want to launch applications or open documents. It's been a huge timesaver. I highly recommend it.

On May.25.2004 at 05:54 PM
Armin’s comment is:

Yeah… and thanks for giving out my e-mail in the Quicksilver thing… as if I didn't get enough spam already.

(Just kidding)

Bryony is going to love that renaming thingie.

And I agree that Transmit is very nifty. I do prefer the dumbed-down simplicity of Fetch 4.x but appreciate the extra features of Transmit.

On May.25.2004 at 06:08 PM
KM’s comment is:

Yes, Quicksilver is a must. I am very well organized, if I may say so myself. But this little app eliminates digging through folders.

I would also like to recommend Himmelbar to keep your dock nice and neat if you have a plethora of applications.

AND Menu Calendar. It plays nice with iCal and displays appointments all the handy little pulldown.

On May.25.2004 at 06:33 PM
marian’s comment is:

One that I can't live without is Default Folder X. When I switched to the Mac from the PC one of the things that drove me nuts was the inability to manage my files from within the file saving browser within any program (like, on the PC you can go to save or open a file from any program, and rename, delete or move files around while you're at it). Default Folder X allows that to a certain extent, but what I love more than anything is that it remembers where you were last in almost any program -- so you save a file in Illustrator, go to Photoshop to open a file and it will start you off in the folder where you just saved from Illustrator. Among other things.

On May.25.2004 at 07:17 PM
brook’s comment is:

i couldn't live without that weatherpop program. i think i just might have to buy the advanced version.

On May.25.2004 at 08:40 PM
kyle’s comment is:

Kiran, I'm finding the tech Tuesday installments very useful and informative...thanks for packing in so much great information!

I'll add another one to the list.. Watson

Similar to OS Xs Sherlock, but with a many more useful features; weather, package tracking, white + yellow pages, eBay, Amazon, recipes, translation, etc. It does a little bit of everything all in one place.

On May.25.2004 at 09:09 PM
Andrew Breitenberg’s comment is:

Thank you thank you!

Now that I can see through my Dock, does anyone know where I can find an app to make the menu bar transparent?

And yes - Transmit is the bees knees.

On May.25.2004 at 10:49 PM
Brady’s comment is:

KM - Hats off! I don't know how you do it!

With the advent of OSX (Panther especially) my applications folder list has tripled in length - for the simple fact that all the apps you mention are some of the most useful doo-dads out there for OSX.

There are alot of RENAMERS out there. Can't Say which is the best.

Cocktail is cool but it can be intimidating. Documentation does not fully explain all that you can do. (cron scripts? prebind system?)

Snitch is great. Use it to keep out spy ware. Way different than a simple firewall log.

Being originally from the beach, Sure I use weather.com when I need weather overload but WeatherPop is my fix for the weather jones.

Transmit is sweet.

But you need to check out FTPeel from Freshly Squeezed Software. Magic mirror, oh magic mirror! And... columnar view - something that is painfully missing from Transmit.

Also, check out this new little wonder - HyperEdit. It's not DreamWeaver, but wow!

On May.25.2004 at 11:21 PM
Sean’s comment is:

These are all great! I'm addicted to Quicksilver myself, too.

The big one for me, though, is Cocoatech's Path Finder - it's kind of like a super-powered Finder replacement, but with tons of built-in applications like a Terminal window, text editor, and others. I've been using it for ages and it's just amazing.

Butler is also another launcher like Quicksilver, but with even more features. It's a bit more work to set up the way you like it, but it's worth checking out in my opinion.

On May.25.2004 at 11:48 PM
pk’s comment is:

i'm surprised nobody's mentioned fruitmenu yet (another outstanding unsanity haxie). at its most basic level it's a replacement for the apple menu with pretty much any degree of navigation through your machine or network necessary. it also includes customizable contextual menus (which i use a lot, helpfup for immediately filing items after their creation or use).

a license is $10 and worth it. their support is unparalleled.

as well, unsanity makes a fantastic little utility called menu master. it allows you to easily, intuitively, and quickly make custom keyboard shortcuts for any item in any application. this is really the one i can't live without, especially with the knuckleheads at apple changing Things Which Have Always Been (such as command-m for "check mail" and command-e for "view source") in many different applications.

a license is $10. you totally need this.

On May.26.2004 at 01:45 AM
Peter Markatos’s comment is:

Transmit rules as do these tech tuesdays.

Surprised you didn't mention any of the Konfabulator widgets. Those are pretty damn cool. I have a neat little weather one and have used a task list widget as well. Coolest thing is that you could make your own if you wanted.

On May.26.2004 at 03:14 AM
justin m’s comment is:

OSX section at freshmeat.net

Lots and lots of toys to keep you busy. Makes me wish I had a Mac or at my Slackware back to play with.

On May.26.2004 at 07:20 AM
bryony’s comment is:

Bryony is going to love that renaming thingy.

for sure! that renaming thingy shall be mine!

Kiran,

I just want to say what other have already mentioned, THANKS! this is way cool.

If only I had (as much) time (as you seem to have) to really look at each application, although when thinking about it, my wallet may be thankful.

On May.26.2004 at 12:11 PM
Ben Rosenthal’s comment is:

Last I checked (and paid), WeatherPop Advance cost $8. What leads you to $25?

On May.26.2004 at 03:37 PM
tim’s comment is:

Toss in my vote for Transmit. Saved gobs of time and bucks, on a recent project, moving 600 meg files between here and Chicago.

I'm also checking into Cocktail - sounds like something I've been looking for.

Thanks for the data, Kiran!

On May.26.2004 at 03:38 PM
Seamus’s comment is:

Can't resist adding my two latest favorites, since I've already purchased most of the apps on your list. Butler is crazy awesome and I love Stattoo (also from panic). Stattoo is a great way of putting some of the "menuling" functionality on the desktop. I had like 15 icons in the menu bar and it was becoming unweildy.

On May.26.2004 at 03:38 PM
Bonnie Berry’s comment is:

Thanks everyone for sharing and thanks Kiran. It's nice to know I am not alone in my hyper-organizational state. I look forward to Tech Tuesday.

On May.26.2004 at 04:53 PM
Scrunter’s comment is:

Gotta recommend MenuMaster, I use all of its meters and find them invaluable, especially the CPU meter and network activity meter. See at a glance if some app is chewing up more CPU than it should be!

Also would go for Launchbar over Quicksilver. On a 667mhz g4 Quicksilver is too slow. Bezel mode does look pretty slick though :-) And Launchbar was the pioneer which everyone else copied - ditto for Konfabulator and Stattoo (the latter being the copy).

On May.26.2004 at 04:55 PM
Joe Block’s comment is:

Look into Butler also - it does a lot of cool stuff - multiple clipboards, iTunes control, application/script launching, make your own menubar menus which trigger various Butler activities, etc etc. You can use it to assign keystrokes to actions as well.

Anyway, check it out - www.petermaurer.de

And did I mention it's freeware?

On May.26.2004 at 07:27 PM
Joshua Schnable’s comment is:

For those of you who work with PC clients, Josh Jacob's TNEF's Enough is great for decoding those "winmail.dat" files.

On May.26.2004 at 07:30 PM
Justin’s comment is:

Actually I think It's menumeters, not menumasters.

Another good one I use every now and then is Pic2Icon. It makes making your own Mac OS X Icons dead easy.

http://www.sugarcubesoftware.com/sw/index.php?pic2icon

On May.27.2004 at 01:02 AM
Mark Thalman’s comment is:

WeatherPop Advance is only $8, not $25 as the article states.

On May.27.2004 at 06:26 AM
Ilgaz’s comment is:

weatherpop is 8 dollars, not 25 dollars. I know since I am a registered user.

On May.27.2004 at 12:47 PM
nick/quiksan’s comment is:

I recently did a similar posting of apps/utilities. I've got a few that weren't covered here, and think you might enjoy as well. check the post at:

My List

love the list though - I'm a glutton for new fun/useful apps. i have to constantly pare it down to the ones I use most. I really need an extra computer to just test all the little goodies out on! Thanks again for the awesome list!!!

On May.27.2004 at 02:56 PM
Lou’s comment is:

Wyandanch, Deer Park, Brentwood, Central Islip, Ronkonkoma last stop!

On May.27.2004 at 03:44 PM
Altman’s comment is:

All of my life, I have been in the moniority. Good friends tell me I just don't think the same as most people. I don't strive for that, but it must help me in my work. (Perhaps I am a bit like Mr. Keedy in the way that, people just don't "get" me.) Once again, on the topic of OS X, I am in the minority it seems.

I am truly amazed to read that ANY designers are efficiently using and liking OS X. I have tried to make the jump on several occasions, but I find the interface too cumbersome and bug riddled to use in a production environment. OS X bombs more than OS 9 ever did. It has taken three years for anyone to come up with a decent font management tool that still can't match the simplicity and functionality of ATM Deluxe. Moreover, the fact that I have to buy a dozen add-ons to make OS X's functionality as robust as OS 9 is just ludicrous. The add-ons cost more than the operating system itself.

In regards to their support of OS X, I find it difficult to think of the design community as something more than sheep. Apple is a marketing machine hell bent on making big profits. I submit that the very corporate characterisitics that make the Mac community loathe Microsoft are what attracts the same people to the Mac community.

OS X holds the creative community's attention because of the promise of a better operating system. They have yet to deliver it, and honestly, why would they? If they came up with an OS X that worked right and had full OS 9 functionality, no one would want the next one. OS X was created to bring Apple to the next level, the level of the Microsoft marketing machine, where an operating system is an ever-evolving piece of software that never works right, but always has the promise of doing so. It drives sales. It apparently drives discussion threads like this one. How much money need you spend before the creative community wakes up and realizes that OS X would work better if it had lead on the front end and an eraser on the back end?

With love, Altman.

On May.28.2004 at 11:54 AM
Todd’s comment is:

I should really pay more attention to these articles. Tech Tuesday is fantastic stuff!

On Jun.04.2004 at 07:28 AM