Author: P.H.

Spectacle: Mac’s Window Management

For those who don’t have a Microsoft machine but want the ability to snap windows to either side (or corner!) of their screen: Spectacle is here.

Spectacle is am open source window management app that moves and resizes windows with ease. Upon installation, it requires enabling accessibility, but after that, it just works.

spectacle-hotkeys

Unlike with Windows, you can’t merely drag and snap windows to various regions; Spectacle runs via hotkeys. You can change any of these key combinations by going into preferences and setting each to your liking. There is even a guide at the bottom of the window to help decipher each shortcut symbol in case of confusion. And if you happen to mess up, there’s always the option to reset.

spectacle-prefs-1

Clicking the arrow beside the symbols at the bottom also allows you options to launch at startup, and run either in the menu or as a background application.

spectacle-prefs-2

In the main Spectacle menu, you can also disable it for the current window, such as your browser or word processor.

disable-for-beandisable-for-safari

For a free and open source application, Spectacle is both robust and light on system resources. It can’t do fancy effects or overlays, but there is power in simplicity and Spectacle pulls it off.

Get the app here.

Windows alternative: AquaSnap.

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ItsyCal: The Cutest Calendar App

With a minimalist yet endearingly friendly icon, ItsyCal is a simple, no-frills calendar application for your Mac menu bar.

It does what it says on the tin, too. Taking up practically zero space, it launches quietly but reliably. Upon clicking the menu bar icon, you’re presented with a view of the current month and day highlighted.

itsycal-calendar

Along the bottom are four buttons (from left to right): schedule new event, pin to desktop, open iCal/Calendar, and the options cog. From the options, you can easily show week numbers (with a “W” hotkey), highlight weekends, and set the first day of the week.

Nestled also within the options are Itsy’s preferences. Here you can configure ItsyCal to show the month or day (or neither), launch at login, sync with your pre-existing iCal/Calendar lists and show event lists up to 7 days.

And even if you don’t use all the bells and whistles, it can still serve as a convenient at-a-glance date checker. What’s not to love?

ItsyCal is only available for Mac.

The Return of Teching Over

I took a short detour to an entirely different country for a few years. It was definitely an enriching and eye-opening experience I’m glad I got the chance to take.

Now that I’m back home, I want to give TO another chance.

Expect new content at least twice a month as I get back in the swing of reviewing awesome freeware apps.

Cheers,

Admin

Filedrop: Easily Transfer Files Between Machines

As the name suggests, Filedrop is a simple program that allows you to drag and drop files from one computer to another.

Obviously, you will have to download Filedrop and install it onto the machines you’d like to use. Once both computers (or devices) are running the program and recognize each other via wifi, you can begin sending files between one and the other interchangeably. Filedrop’s unobtrusive window features the desktop backgrounds of the computers in use, adding a nice touch to the program.

The only limitation within the application is that file transfers larger than 4-5GB between computers is not yet supported. Various attempts at sending large ZIP or RAR folders rendered only portions of the files up to 1-2GB. Smaller files, of course, send quickly and fully, with little issue. Another perk is the ability to also transfer clipboard contents between computers and devices.

While the app only works via wifi for now, the Filedrop team is actively working to support Bluetooth, along with some other features such as showing PowerPoint and Keynote presentations, and Word and Excel documents.

Though Filedrop is free for Mac and Windows, its mobile (iPhone/iPad) counterpart sells for $0.99 on the Mac App Store. An Android version is still in development.

Download Filedrop from the official site, here.
Alternative program: Share Mouse.

Foxmail, An Email Client for Your Desktop

Foxmail is a desktop email client for both Windows and Mac operating systems, provided by the popular Chinese company Tencent (creators of QQ IM service along with other internet based products).

Foxmail has all the basics you need in an email client, along with added extras such as a calendar view and optional threaded conversations layout. Installation on the Mac is as simple and painless as ever, and setting up various accounts takes only a few minutes. The Windows version, however, is only in Chinese. This is clearly a detriment if you don’t speak or read Chinese, and I was surprised to see that instead of an English varient, as advertised on their website.

Despite the rather obvious language barrier, what I did glean from the short time I had Foxmail open was that it houses a number of features that eclipses its OS X counterpart (Foxmail 7.1 on Windows, and 1.2 on OS X). On top of the aforementioned calendar, there is a contacts area and (what I assume is) support for better encrypted email. Of course, I can’t say for certain so I could very well stand corrected.

The Mac version, as mentioned previously, has some of the above though less to offer. Within the settings, you can easily edit your email signatures and multiple accounts. You can even set photos for each one. One seemingly random but cool feature is the ability to take a screenshot — either of parts of your desktop or the client window — and lightly edit it. ‘Seemingly random’ being the key words, as upon further inspection of Foxmail’s homepage, there is also the option to download their free screen capture tool, Snip, available for OS X10.6.8 and higher.

Included in Foxmail’s capture tool are a circle, rectangle, arrow, freehand, and text tool with 6 color options. You can resize the edits you’ve made and move them around the screen freely, making it easy and fun to use. Though bafflingly enough, I could not find where the screenshot saved at all. Chances are that in order to access them, you may have to download their full screen capture program, mentioned above.

The biggest issue I take with Foxmail is the false advertising when it comes to the Windows version. While the site has a screenshot of the program in plain English, the download is in Chinese. This is extremely off-putting, and if there does exist an English-language download, it should be labeled clearly on the website. Across the board, a lack of unified inbox isn’t the worst in the world, but it is worth noting. There are, of course, hotkeys to switch smoothly from account to account.

Overlooking the cons, Foxmail as a desktop email client is capable and clean, leaving no room for pretention. The layout is intuitive, the program itself a dream, and it gets the job done well.

Foxmail is available for Windows and Mac OS X 10.7+.

A Browser Called ‘Browser’

Browser (not to be confused with Web, a Linux web browser formerly known as Epiphany) is a web browser on OS X that aims to be a collator of articles and other reading material around the internet. Browser is not used for web surfing, but merely browsing, as the name suggests.

Upon installing and starting up Browser, you’ll be greeted with a long and somewhat scary pop-up window that basically states: Browser is a pet project by the developer and used first and foremost for finding content, not for the standard uses of a normal web browser; it also poses a potential security risk, as data is stored on third-party servers, unless you have Dropbox enabled to back up your passwords and other Browser data.

After agreeing to the initial terms, there will be another pop-up asking if anyone under the age of 18 will be using Browser. “Yes” is highlighted as the default, and clicking this will keep “Private Mode” the same as with other browsers, with a little private-eye investigator in the top right-hand corner. If you’d like a good chuckle, choose “No” at this point, and you’ll be presented with “Porn Mode” and a rather risque icon.

Browser allows Pocket integration, “quickmarks”, bookmarks, repository links to be set up, and offers tagging and commentary to both for better sorting. “Quickmarks” are simply bookmarks with hotkeys set; one of the defaults includes Wikipedia, but of course they can all be changed within Preferences. While bookmarks are quite obvious, repository is Browser’s version of Safari’s reading list, where you can place websites and pages into it for later perusal. Adding bookmarks or repository links via the “Tab Inspector” button is nigh impossible, no matter how many times I tried. You can add them through the preset hotkeys, or manually going into the settings menu.

As with any beta piece of software, Browser has plenty to hammer out. Along with the aforementioned borked “Tab Inspector” button, Browser also has a tendency to freeze and crash at random intervals. At worse, Browser would not launch at all. When testing multiple tabs using Lifehacker as a guinea pig, Browser would not let me click links in one tab, but would let me click them in another.

The most baffling of bugs has to be the fullscreen function, which does not work–not fully, at least. When clicking on the fullscreen arrows at the upper right corner of Browser, the window moves onto the familiar grey backdrop without resizing at all. You can, however, bring it back to the current workspace through the normal method of hovering over the top of the screen to reveal the menu bar and clicking on the blue fullscreen button again.

For a daily driver, Browser is not recommended, not even by the developer. It is entirely too buggy, too unstable, and for the paranoid, too unsafe for anyone to call it their main web browser (for now). However, that’s not to say it doesn’t have its use in other affairs, such as managing web pages for later reading — as it’s meant to do — or if you need to quickly check a site without waiting for your main browser to load up. Maybe in the future, Browser will have worked through all its bumps and bruises, and be worth a look again.

Browser is available for Mac OS X 10.7 (Lion) and above.

You’ve Got Mail: Taking a Look at Opera Mail

Once a part of Opera’s web browser, with the switch over from their self-created Presto engine to Chrome’s Blink, Opera and its mail suite are now  their own entities. If you’re familiar with Mozilla Thunderbird — arguably the most popular desktop email application across Windows, OS X, and Linux — then you’ll feel right at home with Opera’s now-separate mail client, fittingly named Opera Mail.

Unlike Thunderbird, however, Opera Mail has a sleek and modern design that leaves room for plenty of customization. Elements on the sidebar can be adjusted, hidden, or added, and the mail view itself can be expanded or contracted at will, with options for two or three panes. When new messages arrive, a pop up informs you without lingering too long on the desktop, and for OS X, there is a small number badge in the corner of the dock icon, much like the built-in Mail.app.

Setting up your email is easy, too. Again, if you have any familiarity with Mozilla’s Thunderbird client, then you’ll see the similarity between the two where this is concerned. With only three steps (name and email, password, and choosing between IMAP and POP3), your accounts will be up and running within moments. The entire program is light on resources, as well, no matter how many email accounts you add.

As with many good programs, there are a few drawbacks. One is forgotten passwords for certain email accounts. This occurs every one or two weeks, and while that isn’t too horrible, it does become a nuisance especially if you have more than one email to track. I’ve noticed this occurs more on Windows than it does on OS X.

Another con is unsent emails, as I’ve recently discovered a few days ago when trying to send myself a message with some important documents attached. The email sat in the outbox for hours, while the bar at the bottom read “sending messages”. Annoyed, I cancelled everything and removed it from the outbox. After the fact I realized that it was hindered by the rather large attachments (as one was a zip file weighing in at a hefty 53MB). Other messages with much smaller attachments, or none at all, sent swiftly and quietly.

The last, and perhaps most pervasive, is the automatic signature that Opera Mail tacks on to any message you write from the client. It took me a short time to find and change this. It can be removed or replaced by going to “Compose”, clicking on the grey settings cog, then to “Signatures” and deleting the predefined text. This can be applied to all email accounts with a simple check box within those settings, as well.

It’s still evident that Opera is working to get its mail client back on track. Despite the hiccups along the way, Opera Mail proves to be a solid and functional desktop email application. With good looks and a solid base, it’s secured its permanent spot as my email aggregator of choice.

You can download Opera Mail from their official website here.