Some thoughts about making choices about the software and systems you use, they may have hidden positives or negatives.

Featured image, iPhone screenshot, edited in snapseed

A while back I bookmarked How to Revive The Levelator in El Capitan on TidBITS and followed the instructions to get this essential piece of podcasting software to work again after updating my mac to El Capitan.

This week TidBITS had the news: The Levelator 2.1.2 Works in El Capitan announcing a new version.

The Levelator is

a free app that ensures audio files use a consistent loudness, something that’s often hard to achieve with group podcasts and between episodes.

I find it very useful for Radio Edutalk episodes where we record over Skype.

This is a ‘mac’ post not really aimed at education except in so far as a lot of educationalists seem to be using Dropbox. Dropbox is of course a cloud storage & synchronisation application. Basically dropbox sets up a dropbox folder on your computer and syncs it with one online. You can set up dropbox on several computers and they are all kept in sync. This is extremely useful if you use different computers in different locations. I have my home mac, desktop at work, work laptop, iPhone and the iPad I am typing this part of the post on, all with the same files seamlessly synced. What makes drop box different is that on a computer it’s just another folder you do not need to do anything special to keep it in sync.

If you want to get a dropbox account & give me more storage on dropbox Get Dropbox.

I’ve been using drop box as a working directory for sometime now, as week as a way to view files on my phone and the iPad as well as being able to work on files at home and at work without worrying about taking them back and forward. Recently I’ve started using in a couple of slightly more sophisticated ways.

FastScripts

Dropbox Fastscripts

One of my favourite utilities is FastScripts, this is a menubar application that allows you quickly run AppleScripts (it also does shell and other scripts) these can be given keyboard shortcuts and are sorted into application specific lists.

Fox example I often use tiny url to shorten urls so have a script that takes the current URL from safari and puts a URL onto the clipboard. This script has a shortcut of Apple-ALT-control-U.

FastScripts list scripts stored in the Scripts folder in either the mac’s or user’s Library. Inside that folder it organises the different applications scripts inside an Application folder folders:

Fastscript libs

In this case you can see that the Applications folder is an alias. What I did was to move the applications folder to my dropbox folder, I then dragged it back, but with the command and alt keys held down. This left the folder in my dropbox but creates an alias in the Scripts folder, FastScripts sees the files in my dropbox. I can then create the alias in my other macs Scripts folder replaces the one already there. Now when I make a new script on any of the macs it is shared with the other ones and available through FastScripts.

TextMate, Droptext

I find that I use plain text files more and more, I write blogs posts, todo list, web pages and first drafts in TextMate. TextMate has some amazing features that are way above my head but I find it a must have application. Some of the files I use often I keep in a folder _notes in dropbox. Also in dropbox is a textMate project. A textMate project is just a easy way to see all of the files inside the _notes folder and its subfolder (power users can do a lot more with projects).

Textmate Project

What is great is I can access and edit these files from any of the computers I use and view them through the dropbox app on an iPhone or iPad. I can also use a 59p app droptext to edit these files on the iPad.

I have never really been one for productivity systems, I’ve always like 43 Folders but mainly as a distraction. However, I do like automating repetitive tasks and things that work automagically Dropbox, FastScripts & TextMate fit that bill.

As I mentioned earlier I recorded some of the presentations from TeachMeet07. I’ve turned these into a enhanced podcast. spent a bit more time in GarageBand and am beginning to understand a bit more about it and it’s relationship to the other iLife apps. As usually I made a silly mistake or two, the main one being I did not know the maximum length depended on the tempo of the Master Track. This lead me to having to change that after I had organised all the chapter marks and links, I then had to reposition these on the time line which took me most of the afternoon.

Anyway time well spent, as teachMeet07 has been one of the most exciting educational events I’ve attended for a long time. Have a listen and let me know if you agree.

Yesterday I was at the Apple Store Glasgow opening. Fun was had by a lot of smiling people. As I mentioned I was interviewed by Mark‘s ex -piecast team The MacCast. I would guess I’ll end up on the cutting-room floor as I mumbled and probably blushed, but the questions made me think a bit. They asked about my favourite apple applications, this got me started, my favourite applications are not apple ones. Of course I use the iLife tools and would not be without them, I’ve just started using pages and keynote and like them. But some of the ones I like most come from elsewhere. Here is a wee bit about 3 of them, why I like them and what they do. A sort of 3 favourite applications after I’ve skipped past iLife, iWork, email, browsing and Web 2.0 etc.

SC Icon

SuperCard is cousin of the old mac essential HyperCard a simple but powerful tool for building applications and scripting on a mac. SuperCard has a simple english type scripting language and can tap into the power of appleScript and unix shell calls. I use it everyday. In the past I have created fairly useful teacher and teaching tools but now I mostly use if for avoiding repetitious task. Eg. most of the gallerys on Sandaig Classes such as this one are run up with a SC project. I blog about Supercard at Bad Poet and have some resources for teachers and others on the site.

Comic Life is not an application that I use everyday, but it is a great tool for children and epitomises a type of good mac application. The way it fits in with the iLife suite, making creating comics a simple task, drag and drop. By tapping into core mac ‘stuff’ the graphics, gradients and shadows are beautiful. I believe there is a windows version in the works, I’ll be interested to see if it is as slick as the mac one.
 

TextMate is an amazing text editor for macs. I probably only use a tiny fraction of textmate’s facilities. Aimed mostly at programmers TextMate is still useful to folk like me who write a bit of html, css and occasional snippet of php, it has a ton of keyboard shortcuts to do all sorts of thing. for example if you are writing on a html document and select a bit of text and hit command-control-shift-L textmate looks up the selection on google and creates a link in your document. textMate is extensible via bundles, there are bundles for all sorts of things, different programming languages etc. I am blogging this with the blogging bundle, I can preview and post this to the blog without leaving textmate. I drag an image onto the Textmate document and it is uploaded to my blog and the html snippet inserted. you can define your own snippets, I type seb and hit tab and a link to ScotEduBlogs is created (like that). Drag a swf onto the document and the code for inserting the flash file is created. It would take months to explain everything textMate can do.

I’ve just realised there is another wee application that I am beginning to depend on almost everyday ImageWell which is wonderful for quickly doing what you want with images, annotating, dropping a shadow, resizing and uploading. I just used it to create and upload all of the images in this post, in no time: command-shift-4 in the finder to get a screenshot (hold the)

So those are my 3-4 left field must have applications I would be interested in yours?

Blogged from tm