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Yojimbo widescreen view hack

Having tried just about every notebook, organiser and outliner app over the last 3 years, I’ve become an eager convert to Yojimbo. Here’s a little hack that makes the main window use a 3 vertical pane view, like the letterbox plugin does for Apple Mail.

Yojimbo window showing widescreen vertical hack

There is a wee bug to be aware of. when you resize it too small, the list pane jumps right and covers up the preview. Clicking the splitter bar (the bit inbetween the 2 panes with an indented dot) brings it back though.

Download

Yojimbo.zip

Installation

This hack is for Yojimbo v1.4. Please make sure you update before installing this hack.

Backup Yojimbo first. Nothing bad should happen, but belts-and-braces, you know? Also, if you get sick of this view and want the old one back, just replace it with the backup.

To install, ctrl-click on Yojimbo in the Finder, choose ‘Show Package Contents’ from the context menu. Navigate to /Contents/Resources/English.lproj/ and replace the OGMainWindow.nib file with the one in the download.

I want to hear from Parallels users

Rick Wakeman

Is anyone out there using Parallels on either a MacBook or MacBook Pro? Hard disk and RAM needs aside, do you find that it works as a testing environment for Windows and Linux? I’ve been burnt by previous experiences with sluggard Virtual PC, so for the last 3 years I’ve been using a PC Laptop. It was this dual-computer usage that led Leigh to call me “Web Design’s Rick Wakeman”.

However, the sheer convenience and electrical economy of one-machine-to-do-everything sounds too good to be true. Is it? Please leave me your thoughts and experiences! Thanks!

Update Thanks follks, the message came through loud and clear. An MacBook Pro is now on its way! :D

Happy old man

To balance the curmudgeonly talk of the last two posts, here are a few things I’m really happy about:

Kilts! I wore a kilt for the first time last weekend, and I am smitten. For a start if you have a rather more portly frame (such as myself) its quite forgiving. Also, while it was a freezing weekend, I can confirm that underneath all that tartan, there is a zone of warmth. AND, you get to put a dagger (Skean Dubh, sorry) in your sock. AND you get some where to put your camera at last (in the Sporran of course).

I did the whole traditional regalia, except for keeping my pants on. There are no photos sadly.

AppZapper – Yes, to uninstall an app in OS X you can just drag it to the bin, but there are still other files associated with it – preferences, Application Support files and caches. Looking through my Library folder its littered with the remnants of apps that I’ve tried out and dumped, and this mess annoys me. One technique is to do a search using the app name, but this can still miss some files. Now I just drag the app to AppZapper and ‘ZZZZap!’ The action of zapping is childishly pleasing one! For someone like me who is always trying out new stuff, this is a boon.

Salling Clicker – Although I’ve had this for a while, its only now with the Mac Mini as (primarily) a jukebox, that this has really seen some use. Beauty!

Segpub – I don’t get paid to pimp Segpub, or receive any referral fees, but I do get excellent service, uptime and support. Thanks for everything you do Jeremy, thou truly are a Creative Bastard.

Ideal OS X Text Editor?

That last post got me thinking. My ideal text editor for OS X is out there, but all the elements I want are in different apps! If I could somehow melt these bits together (like melting 4 chunky kit-kats together and pretending they’re the old style kit-kats), these are the ingredients I would use.

  • SubEthaEdit’s collaboration ability, split-view, web preview (just prefer it to Textmate’s), code navigation and general cocoa feel. Textmate allows you to navigate the code, but its a separate window. skEdit puts its navigation menu in the toolbar (where it should be), but SubEthaEdit’s implementation includes icons that find easier to scan.
  • skEdit’s code hinting, colour blender and project management. Its code hinting makes writing CSS and HTML so quick and painless, and its the only one that allows you to create a list of projects to open. In Textmate, I’ve got around this by keeping a folder of aliases to ‘.tmproj’ files in my dock for quick and easy project opening.
  • Textmate’s project drawer, code-folding, bundle editor and CSS & HTML validator. skEdit has snippets, but Textmate takes this much further with its bundle editor. Unfortunately, Textmate doesn’t use a standard cocoa textfield, so services items such as lipServiceX’s Generate Lorem Ipsum aren’t accessible.

With the exception of a built-in Textile filter (which can be added in Textmate, as Drew shows), this would do me nicely thankyou!

Please, don’t start talking Vim or Emacs to me. It always happens when I mention text editors, and It’ll just fall on deaf ears. Hopefully from reading the list above, you’ll get the impression that I’m just not a vim kind of guy! ;o)

10 Mac Apps

Om Malik has started a meme, and as much as I try to fight it, I can’t resist butting into this one. The premise is:

ask Mac Lovers – their ten most favorite apps. Forget, the Microsoft Office, or any of the applications that are bundled with an Apple. Instead, focus on small freeware and shareware applications that have helped you get the most out of your Mac.

So Safari, iPhoto and Fireworks MX are out I guess! No problem, as I have a habit of buying a lot of shareware mac apps, even though (in some cases) I end up not using them after a few months. I hide the embarrassment of my spending by telling myself how good it is to support developers (which of course it is). Also, when it comes down to it, most apps (by the time the exchange rate has done its work) are the cost of a UK magazine. Bingo!

So with no more ado, these are my favourites:

Voodoo Pad – The desktop Wiki. How I love this app – I think of it as my brain dump. Anything I need to write down or remember goes in here. I can’t really express my love for this app, and version 2.0 has bought various features that have solidified it in my affection, especially categories. I’ve tried a lot of notebook style apps, but this one hits the spot for me. Thankyou Gus.

Skype – Not Mac only of course, but I use this such a lot. After overcoming the foolish feeling from wearing a headset (“Hicksdesign, how may I help you today?”), I find this a much more convenient way of talking. I can speak to clients in the U.S for free, and with an infinitely superior sound quality to my land line (most of the time).

Flickr Export” – If it wasn’t for this, I would never have started using Flickr, it’s as simple as that. I love it when I don’t have to open a separate app to do another job, and iPhoto (not eligible for this list) is a app of desire for me. Thankyou Fraser.

ChronosyncEthan tipped me on this one. It syncs everything I want it to – iTunes, iPhoto, NewsFire. Every day I connect my Powerbook to my G5 by firewire, and my home folders are kept up to date. I also use it to schedule backups. After a careful initial set up, its job done.

Transmit – Its kind of an obvious one these days, I rarely see other FTP apps talked about (with maybe the exception of Fugu).

Newsfire – my news reader of choice. Its made reading my feeds speedy and pleasurable, and the new 1.2 betas bring in features I’d missing – subscribing via services menu or dragging links to the dock icon. After it first came out, you saw a lot of news readers trying to copy the minimal, but slick style, but none have grasped it. Hey, it can even perform incredible feats of shopping!

Cocoalicious – An exception to my rule of ‘not liking to open a separate app’ rule. Whether its browsing delicious links, or adding them, its all done in cocoalicious.

Omniweb – I’ve wittered on about how much I like Omniweb too many times before, so I won’t repeat myself!

Camino – If I’m not in Omniweb, or I need to test something in Gecko (without going to Firefox), its Camino. Fast.

skEdit – I still try other text editors (and have licenses for BBEdit, Textmate and SubEthaEdit), and while Textmate is coming close, its not quite close enough to replace this. That code hinting, easy to configure snippets, site management and image preview has me hooked. It makes writing CSS and HTML painless.

There were a few that didn’t quite make the list here – Quicksilver and xScope for example. They only lost out because these I use these more.

A list of typography things

  • I love shopping for type, and have just started a de.licio.us tag for typeIwanttobuy, a kind of Amazon wishlist. As you can see – they’re mostly from Veer. The experience of browsing, previewing and puchasing type from Veer is the best I’ve found anywhere, its a joy to use. The fact that you can preview your own text, and download a gif image (with no watermarks) is so much more usable than the normal flash-based font preview utilities.
  • There are many ‘font finder’ type utilities on the interweb, but one I’ve recently discovered – Fontshop’s Type Navigator – is definitely worth a try.
  • I recently gave the new improved-for-Tiger Apple Font Book at spin, and went through hell. I love the simple, ordered interface of the app, but it really caused suffering with my font menus. Typefaces that should’ve been disabled were showing up, and it was as slow as molasses. I went back to Suitcase X1, and all was well with the world once more – especially in my Adobe apps with fonts being auto-activated.
  • The day I organised my fonts by foundry and added each foundry folder to Suitcase was time well spent. I don’t get out much.
  • Welcome to the new type foundry Village, with the beautiful face Omnes by Joshua Darden, creator of the popular Freight Family. Expect to see this adorning freshly designed sites soon.

Using things for other things

Use your IMAP email account as a way of storing notes to view between machines. In the ‘To’ field, write a category (such as ‘To do’) and the note name in the subject, and save as a draft.

Set up a web scrapbook album in iPhoto. See an icon or logo you like? Stick it in there. Like a site design/colour scheme? Take a screenshot and bung that in there too. It may not be there next time you look. (A wee mention for Chronosync which can sync your iPhoto libraries, as well as everything else on your Mac).

Use the superb Sidenote to store a collection of form widgets/logos for use on side design mockups. Copying and pasting from The Designers Toolbox works a treat.
Sidenote, with widgets
You can also drop files (which creates an alias) or links in there for easy access/relevance to the note.

How about using NetNewsWire as a browser? It has many browser features beyond the tabbed browsing interface, such as appearance settings and downloads manager. It uses the same Safari shortcuts for navigating pages and tabs, and saves your tabs between launches. What’s more, tab setups can be synced across macs with either a .mac or FTP account. It shares cookies with Safari, so if you already have your details saved for someones blog comments, the fields will be autofilled as they would be in Safari. Extend its functionality by:

  • Using a Floppymoose usercontent.css file, for ad-blocking abilities.
  • Drag and dropyour Firefox bookmarks.html file into a tab. As NNW remember tabs when you shut down, you can keep this open all the time to see your bookmarks. Cmd-click will open your bookmarks in a new tab as normal.
  • Setting your ‘External weblog Editor’ to ‘Cocoalicious’, so that you can add links to delicious by using ‘post to weblog’. Alternatively, use this applescript to post via Safari (will also work in Omniweb, just change the application name in the script).
  • Bookmark a site in Omniweb with this applescript.
  • Take this a little further with the web apps now available, NetNewsWire becomes an email client (GMail) and Project Manager (Basecamp etc).

Please share if you have anymore!

Jeremy is right! Tiger underwhelms, except for...

I have to come out and agree with Jeremy, Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger is a little underwhelming. I’ve been using it for 8 weeks now, and overall, I’m not as wowed as I was with the Jaguar>Panther upgrade. Sure, there are a lot of improvements, but I’ve not found a use for Dashboard and Spotlight, the supposed major features. I’m still missing uControl’s virtual scrolling, and haven’t found any suitable replacement. Thats a sore point.

Dashboard takes a while to ‘kick in’, as you watch the widgets load slowly. I think this is still yet to reveal its usefulness, as a lot of widgets are things like ‘Amazon Search’. Hmm, referrer fees are wonderful thing aren’t they? Even the Transmit widget isn’t that useful. Why use that when I can just drag files to a dock or finder sidebar icon? It also seems to use up CPU unnecessarily, and since turning it off with DashOnOff on my powerbook is improved. Those widgets that I actually use (Calculator and currency converter) I have bookmarked in Safari, and open them in a tab. (To do this, ctrl-click the widget, and open the main .html file found inside).

To be honest, I still prefer my neat little Stattoo.

Spotlight is nowhere near as quick to use as Quicksilver (although, to be fair, I find the fact that it indexes text in PDFs quite useful). The jumpiness of its search results are annoying to say the least.

I think there are sleepy features that will reveal their usefulness over time, such as Automator, but until then, the one thing that has made me glad to upgrade is Safari 2. Not only for its new features (little things like undos in textareas), but for its RSS Reader. I had very low expectations for the in-built RSS reader, despite really wanting a browser+RSS solution. I’ve now found myself using it all the time. Its convenient, feeds are synced along with my bookmarks, and it suits my style of reading perfectly. I always prefer to view the actual content in the browser, using RSS readers as little more than a notification of updates. It also seems to cope well the 250+ feeds that I subscribe to – no speed problems at all.

Admitting this makes me feel very guilty though, as if I’m personally betraying Brent Simmons and David Watanabe.

I’ve had a few questions about how I use the RSS feature, so I thought I’d just quickly outline what I do. In my bookmarks toolbar is an ‘RSS Feeds’ folder, in which there are sub-folders for ‘Mac’, ‘Music’, ‘Design’ and so on. This means that each sub folder has a ‘View all RSS articles’ command at the bottom its menu, which means I can view feeds together, or just in 1 category. New feeds are set to be coloured red, and sorted by ‘new’. Finally, I’ve hacked the appearance to be little less vanilla. I love the fact that that I can do it all within the browser.

Safari RSS screenshot

In fact, there is only one drawback I’ve come across. Sometimes it takes two goes to get the RSS feeds displayed. Click ‘View all RSS Articles’ once – nothing. Go back and do it again, it works fine. I’ve also seen this happen on individual feeds, but there doesn’t seem to be any reason or reproducible steps to it. Has anyone else found this? Its odd, but I find that I can put up with this (and hopefully its a bug that’ll be fixed in the future).

So thats the way it is now, at least until NetNewsWire gets even more browser features…

Looking for a MYOB replacement

I’m looking for an app, and I hope someone out there can help me! I’m fed up with the crappy carbonised MYOB for doing my accounting, and I can’t help but think there is a more native OS X app out there that would suit my needs better.

Ideally I’m looking for:

  • iCal integration
  • AddressBook integration
  • Ability to create invoices as pdfs, with a template thats fully customisable. MYOB is severely restricted when it comes to designing in invoice template. If it can then email the invoice at the end of it, that would be even better!
  • Basic reporting, but must include VAT Returns.
  • Import of MYOB accounts

iBiz has some of these features, but the current version just locks up on my G5. It also only handles invoicing, and needs iBank for the actual accounting features. Ideally, I’m looking for just one app to serve both needs. Let me know if I’m missing out on some great app here.

Update: Thanks for the recommendations so far, although Quickbooks isn’t an option, as the UK version is PC only. Using it via Virtual PC isn’t much better than what I’m using. Studiometry looks good, but lacks the accounting features I need – it can only do invoices as far as I can tell, and I need to track purchases and supplier payments as well.

FTP files from skEdit using Transmit 3

Here’s a quick tip for skEdit users who prefer Transmit 3 for their FTP needs. With Transmit 3’s new ‘Dock Send’ feature, you can send files directly from skEdit. As long as your site is set up to use Dock Send, just drag the file directly from skEdit’s file view onto Transmit’s dock icon, and it will upload it where you need it! This cuts out a few steps and makes the whole process a lot quicker.

Omniweb wishlist II

Since my first Omniweb Wishlist, 2 of the wishes have happened, RSS feeds now open in new tabs, and its merged with the latest webcore. Since then, 5.1 has been released, and the list has grown somewhat.

I use a mixture of Omniweb and Safari all the time now. Nowadays, Firefox only gets opened up for DOM inspecting or javascript debugging, and Camino hasn’t been used in over a year. The main thing that makes me use Safari is that its interface is a whole lot easier on the eye than Omniweb. OW has the all features I want (apart from find as you type, which I get from Saft), but after prolonged use, areas of the UI make me long for Safari. It’s probably just the designer in me, but I desire a little more ‘OS X slickness’ that other apps have. The tab drawer and bookmark manager feel just right, but other areas let it down for me.

So here are a few wishes.

Interface tweaks -remove the drawer?

When I have Mail, Ecto, xPad and others open, I get a bit sick of flippin’ drawers everywhere, and long for a simplified outline like Safari.

Here’s an idea. Apps like Ecto and NetNewsWire have started adopting the interface evolution shown in the Tiger version of Mail, and its worked well for them. The fact that Apple has removed the drawer from Mail makes me wonder if many other apps will continue to use it? Anyway, here’s a mockup of how Omniweb could look with these sorts of changes:

screenshot - click for larger image
Click for full sized mockup

As you can see, the tabs become more like a sidebar. This screenshot also includes mockups of other wee interface changes I’d like to see:

  • Download Manager – Aqua alternate row striping to differentiate each item, and larger file icons, as in Safari, NetNewsWire 2, Transmit 3 and Unison.
  • Favourites Bar – No folder icons or shadow. A bit more safarish I guess.

RSS Reader

Omniweb’s RSS Reader is so almost there as a useful aggregator. It has more features than you might expect from an in-browser solution, but its drawbacks are:

  • The only way to read excerpts is to view the feed bookmark with ‘site info’ showing.
  • Omniweb doesn’t seem to handle large amounts of feeds very well. With 150+ feeds, my bookmarks refuse to synchronise with .mac (but works fine once they’re removed). There were also other performance issues until I deleted all the feeds.
  • You can’t set a frequency to update feeds globally. If you have ‘never’ checked in your preferences, each feed you add has a daily frequency applied to it despite this. So if you only want to check manually, you have edit the preferences for each feed individually.

This is how I’d like to see RSS incorporated:

  • Keep them as bookmarks, but treat them separately. In the same way that you can view bookmarks as a tab, have the ability to view RSS feeds in a tab, with a simple 2 or 3 paned interface, like the bookmark manager. All the information is already there – source, headline, dates, excerpts, I wonder if it would be hard to bring them together in a new interface?
  • Have the preference to pass auto-detected feeds onto your default RSS Reader if you don’t want to use the in-built one.
  • It’d be great if the dock menu didn’t hide feeds over a certain amount. The greyed out ‘more’ doesn’t allow you to see the rest of the feeds. NetNewsWire overcomes this by scrolling if it needs to.

Other functionality I’d love to see at some point

  • Find as you type – FIrefox has an excellent implementation of this, but currently Omniweb will only do this with links. (There is a hidden preference which you can enable via the terminal, but its not something OmniGroup have worked on, and it will only find the first instance of your search term)
  • I’d like a better idea of when Omniweb is doing something. Whether its still checking RSS feeds, synchronising bookmarks or whether those activites have finished. The Activity window tells you this, but I would find a Growl message more useful. Growl is already an excellent system wide notification app, and many apps have started using it. There are many apps already supporting Growl.
  • Apply custom CSS files per-site in the site preferences.
  • Drag and drop tabs between workspaces in the workspaces window. So if you have some tabs that you want to move to another workspace, you can move them, or alt-drag them to copy them across.
  • Open a search in a new tab. The Location bar supports this with cmd-enter, but not the search field
  • Saft has a great feature whereby a search is triggered by selecting a different search engine from the search fields drop down menu, rather than having to additionally press enter.
  • A preference to always show the tab drawer. When new windows open drawer-less, and then shift as tabs are opened, is mildly annoying. (I always have the drawer on the left).
  • A preference to disable the focus rings around the search box.

Bugs

No application is perfect, and everyone has their list of pet hates they’d rather were fixed sooner rather than later. This is mine.

  • The pixellated search bar after resizing the window
  • Moving bookmarks and folders in the bookmark manager creates a duplicate. This one is really starting to annoy me.
  • View Source: This still has the bug whereby you sometimes get the external css file, or even garbage code instead of just the HTML.

Everyone’s a critic eh?

So yeah, a long list. Don’t get the wrong impression though, its still very much a favourite. I’m just looking forward to seeing what Omnigroup do with it next.

Textile previews in Ecto and MarsEdit

One of my bones of contention with Textpattern is that it still doesn’t support XML-RPC, allowing the use of a desktop weblog editor (although Dean has promised this for a while). However, thanks to Chris Mcleod, you can now get it up and working with Ecto and MarsEdit. I’ve had problems getting Textile previews to work in these apps, and wanted to share here the solutions in case anyone else has been in the same boat.

MarsEdit

Thanks to Brent Simmons and Brad Choate, who spent time finding a way to trick MarsEdit into thinking its using Markdown, but it is in fact using Textile. What follows are Brent’s instructions:

  1. Quit MarsEdit if it’s running.
  2. Go to the TextFilters folder at ~/Library/Application Support/MarsEdit/TextFilters/
  3. If you have a Markdown folder, delete it.
  4. Create a new folder named Markdown.
  5. Download Brad’s MT-Textile plugin.
  6. In the plugin folder — in extlib/Text/ — you’ll find a file named Textile.pm. Put a copy of it in your /Library/Perl/ folder. (You may need to set execute permissions for Textile.pm. I did, though I’m not sure it’s necessary.)
  7. In the plugin folder — plugins/ — you’ll find a file named textile2.pl. Copy it into ~/Library/Application Support/MarsEdit/TextFilters/Markdown/.
  8. Download and unzip this Markdown.pl file and drop into that same Markdown folder.
  9. Make sure Markdown.pl and textile2.pl have execute permission.
  10. Open Terminal and tell MarsEdit to always use Markdown for previews: defaults write com.ranchero.MarsEdit previewWithMarkdownAlways YES

Done! Its a little roundabout, but once setup, you can forget about it. Thanks Brent!

Ecto

With Ecto, the process is a lot more straightforward. When you add your Textpattern blog to Ecto, choose ‘Movable Type’ as the ‘system’, and then when you write posts in HTML mode, the Textile option becomes available in the options drawer, under ‘Formatting’ tab, in the ‘Format’ drop down menu. Now select ‘Make Default’ to make it the last time you need to do that.

format screenshot

As for which I will use for writing my blog posts, I’m not sure. I’m just enjoying in the fact that I can use both at the moment.

What these won’t do

Obviously there are a number of custom Textpattern options that neither of these apps will cater for. So far I’ve been using MarsEdit for the last 3 posts, and the only thing I have to do is go into my textpattern admin and turn on comments for each entry. Ecto doesn’t have this problem however, so I’m now giving that a spin. Maybe once Textpattern 1 final is released and gains populularity, there will be more support for Textpattern options in future versions of these apps.

Hicksdesign theme for Omniweb 5

For that <1% of the Hicksdesign readership that use it, here is the Hicksdesign theme for Omniweb 5.

Download the theme here

Screenshots

Please note, I am using Nathan Skinner’s Tiger Theme, in these screenshots:

Overview (click for full sized image)
overall view

Toolbar (click for full sized image)
customise toolbar view

Download Manager
download manager

Preferences
preferences

Status Bar
status bar

Source Editor
source editor

Background

This has been a personal project since February, and even though its not finished, I feel the need to get something out as a starting point. The thing is, there are so many flippin’ icons in Omniweb, and while I don’t want to change them all, I do want to change a lot of them. The goal here (as always) was not to create a highly original theme. I just wanted something that blended into OS X as much as possible.

Originally, the theme was a redraw of my Camino theme, but I tried a straight rip-off of the safari/finder style buttons, and found that I much preferred this look. This is now the main style, but the rounder ‘iTunes’ style is there as an additional installation option. The rest of the icons are partly inspired by Stephen Horlanders icons for Firefox (mainly the history and RSS feed icon), but I’ve redrawn these myself, rather just steal them!

I have also supplied a ‘restore’ installer if you want to revert back to the original icons.

Also in the download, is a folder called ‘Goodies’, which contains extra applescripts, web badges, workspaces and a very simple shapeshifter theme, to remove the shadow on the bookmarks toolbar. Most people will probably like to keep the shadow, and even those that aren’t, probably wouldn’t go to the extent of installing a theme just for that. In short, if you want to use it, its there.

Huge thanks to Buzz Anderson of SciFiHiFi who answered my plea and set me up with Iceberg project files for creating the installer. Thanks Buzz!

Icons still to do:

  • The small bookmark icons
  • The large bookmarks image in the tab drawer
  • Main toolbar icons – Mark Page/Next Mark/Previous Mark

Updates and feedback

I intend to add more replacement icons to this set in the future, as well a improve the existing ones. I’ll be posting details of updates to my ‘OS X Browser News’ section, so the RSS feed will let you know when new versions are uploaded.

I’d particularly like your feedback on the status bar icons. Should they be in colour, or stay grey, or a combination of the 2? I can’t decide, but I’ve gone with mainly grey icons in this release. If you do like the theme, but there is a particular button that you use that I’ve not covered yet, let me know.

Update – I’ve done a quick to revision to solve a couple of issues people were having. Please re-download.

Lists of 2004

It’s that retrospective time of year again. Looking back over all the highlights of the year and recording them for posterity.

Albums:

Antics by Interpol

  1. Antics by Interpol
  2. Everybody Makes Mistakes by Starflyer 59
  3. Good news for people who love bad news by Modest Mouse

Quite simply, I’ve not been so excited, enthralled and addicted to an album as I have with ‘Antics’ in a long time. ‘Everybody makes mistakes’ didn’t actually come out in 2004, but I didn’t manage to get a copy until this year, and I’ve played it to death, so in it goes. Then end track “The Party” is a perfect song to finish the day on. Honorable mentions go to Wilco’s “A Ghost is Born”, Tanya Donelly’s “Beautysleep” (again, not actually released this year) and ‘I am the Portuguese Blues’, also by Starflyer 59 (which was released this year).

OS X Browser

Omniweb5

  1. Omniweb 5.1b4
  2. Safari (+ Saft + PithHelmet + Stand + Safarisource)
  3. Firefox

Ah, Omniweb how I love thee. The latest beta build is an almost perfect balance of features and performance. When I use other browsers, it just makes me pine for its doing-anything-with-them tabs, form editor and oodles of other things I can only do in OW. The interface isn’t perfect, but hopefully that’ll be improved in the future. Safari came in at a very close second. Depending on which day you ask me, numbers 1 and 2 can change places). Sorry Firefox, you’re not quite there yet on the mac, although you’re close. Maybe after 1.1? Camino has possibilities, but is still too bare bones for me. I’ve been really impressed by the latest Opera, with its combination browser/email/rss reader, but while being fully featured, it looks like a dogs dinner.

Site design I wished I’d come up with first:

  1. Airbag
  2. Jason Santa Maria
  3. Justwatchthesky

Blog Posts

  1. A story about someone else’s ass – Dooce.
    I cried with tears of joy
  2. Screen Grab confab – Cameron Moll.
    Fascinating insight into peoples work.
  3. I would RTFM if there was an FM to FR – Design by Fire.
    Andrei, I wish you blogged more often.

Events:

  1. The very first Geekend
    A very special time, and we’ve even managed to fit in 2 more before the year was out. Nice to finally meet you all chaps.
  2. Firefox
    I had no idea what I was getting myself into.
  3. Being called the 13th most influential design blogger. I’m nowhere near, but it was flattering all the same, thankyou Cameron.

finally…

Samantha and Daniel

Thankyou Samantha and Daniel. You’re the highlight of every year

Looking forward:

Before the year is out, the family of Hicks is heading out to Sydney for two and half weeks. Its 0 degrees as I write this, and 42 over there. I’m just gonna melt, but I can’t wait. I love living in England, but the weather can really lower your spirits sometimes. It can be like living in Bladerunner – always dark, always raining.

So…

Using the same categories, name your top 3’s!

Optimized Firefox for G5's

Last week, I linked to a guy who was producing optimized builds of Firefox specifically for Powerbook G4’s. These unofficial builds were noticeably faster, almost blinding. Now, Neil Lee has gone and cooked up a build just for G5’s too.

Grab the build from here, which also includes Kevin Gerich’s pretty widgets as standard!

Unfortunately, this coincides with my G5 being taken in to Oxford Macintosh Solutions (my local lifesavers) to have its graphics card poked and prodded, so I haven’t been able to try it out myself yet. I’m hoping a free advert might help with the bill…

Red Channel

Stop the red channel

When I use Photoshop, I want apple-1 to show the file at 100% (or ‘actual pixels’), just like every other adobe application I use. I don’t want to look at the red channel.

Photoshop CS has a nifty feature allowing you to customise its keyboard shortcuts, but guess which command isn’t listed?!

I beg of you, has anyone found a way around this?

Textmate - first impressions

I never thought in my days using Dreamweaver, that I’d be excited about a new text editor coming to OS X. However, I’ve been looking forward to trying out Textmate, as some very bold claims were being made about it. These claims irked me a bit, as it seemed to ignore some very good text editors already available, such as skEdit, SubEthaEdit and, of course, BBEdit. I use all 3, with the emphasis on skEdit (especially for writing css).

So, today Textmate is out, and a surprising number of people have written to me, asking me what I think of it. I found this a little odd, maybe everyone knows I’m a new software junkie, willing to try out every new release of anything. Anyway, I thought I would post my initial thoughts here. This will be slightly unfair, as I’ll be comparing it to other editors that have time to mature and develop.

First, starting with the positive, What I like:

  • Project view in a drawer. This is something I would like skEdit to adopt, particularly the function buttons at the bottom of the drawer giving access to things like adding new folders. my only complaint here is that the text looks slightly cramped compared to other drawer displays.
  • ‘Folding’: Tags or css rules can be collapsed and expanded to hide them. This is something I can imagine myself using quite a bit.
  • Clipboard history: A nice idea, and works similar to Quicksilver’s function with the same name

What I don’t:

  • Preferences: Or rather the lack of them. Settings are meant to stick, but thats not a behaviour I’m comfortable with. The first thing I do when first open any new app is look though the preferences and see what’s available.
  • Fonts: Despite the fact that a standard system font panel is included as a menu item, only fixed width fonts are supported. I’m one of those bad people who like to code in Lucida Grande, and it looked awful. Apparently, support for non fixed-width fonts is not planned in the future either. If this is case, the font panel should be removed.
  • The icon. I feel bad for picking on BBEdit 8.
  • I didn’t find the snippets function as easy to use as skEdit. I prefer setting key combos to trigger my snippets.

Features I missed from other Text Editors (with the proviso that I may have missed these somehere):

  • Code hinting was the thing that turned me onto skEdit. It speeds up coding so much, I’m not sure I could go back to not using it.
  • No code navigation. BBEdit, SubEthaEdit and skEdit all provide a single menu for jumping to a particular tag or css rule.
  • Images aren’t previewed when selecting them in the project view, but you get garbled code instead. It should either preview them or not display anything at all.

So will it replace skEdit as my main development tool? No, but, I get the impression that Textmate is aimed at serious programmers, people who deal with ruby/perl and the like, not those like me who just want to bash out HTML and CSS. skEdit is still the right tool for me, but I’ll keep an eye on Textmate.

Some Omniweb 5 tricks you might not know

  • This is my favourite! Pressing Enter will trigger any ‘next page’ links. When looking through search results in photo libraries, this feature is a god send.
  • Option_apple_b will open up the bookmarks manager in a new window, even if you have it set to appear in the browser.
  • Option clicking a toolbar bookmark folder highlights the name for editing.
  • Double clicking a tab will close it, and open that page in a new window
  • Double clicking the sites favicon will open the site in a new window, without closing the first instance.
  • Double clicking a bookmark toolbar folder will open all the bookmarks in tabs. Dragging the folder to the tab drawer does the same.
  • Drag a finder-level folder onto the window to reveal its contents. This has the added benefit of revealing the iPod’s hidden music folders too! (thanks Sean)
  • To export the page as one long PDF with no page breaks, type option-shift-command-s. Holding down option while exposing the File menu will also reveal this menu. (Thanks to Nick Matsakis)
  • If you select some text before outputting to pdf, it will be saved with the highlighted text.

Newsfire 0.1 beta

There seems to be more choice of RSS readers for OS X than browsers these days. Stalwarts like NetNewsWire (my favourite) and Shrook, are sharing the aggregator pool with relative youngsters like Pulp Fiction.

David Watanabe (who created the P2P app Acquisition) has released the very first public beta of ‘NewsFire’, an RSS reader that takes a slightly different approach. Rather than imitate the Apple Mail style interface, you get a single minimal metal window that makes it feel at home with Safari.

Newsfire window

It positively drips with OS X beauty – not just in the visual effects, but in the way the interface is pared down to the minimum. Its delightful to use. There are few things I’d like to see added, with the only change to the current set up to make the site name the larger headline (this is currently smaller grey text, while the most recent article is a large headline). It is still very much a beta (features/functionality not final) but its certainly stable. Its shallow, but I love the way that news feeds reorder themselves – the same effect used in iChat when buddies change status!

Download NewsFire from here

New Safari Stand features

Sorry, this will the be the last browser post in a while – promise. Stand for Safari has been updated to work with v1.2.3 (v125.9), and has added some nice new features.

First of all Doug Bowman pointed out that there is an english translation page for Stand here. That makes life easier.

You can now replace either the Bug Report, Autofill, Add bookmark or Home buttons with an ‘Action’ button. This gives you a drop down menu with the following options:

Action menu

(Note: This menu now includes the ability to view HTTP headers, cookies for that site (with another option to delete them) and a selectable menu of all css and images etc from that page – amazing!)

Workspaces can now be opened in new tabs as well as saved, and you can make ‘labelled bookmark separators’ by adding a folder with the following title:

-:-label here.

This adds a greyed out text label – nice.

Menu label

Another nice feature I’ve discovered is that you can get the history and bookmark searches to display within the browser window rather than in a smaller, separate window. To try this out, drag and drop these links to the toolbar: “History search”:safaristand://jp.hetima.history/ and “Bookmark Search”:safaristand://jp.hetima.bookmark/.

You can also add RSS Feeds. Create a Bookmark Collection called ‘Stand Bar RSS’ and bookmark feed URL’s there. You can then read these feeds in the ‘Stand Bar’ under the ‘R” menu. While I probably won’t use this feature, its good to know that there are developers wanting to add value in this way.

Stand Bar RSS Feeds

When you combine Safari, Saft and Stand you get one very good browser.

Omniweb 5 wishlist

Now that Omniweb 5 is finally released after many months of beta releases, we now have a sturdy, feature filled Webcore based alternative to Safari. For anyone that uses a lot of tabs, OW is godsend, but I’m left with just a few niggles that I would love to see changed in the next version:

  • Preference for ‘Always show tab drawer’. When you have tabs set to open on the left, its annoying when new windows shift when the tab drawer opens.
  • RSS feeds to open in new tabs, not windows.
  • Improve the look of the download manager. Safari gets this right. Its particularly bad when OW is downloading. The text is badly compressed. Just ugly.
  • Use the latest webcore (this is planned for 5.1)
  • Remove the ‘image well’ shadow from the bookmarks toolbar, or introduce a Tiger style Mail.app look. I’ve actually created a shapeshifter theme just to remove this shadow. I know, you don’t have to tell me I have no life.
  • Ability to save the current set up as workspace, rather than having to create a new space and set it all up first.

I also think the documentation could be a little less waffley and childish. Humour is a difficult one to pull off – and with the PDF manual I felt myself saying “For goodness sake, just get on with it!!!”.

Apologies for yet another browser related post.

Extending Safari 3: Stand

I’ve recently discovered another plug-in for Safari, called Stand. I can’t tell you a whole lot of detail about it, as the site is written in Japanese. What I can tell you is that its free, and it allows you to do the following slick actions:

  • Allow syntax colouring in viewed source (no control over colours used though)
  • Specify a font and size for viewed source (I like this – I have a thing about using Lucida Grande for source view).
  • Search your bookmarks and history (very nice, although I tend to use Quicksilver to find bookmarks quickly, this is even faster).
  • Specify that all links to a ‘_blank’ target open in a new tab instead of a new window. This is nice.
  • Save tab layouts as workspaces alá Omniweb.
  • Assign categories, colour labels and comments to new bookmarks
  • Create search shortcuts (as in Sogudi and Saft)
  • ‘Site Alteration’. This allows you some basic preferences on a per site basis, such as what encoding to use, and whether images, pop-ups, plug-ins or javascript are to be allowed.
  • Remove favicons.
  • Set a time delay for auto-closing the downloads window after completion.
  • It also seems to add ‘Copy Link HTML Tag’ command to the context menu when ctrl-clicking links. (I’ve only just noticed this though, so it could’ve been there all along!)

This is a beta, so although I could save windows as workspaces, I couldn’t find a way of reopening them. There is also a window called the ‘Stand Bar’, which includes searchable bookmarks and history again, plus 2 other menus which haven’t been ‘hooked up’ yet.

Having said all that, it appears to be very stable, and chuffed with my lovely new source view. Its another worthwhile addition to make Safari the browser it should be.

safari sidebar - beta screenshots (updated)

That’s right. I’ve just received a new Saft beta, with the sidebar that I’ve been bellyaching about for months! To be honest, alhough I pestered Hao for this feature, I never really thought it would be possible, but hey, it never hurts to ask. Hao seems to like a challenge however, and he’s been kind enough to allow me to post screenshots here.

This version works the same as other releases of Saft. The plug-in goes into the Library>InputMangers folder replacing the previous version. Once launched, Safari then has the ‘Show Sidebar’ command in the Safari menu (this is a temporary position).

At the moment, once opened, there is no way to close it (this is a beta after all), but I get the feeling that I’ll probably leave it open most of the time.

Enough talk, here’s how it looks (full size version here)

Thankfully, Hao decided on a Finder-style sidebar, rather than an OS X drawer. These always look a bit stuck on to me (although I’m warming to them more these days).

As you can see, the sidebar sits underneath the tab bar, and its width is adjustable as you would expect. At the moment there are 4 ‘panels’ – bookmark searching, history, Versiontracker RSS and a google search. In the real release, Hao says that “one should be able to add RSS feeds, URL shortcuts like the one for Google, sidebars for local html files”. Superb! I had wondered whether downloads should go in there too, but as the recent builds of Shiira has shown, this could be a bit too cramped.

At the moment, just the bookmark search doesn’t work. Each of the panel buttons toggle the content beneath it (click to show, click to hide). Scrollbars come in when this pushes content below the window.

History is searchable, so although it only shows the last 12 places, as you type in the search field, the history is filtered.

The prelimary RSS panel shows just Versiontracker posts for now, but this works just fine. With all of these panels, command-clicking links opens them in new tabs, as you would expect.

Finally, the google search panel actually loads the google homepage in the sidebar, while search results are automatically opened in a new tab. This gives you a few more options than the toolbar google search, but I’m not sure I’d use this over the toolbar option.

The beauty is, each of these panels is just a html page, which I’ve styled with CSS. Hao explains: “The extended parts of sidebars are really just a mini web page. For history, bookmarks and RSS feeds, there are html templates in Saft’s resources folder. You can just modify it to whatever you like. Also, in the same way as adding RSS feeds, I will add support for sidebar template in a way that user supplies a folder with a plist file, which points to a html file, URL or a script file that generate HTMLs, so you can add almost anything to the sidebar…”(!).

Updated: Hao has done further work into the extensibility of the sidebar, and extra sidebar items can easily be added as .plugin files. As mentioned above. these can other web pages (local or remote – I’ve now got one set up for adding links to my textpattern setup), RSS feeds, and in the future – scripts such as perl or shell. So you can have whatever you want going on in there! The first application of this that I can see is a Safari version of the Firefox Web Developer Extension. Although not all would work in Safari, it would be an easy way to add a large folder of development bookmarklets to Safari.

Here’s an example. I’ve made a simple sidebar plug-in to view my Shortstats in the sidebar:

Thats all there is to say at the moment, except that I’m like a boy who’s just been told he can fly a real X-Wing Fighter. This has got real possibilities!

I fear the iChat

I'm scared

I’ve had rather a lot of complaints in the last month or so that I don’t open iChat often enough. In fact – I’m never online – period. I don’t want to play the whining “Busy freelance designer with a young family” card yet again, but I’m going to have to. Every time I open iChat, about 4 messages pop up, inquiring “Are you there Hicks?!!”. Then I get embroiled in some gentle chit chat, and another 5 pop up – “Instant message from ToastMan27072”, etc. Before I know it, a day has passed with no work done. At the moment I have SO much work on, I shouldn’t even be writing this, let alone indulging in fripperies such as iChatting. Its not a nice feeling though, I feel as if I’m missing out.

What I really liked about iChat was just seeing that other people were alive and OK. Checking out what Jeremy’s playing, admiring Dan’s new buddy icon. Its like seeing a life support readout for all your friends – there all there, there all OK.

Anyway, can you blame me for my fear, when you get things like this? This is an iChat with a ‘client’, where we were discussing a logo design. Somehow, instant messaging doesn’t seem like the best tool for communication. (The clients buddy icon has been changed to protect their identity…)

be well

Shiira

As if I didn’t already have enough choice in OS X browsers, along comes another. Shiira is an open source browser, built using Safari’s webkit, that the Japanese developers intend to be “a browser that is better and more useful than Safari”. As it uses the latest verson of webkit, it will only run on 10.3.

The interface, at first glance, looks a lot like Safari. The tabs implementation are almost identical (although tab labels aren’t bold), and the preferences window layout shares many similarities. However, unlike Safari’s interface, Shiira uses a fully customisable Aqua toolbar and bookmarks/history are displayed in a sidebar drawer instead of replacing the window, just like Camino 0.7. Most importantly, it doesn’t have Safari’s elegance or good looks in the toolbar icon department. Take a look at this screenshot and the various icon options being offered. The Jade stone set is the default.

Elements like the icons on the toolbar folders are unnecessary, but like all these things, can be themed however you like! So, to make it more pleasant to use, I’ve thrown together bits from my Camino and Omniweb themes and made a temporary one for Shiira:

Screenshot of my shiira theme

If you’d like to try this theme too, download it here (if your browser doesn’t understand .sitx files, you may have to control-click the link and choose ‘save file as..’). All you have to do is go to Shiira’s icon preferences, choose ‘load icons’, and navigate to the ‘ShiiraIcons.plist’ inside the Hickstheme folder. This will load the main toolbar icons. If you want a plain folder icon, these have to copied manually into > Shiira (ctrl-click to choose ‘show package contents’)> contents> resources>. I haven’t redone all the icons, but the main ones are there

There are several advantages in using Shiira:


  • Re-orderable Tabs. This is my main reason for feeling excited by Shiira. I use this a lot in Ominweb, and I’m looking forward to when Camino gets the function (soon).
  • New Tab button situated to the right of the tabs is quite handy.
  • Its fast. Runs faster than Safari for me, and it’s level-pegging with the latest Camino builds for speed. It seems to use the least amount of CPU of all my browsers.
  • Customisable search bar, out of the box.
  • Option is given to switch between metal or aqua appearance.
  • Pace of development seems quite fast.

It shows great promise, even though the interface might not quite be there yet. On one hand it feels a little basic, but then throws in some great features like the drag and drop re-orderable tabs. Another one to keep my eye on…

extending Safari 2: saft!

One of my niggles about Safari is that I’ve always felt it’s a little short in features. As mentioned before, Pith Helmet (Advert blocking), Sogudi (Address bar searches) and Safari Enhancer go someway to improve it. I want to use Safari – I love its clean, elegant interface and speed, but sometimes it feels a bit lacking.

I’ve been testing and enjoying the radically more stable Omniweb 5 (beta 3) for a few days now, and enjoying its workspaces feature. This reminded me that Safari is about the only Mac browser that doesn’t let you save a group of tabs. However, Saft v6.5 was released today, and amongst its many new features – the ability to save tab groups. I’d never looked into Saft before, as I’m not that bothered about full screen or kiosk mode (which was its original purpose) so I was surprised to see that its developer was busy adding more functionality.

Even better than tab group saving though, is the option to save a browser window – its tabs, window size and screen position. Previously saved windows are accessed through the File menu, as well as the ability to delete saved windows. Saft also features the same shortcut searches from the address bar as Sogudi, but adds those search engines to the google search bar menu as well. Nice.

Add to this PDF export/back/forward commands in the context menu, a preference to force new windows to open as a tab, type-ahead searching and suddenly Safari starts to feel like a fully-featured browser.

The only possible downside to all this, is that you have to pay $10 (£5.89 in UK money) for all this extra functionality. Some may feel its not worth paying to extend a free browser, especially when Apple might get around to adding these features someday. Its up to you, but personally I felt that it was a pittance for functionality that I would enjoy every day.

I’ve asked for bookmark menu separators in the next version – you never know…

Finallly, a quick mention for Safari Sorter, which will organise your bookmarks alphabetically for you.

Adobe vs Greenwich Mean Time

I’m posting this in the hope that I can prevent someone else from losing their mind. The shiny new Adobe Creative Suite ran fine on my G5, but when I tried to install and run it on my G4 Powerbook, the dock icon would bounce for a few seconds then quit. I tried a variety of fixes – re-installation, trashing preference files, repairing permissions, installing under a different log-in. I even rebuilt the Powerbook from scratch in case that might help. Still no cigar.

Finally, after having a Damascus Road experience on a MacUser forum, I found the fix, and you’ll never guess what it is. Go into Date & Time>Time Zone and change the setting from ‘GMT’ to ‘London’ (or anything other than GMT). Suddenly, everything opens and works fine.

Go figure.

Playing iPods via iTunes

My ‘working away from home’ kit consists of just 2 things. My worn but trusty G4 Powerbook and my iPod. The iPod means I can play music in the car, as well as backup work to it. I’ve been trying to find a way of playing the music on my iPod through the Powerbook, without losing the link to my G5 where the music library is kept. There are plenty of apps that enable you to copy the iPod library onto your computer (such as PodWorks) – but I just don’t have the HD space for such a task. It also seems a little overboard – why copy everything when I should be able to just playback from the iPod?

I tried an app called iPodRip, but was less than satisfied with its ramshackle, ugly-relative-of-iTunes interface, tendency to crash regularly, and inability to display tracks in the right order. A better solution, was a free little app called Music Publisher which shares your iPods music library, allowing it to be played through iTunes. This also works across networks.

Even better however is an undocumented feature that I found after prompting by Shaun Inman. When you plug in your iPod you’ll be asked whether you want to break the existing link with the other iTunes database, and sync with the powerbook’s. Select no, and click the iPod icon at the bottom of the iTunes window. Click ‘Enable for Firewire use’ if you haven’t already, and change updating to manual (deselecting all automatic options), and lo! The tracks and playlists from your iPod show up in iTunes!

OmniWeb 5

For the past year I’ve been dithering between Camino, Safari and Firebird as my default browser on OSX, unable to settle with one. They’re all really good, but each one has something that niggles me or leaves me wanting. In Camino its the lack of autofill and its centered tabbed browsing. In Safari, it’s the lack of toolbar customisability, its icons and non-configurable pop-up blocking. Firebird is the one that comes damn close, but at the end of the day, its not a cocoa app, so no native form widgets and (more importantly) I can’t use the funk in the services menu like ‘subscribe in NetNewsWire’ or ‘Encode into HTML’ (Character Convertor).

One other browser that I’ve been really impressed with was Omniweb 4.5. Its heavily laden with features, but that doesn’t seem to slow it down. It now uses the WebCore Framework (Safari’s rendering engine), so its CSS and Javascript problems are in the past. One of my favourite features is its form editor. Everytime you come across a textfield, you’ll see a small icon the scrollbar -click that and a larger editing window zooms out. This is particularly useful when fiddling with MovableType templates. I’m not keen on OW’s back/forward/stop toolbar icons, but that can be changed. The real drawback was the lack of tabbed browsing. Why pay $30 for a browser, when all the free ones supply this important feature? So I’ve been waiting for news of the next version, in which the Omni Group promised to bring in Tabs.

Finally, details have been released of Omniweb 5, but I couldn’t help give a huge sigh of disappointment (and feel a little angry) when I saw how they were going to implement tabs. The Omniweb way is going to be a side drawer with thumbnails of each site. If you’ve ever opened a multi-page PDF in Apple Preview, you’ll have an idea of how this will look.

This seems a very odd move. For a start, its screen-hungry. It might not be too bad on a widescreen PowerBook, but on normal proportion monitors it looks as if it’ll steal far too much space. Also, if there are more thumbnails than there is space for, you need to scroll down and then select one. Traditional tabs mean that everything is just one, easy click away. They obviously felt the need to be different – now that it uses the safari rendering engine, they have to work harder to convince users to buy something they effectively already have.

There are some interesting new features, such as an in-built RSS reader and ‘workspaces’ which allow you to save a set of tabs. There’s a google search box to compete with the others – but they’ve also included an interface to add your own search engines. (Safari and Camino require fiddling to do this, while Firebird has a wide selection of add-ons available from Mozdev’s Mycroft). The new page marker feature looks like Safari’s ‘snapback’ in all but name, but the ability to save preferences for each site (pop-ups, text size etc) looks handy. It all looks really promising, with just the tab-thumbnails dampening my enthusiasm.

Having said that, I’m slowly starting to come around to this new approach to tabbed browsing. When the public beta becomes available in February, I’m going to be eager to try it out.

Update: If you want to see how the new tabs work, have a look at this movie. This shows that you can view sites as a list, rather than thumbnails, as well as resize the thumbnails.

Update II: Omniweb 5 was previewed at the MacWorld Expo in San Francisco this week, and Your Mac Life have a video interview with David Kasprzyk from the OminGroup. The video shows that it has the ability to resize the tab thumbnails, from huge to tiny. Looks even more promising….

YML at MWSF – Omniweb 5 Movie

Extending Safari

Just wanted to share with you my favourite apps for extending the capabilities of Safari – There might be one here you haven’t tried…

Safari Enhancer – Does a whole variety of tasks, but I use it to enable the debug menu (contains a spoof user agents menu), remove the metal skin (looks great in Panther!) and deactivate the cache.

Sogudi – creates search shortcuts to use in the location bar. For instance, to search for ‘skEdit’ on Versiontracker, just type ‘vt skEdit’ into the location bar. Comes with some preset searches, and the ability to add your own.

Pith Helmet – Blocks adverts, particularly annoying animated gif banner ads. Just makes life so much nicer. You can specify sites to always block or never block content from.

Safari No-Timeout – get longer than 60 seconds before Safari times out.

What’s more, these apps are all free. There are some nice people out there.

Incidentally, the new OS X 10.3.2 update, seems to include enhancements Safari or the WebCore, as I’ve just noticed that title attributes now show up as tooltips, as promised by Dave Hyatt. This doesn’t seem to be mentioned in Apple’s release notes. Presumably, this means that the other niceties on his list are now installed too.

InDesign CS

InDesign CS icon

Adobe recently updated their main product range as the ‘Creative Suite’ (CS), and with it, what would’ve been called InDesign 3 – InDesign CS. InDesign is their flagship desktop publishing/graphic design application, created as a rival to Quark Xpress, which had been without competition for years. I’ve been using v3 (sorry ‘CS’) for a few weeks now, and I offer here my initial thoughts.

InDesign 2

For all its negative points, Quark has never been a hungry app. It has a low minimum spec. Conversely, ID2 ran sluggishly on my G4, the beachball was a regular sight. For users with OS X however, running Quark in the classic environment was never a happy experience. Problems with screen redraw were partly solved by a free plug-in, but general erratic behaviour made InDesign a more inviting choice. ID also offered many features tha Quark users could only dream of – Multiple Undos, Open Type support, PDF output, native PSD support, transparency… the list was huge.

Quark still inhabits a price range normally reserved for high-end 3D applications – for less than the price of Quark, you can buy Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign and Acrobat! Add to that the delay of an OS X version and the offensively dismissive comments from Quark’s CEO towards Mac users, and you get a lot of unhappy Quark users converting to InDesign. Judging by the strong Quark presence at this years’ MacExpo, they realise they need to recover some ground.

My main problem with using ID has been that most other studios and printers are still on Quark v4 (released 1997). Printers able to take files as press-ready PDFs tend to only be very large outfits. If I create a design spec for another designer or typesetter, I can’t use ID and expect them to buy new software and learn it. Hopefully, this will become less of a problem in the future, as PDF workflows become more commonplace. For now, I use InDesign whenever I can, and resort to Quark when I have to. Anyway, onto the new version…

InDesign CS (or v3):

First of all, the packaging and branding, redesigned by MetaDesign, look amazing. The Creative Suite CDs come in a ‘fat DVD case’, an improvement on the all the seperate jewel-boxes they used to use. However, its seems that what was the last bastion of printed manuals has now given in. The Adobe CS comes with the dreaded ‘getting started’ leaflet with all the manuals provided as PDFs. To their credit, they do include a ‘Video Training CD’, but I couldn’t get this to work. Its sad, Adobe were always the reliable ones. Nothing beats a printed book to get information quickly.

These are the new features I’m excited about:

  • Bleed setup – Its about time this basic feature was introduced, InDesign got there first.
  • Preview separations and flattening – All the stuff that could go wrong at the last stage can be caught earlier, without having to wait for proofs.
  • Mixed ink support - This is something that Quark had been able to do since v3.
  • Speed - The sluggishness of ID2 is much improved. Page zooming was a particular problem area, but now much better.
  • Options palette – There is now a Photoshop style options bar at the top, giving easy access to all the common tools. This is context-sensitive, and changes depending on the tool you’ve chosen.
  • Side palettes – these can be hidden and shown like drawers on a single click, which helps de-clutter the palette frenzy. The only downside is that the palette headings are vertical, and those ‘in the background’ are very hard to read.

All of these features work exactly as you expect, and make working in ID that little bit easier.

The downside:


According to the manual, you can save files back to InDesign 2, but they have to be exported as ‘InDesign Interchange Format’ . ID 2 users then have to install a Scripting plug-in and the XML Reader plug-in. These are apparently downloadable from the Adobe site, but I couldn’t find them anywhere. Then I found this little note after a lot of searching on the Adobe site:

Saving InDesign CS documents for use with InDesign 2.0
The InDesign CS user guide and help documentation includes information on using the InDesign Interchange format export option to save documents for use with InDesign 2.0. This information should be disregarded, as this export option does not support InDesign 2.0 compatibility. Opening InDesign CS documents is not supported in InDesign 2.0.

Eh? ‘This information should be disregarded’?! A polite way of saying “we cocked up’! So if you want to use InDesign CS, you’ll have to wait until your suppliers/repro houses have caught up!

However, an Illustrator eps can be saved for previous versions, using ‘export as illustrator legacy eps’ (read ‘save as some old crappy thing’). Incidentally, Illustrator CS is also noticeably snappier, apparently this is something that was addressed with this upgrade. Its still my preferred illustration package to Freehand.

Summary

InDesign has continued to be more refined and powerful with an emphasis on elegant typographical control and integration with other Adobe products. In short, this is one of the few upgrades I’ve bought recently that I felt was really worth it. Just one major flaw: no way to save files back to version 2. Surely they’ll have to do something about this if they want to encourage more users to convert to it.


Oh, and a printed manual would be nice…

OS X web tools

Firstly, BBEdit 7.1 is out and has a rather nifty addition. If you have Safari installed, you can preview your pages live within BBEdit, all thanks to Apple making the WebKit Framework available. I’ve just tried this out, and it works like a dream! As edits are made to the code, the preview gets updated. You don’t have to save or hit ‘refresh’ as in Dreamweaver. BBEdit 7.1 is a free upgrade for users of 7.0.

Then there’s a relative newbie, xScope from Artis & Iconfactory, a veritable swiss army knife of 6 useful tools for measuring and visualising screen measurements, positions and colours. Artis have been pushing these tools for a while, but now they’re revamped with an iconfactory-designed interface, and is all the better for it. In particular, I like the fact that you can access tools by a discreet menu bar icon, as well as hot keys or the dock. Tools can also be hidden in the same way. I’m such a sucker for Iconfactory applications – they know how to create software with eye candy.

The collection is excellent, and I found the crosshair tool a quicker way to take measurements than the ruler. What’s pleasing is that all the tools are transparent, without being illegible. You can also play a little game with the ‘loupe’ tool if you switch on ‘avoid mouse’ and then try and click the floating window. I really don’t get out enough…

multiple versions of IE

Everyone’s linking to this, and normally I stay away from repetition of other blogs, but this is far too useful.

As you all know, one of the biggest problems with testing sites on a PC, is that Windows only allows one installation of IE. However, a recent tutorial explained how the patent-friendly version of IE 6 inadvertently provided a way around this. By altering the installation files for IE 5 and 5.5, you could have the 3 last versions of IE on the same PC!

So here comes the really useful bit. Ryan Parman has done the work for you and created standalone versions of IE 5 and 5.5 ready to download. Get them while you can, they may not be up for long.

skEdit

I’ve just been trying out a piece of Mac OS X shareware that will be of interest to anyone who hand codes HTML and CSS. Although Dreamweaver 2004 finally allows code-hinting in CSS, it runs SO slow on my mac – I just can’t bear it. Until a G5 becomes a possibility, I’ve been using BBEdit and Transmit to do the same job, but I’ve missed the advantage of code hinting.

Just out of interest I did a search for ‘OSX’ and ‘code-hinting’ and found something called skEdit, a cocoa text editor created by an 18 yr old student in Cleveland. The more I use it, the more I love it. Here’s why:

  • Code Hinting! Unlike Dreamweaver, the code hinting is persitent. When I’ve gone back and deleted a line, the hinting box doesn’t reappear unless I start a new line. Not here, its there whenever you need it. It automatically creates closing tags, and when using code-hinting in css, it automatically adds the semi-colon after each line.
  • Also like Dreamweaver, it has a useful snippets panel, where you can keep pieces of code you want to reuse. Unlike DW, it allows you to choose a point in the snippet where the insertion point goes, or how the snippet will wrap around a selected text. All labour saving stuff.
  • There is a site view on the left, which gives really fast switching between documents. Rather than having umpteen documents open, I can switch between pages with a single click. The site view shows your site with a folder-tree style, so its easy to see everything.
  • It has built-in FTP, but this is fairly basic. It seems that this feature has just been added, and that it will improve in future releases.

I’ve only been using it for a day, so these are just the things I’ve discovered so far. It may not have the full gamut of BBEdits features, but then again this only costs $20! That’s a mere £12 of your British pounds! It does so much more than I’ve mentioned, take a look. A look at the guys site will show you that he cares about web standards too.

Downsides? I have to be blunt, its interface and application icons are pretty ugly. This an area where guys like Panic get it so right – the icons and interface have an OS X feel that makes using the software a pleasure. Also, it would be good if it gets FTP and savable favourites like Transmit.


Despite the cosmetics, its quickly taken over as my main coding application.

the entourage experience

For ages I’ve been trying to work out why my mac has been running so slow. Its a better spec than my powerbook, and yet that runs much faster and zipper. Last week I felt I’d tried everything else (Disk Doctor, Disk Utility, repairing permissions, defragging, system optimiser etc) and all that was left was a clean install. OS X shouldn’t need this in the way that 0S9 used to. And lo, it made no difference apart from gaining some HD space back.

Today I found out what was wrong. I use Microsoft Entourage, a fantastic application which organizes my life, stores my notes and contacts, keeps track of my jobs, as well providing my email. It started going very wappy. I rebuilt the mail database (start up Entourage while holding down the option key). ‘Rebuilding and compacting 8457 messages’ said the window (I hadn’t done it for a while). Once it had finished (and old database files trashed), not only was Entourage back to normal, but my whole mac was zippy and responsive again.

My wife, who is great believer in archiving old emails, is now laughing at me, “So you can use Movable Type, but you can’t use email properly?!”

Let this be a lesson to you. Rebuild. Regularly.

welcome the new kid

Another day, another new OS X application. Pixadex is the ‘iPhoto for icons’, and it really is that intuitive. Store, organise and drop icons on to files and folders (no get info/copy and paste). Its a Panic and Iconfactory co-production, so you know its good!

camino lives!

The good news from Mike Pinkerton is that Camino development is still carrying on. Things have been a little quiet of late, but he reports:

“I’ve got a couple people working on the download manager as well as a full bookmark infrastructure rewrite in progress by someone else.”

Now that the hoo-haa has died down after Safari’s 1.0 release (which crashes at least 3 times a day – my latest nightly build of Camino hasn’t crashed once!), hopefully Camino will get a chance to shine. Mike also reported CNETs comparison of Camino and Safari with glee. I hope it continues to cheer him up…

we have found a witch! can we burn her?!

I’ve playing around with a lot of wee OS X software recently. There seems to be far more independent software developers for OS X than there ever was for OS9. A lot of it is downloaded, used once, and then never again. Some however, are just so darn useful that they might get a position on my dock.

Steven f (from panic) has created Web Desktop. This bizarre app, using the WebKit rendering engine from Safari 1.0, allows browsing on your desktop! I felt very strange using it, as if I was doing something naughty, but its great. Give it a go.

URL cleaner from Hivelogic has helped me solve the problem of the safari resources page not validating. It takes your messy urls and encodes them so that the validators don’t get confused. Simple, free and so useful.

Finally, there is free ruler. A accurate way of measuring screen pixels (can also do inches, picas and centimetres). Gone are the days of making a screenshot, opening it up in Photoshop and measuring it.

Clever people. Witchcraft must be involved…

NetNewsWire

I’ve become addicted to NetNewsWire for OSX from Ranchero software – a few months ago I’d never heard of ‘RSS News Feeds’, now its become as important as email. Its fast, clearly designed (clean cocoa interface) and it also lets me edit this weblog. There is a Lite version that you can try, but before long you’ll want the full deal. If I’m preaching to the converted, you can subscribe to hicksdesign here.