How-To: Using Automator to Combine PDFs

OS X includes a great tool called Automator, which makes it really easy to take the sting out of repetitive tasks. Recently, I ran into a situation where I had to combine a bunch of PDF files into one. Luckily, Automator makes it dead simple.

How-To: Create the Ultimate Camera-to-Internet Workflow

Taking photos with smartphones and uploading them to the Internet instantly is nothing to brag about these days. Even point-and-shoot cameras have optional Wi-Fi solutions available to upload images as soon as they are taken. But what if your needs are a little more complex?

Upon Further Review: Microsoft’s Document Connection Tool

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I used to use my Mac at my day job. However, a combination of not-so-subtle hints from our Information Security folks as well as the general pain in the posterior of managing a SharePoint site on the Mac forced me back to a PC. Frankly, for what I do, my little Dell ultraportable is just fine.

A project recently hit my desk, though, where using the Mac became the best choice for me. We’re shuttering a data center and moving about 300 servers to new locations. It became my task to update all of our documentation to reflect the servers new homes.

After poking around with some lack-luster search tools in SharePoint and a conference with our admins, I learned there wasn’t an automated way to feed a list of servers into SharePoint’s search engine and have it spit out a list of documents each server is in. Read More about Upon Further Review: Microsoft’s Document Connection Tool

Get Chrome for OS X Early With Chromium Nightlies

Google’s Chrome browser is fast, small, and “nearly” perfect. Using the same Webkit rendering engine as Safari, and its own custom V8 javascript engine, Chrome has been blowing away the competition on Windows for over a year. Google is finally nearing a release for the Mac, but since the browser is open source, you can get almost everything from Chrome in the Chromium Nightlies. These builds are separate from the official Google Chrome developers preview, they are in-development versions of Chrome, and are updated almost every night.

I’ve been using the Chromium builds off and on for months, and have recently switched back to it as my primary browser. Chromium reminds me of when Firefox first spun off of Mozilla. It was then, as Chromium is now, small, bare-bones, devoid of feature bloat, and fast. Read More about Get Chrome for OS X Early With Chromium Nightlies

Quick Tip: Automator and Services in Snow Leopard

Originally introduced in OS X Tiger, Automator is a drag-and-drop form of scripting. You can create workflows to easily speed up many tasks. With each version of OS X, Automator has seen some improvements, but with Snow Leopard, it finally realizes its full potential.

It realizes it by allowing you to create your own Services. Unless you really needed to delve into the Services menu (located under the Application menu) you’re likely to never even know it’s there — when I asked a friend to screenshot her Leopard Services menu for this article, she replied “what menu?” That menu was, to put it gently, a bleeping mess. Every service showed up, even ones that couldn’t be used with program or you had little or no use for. Here’s what it looks like in Leopard.

Services Menu 2009-08-29_2026

In Snow Leopard, the Services menu now only displays actions that can be handled by that program. You can also choose what services show up, so if there’s one you never use, you can hide it. Services are also contextual and will show up when you right-click on an actionable item like text in Pages or a file in Finder. If you click on a file in the Finder, and then the gear icon in the toolbar, you can also see what actions apply to that file. Read More about Quick Tip: Automator and Services in Snow Leopard

Concentrate: The Perfect Singletasking App?

concentrate_iconI like my orange juice freshly squeezed, but there are some good things that come from Concentrate. From the new app, that is, not the distilled juice essence. Concentrate is a new program that seems perfectly designed for aspiring singletaskers. It aims to reduce distraction and boost productivity by doing the work of various other separate applications, united under one well-designed roof. While the smart-looking launch page might have you thinking this is a web app, it’s actually a downloadable native OS X app (s aapl) program; Windows (s msft) users will have to look elsewhere for help silencing the static.
What Concentrate provides is different than most apps, though, in that it takes as its core philosophy reduction, rather than addition or enhancement. It’s basically like a task scheduler that works similarly to Automator actions in order to provide you with efficiency-boosting shortcuts to setup programs, block web sites, and run and kill apps, all of which lets you focus on the task at hand.  Read More about Concentrate: The Perfect Singletasking App?

Simplify Your Workflow With Dropzone

Dropzone Icon

The real power of OS X (s aapl) lies in all of the hidden gems beneath what you see at first glance. Technologies like Expose, Spaces, Stacks, Spotlight and others help users tap the power of their Mac, while keeping the experience sleek and elegant. Aptonic’s Dropzone, a third-party application designed to further simplify your Mac experience, fits into this group perfectly and naturally.

It’s Like an Intern for Your Dock

Dropzone is an application that resides in your Dock like any other app. The power of Dropzone comes into play when you begin dragging files onto its icon. Similar to the appearance of a Stack, Dropzone will expand giving you options of what to do with the file or files you’ve selected. Think of it like Automator for your Dock.

For example, if I have a handful of files selected, and drag them onto my Dropzone icon, I am presented with a series of choices, one of which is “Zip files and email.” As simple as it sounds, dragging the files onto this icon zips the files automatically and attaches them to a new email message inside of Mail. Gone are the days of right-clicking to compress the files, attaching that to an email and then deleting the zip file when I’m done. Read More about Simplify Your Workflow With Dropzone

Resource Roundup: Automator

automator_icon

Since first appearing in Tiger, Automator has brought programming to the masses in a simple drag and drop interface. An entire ecosystem has sprung up around Automator, using its ability to create and distribute complex workflows and actions, and the ability for developers to provide Automator with actions specific to their application. If you are looking for a way to automate a repetitive task, chances are there may already be an action or workflow built to do what you need.

The best resource, and the first stop on the way to finding the perfect automation solution, is Apple’s own download page. One I found that was immediately useful was the attach2mail action, which gives the Finder a contextual menu to attach the selected Finder items in a new email in Mail. If nothing in the Apple site seems right, Automator.us, Automator World, and Automator Actions each offer collections of user-submitted actions and workflows. Read More about Resource Roundup: Automator

iTunes Tip: Remembering to Rate Your iTunes Music

My life is busy (and yes, if you’re wondering, it is all about me), and frequently I tend to rip or download music without taking the time to apply ratings to it. Since ratings are one of the best methods for determining the usefulness of your playlists, neglecting to add that information to your tracks can really handicap the power iTunes offers.

Some pondering of the issue (and a putrid burning smell) led me to come up with a Do It Yourself kind of solution that everyone can institute without spending anything more than a little time. If this sounds like something useful to you, feel free to follow along at home.
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Optimize iPhone Photo Retrieval With Apple’s Image Capture Utility

Despite the iPhone having a less-than-stellar camera, I wind up taking more pictures with it than any other device we own. This becomes a painful reality every time I connect my phone up to my MacBook Pro since I am reminded that I have enabled the launching of iPhoto whenever there are new pictures to retrieve. More often than not, these quick snaps do not make it to my iPhoto library (due to image quality) but that does not mean I do not want to do some non-mobile processing with them. Enter Apple’s Image Capture application (which can be found right within your Applications folder).

Connect your iPhone (and quit iPhoto, if it comes up) and fire up Image Capture. You will see that it recognizes your device and is ready to serve.
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