The Importance of APIs in Collaboration Tools

As your team and your projects evolve, it’s easy to find yourself in a position where tweaking your tools would make life a lot easier. If you choose tools with APIs, you’ll have far more options in terms of tweaking down the road.

How-To: Turbocharge Your Browsing With Greasemonkey

Greasemonkey Icon

While the debate over Mac versus PC will last for eternity, one of the elements that many “diehard” PC users have thrown at Apple fanboys is the ability to really tweak their experience, through application add-ons and plugins.

Mac users who use Firefox have had a little taste of this with Greasemonkey, a Firefox add-on that allows support for on the fly changes to websites. If you haven’t heard of Greasemonkey, this is a must read for you and if your browser of choice isn’t Firefox, we’ll show you how to install its equivalent, GreaseKit with Safari.

What Is Greasemonkey?

Greasemonkey is an add-on for browsers that allow users to install “scripts” that are fine tuned to affect how different websites function. For example, if you’re a person who uses MySpace and really hates how the login page is full of ads, you can install a script that adjusts the display of the page when it loads and gives you a cleaner experience.

Cleaning up MySpace is just the beginning; there are scripts for just about everything. If you’re not a fan of the default Gmail web interface, you can use a script that declutters it.

But it’s not just about changing the look and feel of a website; there are scripts that remove content like ads and scripts that add functionality, like a script that lets you add notes to entries in your Netflix queue.

Installing GreaseKit in Safari

While Greasemonkey is an easy add-on if you use Firefox, you can also use similar add-ons in Safari. For Safari users, begin by downloading SIMBL and install it. Then download GreaseKit and install the bundle file inside to ~/Library/Application Support/SIMBL/Plugins. If this folder doesn’t exist, just add it before dropping the file inside.

Next, relaunch Safari and, provided things worked well, you’ll see a new menu entry for GreaseKit. Now go find some scripts (see below) and click “Install This Script” to copy it into GreaseKit. You’ll see the JavaScript flash on screen and eventually it should be added to your GreaseKit menu.

GreaseKit

Getting Scripts

There are a variety of places to find the scripts that integrate with Greasemonkey or GreaseKit. Userscripts.org is perhaps the largest of these and an excellent place to start. I urge caution though as these scripts can become dated when the websites they affect are updated. Also, because you’re not running the scripts in Greasemonkey on Firefox for Windows (where they are usually tested), the add-ons may not function exactly as described. This is likely to happen in Safari if the script is overly complex, requiring additional interfaces to manage it.

Here are the scripts I’ve discussed in this article:

You also might enjoy the Unfriend Finder for Facebook that lets you know when (and who) has unfriended you. This particular script doesn’t work well in Safari, so I recommend using it in Firefox.

Have you found any good scripts? Feel free to use the comments below and let us know what you think.

OS X Tips: Taking Charge of the Color Picker

Spinning Color Wheel

The infamous color picker is present among many of the built-in OS X (s aapl) applications and is quite a powerful tool once you dig into it. With the ability to store your favorite colors in “wells” and use them between applications, the color picker can quickly become an indispensable tool in your daily workflow. Here’s some tips and plugins to supercharge the color picker.

Color Picker Basics

Not all applications support the OS X color picker, but to see if one does, look in Format, View, or Window menus for an entry called “Show Colors.” The color picker is not just limited to the Apple-developed applications, as third-party apps such as Coda, Billings, Daylite and others also include support.
The color picker features “tabs” across the top dividing it into the standard color wheel, color sliders (allowing to you fine tune a color by RGB, HSB, CMYK, or Grayscale sliders), color palettes, image palettes and crayons.
You can pick custom colors by tweaking them in the color picker, or by using the magnifying glass to “pluck” a color from anywhere in the system.
To apply a color, simply highlight text and click the color you want. Or drag the color onto an object.
As mentioned earlier, you can organize your favorite colors by dragging them into one of the wells at the bottom of the picker. If the default amount is not enough, simply click the dot and drag down to allow for a total of 250 places to store your color swatches. Read More about OS X Tips: Taking Charge of the Color Picker

Marry Address Book With Google Maps

Apple’s Address Book is a clean and concise way to manage all of your contacts. It does what it needs without a bunch of frills, and for the most part, that’s a good thing. My use of Address Book is fairly infrequent — and by infrequent I mean that it’s pretty much only utilized around this time of year when I have to send out the annual newsletter or photo card of the kids.

Recently when my younger sister moved into the Big City and sent her ritzy new Manhattan address around to all of us, I entered it into Address Book like a good boy, and promptly forgot about it. It wasn’t long after that my lovely wife wanted to know about the new City digs, but I didn’t know a whole lot. So being a good nerd, I copied the address from Address Book and then copied it into a Google Maps session in Firefox to see what the area looked like. That’s when it hit me — why should I have to go through such a process?!
Read More about Marry Address Book With Google Maps

Yahoo Acquires Inquisitor

Inquisitor

Today, Davaid Wantanabe announced that Yahoo has acquired the rights to his popular Inquisitor for Safari.

Congrats to David, and a big “what the heck?” to Yahoo. I honestly can’t imagine what Yahoo would want with a plugin for Safari.

It has long been a Safari-only plugin so with the acquisition of it on Yahoo’s end, I’m curious how it will expand. David has said he will not be joining Yahoo as an employee, but he will continue to be the lead developer of the Safari version.

Along with the acquisition announcement, version 3.1 of the plugin was released that “improves performance, simplifies the process for switching search providers, and removes affiliate links from the program”. In lieu of the acquisition, it’s obviously not a surprise that Yahoo is now the default search provider (though you can easily change that in the preferences).

Anyone care to venture as to what Yahoo might do with Inquisitor or how it will benefit them?

[Via Daring Fireball]

Perian “The Swiss-Army Knife for Quicktime”

Perian Being a minimalist I quickly became captivated by Apple’s ability to streamline multiple functions into single, easy to use applications. OS X is a clear example of this consistency, every bar, every window and every feature all reflect an over arching goal of practicality and use. My desire for a clean, simple interface quickly translated to third party apps as well. But thankfully most OS X applications follow the very same streamline pattern.

Pre Perian

Not an application, but a Quicktime component, I felt Perian could do with a mention because without it, I wouldn’t be using Quicktime at all. Previous to Perian I relied heavily on VLC for my video needs. I would change all my defaults so my video collection would have immediate access to it. Plus VLC offers unique qualities like network streaming. For basic use however, I felt the need to minimize my Hard Drive foot print and minimize the amount of applications I currently had. In my quest I came across Perian, a total Quicktime lifesaver.

Post Perian

Perian allows you to playback DivX and Xvid, among other formats, with Quicktime. The only issue I ran into was playing full screen. Without Quicktime Pro, full screen viewing is disabled unless you’re using iTunes or Front Row. Thanks to Perian being a component plug-in, and Quicktime being such a deep component of OS X, Front Row obligingly played my DivX files in full screen. Just be sure and keep your DivX in your movies folder, and Front Row will recognize them.
From what I understand of the Apple TV hacks, Perian is the choice for DivX playback. So why not use it on all your computers as well? With Perian installed on multiple computers, I’ve been able to share my DivX through Front Row across my network. Usually that requires sharing a folder or two, but that’s another story. I’m sure Perian is the component of choice for the ultra Mac fan, and probably works best for those of you who include a Mac Mini in your Living Rooms.
So while this may not work for everyone, I encourage you to at least give Perian a go because you’ll still retain DivX playback from OS X, which trust me, is amazing. And if it helps you save even a fraction of hard drive space, well my work here is done then. If you’ve had different experiences or uses for Perian, please share them, I’m very curious to see what else can be done with this digital “Swiss-Army Knife”.