Gabriel Knight – Sins of the Fathers

(20th Anniversary)

A Gem From the Past Remastered to be Enjoyed Again

by Marcel Dufresne

Jan 14, 2022

     Gabriel Knight was a point-and-click adventure that was very popular in the 1990s. Fortunately for us, the original game has been re-released as Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers (20th Anniversary Edition). If you have never played the game before, now is your chance to try it out and see why it was so popular. If you do remember playing it, this version has been remastered in terms of graphics and sound, and new voice recordings were made. This way you can revisit a game played in your youth using a more modern computer. Obviously, the original game from the 90s will not play on the Mac OS we now use so this remastering of a classic is worth looking into. 

     The titular character, Gabriel Knight, is an author and book store owner in New Orleans who ends up investigating a strange series of murders. In this game, he is assisted by Grace Nakimura his girl Friday who acts as our hero’s receptionist, assistant, and researcher. A studio apartment adjacent to the shop serves as Gabriel’s home and office. He is financially struggling and looking for an interesting theme to base his next novel on. A series of murders labelled the ‘Voodoo Murders’ by the press might just fit the bill. This series of horrific murders within the city has left the victims with ritualistic voodoo symbols surrounding their bodies. Thus Gabriel begins his investigation, aided by Grace and his friend Detective Mosely who happens to be the lead investigator.

     As with all point-and-click games, the storyline drives our hero from one scene to another. The non-player characters (NPC’s) when questioned provide much-needed clues as to what to do next. It is imperative that you chat with all the characters you meet. Objects along the way are picked up and stored, ready for use, in an inventory. You must also solve puzzles and complete tasks through the use of acquired items, information gathered, specific devices that can be activated, or provoking some of the NPCs. Moving from one scene to another is facilitated by a map. Click on the area you wish to go to and you are immediately transported there.

     The game’s story proceeds linearly from one day to the next. You can’t retire for the night until all the tasks for that day are accomplished. This includes solving the required puzzles and obtaining the proper information from the NPC’s. To keep track of your progress, a point total is shown in the top left of the screen. Each puzzle solved or information gleaned results in the collection of points.

     The elaborate story unfolds over ten days. Each day of the first week starts as St. George’s Books opens its doors. During the investigation, Gabriel learns that he is related to the Ritter family, making him the latest in a line of Schattenjägers (“Shadow Hunters”) who are meant to fight supernatural beings. This newly acquired knowledge causes him to fly from New Orleans to Germany on day eight to talk with the eldest Ritter family member still alive. From there, day nine is a foray into Africa. Lastly, the final showdown is back in New Orleans. There are two completely different conclusions to the story. These are dependent on his final choices.

     Each scene that Gabriel enters has loads of hot spots, some more important than others. Hitting the space bar indicates all the areas he can explore. The cursor registers the actions that can be taken for each object or person. Some items can only be looked at, with an appropriate comment from the narrator. Other items and people can also be talked to, taken, or used. If taken, they end up in the inventory where you can again look at them, use them, or combine items. 

     The dialogue is quite appropriate to the setting. Gabriel has the typical drawl of a Southerner. That and his sense of humour are very enticing to the opposite sex. Unfortunately, his attitude towards women is straight out of the nineties. He and Moseley are extremely condescending in the way they treat their female subordinates. Each of them makes comments that, in the modern workplace, would be wildly inappropriate and (in Gabriel’s case) could be considered sexual harassment. As far as the other characters, again their accents help to emphasize the location, whether New Orleans, Germany, or Africa. Each character exhibits specific traits and has a distinctive appeal. Dialogues are well written and full of historical detail as well as information to solve the murders. I especially liked the narrator’s cajun voice-over which emphasized New Orleans’ exotic nature.

     This game plays out longer than most other point-and-click adventures. It took me almost 20 hours to complete. Part of the reason for this is that the game contains a lot of dialogue. The developer has taken care in presenting the city and its history. Each NPC provides a background history of the city and Voodoo practices. Much of it can be ignored if you so wish. The important info is in a yellow font and provides game points when explored. All the rest is FYI only. I did start to skip over some of the dialogue. Hearing variations of “I know nothing about that” while clicking through conversations became a bit tedious. However, sticking to only the essential topics means that you miss out on some of the historical background and character development that give this game its individuality.

     The graphics are great. They have been upgraded from the pixel-like original game. Each day dawns with light illuminating the rain-slick pavements, wrought-iron balconies, and picturesque awnings of Bourbon Street. The Big Easy comes alive in the outdoor scenes, ranging from the circular sidewalks of Jackson Square to the elaborate tombs in the St. Louis Cemetery. The Voodoo Museum has dripping candles, mottled human skulls, rotting fruit, and bottles of congealed liquids. The Dixieland Drug Store is stocked to the ceiling with mysterious jars, bags, boxes, bowls, and a robed crocodile mannequin. Each environment contains small ambient animations, whether mist drifting by, smoke rising from a candle flame, a snake twitching in its cage, or a squirrel frolicking amongst the tombs. 

     The musical score and the background sounds fit right into the story. From chanting African music to drums beating, the remastered music adds an appreciated atmosphere to most locations. Cutscenes are presented in a graphic novel-like format with dramatic voodoo rituals displayed and colourful costumes. These can be skipped. Another story layer is presented via a graphic novel accessed in the main menu. This describes the actions of Gabriel’s distant ancestors and provides the link between the past and the present in terms of both Gabriel’s family and the historic practice of voodoo in New Orleans. 

     The new version contains many of the original puzzles with the additions of a few others. The developers have done a great job of integrating these puzzles into the storyline. The gameplay consists of inventory puzzles, dialogue challenges, and many puzzle sequences that require a series of steps. Some of the more straightforward challenges are quick but fun. Many of the puzzles are high on the difficulty scale. For instance, there is a sequence that requires you to influence the movement of an annoying street performer in Jackson Square. A few of the challenges are timed and it is possible to die. The game restarts at the pivotal spot giving you ample time to try something else. The action needed to survive is often limited to a single correct step. If you know what actions to take during these sequences, the time allowed is adequate. The restriction forces intense experimentation, and until you do figure out the precise steps, the repetition can be frustrating.  

     Fortunately, the game contains a journal that not only gives you clues to what Gabriel is thinking but also records some of the specific details of what he has learned – knowledge that occasionally helps with puzzle solutions. In addition, the journal contains a system with graduated hints of specific obstacles, as well as a list of everything that needs to be accomplished within a particular day. This list doesn’t give exact details, but at least it provides you with an idea of what needs to be addressed. 

     Even though Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers 20th Anniversary Edition has been out for some time, it has lost none of its charm. The story is timeless and well worth playing. Being reimagined with improved graphics, soundtrack, and new puzzles and gameplay, it can compete with any point-and-click adventure game now out there. It retains the strength of the original with its engaging characters, clever one-liners, elaborate story, and lengthy gameplay. Click here to read more about the game. Treat yourself to a wonderfully engrossing and entertaining game. 

Permute – Easily Convert Video, Audio, and Image Files to Other Formats

by Marcel Dufresne

Dec 8, 2021

 

     Video, audio and image files come in many different formats. It is not unusual to require a different file type from what you are using. Sometimes you need a specific format for your iPad or your DVD player won’t play that video. This is when Permute comes to the rescue. It will easily convert your media files to various formats. As an example, consider QuickTime. I have been able to do some simple video conversions over the years with this versatile app which came as free software with my Mac. Unfortunately, it has run its course and is no longer a viable option for file conversions. Permute solves this problem. It offers easy-to-use drag-and-drop video conversions. Its simplicity puts it ahead of other apps, some of which are free to use. There are no complicated options to learn. Read on to find out more about this application.

     To start using Permute, drag-and-drop media files onto its main window or its Dock icon. Permute will automatically sort the files into groups by one of three media file types. For instance, if you drop some video, audio and image files, you will get a similar result to the image below.

     Each group acts separately. It can have a different preset and different options. You can drag a file from one group into another, or reorder them within the group as well. If you want to create a new group with one of the files, click on the Actions button on that file and select an option to create a new group.

     It is amazingly fast. Simply drop a video file into the starting window, select the video format you want to end up with and it will be done quickly. Convert an MP4 audio file to a lossless file in the blink of an eye. Presets for such formats as MP4 and HEVC take advantage of your machine’s hardware and speed up conversions at more than three times the speed of other apps. Presets consist of lists of the most commonly used conversion formats for audio, video and images. They are displayed in a drop-down menu in the conversion window. The menu changes with the type of file you wish to convert. You can customize the list of presets, disable them, add custom, or remove unnecessary ones using the Preferences. 

     Permute enables you to set the video and audio format quality from several levels. The basic four automatically adjust the bitrate based on the input file and output size. If a low bitrate is used, you get a quick conversion but poorer visual output. The medium bitrate, which is the default, produces a relatively quick conversion while maintaining the quality. High and ultra bitrates complete the choices.

     As mentioned already, Permute is very easy to use but if you run into a problem, there is a  Support button in the bottom-right corner of the window. I did not need this as the Permute Help manual was able to walk me through the various intricacies of the app. 

     Permute has a set of less frequently used tools called Workshops. You can enable and disable Permute’s Workshop modules from the Preferences. These Workshops allow Permute to go beyond simple conversions. By default, these modules are not enabled, but one can easily enable them. Some Workshop modules can handle certain file types automatically when they are dropped onto Permute’s window. An example is the .cue files which will be immediately handled. When a PDF file is added to the Permute window, it triggers a request to choose a Workshop to handle it. It limits the choices to only those Workshops which handle the PDFs. Check the screenshot below to obtain a quick overview of all the Workshop modules currently bundled with Permute. I was able to make an audio file from a .txt using one of these Workshops.

     The newest version of the app has a few interesting extras. It is now able to stitch multiple images into a single PDF. Dark mode is available for those so inclined. As video encoding can be a long process, you can now schedule to convert videos when you’re not using your computer. Additional features include adjusting the volume of an audio file or an audio track and the ability to batch resize, rotate, and flip images and video. Permute includes iTunes integration that allows you to automatically add converted files into iTunes. 

     Perhaps the best-known free competitor for Permute is HandBrake. I have used this for video conversions in the past. Unfortunately, HandBrake offers so much functionality that it may overwhelm you. It does offer similar presets but I found Permute’s much easier to use. There was no real learning curve to it. Handbrake is definitely a viable option being free. However, it is limited to handling video files only. Permute also works with audio and images. With Permute you can convert an audio file into a sought-after lossless file. This is a much larger file and hopefully produces a better sounding output. And, the conversions are much faster. 

     Although there are other apps, some free, that will do conversions, Permute works on three media types. There is no need to remember which of the other apps you need to use for a specific conversion. Permute handles them all. Because the app supports so many different formats, converting video and audio files and making them ready for easy playback on your iPhone, iPad, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, or Android device is simple. It doesn’t matter if you’re converting Home movies or processing images, it can do it all. It supports nearly every format including QuickTime .mov files and provides many presets to choose from. Click here to read more about this useful application and to download a free trial. Try it out for free and see for yourself how simple and quick it is to use. For the low cost of $15 no more will you have to give up on a file because the format won’t play on your device.



Tidy Up 5 – Find Duplicate Files and Photos Quickly and Easily

by Marcel Dufresne

Nov 26, 2021

     Tidy Up 5 is a full-featured duplicate file remover. It’s designed for pro users that need a quick and efficient tool to free up needed space but is straightforward enough that even the casual user can benefit from it. Tidy Up is easy to use and totally customizable. The MacOS system uses hundreds of thousands of files, and every application installed on the computer adds more. Inevitably, some of these items will be duplicates, many of which are redundant. Over time and with use, the number of duplicate files on your system increases, taking up space and contributing to the slowing down of operations. The most guilty culprits of the duplication of files are apps such as Lightroom, Mail, iTunes and Photos. They throw e-mails, songs, videos and photos into the equation. What with being added, moved, copied, or renamed, these files accumulate over time. This clutter isn’t always easy to find or identify and that’s where Tidy Up comes to the rescue. Read on to see if this app might be the solution to your overcrowded drive.

     By assisting you in locating and managing duplicate items stored on your computer’s hard disk, Tidy Up allows you to reclaim storage space and potentially increase the efficiency of the applications. It not only searches your drive for duplicates but it can search and manage the content of the specific databases of Lightroom, Photos, Mail and iTunes. This specificity allows you to customize the search and get it done much more quickly. You could do a search of your entire internal drive, but the resulting output would take a long time to complete and the size of the data would take you a long time to digest. Tidy Up simplifies this by letting you choose what to search for.

     Besides searching in your Mac’s main hard drive, Tidy Up can also be used to locate duplicate items on any mounted disc or drive: disc images, network drives, portable hard drives, or USB thumb drives. It does not however allow you to search for duplicates between two drives. You can do two drives at the same time but the result will only show duplicates within each specific drive.

     Tidy Up is extremely customizable. It is developed for the pro user and as such has a lot of built-in power. When you first open it, you have the option of using the simple mode or the advanced mode. For this review, I am going to stick to the simple mode, which anyone can easily use. The simple mode is used if you just want to clean out some duplicates, or if you want to perform a search from one of the predefined clean tasks (such as getting rid of empty folders). 

     The first step in finding duplicate items using Tidy Up is to choose the location of the search. Your hard drive is listed as the initial source to be searched but this can be changed. Tapping the gear icon adds Apps support and Documents to the search field. In addition, it will list any other drives connected to your computer. You can also drop any folder to this area or click on the add button to search your drive for the appropriate folder. To decide what source you want, use the check box next to the item. More than one can be searched at the same time.

     To speed up a search and also limit the output it behooves you to choose a specific type of file. As you can see from the screenshot, there are several choices to use. Images, images from the Photo app, images from the Aperture app, and images based on the EXIF data can be used. Music has three choices. The Folders choice is obvious. The Other Files lets you pick specific data such as emails, text, or movies. The last category is Miscellaneous which is an interesting one. You can get a resulting list of all the empty files and folders, cache and log files older than 30 days, preference files older than one year, and more. See the screenshot below to get an idea of this search category.

     Once the source and the type of search are selected, hit the search button at the bottom of the window and start the process. In no time at all, depending on your search criteria, you will have an output window to mull over. Tidy Up can locate and remove files and folders using various criteria. Whether they are duplicates, similar, unique or empty, Tidy Up will find and list them. 

     The final step is to process the reported items. I did a simple search of my main drive using the music criteria. It took about 30 seconds to complete. I could then see either the duplicated music or movies or both. You should carefully look at the items. A checkmark is placed beside any duplicates except for the newest one. Selecting an item calls up some data, similar to a Quick Search, into the right column of the window. You can play the song (if possible), see some of the EXIF data, and see the storage path of the item. Once you have looked at all of the choices, you can click on the ‘Remove “Music” Content’ button and all the checked items are sent to the Trash.

     With Tidy Up in the advanced mode, you can search for duplicate files and packages by the owner application, content, type, creator, extension, time modified, time created, name, label, visibility, and date/age. You can also search by the tag, duration, and bit installments of MP3 and AAC sound files and EXIF metadata; search the contents of the iPhoto, Aperture, iTunes, iPod databases, and Mail mailboxes; and synchronize deletions with iPhoto, Mail, and iTunes. Tidy Up allows you to search for duplicate folders by name, date modified, date created, label visibility, empty folders, their contents, and more.

     If you need to free up space on your hard drive and possibly improve performance then you should look at Tidy Up. It is one of the best full-featured duplicate removers on the market. It is designed for pro users but is simple enough for casual users. There is a 10 day free trial of the app. Click here to visit the developers’ website and to download the app. Check it out with a test drive. 

Growbot – Enthralling Point-and-Click Adventure Game

by Marcel Dufresne

Nov 16, 2021

     Growbot is a beautifully-drawn 2D point-and-click adventure game set in a futuristic space station. It concerns a robot trying to save her home from a dark crystalline force. The scenes are bursting with graphically pleasing fantastic plants and aliens. You play as Nara, a growbot in training to become a captain. Whilst onboard, the station is attacked leaving the captain injured, the crew missing and substantial damage to the station. It is up to you to uncover the mystery of the incursion and stop the perpetrator before the station, and possibly your homeland is destroyed.

     Growbot is fairly easy to play. You move from one room to another either by a side corridor or an elevator. You get to dialogue with several adorable characters who provide plenty of instructions as to what to try next. When you start conversations with these, questions are displayed in a text box at the bottom of the screen. This display is necessary as the characters speak unintelligible melodic gibberish. Some of the text branches into more questions, but mostly you’ll get short answers. Fortunately, the dialogues are kept to a minimum and don’t get in the way of the game-play. As such, it is fun to play this point-and-click adventure. 

     Walking around the space station you will find many objects to interact with. The cursor’s circle icon changes colour depending on the interactive object it lands on. Some objects will offer clues to puzzles ahead, some will offer comedic repartee, and others you can collect. Again, the text bar will relay any useful information about the objects.

     There is an inventory area for your collectables but it is never full. Sometimes items need to be combined before using them. You can examine objects in your inventory and receive basic info about them. There are actually two inventories. The one on the left contains items that you will use over and over again, such as the unique musical power flower arranger. The right side is to be stocked with consumable items that you find or make and use once. The shields and sparks are stored here. Another consumable is a set of items stored up and then used to make up a potion.

     There are a variety of different puzzles to be solved along the way. These include mazes, slider puzzles, number puzzles and putting different shaped wheels on cogs. Some of them are very imaginative but none of them are too difficult. The major problem I had with some of the puzzles was with the given instructions. I found a few to be quite vague as to what to do and I had to spend some time playing around before I stumbled across the correct method. The instructions could have been better explained or perhaps more detailed. Once I understood what had to be done, the solutions were just about the right level of difficulty, leaning slightly towards the easier side.   

     The most unique puzzles were based on musical notes produced by the various flowers collected along the way. Six space stations are surrounding the asteroid of Kew which make up a network of shields. The shields are generated by power flowers, which give off musical notes when interacted with. Each flower has its own unique signature tune. To cross through areas and move on in the game, you have to create shields. To manufacture a shield, you need to place a discovered shield into the flower arranger. Each shield has a specific song that you can listen to. The song is composed of notes produced by the various flowers you collect. Once you have listened to the song, you must then reproduce it by placing the correct flower (note) in the right order into the arranger. If correct, a new shield will appear in your consumables inventory. Using it opens up the next scene in the game. The shields get more complicated as you move along. This makes it a little more difficult to decipher the correct tune and find the corresponding flower notes. If it does get too difficult you can turn on the hint system and it will help you pick the correct flowers. 

     I really enjoyed playing this game. The artwork was fantastic. The sounds, including the alien gibberish, were captivating. There was minimal running around. Usually, you were confined to exploring three to four rooms at any one time. There were cute graphics, especially the growbots themselves. 

     Growbot is an original space tale with reasonably challenging puzzles based for the most part around a musical theme. Even though music is the major game theme, there are plenty of other puzzles to keep gameplay varied. You can get the game from Steam for about $20. Check out the gameplay by watching the following video. The game took me between six and seven hours to complete and I was able to garner most of the achievements. This picturesque game is well worth the price and the time to play.

Quick Print – Speed Up Printing By-Passing the Originating Application

     Quick Print is a handy program that provides additional controls that often help speed up printing. It prints files and documents from the Finder without you having to open up the native application. You simply choose the document or file from the desktop and click Quick Print. It currently supports most common images, text files, web browser files, PDFs, fonts, contents of folders, applications and more. 

     To print an item, you only need to select it in the Finder. If the Quick Print window is closed, you have several options on how to open it. The easiest is to click on its icon in the menu bar, then click on the print button. The printer control window then pops up, just like it would from any application, and you can tweak the printout. Choices like the size, number of copies, which page of a multiple page document to start from and more are at your disposal.

     Another way to open the Quick Print window is to use a hotkey combination (⌃-⎇-P by default). You can also drag the item to print onto the Quick Print icon or use the system Service. To print the data copied in the clipboard, just choose the Print Clipboard menu item from the Quick Print Actions menu.

     Quick Print offers several extras not normally found with the simple print command. The nature of these is dependent on the type of item you wish printed up. If a folder of items is chosen, Quick Print gives you the ability to print out the folder contents as a list. You can also scroll through each item while the Quick Print window is open. As you scroll, the window gives you a view of what can be printed. You will be able to print one after another. This was an obvious improvement over what I normally do. Unfortunately, multiple items cannot be printed all at once which means you cannot print the entire contents of a file with one command. They have to be printed one at a time. Even the Preview application does not allow this type of operation. 

     An Info button is visible for items such as a jpeg and allows you to see and print the main attributes of that item. See the screenshot below.

The Rotate buttons allow you to rotate the image to the left and the right. Clicking on the dimension field makes it possible to change the size units from cm to mm to pixels or inches. If you double-click on the image, a standard “Image Edit” panel will be shown, allowing you to apply image filters before printing it.

     Some applications store recent copies of documents so that you can backtrack to a previously saved version. When an application has this function, then Quick Print shows a menu choice ‘Recents’ in the top corner. You can then print one of the older files without opening it in the native app.

     For PDF documents, you can scale the font size down or up. In addition, there are navigation controls that enable you to jump to a specific page number or browse the pages by clicking on the arrow buttons.

     A few other common controls are visible at the bottom of the Quick Print window. The Detach button allows you to detach the window from the menu bar and move it around to a more suitable location and keep it from getting in the way. Afterwards, you can re-attach it. The Anchor button allows you to keep the window open when a click on the desktop is made and no selected file was found. Finally, the Actions menu allows you to accomplish the main actions related to it, such as opening the preferences window, quitting Quick Print, etc.

     You might be asking why one would need a print application when all dedicated apps will print on command. Quick Print is not for everyone. The more you print, the more time Quick Print can save you, and the more useful it becomes. If you print once in a while, it is not for you. Its greatest selling point is the ability to print by-passing the native application. That alone is a time saver. Your best bet is to download the trial version of the app and see how easy it is to use. Click here to access the Hyperbolic Software website. The full version costs around $10. Only you can decide if this is a time-saver application or not. I am keeping it active in my menu bar for now.

GoodTask – Easy-to-use Substitute for Paper Agendas and To-Do Lists

     Keeping track of all the weekly tasks one has to get through is fraught with problems. The first question is what day should any one of them be completed. The next is the time. As many of our tasks are not daily occurrences, but rather weekly or some even monthly, we need a way to keep track of them all. The antiquated method was to keep a daily paper calendar organizer with us. Now with computers, iPads, iPhones and the Internet, this can be better accomplished digitally. Reminders is an application included in all versions of Mac OS and iOS. It is sufficient for many of our needs but it does lack power. GoodTask is an application that uses the Reminders core and then puts it out into a more user-friendly format. Read on to discover some of the functionality that GoodTask provides.

     Use GoodTask in a simple manner like Reminders with the Calendar’s data integrated or you can fully customize it to be a full-featured task manager. It has a multitude of settings that will let you customize the app to match your needs. I was able to quickly duplicate data from my old task manager and transfer it into GoodTask. The layout was different but the compact size of GoodTask’s window was much better suited to my needs. 

     When you first open GoodTask, you’ll see two types of data: Smart Lists and Lists. ‘Lists’ represent the lists you’ve set up in the Reminders app. ‘Smart Lists’ allow you to filter tasks, regardless of which Reminders list they belong to. There are already a few Smart Lists activated when you start the app. If you already have some data stored in the Reminders app, these will show up in the lists. Creating a new list will probably be your first action. Tap the ‘+’ button at the bottom left to bring up a choice of what kind of list you want. You can set up as many lists as you want. I have separate lists for various functions such as weekly chores and work-related activities.

     Once the list is created, you then add tasks to it. Pick a descriptive title, choose which list to store it in, decide on a due time/date (or leave it unscheduled), and then add notes or a URL to the field. The function I like the most is the ability to make subtasks. These will appear as smaller print under the task title, with the ability to check each one off as they are completed. As with most task managers, you can indicate when a task has been completed. With GoodTask you tap the circle next to the task or subtask. 

     Now that you have a list of tasks to complete, you need to decide on how to display the data. Again, GoodTask is up to the challenge and offers you numerous ways to view your information. The two main views are List view and Board view. The List view can be seen as a straightforward list, but you can opt for a day, week or month view which includes the appropriate calendar data at the top of the screen. I preferred using the Weekly List view which included any Calendar Events at the bottom. This GoodTask window is compact and able to fit on my desktop without having to do much scrolling. I can usually see all my uncompleted tasks at the same time. 

     The Board view shows boards horizontally with tasks on each board according to its type. There are four view types: Date, Priority, List and Tag. Date view will show Today, Tomorrow, Later and No Due date boards. Priority will show High, Mid, Low and No Priority boards. List will show all Reminders lists on separate boards. Tag will show boards with whatever tags you have used. You can easily switch back and forth between Lists and Board views. 

     When you click on a task, the Task Detail page fills the right-hand panel with various items such as Title, Status Bar, Notes, Quick Actions, General and Subtasks. Quick Actions are shortcuts that have been set up by the developer to simplify often used processes. The Notes area allows you to attach a photo, a video, an audio or a file for that task. The General area includes due date, alert and repeat options. Tapping it will let you edit anything in it. There are buttons for Start Date, Due Date, Alert, Auto-Snooze, Repeat, Location and Attachments. 

     It is possible to set a task as a recurring task. I really like this as I have a few items that I want to do every week. Once I have checked it off for this week, it immediately becomes active for the next time frame. You have quite a bit of customization as to an event’s recurrence. You can set powerful repeat options for each task from simple ones like every day or weekday, or custom ones like every 2nd Tuesday, or last weekday of every month. I have one event set for Monday, Wednesday, and Friday of every week. 

     The App Icon Badge found in the Dock can be set to show how many items you have left to complete for the day. GoodTask runs notifications for tasks and these pop up on the top right side of your desktop. If you find the GoodTask main window a bit cumbersome you might use the Today Page. You can start your day and finish it through Today Page. The Today page button shows the current date. You can set your name which will be shown on the initial welcome page. It is just another way to view your tasks with a very simple uncomplicated view which you might prefer. 

     The Preferences for GoodTask provides that extra bit of customization that personalizes this application. Under Lists, you can choose which Calendar Files to use for notification. The Notification area provides choices for the time to notify you and what sound, if any, you want to be played. The Quick Action tab lets you turn on or off the host of shortcuts. If there are some you never use, eliminate them from the field. The Sync tab lets you pick and choose which items to sync. There are of course a lot more Preference items but you will have to play with these yourself until you have it set up just right.

     The main benefit to using GoodTask over other task managers is the instantaneous way it uses iCloud to sync your data. Because the info is stored in Reminders, any Apple device will retain any changes you make. GoodTask not only works with computers but also with iPads, iPhones, and Apple Watches.  

     Reminders does a moderately adequate job as a task manager but the numerous third-party applications indicate that it has limitations. GoodTask is an application that takes Reminders to another level. With its link to iCloud, it is always within your reach. The computer version is about $40 which is the going rate for this type of software. The paper agendas are almost as expensive and you have to replace them every year. If you still find this a bit pricey then I suggest you get the iOS version which is around $10. The iOS version is similar in what it can do, but it has a different look to it. For instance, if you use a URL in the Notes, it will show up with a snapshot of the web page rather than the link. Click here to read more about this handy application. Download the free trial. Throw away your paper organizer and stay on top of your to-do lists with GoodTask.

Clicker for Netflix – a Simplified Netflix Standalone Player

by Marcel Dufresne

Sept 29, 2021

     Watching Netflix on a computer or laptop requires you to login to the Web site using a browser. Clicker for Netflix is a standalone Netflix player for Mac. It has the look and feel of your browser connection but adds some very useful and time-saving features. Read on to find out if this application might improve your Netflix experience.

Safari browser on the left and Clicker for Netflix on the right

     When you first start Clicker, the application window mimics the page found when you start Netflix in a browser. You get the same control buttons such as move ahead or back 10s, go to the next episode, choose an episode, audio and subtitles choices, and go to full screen. This is also the same as the iPad Netflix app. What Clicker does is add a few extras and simplify some choices. This saves a bit of time and adds a lot of convenience to watching Netflix. My favourite additional feature is Picture-in-Picture (an iOS feature). This option allows you to watch Netflix while multitasking on other tasks. It plays on where you set it even if you switch desktops.   

     Clicker for Netflix can reside in your Dock. This means you can quickly launch Netflix by clicking on its dock icon. Once it is started, a menu bar icon shows up at the top of your screen. This provides a quick listing of your recently viewed items. Pick the one you want to watch and it immediately starts up, right from where you left off or if you had finished an episode, with the next one in line. You can quickly switch to another show the same way. Because it is in the menu bar, you have instant access to any recently watched show no matter where you are on your Mac. The Clicker for Netflix menu bar icon lets you quickly choose from the list of recently viewed programs so you don’t have to look for the “Continue Watching” field in the browser window.

     The cog icon in the top right opens the Preferences. Some of the more useful choices here include preventing trailers from autoplaying, disabling the hover effect on posters, and automatically always skipping the intro. You can see the complete list of choices from the screenshot shown here. 

     The window’s menu bar is a lot simpler than that found with a browser. You have access to the most used functions such as go back or forward a page and refresh the page. The share button is here so you can send the URL of the episode to others through Mail or to yourself in Notes or Reminders. And that is it. There are no other distracting icons that the browser menu bar contains. There are no tabs to navigate through. It is not filled with the numerous other choices that a browser has which are not needed when watching Netflix. This makes making choices using Clicker for Netflix faster with a streamlined interface.

     Playing Netflix from a browser works but this is not the main function of a browser. As such, it includes many features which you would not use with Netflix. I have found some browsers to be a bit cumbersome to use as they weave their way through the Internet. Speed suffers as the spinning beach ball shows up once in a while. Clicker for Netflix was built with one main function in mind. It plays Netflix. It is always better to use a one-function application than to rely on a multifunction one. iTunes is a great example of this overextension.

     Clicker for Netflix has the same look as the browser view but it simplifies the look and adds some extra features. Unfortunately, it does not come with a free trial feature. To use it you must purchase it for about $8. There is however a 30-day money-back guarantee, but I think you will be pleased with how this application works and will not have to reclaim your purchase price. Click here to read more about this application. If you like to watch Netflix on your computer or laptop then you should definitely check out Clicker for Netflix. 

DaisyDisk – Pictorial Graphic Map of your Drives

by Marcel Dufresne

Sept 21, 2021

     No matter how much space we start with, we somehow always end up filling it up. This applies not only to living space but also to computers. When your computer starts to max out and run out of elbow room, it becomes sluggish and performs poorly. The cure for this is to free up some space so it can more easily function and allow it to breathe more fully. The main purpose of DaisyDisk is to help in space reclamation. It presents a visualized map of your disk and simplifies freeing up disk space. You can quickly find and delete big unused files.

     Upon launch, DaisyDisk displays a list of all volumes mounted on your Mac with your startup disk at the top. You can easily tell which disks are running out of free space by taking a brief look at disk usage gauges. Green color means at least half of your disk is empty; red is the opposite. The number below the gauge tells you how much space is left, and mousing over it reveals the amount of used space. To find out what is taking up disk space, you need to scan the disk. You can scan whole disks or individual folders. The newest version of DaisyDisk allows you to scan external drives and even some Cloud drives.

     To scan a disk, drive or folder, click the Scan button next to the gauge or simply drag-and-drop it from the Finder onto DaisyDisk’s window or Dock icon. The scan displays your disk and its content as a sector diagram where the biggest files and folders become obvious. The DaisyDisk scan can be described as a sunburst map. It is a good visual representation of the various items in the drive or folder. The graph can be thought of as if it was a flower. Colored petals are folders; grey ones are files. The wider the petal, the larger the object it represents. For ease of distinction, all the segments are already sorted by size. The files and folders that are too thin to be visible separately are consolidated into semi-transparent petals. When you mouse over any petal you will see its content on the sidebar. Click to drill down. As you do so, the system path shows up at the top of the window. You can use this to reverse the map. And if you want to navigate to the parent folder, click in the very center of the disk map.  

     The main purpose of DaisyDisk is to map your drive and folders to help you delete large unused items and thus to save space on your drive. By looking at the disk map, you should be able to locate unusually large folders. Then drill down and find out what actually takes so much space. For instance, the iTunes library often takes up many gigabytes of space on your users’ disks. 

     There are a few steps one could take to eliminate wasted disk space. First, check for duplicates. Removing a single film’s copy can save you up to 5 gigabytes. Next, remove old backups of your iOS devices. These are normally located within ~/Library/Application Support/MobileSync/Backup. Delete old purchased content. You don’t have to keep a local copy of every movie, song or app you’ve purchased on iTunes as they can be downloaded again anytime (unless taken down from the store). Remove some large movies, apps or podcasts. Finally, check your movie (~/Movies) or music (~/Music) folders for large films, podcasts or music collections you may not need anymore. 

     Another problem area is the download folder. Download (~/Downloads) folders are often filled with lots of large files you don’t need. It’s usually a good idea to move everything valuable out of this folder and just empty it from time to time. Modern games are notorious for taking up a lot of your disk space. The Mac App Store and Steam gamers are lucky in that they can delete their games and re-download them later. Since you own the game, it is always there to download again, saving tens of gigabytes on your disks. If you are not playing it regularly, consider moth-balling it. As a quick caution for Steam users, don’t delete Steam games using the DaisyDisk delete function. Use Steam’s UI instead. DaisyDisk not only helps you find space wasters but makes it easier to decide whether the files are apt for the deletion or not.

     If you frequently scan a folder, click on its icon to star it. Starred folders remain pinned to the list of disks after you restart the application. Use the mouse’s right control to bring up the contextual menu of any disk or folder in the window. The sidebar panel provides basic information about files and folders, but in some cases, this is not enough. You can preview the content of any file or folder using the built-in Quick Look, just like you do in the Finder. Simply point to an object and press Space or right-click and select Preview from the menu. And the Preview works on the disk map, sidebar and Collector items. 

    Now, for the deletion process. You can tear off DaisyDisk’s petals or pick from the right-hand list of items and drop them to the special area at the bottom left called the ‘Collector’. In addition to drag-and-drop, you can put files and folders into the Collector by selecting the Move Selected File to Collector command from the item’s contextual menu, or by pressing ⌘⌫ hotkey while pointing to an object. Don’t worry, the files remain intact until you click the Delete button. You can expand the Collector by clicking on it to make sure you are not about to accidentally delete some needed files. The expanded Collector works just like the sidebar, so you can preview files and drag them out. Another way to get an item out of the Collector is to point and click the × button near its name.

     Fortunately, the Collector will not accept certain files. Some folders like /System, /Library or current user’s home folder are not meant to be deleted. Semi-transparent (consolidated) petals also cannot be removed. You have to expand the group and drag out individual files and folders. Clicking the Delete button starts the deletion process, but you’ll have 5 seconds to change your mind and press Cancel. DaisyDisk permanently removes files and folders instead of moving them to the system Trash, so that the disk space is recovered. These files cannot be undeleted so make sure of your choices before you press the Delete button.

     If you use a cloud storage service, DaisyDisk is capable of scanning the contents of your storage in the same way as you scan a local disk. In this way, you can get a visual breakdown of your cloud storage usage, remove large unneeded files and keep your cloud quota within healthy limits. The currently supported services are Dropbox, Google Drive, and Microsoft OneDrive. I was able to quickly link my Dropbox account to DaisyDisk. 

     DaisyDisk comes with a free trial that you can use to fully evaluate the app before buying a license. In the trial mode, some functionality will be locked up until you register. The trial is currently not limited in time. DaisyDisk allows you to free up tens and hundreds of GBs of disk space. It is one of the fastest scanners around. Most users are often surprised by how easy it is to use the app and how visually pleasing it looks. DaisyDisk might even save you money by negating the need to purchase a new external storage disk. The license fee is a one-time payment with free updates included. The $10 price is a very reasonable cost for this useful application. Click here to read more about it. The manual also has a lot of info you can check out. Download the free trial and have a look at the colorful pictorial display of your drive. Find out for yourself how easy it is to save disk space with DaisyDisk.

MOKO Case for the new 2020 8th Generation iPad 

by Marcel Dufresne

Sept 12, 2021

     The number one accessory for an iDevice has to be a protective case. I want something that will keep my expensive gadget safe from bumps, dents and scratches. I find that there are seven criteria that a good case should meet. These are look, feel, weight, protection, how easy it is to remove, functionality and cost. MOKO lists a number of cases for many tablets. This review concerns the MOKO case for my newest iPad (8th generation).

     Following my seven characteristics, here is how the MOKO Case pans out. This case is perfectly matched to the iPad 8. The case is tailored just right to fit the iPad, and allows reasonable access to the ports, switches, cameras, speakers and sensors. The sides are enclosed with small openings for the various ports and switches. I like this better than the full protection. I have had trouble pushing some of the buttons with this other type. The beautiful case is sturdy and provides more than adequate protection from minor bumps and drops as well as keeping the surface from getting scratched and picking up dust. The case is easily cleaned and maintained. If you are prone to accidents with your iPad, then I advise you get a slightly bulkier case, like this one. 

     This is my third iPad case purchased from MOKO. Having had a case on my iPad 2 for six years, I found that the iPad seemed fragile without the extra covering. Of course, it is not as delicate as it feels in my hand. Still, I was quite happy to obtain a case to protect it. One of the problems for a case is whether it provides ample corner protection if the iPad were accidentally dropped. This case is designed with full wrap around protection. Another problem with any case is the size; the better the protection, the larger and bulkier it needs to be. Only you can decide how much shielding you want and inconvenience you will put up with. This particular case is kind of like the middle ground, not too heavy but not too light. 

     The top cover folds all the way back allowing the iPad to rest on a flat surface. Besides laying it flat on a surface, you can fold the back cover to make a triangle that is well suited for a landscape view. Reading a book without the case was definitely more tiring on the hands. I found the case to be invaluable for reading as it makes holding the iPad much easier while lounging around. It also made viewing movies more convenient as we could just set the iPad on the bed or on a counter top and comfortably watch the show. While using Skype, it provided a hands free device that would sit on the table and allowed video chats back and forth.

     This particular case is dark green in colour. The MOKO cases come in over a dozen colours. The back is a transparent plastic. The iPad easily snaps into the case. Removing it is a bit more difficult which makes for a very secure fit that wont pop off accidentally.

     One of the advantages of having a SmartCover is the ability to instantly put the iPad into hibernation mode. Closing the smart cover over the top of the screen produces a clicking sound, which is the iPad going to sleep and saving battery life. Lifting the cover immediately wakes the iPad and saves countless seconds as you don’t have to wait for the device to be ready for use. It is the magnetic property of the cover that allows this function. The MOKO case also has a small magnet embedded in the top cover which enables the same sleep/wake function. The magnet is very weak and does not in any way lock the top of the case to the iPad. 

     MOKO produces numerous cases for all variety tablets. This one is custom designed for your new 8th generation iPad. It features a combination of functionality, style and offers great protection for a reasonable price. The Apple SmartCover sells for around twice as much. Of all the accessories for an iPad, I definitely recommend you make some type of case a priority purchase. There are many to choose from so take the time to compare the various models in terms of the seven criteria I gave you. I have no doubt that the MOKO case will be high on the comparison chart. The MOKO case covers the iPad completely and has a great price tag. This case will definitely be the one I use when traveling with my iPad.

Fresh – Find Recent Files Quickly

by Marcel Dufresne

Sep 8, 2021

     If you ever had trouble locating the file you were just working on because your desktop was too crowded, then Fresh was made for you. It is a repository of the files you were recently using or have deemed important. As such, Fresh puts these items at your fingertips, making them quickly accessible. Fresh is designed to hide when you are not using it – keeping your onscreen clutter of icons more manageable. Read on to learn more about this handy little unobtrusive application.

     When you activate Fresh, two horizontal thumbnails of files spread across your screen. The top zone is called the “Fresh Files” and contains files that are new, changed or recently opened. When you download a file from the internet, save an attachment in Mail, or edit a file in your word processor, it will be displayed as an icon in your Fresh Files. As new and changed files appear on your computer, they are also added to this area. Click on an item, then choose the ‘x’ in the top left corner, and that item can be simply removed from the list (with the file still left on your computer). To throw a document into the trash, use the right-click menu or drag it to the trash can in the dock. New items appear in the Fresh Files zone all the time, but if you see a file there that you know you are going to be using soon, just drag it into The Cooler zone below. The items in it can easily extend beyond the size of your screen. Fresh allows you to scroll down to locate other items. It is set up in chronological order with the most recent on top. 

     The lower region is called “The Cooler”. It is like a shelf where you can put things for quick access. You have control over what ends up here as you have to physically add it to the zone. You are also able to move items around in this zone and rearrange the order to suit your needs. The files listed in The Cooler can be anywhere on your computer. All of the items shown in Fresh are just pointers to the actual files, so there is no need to worry about losing the original.

     Although the Fresh window is large, as it stretches right across your desktop, it disappears as soon as you drag a file out or click outside its window. You don’t have to worry about Fresh getting in the way of where you want the file to end up. All locations become visible as Fresh disappears.

     Fresh comes with its own search bar, located just above the Fresh Files zone. It comes with three search filters: kind, location and date created. It is really a Spotlight search with three pre-picked filters. Fresh is always accessible with its universal hotkey and will appear on the screen no matter which application you are using. There is no need to go out of the said application to do the search.

     Another feature of Fresh is the ability to tag files. To tag a file simply select it and right-click to open up the menu. Choose ‘Edit Tags’ to add a tag or pick from recently used tags. You can also rate files with 1 to 5 stars.

     Another feature is an invisible sidebar tab that reveals itself when you drag an item close to the active side. You can thus quickly add a file to either zone without opening Fresh. This drop zone can be disabled from the Preferences and if you choose to keep it active, choose which side, left or right, to use. Speaking of Preferences, these can be accessed through the menu bar icon or by right-clicking any item in the Fresh File zone. From here you can change the universal global hotkey from ⌘-/ to another combination. You can also tweak the background colours and the text colours for each zone. Lastly, if there are some file types you do not want to appear in the Fresh File zone, you can add them to one of three categories: never show items within these locations, never show items with these extensions or never show these files.

     Fresh has been around for many years. Fresh 4 has been updated to work with the latest macOS and development is ongoing. It has kept up with all recent Apple releases new OS versions. You can buy direct from the developer and support a small business. It costs $29. Click here to read more about the application and the company that developed it. Download Fresh and try it out for a couple of weeks free. Keep your desktop uncluttered. Stop trying to locate files that are right there in front of you.