Acorn 7 – All the Tools To Edit and Create Images Like a Pro

     Acorn is an image creating and editing application that is made for both the amateur and the professional. It is simple enough to learn but robust enough to handle the needs of most users. No matter how good of a photographer you are, you will eventually want to edit some of your good shots to make them exceptional. There are many expensive applications out there that will let you touch up your work. Acorn provides a quick-to-learn affordable alternative. And that is not all Acorn does. You could add text and shapes to your digital pictures, or combine images to create a photo collage. Read on to get a good idea of what this multipurpose image editor could do for you.

     When you first start Acorn you are presented with an initial choice window. From here you can start a new image, import one to edit, or return to a previously chosen image. The middle portion provides you with help documentation. It is this section that makes Acorn so usable to all. The online searchable database will have you quickly editing your photos. The details cover most editing tasks in simple easy to understand text and pictures. If you are more of a visual learner, there is an accompanying set of tutorials to guide you through many techniques. If the answer to a problem is not to be found here, then from this window you can contact the developers. Because Acorn has such an extensive source of online documentation and tutorials, you will quickly learn how to use it.

     The canvas is where the composite of all the layers is viewed and where you draw, crop, or modify your image. The bottom portion of the canvas is called the status bar which has the zoom slider. Acorn can zoom in to more than 6000%, which makes it easy to do very fine touching up. The file name and format can be found along the center of the top window bar.

     Why would I need Acorn? What can I do with it? Most of us will have the need to touch up photos. With the multitude of digital pictures we now take, would it not be better to pick a few of these, edit them as showcase items, and store or eliminate the others. This would decrease your photo database, speeding up the loading of the photos. With the help of Acorn, you could be producing glamour-shot pictures that would please anyone. 

     The following is a shortlist of some of Acorn’s features. The perspective fix and crop tools will help you make your images professional looking by removing extraneous material. You can remove image backgrounds using the magic wand selection tool or the instant alpha eraser tools. Use the clone tools to touch up areas and remove unwanted blemishes. The clone tool can also help you to combine images to make beautiful collages or photo layouts. Acorn contains over 25 different non-destructive blending mode options.

     Acorn’s tools palette gives you quick access to a range of tools for moving, zooming, and cropping; drawing and retouching; making selections, and; working with text and colors. The tools are customizable, giving you fine control over working with images.

     Acorn can be used to make logos, banners, and ads. The text on a path feature lets you create a meandering line with any of Acorn’s shape tools, and then add text to follow the curves. 

     There are unlimited layers and group layers in which you can transform, rotate, move, lock, merge, delete, and duplicate each of your layers. There is the unlimited ability to combine layer styles and non-destructive filters such as tilt-shift, drop shadow, distortions, and blurs. There are over one hundred additional effects that you can introduce into your image to enhance and produce that unique event. You can also group layers, merge them, lock them, and create layer masks. Acorn’s filters let you apply effects to a single layer, a group of layers, shape layers, and selections. Filters are non-destructive, so you can make a change to an image and revert it if it’s not the effect you wanted. Levels and curves are non-destructive as well.

     The tools window can be floating or attached to the editing window. It comprises a host of features that enable you to create images. The brushes include clone, stamp, dodge, burn, blur, eraser, and smudge brushes. The brush designer provides control for softness, spacing, and dozens of other brush refinements. It could not be simpler to draw rectangle, elliptical, freehand, polygonal, and magic wand shapes as well as stars, arrows, bezier curves, circles, and lines. I liked the ability to drag a spot to increase or decrease the number of points in the star.

     The number one question asked is why would I need to pay for a photo editor when Apple’s Photos application lets me touch up pictures for free? Sure, Photos lets you crop, tilt, remove red-eye and a few others. But Photos is first and foremost a database application that is meant to help you find and quickly display photos. It has a rudimentary set of editing tools that help you enhance your photos but it is not nearly as good at it as Acorn. You get what you pay for and Photos is not primarily a photo editor. Acorn is. It provides so many more tools to accentuate your images. Take the red-eye removal function. I was never happy with the results I achieved with Photos red-eye removal. With Acorn, which also has the same feature, I was able to use another technique to blend the colors into the red-eye region and end up with a more natural look. This is just one example where Acorn is superior. If you want to edit a photo, then you should use an application that was made for that purpose.

     Acorn can import and export a variety of file formats including JPEG, PNG, TIFF, GIF, PDF, and more. If you are used to editing your images with the Photos app, it is possible to have Photos send your image to Acorn, edit it, then return it to your Photos application.  

     Acorn lets you work with layers to touch up your favorite photos or make something entirely new from scratch. It runs in two modes: “paid” and “trial”. After the 14 day trial period has ended, a watermark will appear over your images. Right now the paid-up version of Acorn is an affordable $20. This easy-to-use application can handle much of what you do in more expensive high-end image-editing tools. Click here to read more about it. Do yourself a favor and download a trial copy of the application. You will be editing photos in no time at all.

Butler – Superb Launcher and so much more…

by Marcel Dufresne

April 12, 2021

     Butler is an application that makes it easier to perform a variety of functions on your Mac. Applications like Butler provide a series of everyday tasks that can be initiated by various triggers. In simple terms, to use Butler, just place tasks in the correct configuration window and assign one or more triggers to each of them. As such, it can be used as a launcher, an iTunes controller, multiple clipboards, and a lot more. Read on to find out how Butler could be used to save you time.

     When you first start Butler, the window that appears has three icons at the top as well as the info icon. The first icon on the left is called ‘Configuration’. This is the area that contains most of the tasks as well as the triggers. The next icon, ‘Search Engine’, is used to configure web searches. The last icon is the application’s ‘Preferences’.

     There are three main folders that the Configuration window controls. Any task stored in the Hidden section will be triggered through hotkey combinations, abbreviations or hot corners. The tasks in the Menu Bar region will appear as separate icons in your menu bar. This includes not only apps but also files or folders. The folders accordion down so you can choose exactly which one you want to access. The Butler icon in the menu bar initially provides access to ten folders which include items such as System Preferences, all your applications, your documents folder, etc. The Docklet region furnishes access to apps and folders in the form of an array of very small icons along one side of your desktop. The eight possible locations of the array include the top and bottom of the screen. Any item in the menu bar and docklet can also be triggered by the same options as the hidden items. 

     The next few paragraphs are meant to explain, in a little more detail, the available triggers. The first type of trigger is the menu bar icon or the docklet. The docklet can be visible at all times, in front of any other open window, and always providing access. The menu bar icons can be placed anywhere you want among the other system icons. 

     The second trigger is called abbreviation. When you tap ctrl-space, the Butler search window opens up. You can type the name of what you are looking for or just the abbreviation you have given it. Butler will do a quick system-wide spotlight-like search of the term you typed in. For example, you can enter “qt” to launch QuickTime Player. Of course, the abbreviated item will be at the top of the list. Butler will learn from your habits and remember what you want a certain abbreviation to do. This is where the launcher part of Butler is at its best. The more you use Butler to open up an item, the higher it moves up on the list. Butler learns with each application.   

     Hotkey combinations can be used as a shortcut to trigger opening apps, files, or folders. The hot corner is amazingly versatile. You can assign either the left or right mouse button along with, if you choose, one of four hotkeys in combination with the mouse click. This flexibility means that the trigger is almost never accidentally initiated.

     The list of possible tasks available to Butler includes the ability to launch applications, open files, access preference panes, manage bookmarks, search the web, run AppleScripts, extend the clipboard, enter text snippets, simulate keystrokes, and control iTunes.

     In its launcher role, Butler works just like other launcher apps. Press a hokey (Control-Space by default), and the input box appears, ready for you to type in. As you type, matches are quickly displayed. Hit Return when the one you want is highlighted. The small icons on the right of the highlighted entry indicate what action Butler will take when you press Return. The default is to open the selected item, but you can choose to either Show in Finder or copy instead. And since Butler will handle files, folders, System Preferences panels, and even your iTunes collection, everything on your machine is at your disposal. 

     Butler includes a wide selection of iTunes’ controls for everything from song ratings to info to volume. And since you can assign a hot key to anything in Butler, it’s easy to build an iTunes controller suite that can be used anytime and anywhere.

     The Search Engine part of Butler offers you a way to initiate your bookmarks without depending on a certain browser. You can assign which browser to use with each bookmark you list. And, in contrast to a browser’s bookmark collection, the tool’s bookmarks are always accessible through its system-wide menus, hotkeys, etc. Another great search engine feature is the ability to send search strings to various Web sites. Butler comes with many different pre-defined searches for sites, including Google, Yahoo, and Amazon. If one of your go-to sites isn’t included, you can easily add it. Once you have a search engine defined, you can put it in the Butler menu, directly in the menu bar as a search box, in the Docklet, or assign it to a hotkey usable from anywhere.

     A nice feature that Butler adds is the ability to save multiple clipboard entries. Apple only allows one at a time to be saved. Butler will create a stack of the last few saved items from which you can choose which one you want to be copied. The size of the stack can be configured from the Preferences. 

     Another feature of Butler is the ability to easily create a pop-up menu. Drag a folder into Butler’s window, define a hotkey for the container that holds the folder, and then change the pop-up menu below the Hot Key definition to read “Opens a menu near the mouse.” Now you’ve got a folder you can reach via a navigable pop-up menu at the press of a hotkey.

     Every time I use Butler I think of something else I could do with it. It is not the simplest launcher application I have tested. There is a definite learning curve that you have to overcome before you can use it to the fullest. The help menu is adequate but could be better. In fact, the descriptions and screenshots are for an earlier version. It is usable right out of the box, but to get the most out of Butler, you’ll want to spend some time learning how its interface works. 

     Butler allows you to create custom menus, shortcuts, and abbreviations for your Mac’s desktop that speed up how you use your computer. From adding search interfaces to the menu bar to creating shortcuts that actually learn as you use your machine, Butler’s goal is to make your Mac easier for you to use. Even after a few weeks of usage, I’m still coming up with new things to try. It may not be for everyone, given the learning curve, but if you persevere playing with it, it is well worth the time investment. Download the free trial of Butler from the Many Tricks Website and experiment a bit with it. I am sure you will decide that the $20 registration fee is well worth it. Butler is a must-try for anyone who wants to be more efficient on their Mac.

MacPilot – Customize Your Apps and Computer From Just One Source

by Marcel Dufresne

March 19, 2021

     I like to customize my computer as much as I can and the macOS is built to accommodate a lot of tweaks. The Finder, the Desktop, the System Preferences, and most Applications allow for a lot of configuration. Besides the obvious menu items, you can also delve into the inner working of your System using the Terminal application. For my part, I am loath to play around with Terminal commands. Fortunately, there is an application that aggregates all these changes and lets you take control from one source without having to worry about messing up your macOS. This app is called MacPilot and it has been supplying tweaks for the Mac for many years. Currently, there are over 1200 items that you can alter with MacPilot. Read on to get an idea of some of the variety of things you didn’t know you could change.   

     When you first start MacPilot, you are presented with the info page window that introduces you to the app while including some ‘About This Mac’ information. The top of this window’s menu displays the various areas that MacPilot has been subdivided into. These categories are set up to make it easier to find what you might be looking for. Each menu has a different design depending on what is included. Any changes you make take effect when selected but it is easy to revert back if you don’t like the new tweak.

     The first category is the Apps screen, as shown below. It lists the applications included with the macOS that can be tweaked. This is the starting point to customizing your machine.

     The menu items continue with an overview of your hard drive using the Disk category. A colourful system profile pops up that outlines advanced system information. Everything from the graphics card and RAM bus speeds to the system serial number and processor info. Here you can also view advanced disk information and statistics such as free blocks, device block size, file count, folder count, file system type, solid-state status, and a whole lot of other information. 

     With File Browser, you can quickly change the info metadata of your files. This includes browsing the computer while showing all invisible and system files, viewing incredibly detailed file specifications, and editing advanced settings such as extended attributes, Permissions, and hard locks that make files undeletable.

     With over 1,200 features to unlock, you will be spending some time optimizing your Mac. Toggle animations, add the Quit menu to the Finder, show the file path in the window title bar or use your screensaver as the desktop. Customize the dock by adding spacers and smart stacks/menus. You can run various Maintenance functions that allow you to optimize or repair your system. 

     The Reference menu item is chock-full of hard-to-find info. The details for all the various Error Codes can be searched. All the Fonts stored in your computer can be seen in a chart form. A large amount of key combination shortcuts is listed here. And there is more. 

     The last menu item is Tools. Here you will find a quick way to access six applications that are not easily found. This includes the Certificate Assistant and the Storage Utility. All six can be launched right from MacPilot.

     The advanced button at the bottom opens up a new window that has all the previous application tweaks available plus a whole lot more. The list of applications you can customize is much larger here. It also contains a description of the choice as well as the Terminal command. I would recommend that you look closely at all this area contains and don’t be thrown off by the label ‘Advanced’.

     MacPilot does a lot of simple things that you could do on your own with a little bit of searching for each application. But the number of options available in the macOS and its applications could be difficult to manage for all but expert users. What MacPilot does is put all of these possibilities into one interface. There is no need to search each application to find out what you might change. It is all there in the MacPilot window.  

     Truth be told, you have to have some knowledge to really understand what MacPilot is doing. There are no apparent instructions. This might have been helpful with the number of options and their potential system effects. There are some mouse-over explanations for a few options but this is not the norm. For most of us, this knowledge is not necessary. We simply want to customize our computer and not have to worry about breaking it with these changes. MacPilot does just that.

     Scared of the Terminal or can’t be bothered to search for those commands to customize your system the way you want? MacPilot is for you. With it, you will easily enable and disable hidden features in macOS. Display hidden files in the Finder, disable the startup chime, add spacers and stacks to the Dock, change the screenshot file format, or force empty the Trash. Set your login window picture, use the screensaver as your Desktop, modify advanced file permissions, change the system welcome message, view system logs, disable the Notification Centre, prevent system sleep, or enable the Debug menu in numerous apps. The list of tweaks just goes on and on. MacPilot for the Mac can be explored with a free trial version that comes with a 15-day usage limit. Click here to access the download or just to read more about this application. The full program requires a payment of $19.95 to activate the lifetime license that includes all minor and major upgrades to the software. Get MacPilot and discover how much macOS has hidden under the hood.  

TrashMe 3 – Totally Uninstall Apps and a Lot More

by Marcel Dufresne

March 1, 2021

     At first glance, TrashMe is an application meant to delete not only the unwanted app that you are throwing in the Trash but also any files related to it. It does this very well but, as I found out, it has the capability to do a lot more than simply delete. Read on to get an idea of all that TrashMe can do for you. 

     When you first open TrashMe, you are presented with the Dashboard screen which is the default page. Here you get an overview of your Mac and your hard drive. This section will display useful information about your Mac, such as processor name, memory installed, version of macOS, and more. By clicking on the small icon “i”, you can show additional information like the manufactured date and the serial number of your computer.

     The principal purpose for TrashMe is to completely delete an application from your drive. Most apps end up creating a lot of related files, such as temporary files, caches, settings, etc… Those files are not removed when you just put an app in the Trash. This leads to wasted space on your computer. TrashMe will find almost all related files for an app. After reviewing the displayed files, you can then choose to delete them to clean uninstall the app.

     There are several options available to you in terms of how to select the application to delete. You can opt to list all the apps installed on your computer or more easily select a specific app. It is possible to drag and drop one or more apps on the uninstall window, or on the TrashMe Dock icon, or on the initial TrashMe Dashboard. I made an alias of TrashMe which I keep on my desktop. When I want to delete an app, I simply drag and drop it on the alias.

     If you choose all the apps, then TrashMe takes a few seconds to scan and then list, on the left, all the apps it found. On the right side, TrashMe displays the files related to whichever app is chosen. Check this list carefully and optionally uncheck those that do not seem to be related to the app or those that you want to keep. Finally, click on the “Uninstall” button at the bottom right to move all the files to the Trash. Above the list on the left, there is the means to filter the apps. Besides favorites and unused (apps you haven’t used recently), there is also an unsupported category. This comes in handy when you are trying to eliminate obsolete applications.

     As I indicated in the opening paragraph, TrashMe can do a lot more. It regularly checks for available updates of your apps, whether they were installed from the Mac App Store or not. The left-hand column will list all the apps that might be updated. By clicking on one of them, you will display, as much as possible depending on the developer, the details of the update such as the new version number, the date, and size of the update, as well as the list of changes. Once you are ready to update an app, it will then open the app or send you to the App Store, depending on where you purchased it. If you want TrashMe to stop checking for updates of a particular app, you can exclude it. I have a few apps that I do not upgrade because this would require a paid update.

     Besides making it easier to do a clean uninstall of your app, TrashMe can also be used to clean up other areas to save space. Your System creates a lot of temporary files like caches, installation files, or crash reports. TrashMe lets you delete any of these files to recover space and possibly solve operational issues. There are seven types of files that TrashMe looks for. These are User Caches, iOS Backups, System Updates, Reports, Orphans, Mail Downloads, and Xcode Files. Each of these categories displays the information the same way as the uninstall window. You get to pick and choose what, if any, to delete. And each category is explained to help you make the choice.

     TrashMe can list all the apps and processes that run when you start your Mac. These processes can sometimes slow down startup and overload your Mac’s RAM. If your computer takes a long time starting up, this might be an area to check out. Be careful when deciding to remove a startup item as it may affect the operation of a particular app.

     The Trash function will list all the files in your Trash, including Trash files from external drives connected to your Mac. Click on the “Empty Trash” button at the bottom right to delete all the files in your Trash. Check the boxes in front of the files if you want to selectively delete the file, then click the “Delete” button at the bottom right. This is particularly useful if you want to clean up an external drive, like a thumb drive, without deleting everything in the Trash.

     TrashMe has a list of options it calls Maintenance which is meant to recover some space and also reset some functions to help optimize your System. Look at the following screenshot to get an idea of what it can do.

     Lastly, there is the Files section which contains Overview, Duplicates, and Junk. You can choose to scan your entire home folder or just a specific folder. With Overview chosen, a pictorial pie graph is displayed.

     It happens frequently that you duplicate documents or photos, without even modifying the copy. These versions pile up on your hard drive to the point that they sometimes take up a lot of space. TrashMe enables you to scan a folder for duplicates so that you can eliminate them. Junk separates its listings into 9 categories to help you decide on what to delete or keep.

     A few more customizable items are found in the Preferences. By default, TrashMe will display in dark mode or light mode automatically, depending on the choice made in macOS preferences. You can choose to always display in either mode. TrashMe can show notifications when it has completed a task while the app was in the background. You can also have it remind you to clean up your Mac and set a reminder frequency. 

     Smart mode is an extension that will appear in the macOS menu bar to add some cool features such as automatic detection of app deletion, how long since the last reboot, Bluetooth battery life for my keyboard and mouse, or simply monitoring the health of your Mac. When you put an app in the Trash, Smart Mode will automatically detect that app and offer you to open TrashMe for a clean uninstall. When your Trash becomes too large, TrashMe can display a notification prompting you to empty it. You choose the alert threshold or whether to disable this feature.

     While TrashMe is very useful in cleaning out files and recovering space on your computer, it also has a lot more going for it. I especially like referring to the info found in the Smart Mode menu bar. You can read more about this app from the Jibapps Web site. Download the 15 days Free Trial and try it out. It does come with a limit of how much data you can delete but you will get an idea of how powerful it is. For the full price of $13 USD, you will get an app that does a great deal more than just clean uninstall. 

Universalis – A Rich Resource for Prayers and the Mass

by Marcel Dufresne

March 8, 2021

     The on-going worldwide pandemic has forced us to stay inside for our safety. This has affected, among many other things, attending Mass. Sure, you can watch the Mass on tv, but I much prefer being there in person. It is a more satisfying experience celebrating in person. As such, I started looking for an alternative for prayer and Mass. I came across Universalis. It is as complete a prayer resource as you can find, comprised of a Breviary, a Lectionary, and a Missal all wrapped up into one application. In case you are wondering, a Missal is a book containing the prayers, important chants, and necessary instructions for the celebration of the daily Masses in the Roman Catholic Church throughout the year. A Lectionary is a list or book of portions of the Bible appointed to be read at a church service. A Breviary, also called the Liturgy of the Hours, is a liturgical book in the Roman Catholic Church that contains the daily service for the Divine Office, the official prayer of the Church, consisting of psalms, readings, and hymns that are recited at stated hours of the day.  

     Universalis can be used as a free Internet-based resource that contains some of the full registered content. Click here to see what it contains. The computer application of Universalis is made up of 16 sections. The first is called About Today. It lists the date at the top, the week of the liturgical calendar, and the background history of the saints of the day. It is this section that first attracted my attention as I especially liked reading about the different saints. Next comes the Lectio Divina which is a contemplative way of reading the Bible using private or shared meditation. The Spiritual Reading offers some thoughts and commentaries on a prayer for the day.

     The next sections can be grouped as the Liturgy of the Hours. The Liturgy of the Hours (also known as the Divine Office) is a single prayer resource of the Christian Church providing prayers, psalms, and meditation for various times during the day. It starts with the Invitatory Psalm. It begins your celebration of the Liturgy of the Hours and is recited before the first hour that you pray. 

     Traditionally, Lauds (Morning Prayer) is recited as the new day dawns. Nowadays Morning Prayer is for when your day begins so that you are properly prepared for that day. Next comes Terce (mid-morning), Sext (midday), and None (afternoon). These are short and are intended for use during breaks at work or whenever you choose throughout the day. The Liturgy of the Hours finishes with Vespers (Evening Prayer) and Compline or Night Prayer (before retiring).

     The following three sections are related to the Mass of the day. The first is the Readings at Mass (the lectionary) which includes the first reading, the psalm, the Gospel Acclamation, and finally the Gospel. This is the section I most use Universalis with. As well as the Saint of the Day, I like reading the Gospel of the day and reflecting on it. Next, you get the Order of the Mass which has the full Mass with all the prayers but without the readings. This can be displayed in various languages including French. Lastly, there is Mass Today (the Missal) with the full Mass with the prayers and the readings of the day.  

     The last two sections of the application contain the Angelus and the Rosary. The Angelus is a Roman Catholic devotion commemorating the Incarnation of Jesus and including the Hail Mary, said at morning, noon, and sunset. You will find blue arrows in many spots throughout. These allow you to choose which prayer to follow when there is a variety, such as the Apostles’ Creed versus the Nicene Creed. 

     The Universalis registration code costs about $25.00. The registration gives you unlimited access to any/all Android, iOS, Mac, and Windows devices as well as the ability to create an e-book. This is cheaper than the yearly daily missals you can buy and you only pay once. Full registration gives you more pages. And of course, you don’t need the Internet as the apps are self-contained. This means you could use the Missal during Mass without the needed Internet connection. The “Mass Today” page merges the Order of Mass with the readings and prayers of the day, so you can follow the Mass right through without having to jump here and there as you would in a Missal. More languages are available, including Latin and French. You have more control of the layout in terms of page-turning as well as scrolling and large print.

     The registered application puts all the calendar dates at your disposal instead of only one week. The full Liturgical Calendar lists all the saints’ days and feasts for every day of any year. The About Today page provides info about the saints of the day, plus some additional data such as pictures. Every Hour in the Liturgy of the Hours is included. All the readings and prayers for any Mass are at your fingertips so you can follow them in church or read them at home.

     If you prefer having a book in your hands when at Mass you can create e-books for your e-book reader (including the Amazon Kindle). It covers the Mass or the Hours for every day within a given period…. 

     You can set up a daily email service that sends you the Hours and the Mass Readings you want, every day, by email. You choose the pages you want. You can either get one email per page, or a single email containing all the pages you have chosen. Lastly, the apps allow you to optionally subscribe to the daily audio content of the Hours and the Gospel so you can have the music chanted and the spoken word.

     The prayers and readings are Catholic in nature. The Scripture readings are taken from the Jerusalem Bible. The Old and New Testament Canticles used in the Liturgy of the Hours are taken from the New American Bible. The Mass readings may differ due to the region so make sure you use the correct calendar from the preferences. Also, different parts of the world have their own local calendars, which add the celebrations of saints of local importance. You can ask the Universalis program to create an events calendar that quickly adds the feast days to your own computer’s calendar.

     It helps to take the time to plan your prayer life. First, determine how much time you hope to devote to praying, and halve it. That way, you are likely to build a solid habit. Next, choose a regular time each day for your use.  Universalis is a rich source of material for meditation and prayer. Use it to develop your prayer routine. The daytime Hours (Terce, Sext, and None) are short and you are sure to have time for them if you try. I always checked out About Today. I like reading the details of the saint of the day. And if you miss a day, don’t try to catch up. Don’t give yourself a guilt trip but rather rejoice that you can continue.

     The Universalis program is free to use for the first month. You get everything without needing to pay for it. After that time you still get to keep the calendar and the About Today pages. So if that’s all you want, you don’t need to pay. Click here to download your version. After that, you need to buy a registration code that covers all your phones, tablets, computers, and e-books. I would strongly suggest you try out Universalis for a month. Don’t let the lockdown keep you from celebrating your faith. Get Universalis.

iMazing 2 – Complete Management of iOS Devices from Your Computer

by Marcel Dufresne

Feb 22, 2021

     When Apple released iTunes 12.7, they removed the iOS App Store from the iTunes Store. No longer were we able to download apps to our computer, then sync them to our iOS device. Ever since Apple changed iTunes into primarily a music/audiobooks application, I have longed to have one application that could handle all my iOS data. iMazing 2 is the iOS device manager I was looking for. It’s ready for the new iPhones and iPads, and is fully compatible with iOS 14. iMazing was created as an alternative to iTunes, allowing users to freely manage music and files. With it, you can quickly transfer photos, books, music, ringtones, videos, or contacts between devices and your computer by clicking the Quick Transfer function. Read on to see how useful this app could be for you.

     When you first start up the application, you are prompted to connect your device, either through the USB connection or Wi-Fi. Immediately you are presented with four columns and a host of information about your device. The left column comprises a list of all the devices you have connected to iMazing and your computer. Next, you find a list of the various types of items you have stored in the device. This includes apps, music, books, files, and more. The third column is an extensive list of the functions that iMazing can perform on your device. Lastly, there is in-depth data about your device. 

     With iMazing some of the functionality of the old iTunes is restored. Using the Manage Apps function, you can access your apps, including downloading previously bought apps and save them from the App Store to your computer. Once they are on your computer, you can then install them to your iOS devices. It even saves and restores your game progress or app documents and settings. iMazing scans your iOS device to create a list of the apps it contains. It also reads some files on the device to find a list of apps that have been previously installed on the device. iMazing then displays both of these. Click the Device tab to see which apps are on the device; click the Library tab to see the app library.

     Most of us use our devices to store files. Now with iMazing, transferring documents to and from your favourite apps to a Mac and PC, wirelessly or via USB, is a matter of using the Quick Transfer function. Just connect up via Wi-Fi or USB cable to a Mac or a PC and choose what to move. You can send a large movie to your iPad or retrieve PDF documents from your iPhone. Music can be dragged and dropped freely between your iOS device and your computer without using iTunes.

     When you choose Photos, your iPad photo library is now available. Click on a photo and all the metadata associated with that photo is listed, including location. The media files can be moved between any iPhone or iPad and a computer. Favorite pictures, homemade videos, and music can be saved and shared. With drag and drop, any pictures or videos can be quickly transferred from your iPhone and iPad to your computer.

     Adding a ringtone to my iPad, without having to purchase one from the App Store, was a complicated series of steps that I do not relish having to repeat. But adding ringtones with iMazing could not be simpler. Again, using drag and drop, I was able to immediately add ringtones to my iPad. When I edited the ringtone sounds for my Contacts, I was able to implement the new tones immediately. Now I can create my own soundtracks and add them to various contacts without jumping through hoops. iMazing can also export your ringtones to your Mac or PC. Thus you can share your custom ringtones with your friends, or move them to another device.

     iMazing works well to transfer PDFs to the Books app or retrieve books from iPhone and iPad via drag and drop. You can easily import books (ePub or PDF) in the Books app or export them from the Books app to your computer. 

     The last button in the panel is the New Shortcut button. It opens a wizard which lets you pick an application you would like to create a quick link to. I made a shortcut of my VLC app. When I click on it, I can see what videos are stored in the app. I can add to it and also delete content. This saves me a bit of time as I do not have to search through all my video apps to find VLC.  

     One of my favourite iMazing functions is automatic backups. A backup is a snapshot of the current state of your iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch. When you backup your device, you save its current state. Backups are made and archived so that your digital data is kept safe. It is kind of like time machine for iOS. You might think that iTunes performs the same function, but you would be wrong. iTunes keeps only one backup per device, overwriting the previous one each time. This could lead to lost data. iMazing keeps multiple backups of each device so you can safely backup and access data that is no longer on your device. You get to configure when and how frequently each of your Apple devices is backed up and set a different schedule for each one. You also get to choose how many of your backups iMazing should keep. iMazing does not store any of your data online. The data you access and export is stored locally on your computer, in total respect for your privacy.

     The third panel contains the guts of this app. There are 17 possible choices here. I have mentioned the Quick Transfer, Back Up, and the Manage App functions already. I just want to call your attention to a few more. There are Reinstall iPadOS, Update iOS, Restart, Shut Down, and Erase All Content. The last one is perfect if you are thinking of selling your old device. 

     The last panel has your device’s details. Info such as the model number or serial number, the number of battery charge cycles, the running temperature, and so much more can be found here.

     A unique function of iMazing is the battery health check and storage space listed at the bottom of the window. A new, fully charged iPhone will run for a reasonable amount of time. But with each charge cycle, the battery gradually wears down, and older devices or devices with faulty or damaged batteries can lose charge much quicker than that. iMazing features a dedicated battery info window that’s there to inform you of your battery’s overall health. iMazing even has a Low Battery Notification feature that will remind you to charge your device whenever it’s running low.

     iMazing has a menu bar item available. It provides a list of your devices, including battery life. It also controls the automatic backups so that you do not have to have iMazing running to perform the scheduled backup. By default, iMazing Mini will back up your devices daily via Wi-Fi and will keep one month of backups, but everything is customizable and well labelled. I would advise you to do some experimenting to get the best settings for you. 

     Most sections of iMazing 2 feature a help button linking a related article in their support center. There is also an excellent online manual that goes into greater detail to explain each of the various capabilities of the app.

     In these few paragraphs, I have attempted to outline some of the many functions available in iMazing. I cannot hope to cover all that it can do for you in this review. It would become too cumbersome. I leave it to you to explore the app at your leisure. Click here to download the free version and test it out. iMazing is a safe and easy way to transfer and save music, messages, and data from any iOS device to a computer. It works with all iPhone, iPad, and iPod models, on both Mac and PC.

CrossOver 20 – The Simplest Way to Run Windows Applications on a Mac

by Marcel Dufresne

Feb 15, 2021

     Since Apple switched to an Intel processor, there arose the opportunity to run Windows applications on the Mac S. Boot Camp, for instance, comes with OS X for installing Windows on a separate partition. The software for running this is found in the Utilities folder of your Applications. With Boot Camp installed, you can startup your computer in either the Mac OS or the Windows environment. The big problem here is that you must reboot to switch operating systems. Parallels and VMware offer virtualization software that let you run your Windows programs without logging out of OS X. The thing that all of these options share though is that they legally require you to actually run Windows and therefore own a Windows license. The second problem with these is that Windows always seems to be updating its software which slows down the startup process or the shut down process.

     CrossOver however enables you to run Windows applications without actually running Windows. With CrossOver installed on your Mac, you can use a Windows version installer, install the program, and run it. CrossOver bridges directly between Windows software and OS X, allowing applications to run at full speed on your Macintosh desktop. CrossOver has been tested for performance with many common applications such as Microsoft Office, Adobe Photoshop and Quicken. It also works efficiently with a wide variety of other programs. Click here to check for compatibility issues. There are thousands of applications that work fine.

     I would always opt for a Mac if given the choice, but some things you want to do with your computer still require Windows. Now, thanks to the Intel-based Mac, you can get a fast Windows environment without leaving the comfort of your Mac OS X. Some of the top reasons for needing to resort to Windows would be for games, some Microsoft or Adobe applications, Quicken, some tax programs and a Windows browser for filling out online forms.

     I must admit that the biggest reason I wanted CrossOver was to run Steam in the Windows environment. I have a few games that are Windows specific. If you are at all familiar with Steam, you know that there are a lot more Windows games available than Mac games, at a much lower cost. Now with CrossOver, I am not limited to what I can play. Besides Steam, I also installed a browser. I have had problems with online forms in the past not being Mac compatible. And CrossOver provides cross-platform copy and pasting and access to your files under either environment.

     Installing a Windows program is as straight forward as it would be on any Windows computer. CrossOver has a list of specific applications that you can choose to help you install. If you wish to install from a single installer file or install one of CrossOver’s automatic packages, select “Install Software…” from the Configure menu. Then select the name of the package from the list provided. If the program you want to install is not in the list, click “Install Unsupported Software…” and follow the steps provided by the CrossOver Software Installer. If all went well, a launcher icon appears for the application you just installed. This icon is in your home directory for later use. If your program did not create any icons, you can still launch it by selecting “Run Command…” from the Programs menu. This will access your virtual C drive which is located in Application Support/Crossover of your Library file. Remember that unsupported software may work poorly or not at all. In addition, installing unsupported software may prevent already installed supported Windows applications from working. It is generally recommended that unsupported applications be installed in a new bottle for testing purposes. The bottle idea was the most confusing term used by CrossOver. A bottle is a virtual windows environment. Each bottle contains a unique C drive and all its standard sub directories: Windows, Program Files, etc. A bottle also contains a complete Windows registry, a full set of most CrossOver settings, and one or more Windows applications.

     CrossOver allows you to maintain multiple bottles in one CrossOver installation. This is useful anytime you wish to install multiple applications yet prevent them from interacting or damaging one another. Most CrossOver users will be happy using a single, default bottle. The CrossOver Software Installer will automatically create the default bottle and any other bottles which you may need during normal use. You can decide to install all new software into an already existing bottle.

     There is a very useful help menu that will lead you through your first few installs, if you need it. In case of a problem, the first place to check is online at the CodeWeavers tech-support. It is updated regularly to document known issues and their workarounds. With luck the solution to your problem may already be waiting for you. There are likewise some videos that can be watched for the more visual learners. These can also be found in the support area on CodeWeavers web site.

     CrossOver is not difficult to install, and requires very little space on your system. There is a demo version of CrossOver that can be downloaded that has all the functions and features of the full version. Any Windows software that works on a full version will also run in the demo version, and vice versa. The principal limitation of the demo version is that bottles can only be used for 14 days. This means that any Windows packages that you install using the demo version will cease to work no more than 14 days after their installation. CrossOver has a couple of purchase options. The simplest is $39.95 for the one time purchase with no support or upgrades. There is also a $59.95 version which provides a one year subscription with upgrades and email support. You can read about these and download a trial copy from the codeweavers.com/store

     CrossOver Mac 20 is the easiest way to run Microsoft Windows software on your Mac without buying a Windows license, rebooting or using a virtual machine. CrossOver Mac makes it easy to launch Windows programs natively from the dock, and integrates macOS functionality like cross-platform copy and paste and shared file systems to your Windows applications. This is the way to go if you do not have a Windows license. I can now run some older Steam games that I picked up at 90% off.

Curse of the Cobra

by Marcel Dufresne

Feb 8, 2021

     The Curse of the Cobra is an iOS/Android adventure game from Fire Maple Games. When a strange pyramid suddenly appears in the desert, rumors begin to swirl. Is the evil Cobra Queen rising once again?  Starting in New York where you are first informed about the mystery, you will travel to London, and finally to Cairo. Along the way, you will need to befriend locals, bribe uncooperative animals, and flatter magical statues to gather clues and unravel this problem. Not all is straightforward. You must be always on your guard as shadowy figures lurk to impede your progress and time is running out. Can you solve the mystery before it’s too late or will you become a victim of the Curse of the Cobra? 

     The game is perfectly suited for the small screen. I was easily able to maneuver around from scene to scene on my iPad. There are a reasonable number of hot spots on each screen. I dislike playing many games on the small screen because it is often hard to find the objects one is looking for. That is not the case with this app. The initial start in New York serves as a short tutorial on the gameplay. By moving from one room to another and tapping at likely hot spots one is presented with items to pick up. These end up in your inventory bag. Other hot spots provide instructions as to what will unlock it, such as a key for a lock or a combination of a suitcase. Once all the scenes in New York have been unlocked, you then fly to London for the next set of puzzles. Lastly, you will end up in Cairo where the bulk of the scenes are ready to play out. There are over 60 screens in total, each numbered for quick reference. The map in your inventory bag can be used as your GPS, showing where you are and which scenes are linked to that position. At first, I thought that it would be convenient to be able to jump to whatever room I wanted to through the map. However, going from scene to scene is so instantaneous that it takes very little time to go from one end to the other.

     I enjoyed playing this game. The puzzles were varied enough and not ridiculously hard to solve. With a little bit of thought, I was able to unlock each and every puzzle. If you get stuck, you can always tap a magnifying glass found in the inventory. This will give you a hint as to what to do next, or if needed, a solution to the puzzle. With some patience and determination, you should not have to resort to this cheat, but it is nice to have it available.

     Each of the scenes is comprised of a colourful hand-painted graphic. The sound effects fit the action. The soundtrack was entertaining but I did turn down its volume after a while, keeping the sound effects at the highest level.  

     The biggest negative to the game is that it is not replay-able. Each step along the way is exactly the same each time you play. The symbol code or the number combination to a safe does not change. At $4, some might complain that it is a bit expensive for the time required to complete it. I disagree. I found it to be a good little time waster. All in all, you should be able to complete it in 2-3 hours. There is a reset button that restarts the game so you don’t have to delete it from the iPad and then re-install. 

      Curse of the Cobra has been translated into several languages. It is available for all iOS and Android tablets and phones, as well as the Kindle Fire. You can download your copy of the game from the appropriate store (the App Store for my iPad). Click here to read more about this game and other fun-to-play Fire Maple Games. Put on your game face and tackle this reasonably difficult adventure game.

CleanMyMac X – make space on your drive

by Marcel Dufresne

Feb 1, 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 CleanMyMac is to simplify space reclamation. After running the initial scan of your drive, you can just let CleanMyMac do its thing. It will suggest where you can save space and it is up to you to decide what to remove. Of course, it has a few more very useful functions. Read on to learn what CleanMyMac can do for you.

     Once the application is started, you are presented with a window, the left side of which has over 15 modules. The top choice is Smart Scan. This is the main starting point for the optimization of your computer. It combines all the functions of the other individual modules and triggers things like Cleanup, Protection, Speed Optimization, and more. Once the scan is activated, Smart Scan will launch the modules one by one to sort out unneeded or harmful items and prepare a set of possible optimizations.

     When the analysis is over, you see the total amount of data that can be removed safely, several found threats (if any), and some optimization tasks. Take the time to review each and every one of the types of selected items and tasks. These are well explained for each one. By clicking on any of the scanner icons you will get general info about the types of selected items and tasks to be run. Deselect a checkbox next to any item or task to exclude it from the list. CleanMyMac always puts you in charge of what to do. It simply assimilates all the available options into its one window and awaits your choices.

     CleanMyMac doesn’t delete any user files or useful application data on its own. With years of experience, a reliable Safety Database prevents most cleaning mishaps and carefully treats all your user data. Once you are familiar with the power of the Smart Scan, you can then start to customize it to your needs. You get to decide what modules or submodules to exclude from the scanning process and which to keep. With intelligent algorithms in place, you will be able to filter out unneeded, outdated, and possibly dangerous items from your computer.

     An important function of CleanMyMac is the malware scanner. It will detect and dispose of potentially harmful items like viruses, malware, and spyware. It has both a malware scanner and a real-time monitor that verify new installations even when CleanMyMac is off. The malware scanner works either as a stand-alone Malware Removal module or as part of Smart Scan. It includes mostly open-source libraries, but the developers keep on updating it with new entries every week.

     The Health Monitor is CleanMyMac’s background process that keeps you aware of key system readings and warns of potential threats. The Monitor subscribes to system notifications and forwards those related to health status to CleanMyMac X. You can view this information any time from the CleanMyMac X menubar icon. The info delivered by Health Monitor includes memory usage and RAM extensive apps, the available disk space on the internal disk and external volumes, your Trash level, and a lot more. The Health Monitor provides real-time protection to make sure that your new installations are safe. If you don’t want to get any notifications from CleanMyMac, disable them in CleanMyMac X Preferences. However, the Health Monitor will continue to run as it cannot be shut down.  

     CleanMyMac provides ample details about every function. If you find the optimization options a bit overwhelming and need more instruction, then turn to the CleanMyMac X Assistant. You can always find it in the upper-right corner of the CleanMyMac window. Just click the Assistant button and let it: suggest further cleanup and optimization steps, remind you about uncompleted procedures and the necessity of the regular cleanup, give you tips to use CleanMyMac more effectively, and more. Also, you can type in one or more keywords that describe your question on CleanMyMac’s functionality, and the Assistant will show you some useful info in this regard.

     When CleanMyMac X has done its job, you quit it. But, if you wish, you can keep its Menu active in the status bar. It’ll both inform you of critical changes in your Mac and provide useful features. Have a look at the image below to get an idea of what it shows.

     It would take up too much space to write about each of the 15 individual modules, so I am going to mention only five. The System Junk usually makes up the largest crop of unneeded files. These files are generated automatically and can be removed safely. A lot of space is reclaimed after removing old cache files and logs, unused languages, excessive versions of documents, and Xcode junk. This module resolves all kinds of errors by getting rid of various broken items that may result in wrong application behavior.

     If you’d like to cut down the size of the iTunes library, this CleanMyMac module is for you. It removes redundant data like iOS data from your Mac by removing software updates, device backups, and copies of iOS apps stored on your Mac. I had over 40GB of iPad apps that I had saved from my older iPad. There was no need to keep these as they would not run on my current iPad.

     It will run the maintenance scripts which are basic system routines that macOS can run on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. These scripts are aimed to keep your Mac in shape. I often forget to run these. CleanMyMac reminds me about them.

     Most Mac users usually drag an app to the Trash to get rid of it. This method is simple but leaves numerous remnants across your computer. The Uninstaller module finds applications with all their components (including those that aren’t in the Applications folder). Also, it lists Rarely used apps: those you haven’t opened for the last 6 months, Legacy apps: 32-bit apps that won’t be supported in macOS versions higher than Mojave, and Leftovers: supporting files left on your Mac after manual uninstallation of apps. 

     Finally, the Shredder module is a simple way to delete any files you no longer need in either a secure or ordinary way. Just drop the item onto the module and it will remove the file even if the Finder had problems with it. Shredder can seamlessly get around Finder errors and remove even those items that are locked by running processes. If you choose secure removal, the erased files, including their digital footprints, will be made completely irrecoverable. This type of removal takes more time, but all the data gets rewritten, which leaves almost no chance for recovery.

     The preferences allow you to further customize what CleanMyMac will do. You can specify the items you would like to include to your scans. Enabling the menu bar icon lets you quickly delve into the Health Monitor. You can choose the limit to the trash warning. I like to know when it has 10GB in it but others prefer a smaller number. There is a lot more to this area which you should explore on your own.

     CleanMyMac X is a paid application that requires either a license or subscription to unlock all its features. However, you can try CleanMyMac X for free before purchasing at their store. The application has a trial mode with a range of limitations such as a shared 500 MB limit across the modules. Click here to download your copy of CleanMyMac. You can read more about it by visiting the MacPaw Web Site. CleanMyMac lets you safely scan and clean your entire system by deleting large, unused files. You can reduce the size of your iPhoto library, uninstall unneeded apps, manage all your extensions, and do much more. The way I see it, CleanMyMac would be most useful with a size-deprived laptop, although I was able to put it to good use on my desktop iMac, what with malware detection, maintenance runs, and the shredder. So, no matter what computer you use, CleanMyMac has something that will optimize it. It will rejuvenate any sluggish computer by suggesting what you might dispose of and keep it running as smoothly as possible.  

Unclutter – Relocate and Organize Your Unsightly Desktop Mess

by Marcel Dufresne

Jan 18, 2021

     I don’t know about you, but my desktop always seems to be overloaded with files and other items. No matter how I try to organize them into folders or store them away in documents, they just keep accumulating. This of course makes it hard to find a specific item when I am looking for it. This problem prompted me to look into an appropriately named application called Unclutter. This app did as predicted and helped me clear a lot of space on my desktop. But as I did my research, I found that this application did a whole lot more than just unclutter. Read on to find out how this application might make your computer time more productive.  

     Once installed, the application is most simply activated by moving the mouse to the very top of the screen and scrolling down. This opens a window that stretches across the top of your screen. It contains three panels: files, notes, and clipboard history. An icon appears in the menu bar that provides another way to open the window as well as access to the app’s preferences. The three panels can be resized horizontally by dragging the inside edge of any of them. A red label found at the bottom of the window gives access to a gear icon which opens the app’s menu and it also lets you resize the window vertically.

     My main reason for trying the app was to store some desktop items out of sight but still have them quickly accessible. Dragging any desktop item to the top of the screen and releasing them into the files panel achieved this purpose. Any item dropped in the files panel was stored off screen. By default, Unclutter stores your files and notes in a concealed folder. You can, however, select your own location for either the files or the notes using the application’s preferences. You could, for instance, choose Dropbox as your storage location to enable automatic syncing between devices. The hidden location can still be located using the gear icon found in the top right of the files panel. Choose ‘Show in Finder’ to open the hidden folder. The gear icon also provides the means to customize the files panel display. You can auto-arrange by name, kind, date added, or date modified, or create a new folder. The items can be shown as icons with the item size controlled by a scroll bar, or as a list. 

     With this application running, I was able to move over 20 items to the files panel, freeing up a large area of my desktop. A simple mouse movement and a swipe put these files at my disposal. For those of you who would prefer keyboard control rather than having to swipe, Unclutter has  some other options. To open Unclutter move your mouse to the very top of the screen and a) scroll down, b) tap (control, command option, shift key) instead of swiping, c) wait for (1/2,1 or 2 sec) or d) without moving the mouse to the top of the screen just press a combination of the special keys like ⌘-^-A (cmd-ctrl-A). This option choice is all controlled in the preferences. And you can have two or more of these active at the same time.

     The second very useful function of Unclutter is as a clipboard manager. Apple only allows for one item to be saved at a time in the clipboard. With Unclutter you can save the last 10, 25, or 50 clipboards (you choose the amount from the preferences). You can view the contents as a list to scroll through quickly or as single clips. If you have an item that is often saved, you can click the star beside it in the panel and it is saved to a favorites folder. Many clipboard managers only show a shortened facsimile of the text with ‘…’ at the end to indicate there is more. With Unclutter the complete text can be viewed in the panel and the text can be edited. If an image is copied to the clipboard, the full picture can be seen in the panel. As an interesting addition, the icon of the application that you were using when the clipboard item was copied is shown beside it. You can easily delete any item in the notes and the clipboard panels. Clipboard items of a sensitive nature do not have to be visibly saved. Add the application that creates them to a ‘do not show’ list in the preferences and data from these applications will appear concealed, eg 1Password. 

     The last panel is for notes. You can have as many notes as you want in the panel. It works similarly to Apple’s Notes but is more quickly opened up. Use arrow keys or the mouse to select the note you want. If a URL is placed in the note, then clicking it will open your browser to that site. Click ‘+’ or press Cmd+N to create a new note. The notes can be viewed as a list or individually. And lastly, there is the ability to do a quick full-text search. 

     There are a few more preferences items I would like to mention. You have the option to show the menu bar icon or not. The panels can be in light or dark mode or set up to match your system’s choice. Lastly, you do not have to use all three panels. You can select which to use. However, the top of the screen will always be filled from one side to the other no matter how many panes you have activated. With the convenience all three of these panes offer, I don’t see me turning any one of them off.

     Unclutter is very easy to use. You will be accessing saved clipboard items in no time at all. And your messy desktop will look brand new with a lot of the files tucked away. Click here to read more about this very useful application. Download a free 7-day trial copy of it from the web site and see for yourself why I am so enthusiastic about it. Unclutter can be purchased for about $20 from their web site or the Apple store. This is an excellent price considering you are getting three tools in one. Individually, the clipboard manager or the unclutter portion by themselves are worth it.