In the first part of this small series I looked at the most important utilities to add to a new Mac. Now I'm going to help fix some annoyances. "Wait a minute," I hear you cry, "I thought you thought Macs were perfect?" Well, nothing's perfect, and over the years I have found some things that need fixing. But, remember, I'm rather perfectionist by nature. You might not even notice these 'issues' ...
Annoyances and Distractions
It's important to be able to lock the Mac quickly, particularly when away from home. Lock Screen is a setting that leaves a little padlock symbol in the status menu: just click it and then the screens blank and you have to re-enter your password to continue working. To turn it on open Keychain Access (which lives in the Applications/Utilities folder) and then go to Keychain Access: Preferences. Click on the General tab and select the Show Status in Menu Bar option.
Mac laptops are great in many ways, but occasionally they do something you don't want. The screen dimming after you've not typed or moused for a while definitely saves the battery, but it's annoying if you're watching a video. Jolt solves this by overriding the setting for a few minutes. Free, or for $5 get the version with more control. Isolatoris a small menu bar application that helps you concentrate. When you're working on a document, and don't want to be distracted, turn on Isolator. It will cover up your desktop and all the icons on it, as well as the windows of all your other applications, so you can concentrate on the task in hand. Donationware.
I'm regularly working on my Mac late at night, but it's now becoming well known that staring at bright screens just before bed doesn't help you sleep. It's easy to change the overall screen brightness up and down, but couldn't I get that to happen automatically? Yes! I'm currently using f.lux that automatically and oh-so-gradually changes brightness and colour temperature according to sunset/sunrise patterns where you are in the world. It's free, and dead simple to set up and then forget about. Just one tip: don't try doing colour sensitive work, such as photo processing, late at night, as it does change the colours. (It's also available for Windows and Linux.)
Before f.lux came out, I previously used a utility called DarkAdapted. This is very flexible -- for example controlling the red, green and blue channels independently -- but at the cost of being harder to set up. It was designed originally for astronomers working in the middle of the night, who can't lose their night vision by staring at screens, so it lets you have the equivalent of a darkroom's red-only light. (It costs $10, but you can try it for 10 minutes without paying, and there's also a less powerful free version. There's also a version for Windows.)If you have a MacBook with a backlit keyboard, that can be very handy in dark places. Again, you can set its brightness level easily by the buttons on the keyboard, but it always starts too bright for my liking. Lab Tick to the rescue: it now automatically remembers the level I like and uses it at next startup, and allows the backlit to turn off after its been idle for a while. If I need it to work I just press the right shift key, or move the mouse, which is always findable in the dark. It's donationware.The DVD player on the Mac suffers from the same annoyance as all DVD players: often you have to sit through warning screens or trailers that you can't skip past. Thanks a lot, Hollywood studios for insisting on that. However, thanks to a nifty patch, you can now skip them.The built in iCal is a reasonable calendar, but its way of entering new appointments is painfully clunky. FlexCal adds a hotkey and a quick entry window pops up — from within any application. The first window is a task entry window. Hit the hotkey again and an event entry window appears. Type in your task or event, hit return and instantly the item is added to your iCal calendar. It’s that simple. Donationware.Even if you’ve set your Dock preferences not to animate when you click them, some applications insist on bouncing to get your attention. This brief tutorial will show you how to disable (or re-enable) that behaviour.