Archive for May, 2009

Organize your Mac: 5 great tips

Wednesday, May 27th, 2009

When I first got my shiny new iMac everything was neatly organized: I had a nice clean Desktop and Home folder, my Dock was minimal, and my hard disk wasn’t full of crud. A mere week later the Mac was chaos – files everywhere, cluttered Desktop and Dock, and I couldn’t find anything!

I quickly learned that, in order to be productive on my Mac, I was going to have to get organized. Here are some simple techniques that I’ve found helpful for keeping my Mac data ship-shape.

1. Organize your files and folders

I do struggle at times to keep my legions of files and folders organized (in fact only the other day it took me over an hour to find an old document I created 3 years ago!). Here are some tricks that I’ve found helpful:

  • Keep your Desktop and Home folders clean. Avoid putting any files or folders on your Desktop – not only is it visual clutter, but it results in a disorganized mess! Similarly, don’t dump files directly in your Home folder. Instead, create subfolders in your Documents folder (or wherever is convenient) and put files in there.
  • Tell Firefox to use your Downloads folder. While Safari plays by the Downloads folder rule, Firefox dumps downloaded files on your Desktop by default. Not good. Go to Firefox > Preferences > Main > Save Files To, click Choose, then pick the Downloads folder in your Home folder.
  • Organize your Finder sidebar. The left-hand sidebar in each Finder window gives you instant access to files and folders with a single click. Make the most of it by adding the files and folders you use most often. To do this, just drag a file or folder from the main Finder window to the sidebar. While you’re there, remove unwanted files and folders by dragging them away from the sidebar.
  • Make important folders stand out. You can assign a colour to a folder by hitting Command-I then clicking a colour in the Label section of the Info dialog. Alternatively, give a folder a custom icon. Find the image you want to use – whether on your Mac or on the Web – and copy it. Now select the folder, hit Command-I, click the folder icon at the top-left of the Info dialog, and hit Command-V to paste your image. (You can also grab ready-made icons off various sites.)
  • Use Smart Folders. These work much like Smart Mailboxes in Mail. Smart Folders don’t actually contain any files, but they let you group files and folders together based on specified rules. This is handy if you want to access all documents on a given project in one place, for example. Find out how to create Smart Folders in Leopard.
  • Use Spotlight comments. Spotlight does a pretty good job of finding files, but you can make its life easier by tagging files and folders. Select a file, hit Command-I, then add your tags in the Spotlight Comments field at the top of the Info dialog. The file will now come up in Spotlight searches for those tags. Good for grouping files by topic or project. (more…)

Flight Control review: A fun casual iPhone game

Wednesday, May 13th, 2009

I’ve been having a bit of fun with Flight Control over the last few weeks.

In this simple but attractive game your job is to land incoming aircraft by dragging out flight paths towards the two runways and helipad. Sounds easy enough, but once several aircraft appear onscreen it becomes increasingly difficult to avoid them crashing into each other.

Fortunately you can plot a new flight path for an aircraft at any time. Even allowing for this, though, the game quickly reaches a frenetic pace as you find yourself redirecting several aircraft each second. What’s more, the four types of aircraft all travel at different speeds (the helicopters are frustratingly slow!), which makes timing the landings even trickier. (more…)

Mac apps for toddlers: My top 5

Monday, May 4th, 2009

I have a two-year-old toddler who loves messing about on our two iMacs. Of course, he’s a bit young to do anything useful, and mainly uses them to watch Pocoyo! However I have found a few Mac apps that he enjoys, so I thought I’d post them here.

5. Whoopee Cushion

Strictly speaking it’s a widget rather than an app, but my little one loves this. A great way to distract him if he’s bored. 3 or 4 clicks on this widget and he’s in hysterics!

As featured in my 5 fun Dashboard widgets post.

4. Ladybugs

This is a very cute and polished set of 3 simple games:

  • Tangled Maze: Guide the bug around the maze to its home.
  • Color Trouble: Similar to Tangled Maze except you have to guide the bug to the home that matches the bug’s colour.
  • Ladybug Race: Again, this is similar to Tangled Maze but you race against a computer-controlled bug.

The games are professionally designed, and the soundtrack is equally slick and fun. My 2-year-old couldn’t play it on his own, but he liked watching the colourful bugs moving around the screen.

The one minor annoyance with this game is that it messes up all my Mac windows, causing them to shrink to the top of the screen. Hopefully it’s a bug that will get fixed soon. (more…)