Sunday, July 29, 2007

Overflow: keeping the Dock neat and tidy

OverflowI'll admit it, I'm a dock addict. I put everything in my dock I could ever use. If I had a purse, I'd do great on Let's Make a Deal (if you don't know the reference, then you've always grown up with Macs--lucky you) However, now that everything is in my dock, I can't find anything on it! Arrgh.

Overflow was in the bottom of my stack of things to review from Macworld, which only proves why I'm an ideal candidate for it. I loved Dragstrip and, though developed separately, does exactly what Dragstrip did. (You might remember that Dragstrip provided a dock like structure in OS 9).

Instead of having one dock at the bottom of the screen, Overflow creates a palette of icons that allows you to subdivide your aliases into categories. For example. I have a category of Disk Utilities that includes Apple's Disk Utility, CD burning software, etc. Instead of having to navigate three of four folders deep in my hard drive to find an application, I simply can press the hot key for Overflow (F1 by default) and then click the category and then icon (or press command and the arrows to quickly shift between categories). Also, like the dock, you can drag and drop items onto a particular alias. The drag and drop feature is great when you want to open a document in a different app for a change (opening a pdf in Acrobat instead of preview). Similar to the dock, you can add individual documents that you use often.

While the program allows you to configure the size and color of the icons, it doesn't allow keyboard combos as a hotkey--only one individual key. For example, on my Macbook, I have to press the function key before I can use F1. I'd rather map it to option and command (which was my dragstrip quickey), but I can't. Not a major complaint, more of an annoyance. Weird because Apple allows keyboard combinations in Expose and with all my other programs, I'm slowly running out of hotkeys

I highly recommend the program, and with a $14.95 price tag it's hard not to resist. Much less expensive than those Dock Addict's Anonymous meetings. Overflow has quickly proven itself an indispensable productivity tool.
Pros: Efficiently manages all your dock items in easy to use categories
Cons: Limited options for hotkeys.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

iPod Fully Loaded by Andy Ihnatko

iPod Fully Loaded by Andy Ihnatko


While I'm sure Andy has an iPhone, this excellent book was written when the iPhone was only an apple in Steve's eye, Andy does a great job of helping the average user tweak some extra features from their iPod. Those suffering from iPhone envy will find some solace in Andy's tips. This book is best for techheads who want to impress their friends, families and associates with all the incredibly cool things they can do with their iPod. iPods have evolved into mini PDAs that can do practically anything (it's the inputing that's the challenge!)

The first few chapters of the book were obvious tips that even beginner iPod'ers know and would annoy the intermediate to advanced audience the book is designed to reach. We all know we can copy songs from our CDs to our iPod. Yawn. Another distraction of the book is the annoying quips and too much personal info about Andy. Sorry, Andy, I'll read your blog to find out your opinion about Battlestar Galactica or the Simpsons, but I don't want it in a book about how to use an iPod. No offense, just not interested. Also, Andy played a bit fast and loose with disclosure on the risks of copyrights. It may be his opinion that some things should be legal, but in the murky legal environment today, more warnings of the risks of copying copyrighted materials should have been discussed.

Just like diamond surrounded by unimpressive coal, there are true gems in the book that I was able to immediately put to use. For example. Andy discussed programs for the Mac and PC that allow you to digitize to voice your emails and sync them with your iPod. I definitely downloaded some of his great tools and now I can laugh at those iPhone people because my iPod is almost as impressive. Almost. Also Andy does a great job of explaining how to use Automator in Tiger to get some really amazing features of your iPod working for you such as "listening" to a website. Take that iPhone! The most impressive iPod tricks Andy teaches is converting any text file to audio for listening, or simply easily breaking up the file for transport to the iPod. Many of the tricks don't require software, but use some neat ideas Andy has for existing tools such as taking a screen shot of a subway map and then putting it on your iPod.

As stated earlier, I quickly got annoyed by Andy's personal tips and societal opinions. Not tips on how to use your iPod, but tips on various SciFi TV shows. Again, Yawn. The tips interfered with the flow of the book because they were visual annoyance on the page. I expect those sidebars to give me exceptionally useful information. It's Andy's style as the "42nd most beloved industry personality" I'll give him leeway because he is an industry veteran and promoted the "Macquarium," just like I give my grandfather when he tells me story about the war (which one?)

Pros: Great tips to use your iPod to it's absolute potential. Great cure for iPhone envy.
Cons: Andy's style, which gets in the way of the information and artificially increases the length of the book.

Four out of Five Dogcows


Sunday, July 15, 2007

FLVR: Saving Youtube Videos easily

Sometimes a product comes along that is so simple and so straightforward that there is very little to say about it. What do you say about a screwdriver–it drives screws and does it well. No FAQ needed! FLVR does one thing and one thing only: saving videos from web sites that normally prevent you from doing so, such as Myspace and Youtube. However it does this one thing better than anyone else currently out there.

After installing FLVR, there is an icon on your Safari toolbar of a movie camera. To save a recent video file, just click the movie camera and select any video recently viewed in Safari. Could it be any easier? In preferences you can specify where to save the file and its format, but it works fine without any tweaks. Now you can transfer those Youtube videos to your iPod and pretend you have an iPhone. Fool your friends!

When I read about the beta, I eagerly tried it. They developers were smart and allowed beta testers to buy the program for only $8.00. Now the program costs $15.00, still a bargain for what it does. My only complaint besides the name (which derives from the .flv extension of certain video files), is that it only works with Safari. It would be nice if it worked with Firefox, but that’s like saying you’d turn down the iPhone because it only comes in black!

Overall elegantly simple and powerful.

Pros: Works great for saving videos
Cons: Very small: only works in Safari.