Discover Great & Low-Cost Mac Products – November 2012

11/27/2012 9:22:09 AM

Rates: 7/10

Price: free, Map App store


Description: Read Later 2.1.0
Read Later 2.1.0

Instapaper and Pocket (formerly Read It Later) is useful web services that let you save web articles for later reading. Read Later is a Mac client for both services that offers a better reading experience than their websites do.

Read Later downloads the full text of the articles you’ve saved, as well as any folders (for Instapaper) or tags (for Pocket). Click a folder or tag, or your main read-later queue, and you’ll see a list of its saved articles. Click an article to display it in the pane to the right. A full-screen mode lets you read without distractions, and you can even toggle the visibility of the folder and article lists, leaving nothing but the article.

You can sort the selected list, customize the information displayed in the list, and change the appearance of articles to suit your tastes. Read Later also offers themes that determine the article background, text color and layout for reading. You can search saved-article titles, URLs and folders (for Instapaper) or tags (for Pocket), but not the body of articles. You can move an article to a folder (for Instapaper) or assign it a tag (for Pocket) by simply dragging it from the article list to the desired folder or tag, respectively, on the left. Any article-management tasks you perform while you’re offline will automatically sync back to the server the next time you have an internet connection.

Read Later also has a slew of features for working with article URLs and sharing them. It offers more options than the Instapaper and Pocket websites, a nicer reading environment and offline reading.

Airtoggle 1.0

Rates: 8/10
Price: $3.5

Description: Airtoggle 1.0
Airtoggle 1.0

By installing the Airtoggle System Preferences pane, you can choose a keyboard shortcut for toggling Wi-Fi on and off: any function key, along with any combination of SS, Shift, Control, and Option. Whenever you use that shortcut, a semi translucent Wi-Fi graphic appears on the screen to confirm the action.

For many people - especially those with crowded menu bars- the best part of Airtoggle is that it lets you disable and enable Wi-Fi without having to keep Apple’s Wi-Fi menu enabled. Alternatively, there’s an option to hide the menu automatically whenever you disable Wi-Fi, and display it whenever Wi-Fi is on. In other words, you see the menu only when you’re using Wi-Fi.

If you frequently toggle Wi-Fi on and off - say, to prolong battery life, or for extra security while you’re out and about Airtoggle makes it easier while freeing up space in the menu bar.

OmmWriter Dana II 1.01

Rates: 7/10

Price: $5, Mac App store


Description: OmmWriter Dana II 1.01
OmmWriter Dana II 1.01

Among the many distraction-free OS X writing apps, OmmWriter Dana II goes the furthest in distancing the writer from his or her computer. Not only is full-screen the program’s only mode, but a number of its features are specifically designed to create an all-encompassing environment. One of these is a set of seven full-screen backdrops. Another is the inclusion of seven different soundtracks, ranging from ringing bells to ambient piano music, designed to help you focus. (These are interesting, but they can get old quickly). There are also seven different sounds for audible feedback of keystrokes.

As with many writing apps of this type, OmmWriter is text-only. You can export to PDF or RTF, but you can’t apply WYSIWYG styles - just Markdown or HTML code for formatting. The program’s display options are similarly limited; you get four different fonts in four sizes each. It also takes a minimalist approach to accessing preferences: When moving the cursor, you’ll see a group of circular icons to the right - move the pointer over each icon to view its interface options.

We would like to have seen a few more options, but OmmWriter Dana II is still a solid writing tool, and if its interface decisions work for you, it accomplishes its goal of helping you focus on your writing.

Clean Text 6.8.1

Rates: 7/10

Price: $11.5, Mac App store


Description: Clean Text 6.8.1
Clean Text 6.8.1

Whether it’s the body of an email message that’s been forwarded too many times or content copied from a PDF, sometimes you find yourself with messy content - for example, text that has lots of email-quote characters (>) or stray line breaks - that you need to make presentable. Simply paste your text into the Clean Text window, and you can click any of the app’s 35 text-modification actions, which include removing email-quote characters, converting tabs to spaces and vice versa, converting straight quotes and apostrophes to their 'smart' equivalents, sorting lines, and more. A Quick Clean option performs the most common clean-up tasks with one click.

A Replace feature performs up to three find-and-replace tasks in one sweep, while a Macro option allows you to create one-click actions that combine multiple find-and-replace or text-modification tasks. There's also a Statistics button that displays basic stats for your text, including character, word, space and line counts.

You can minimize Clean Text to a tiny palette that floats above all the other windows. In this palette, click Fix Clipboard Text and Clean Text applies its Quick Clean tool to the contents of OS X's Clipboard; you can then paste the freshly cleaned text into any app. A Strip Clipboard Style button strips all formatting from the Clipboard's contents. Clean Text also supports OS X’s Services feature, making its features available from within other programs.

Even if text cleaning is a task you perform infrequently, Clean Text is a useful tool to keep on hand. And the program’s iconized mode is great for one-click cleaning.

Lion Designer 2.9.9

Rates: 7/10

Price: Donation ware


Description: Lion Designer 2.9.9
Lion Designer 2.9.9

Lion Designer is a handy app that allows you to change the look of particular Lion features with just a few clicks. Specifically, you can change the backgrounds for Mission Control, Dashboard, Launchpad, Launchpad folders and the login screen. In addition, you can alter the look of Launchpad folder icons and the login-screen icon. Simply click the Change button next to a setting, navigate to your desired image and then click Apply; because you’re making changes to system files, you'll need to enter your administrator username and password.

The Show History button displays a folder with any images you’ve previously used, and the app’s Show Conversion Window brings up an image-conversion tool that lets you ensure that smaller pictures will display at full-screen size rather than tiled.

Some changes take effect right away, while others require you to log out and then back in to see the changes. Handy buttons next to the Mission Control, Dashboard, and Launchpad items let you switch to each feature to view those changes immediately.

The app also lets you make a few other changes to Lion’s behavior. You can, for example, change the visibility of the user-level Library folder, hide desktop icons, alter the ringtone sound for FaceTime calls, and even adjust the icons in Finder-window sidebars from Lion style gray scale to Snow Leopard-style colorful. However, this last week requires that Lion Designer download and installs a more substantial system hack.


Price: $12, free during beta period


Description: TotalSpaces

Lion’s Mission Control, which offers multiple workspaces, is missing popular features found in Spaces, the similar feature in Snow Leopard. TotalSpaces (formerly ReSpaceApp) aims to bring back much of Spaces’ functionality while using Mission Control for underlying operations.

For example, Total Spaces preferences window (shown here) lets you configure your virtual workspace grid, from one-by-two or two-by-one up to four-by-four. You can navigate between those workspaces using a system-wide menu, configurable keyboard shortcuts, or a shortcut that brings up a large, graphical representation of your workspace grid. As with Mission Control, you can move a window between workspaces by dragging it against the left or right edge of your screen. (To move a window between vertically arranged workspaces, you drag it against the left or right edge of your screen and keep holding it there TotalSpaces cycles past the last workspace on the current row to get to the first workspace on the next row, and so on.)

TotalSpaces is still in the beta stage, so it’s got some quirks to work out. But we’re looking forward to future updates we’re still a fan of Spaces, and have been disappointed in Mission Control’s approach to multiple workspaces. With some improvements, TotalSpaces could deliver the best of both Spaces and Mission Control.

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