Is there an alternative to Photoshop on the Mac?

Is there an affordable alternative to Photoshop for macOS? Something with deeper features than Photos, like layering.

I like and admire Pixelmator a lot, but its interface is way different from Photoshop, and with all the time I’ve spent mucking about with it, I haven’t gotten as fluid as I am in PS.

The closest I’ve gotten is Acorn. It’s like Photoshop 6, which appeals to my nostalgia, but even better to my desire for elegant software to stay that way. I always get what I need, in and out, in minutes, without thinking about how-to.

That said, if you need to get truly jiggy wid it, Affinity Photo is a go-to for pros.

GIMP (the GNU Image Manipulation Program) is worth mentioning, because free. But I haven’t used it in forever; whenever I have tried it, I run into the usual non-Mac-like behavior of ported open-source packages.

 

How should I upgrade to Mojave?

I have been reading about Mojave and was wondering which of the two ways to upgrade would be best: clean (wipe the computer and start over), or just drop it in the computer and go…

I’m real glad you asked! Almost always, I recommend simply upgrading your existing insulation. Apple’s upgrades have historically run pretty clean, and typically do some nice housekeeping in the process. The only conditions that make me go for a full erase-and-reinstall are a) someone is moving to a new computer and has a burning desire for a fresh start, or b) something is real obviously messed up and no other troubleshooting has been successful.

But there is an implied question here, namely, should you upgrade to Mojave yet?

Short answer: It would probably be fine to do so, but I’m still going to recommend that you hold off for a couple of months.

For iPhones and iPads, the big upgrades usually go smoothly, but on the Mac, unless you really need or want the new features and don’t mind some quirkiness as Apple squashes bugs, it’s best to wait a couple/few months for the new OS to reach its x.2 or x.3 update.

Mojave has been working fine for me, and there are no reports of big problems. I think it’s one of the nicest upgrades to the Mac in recent years, specifically because Apple gave Finder some long-overdue love. The new screenshot features that mirror what iOS got last year are also really helpful.

But as this article demonstrates, some folks have encountered minor issues. They have quick enough fixes, but if you count on your Mac to run smoothly without having to engage someone like me, might as well wait a bit!

Guess I’ve been consistent; this guidance dates back a while: 2007, 2011, 2013

 

New Office for Mac, and “should I ditch my MacBook Air”?

H. writes:

I’ve been using a 13” MacBook Air for about 3 years, running Bootcamp/Windows/Office. I’ve been happy with it, other than continually confusing the shortcut keys (e.g., moving the cursor to the end of the line or jumping over a word) with those on my work PC. I wonder if it’s a good time to consider an upgrade and maybe switch to a PC. Do you have a recommendation for a replacement with the same size/form factor on the Windows platform?

This is funny: when I started googling “pc alter…” it filled in “pc alternative to macbook air.” You ain’t the only one, H.! 

I can’t claim any experience with these, but just running with the top article — http://blog.laptopmag.com/best-ultrabooks — I’ve heard that the Asus and Acer models are really great. You really can’t go wrong with Dell or Lenovo either, but I think Asus and Acer tend to have better design.

But of course you know what I’m gonna say: Why not go with the best and see how little you need Windows? The Mac OS accommodates Exchange just fine, and it looks like there’s finally a new Office for Mac on its way. (“Excel…now recognizes most Windows keyboard shortcuts.”) You can download a preview if you’re curious. 

Also, that new MacBook should be quite fantastic. Some reports suggest it may have performance issues, so I’m not going to recommend one unequivocally, but depending on your use, it could be the sleekest piece of kit you’ve ever owned.

Finally, if you need a current copy of Office for Mac, you can purchase a downloadable license from Amazon for $199: http://astore.amazon.com/j2cons-20/detail/B0064PF4ZQ

I hope that helps!

Annotate images on the Mac

In the announcement of Yosemite, Apple touted the new Markup feature in Mail. Users of Apple’s email app can now annotate images right in the New Message window. Nifty, but (wanh wanh) I don’t use Mail.

Preview can handle all kinds of image manipulation and annotation, but Preview is not by nature a tool for creation.

Poking around System Preferences, I found this section of the new Extensions pane:

What’s that about? Turns out that’s how Apple Mail gets its new Markup feature, wherein you can annotate and draw on a picture right in New Message window. And other apps, such as Pixelmator, can tack features onto other apps. This is the same thing Apple did for iOS, letting you edit an image in Photos, using tools provided by third-party apps.

On the Mac, that means that apps have a way to add functionality to other apps, without resorting to hacks. So, for example, I can put a photo in TextEdit…

…and cilck this little arrow that now appears at the corner…

Click Markup to get a window like this…

Wherein I can annotate the image with text, circles, arrows, what have you; and also in some surprising ways, including adding a loupe effect…

That has a lot of potential, and very easy to access. I don’t know why we don’t see more apps adding these extensions. Currently, the only additional one I have is a Repair Tool by Pixelmator…

…which I can use to make things disappear…

(Not the most artful job, but you get the picture, as it were.)

This is all in TextEdit, the modest word processor that comes with every Mac. Since I don’t use the Apple Mail program, I just tried pasting this entire article into Gmail, in a web browser, and it worked! 

Create contact information from copied text

I’ve been looking for a smooth way to add contact information from text I’ve copied from a web site. The key is to use Apple’s Data Detectors feature in TextEdit.

First, you want to set TextEdit to be always ready for this action:

  1. Open TextEdit.
  2. Go to TextEdit menu > Preferences…
  3. Turn on Data Detectors, at the very bottom of the New Document tab.
  4. (I also like to change my default document format to Plain Text, but that’s not necessary to this procedure.)
  5. Close the Preferences window.

OK, now you’re ready to do this anytime:

  1. Create a new TextEdit document.
  2. Paste in any kind of contact information, e.g. name, address, email, phone number.
  3. Hover over what you just pasted. See that little drop-down arrow? Click it.
  4. You’ll see what to do from there!

Here’s a quick screencast. Enjoy!

https://v.usetapes.com/dTnSsAcB2g

Be Vigilant: Phishing Works

A friend writes:

I received an email from a colleague this afternoon. She uses Google Drive to send big files. The email said, “Barbara is trying to send you a file too big for email. Please sign into Google Drive.”

Not thinking that I was already signed in, I clicked and signed in, and even gave my phone number. It only took a min for me to realize what happened when I was taken to an art gallery. So I’m changing everything, all credit and bank and passwords, etc.

But I’m guessing they could have sucked every bit of data out of all my Google info in a couple of minutes. Oy vey…

It’s such a horrific — and tragically common — story these days. My friend has made the right move: Changing all his passwords, especially to all the major accounts such as Facebook, Apple, and Google, should secure him for the time being. Also, I think making sure you’re subscribed to a credit-monitoring bureau, and alerting them to such a happenstance, would be beneficial.

So just to make sure you know: Using a password manager such as 1Password [affiliat link], Dashlane, or LastPass helps immensely in these situations. You can use 1P to change all your passwords much faster than doing it manually, ensuring their all different and superlong. I even use 1Password to help me store the fake answers I create for the security questions.

What’s a “widget”?

That’s a reasonable question, given the silly history of the word:

a small gadget or mechanical device, especially one whose name is unknown or unspecified.

If you just want to know how it applies to your iPhone and Mac, skip the first few paragraphs.

In the software world, the story goes a little like this:

Yahoo bought a company years ago, called Konfabulator, who used the term to refer to a kind of mini-app. These little apps would show or do simple things — like weather, a calculator, a clock and calendar, a stock feed, package trackers — any single-purpose kind of information that you’d want to access or manipulate quickly. 

Konfabulator ran their widgets in a dashboard, an overlay on the rest of the stuff on your computer screen. You could have them floating on top or behind, or pop out from the side of your display, I can’t remember all the possibilities.

So Yahoo got ‘em and changed the name to Yahoo! Widgets, and pretty soon everybody was jumping on board. (“Widget” apparently has become a standardized term in software.) Apple put a Dashboard in OS X (still there but probably going away soon), Microsoft called them gadgets in Windows, you get the picture.

This year, Apple introduced a feature into iOS and the Mac, where you can add widgets to your Notifications screen. They are a very cool way to get quick information, and even to add notes and to-do items.

With my Philips Hue lights and the new Hue widget, I can even change the lighting scheme in my home! I just turned my office lights on and the den lights off, in two swipes and one click, without leaving my chair. 

Here’s how to add widgets in the Today view on your iPhone and on your Mac

Widgets I like:

There are more on the phone at the moment. We are waiting for Mac developers to release some goodies.

Note: I’ve used my App Store and Amazon affiliate links.