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.

Why you should get a second Drobo

I believe my Drobo is due for replacement, just to compensate for normal wear and tear. Could you advise me on which unit to buy? I will keep my existing Drobo in play, in case the new one goes down. Reviews say it’s good to have a backup unit because of the proprietary RAID system.

I’m real glad you are ready to get into a new Drobo. Like any tech, these enclosures don’t last forever. The advice you read — to maintain two of them, one backing up the other — is definitely smart. (Indeed, this policy applies to any storage scheme!) The Drobo remains the best, most flexible option for small businesses.

You have likely noticed that the Drobos appear to have gone up in price. Excepting the awesomely portable Mini, the manufacturer has eliminated its lower-end units, made five drive bays the minimum, and put the much faster Thunderbolt and USB 3 in all the models.

You will read negative reviews on Amazon and elsewhere. Many criticisms are specious — “I want this to walk my dog and bake me an full-disk-encrypted pizza, and it doesn’t do that, waaaaaanh!” But some experiences sound legitimately nasty, albeit suffered by people who didn’t have backups, and who got upset that Drobo support didn’t provide a magic spell to save them from their own poor planning. Waaaaanh!

Still, the failures are real, and the Drobos seem more prone to them than other similar devices. So while I still prefer the expandability and simplicity of the Drobo, I would be remiss if I didn’t also draw your attention to the Pegasus Promise RAID.

All that said, if you agree with me that the Drobo is the best option for mass storage, this 5D is the one for most Mac owners.

And you’d get five (5) of these 1TB Seagate hard drives.

Submit a support request when you get the new unit, and we’ll get your storage all backed up and redundant!

Hangout: Cure your website woes with Squarespace

If you need a website, or if you have a site that you’re unhappy with, you have got to try Squarespace. Squarespace makes creating a site easy, fun, and satisfying. Apple Consultant Jonathan Marcus will show you how to get started with Squarespace, and some important tips for building your content with Mac and iOS.

Thursday, Nov 21, 1pm CST, on Google+

Original event