CleanMyMac X

It’s been around for ten years - TEN years! Wow, it’s been such a staple of my productivity tool kit for macOS that I didn’t realise it had been around for so long. To celebrate this anniversary, MacPaw have released CleanMyMac X

So for those who don’t know what CleanMyMac is all about, it’s an application that keeps a close eye on your system and offers recommendations about items to delete. That’s what it does at it’s lowest level as there is a lot more functionality. You can complete Maintenance Tasks which purge DNS records, free up RAM, Speed up Apple Mail as well as others. I actually have an OmniFocus task that repeats weekly prompting me to carry this out. I know you can do a lot of these tasks from within macOS itself, however I love the speed and efficiency of executing from the touch of a button. 

CleanMyMacX has added some new features which makes it a more complete tool in my opinion:

Malware Scanner - it’s a myth that Macs don’t get viruses or unwanted software running on them. Anyone that has looked at MacKeeper will attest to that! CleanMyMac X will check for malicious files and viruses and whilst I can thankfully say I haven’t had it report anything bad, I have faith that should the time come, I’ll be in good hands. 

Personal Assistant - I was pleasantly surprised when I first ran a scan in CleanMyMacX. A small chat bubble appeared which offered suggestions for clearing my system down. You can access this assistant from the top right corner of the window whenever you wish. Nice touch. 

Faster Scan - it’s actually up to three times faster (and to be fair it was pretty swift before!). 

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Improved scanning algorithms - now there is more chance of something being found on your Mac that you don’t need anymore. 

The app also looks and feels better as it’s had a complete redesign from top to bottom. Lovely backgrounds, bright icons and looks at home on a Retina display for sure. 

t’s not the cheapest software around, that’s for sure. You can make a one-time purchase for $90 or have a yearly subscription for $40 (there is a 50% reduction if you are upgrading from CleanMyMac 3) however I think it’s a great update to an already fine application and I recommend it fully to users of new and older systems alike. 

See it here.

Syncing Macros with Keyboard Maestro

Syncing Macros with Keyboard Maestro

Those of you who regularly visit my blog can’t fail to have noticed that I’ve been reasonably quiet over the last few months! It’s been a busy time, that’s for sure, with lots of work, involving both coaching and consultancy. This has led to a change in my setup and workflows and I can’t wait to share some of this with you - which I will, in good time. 

One of the main changes has been moving into a new office space. No more camping out on the kitchen table when working from home - I need room and, most importantly, separation from my young children so as to maximise my work time. 

I picked up a refurbished iMac for the office, so as to keep my MacBook Pro for travelling and delivering workshops and I think there may be at least fifty different posts I could write about working from two different machines! 

One of the first things I’d noticed was the sheer number of Keyboard Maestro macros that I had developed over the last few years on my MacBook Pro. So many! Some are as simple as keyboard shortcuts for applications, others are more complex that will run a script automatically at a given time. It’s fair to say that I didn’t fancy re-creating these, so I started looking at the easiest way to export them in bulk and transfer them to my new machine. 

This process is easy enough, however I quickly realised that as soon as I created a new macro on one machine, I’d need to export/import it onto the other. 

I know what you’re thinking as you read this - it’s true, I can be amazingly thick at times. Of course an application as advanced as Keyboard Maestro is going to have some form of real-time synchronisation available. 

This is how you set it up:

1 - Open Preferences within Keyboard Maestro on the source machine (this will be the machine that has the most up-to-date version of all of your macros)

2 - On the General tab, select the option for syncing Macros

3 - You will be asked whether you wish to create a new file, or open an existing one. As this is the first machine of the pair, select Create New and choose a location to store the sync file. This needs to be a cloud storage provider in order to allow the file to be read from the different locations. As I use iCloud Drive, I created a folder called Keyboard Maestro Macros and stored the file in there. 

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4 - On the secondary machine, check the box for Sync Macros and this time select Open Existing. Navigate to the sync file and click OK. You will be warned that all of your macros will be overwritten. No bother, just accept. 

Now, whenever you make any amendments to your Keyboard Maestro macros on one machine, they will be replicated to the other. 

Creating Focus with Freedom

How I Focus with Freedom

Maintaining a level of clear focus within the workplace (and indeed, at home) can be the single biggest obstacle that you need to overcome if you want to be the most productive version of yourself that you can be. Whenever I deliver a training workshop, there are always delegates that tell me it’s almost impossible to work for a given period of time without being interrupted. 

This isn’t just dealing with interruptions from other people though. The majority of interruptions come from our technology

I’m as guilty as anyone of this. The lure of the latest message, or the email that I’m missing out on can tempt me away easily from the piece of work I’m doing (especially if it’s something I really don’t want to do!). I’m a human being after all. 

That’s why using an application like Freedom is vital for me to get anything done on my Apple devices and as it’s now a part of my toolkit, I want to share how it works with you. 

Freedom is an application that runs on your macOS or iOS device (Windows too if you have to use a PC for work) and it can block applications and websites for a given period of time. It sits in the menu bar on macOS for easy access at any time. 

Devices

When you take out a subscription, you are able to install Freedom on multiple devices. I’ve got it installed on all of mine (four) and I can start a session on any device, from any device - which is very useful. Sometimes in my office, I have my iPhone, iPad and iMac connected at once and I don’t want to have to start a session on all three devices. Clicking the Freedom icon in the menu bar, selecting All Devices and starting a session is quick and easy. 

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Sessions

Sessions can be started on the fly, or if you are lucky enough to have a routine for work, you can schedule them to start automatically. You can define the length of time that the session will run for, which blocklists will take effect as well as the devices that will be affected. If you want to schedule a single session for later, click Start Later or, for recurring sessions, there is an link for that too. 

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Blocklists

There are two Blocklists created by default - Block All Websites and Block Desktop Apps. It’s very rare I’ll block all sites as, quite often, I need to carry out research as part of my work. Therefore I just use a couple of custom blacklists instead, that stop me from being to access any Social Media sites. 

You can manage which Desktop Apps will be blocked in a session by selecting Manage Blocked Desktop Apps from the Freedom menu bar and selecting the installed applications that you wish to be filtered. I do use this, as there can be some applications, or games, that may tempt me a little too much when I’m trying to get stuff done. 

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Locked Mode

You can Lock a session, which means that you cannot override the settings at all once a session has started - this is a must if you have problems with your willpower! Let’s be honest, without this option, if you want to just turn Freedom off for your machine once a session has started, you can do so very easily. This takes that further level of temptation away. 

I love Freedom and can’t recommend it enough. You can use it on a free trial to see if it’s suitable for you. The trial gives you 7 sessions. Other pricing options include a Monthly plan, at $6.99 per month, a Yearly plan at $29 per year and a Forever plan, at $119 that does at is says - gives you Freedom forever, including all future upgrades. 

Black-belt members of Think Productive’s Productivity Ninja Academy get 40% off of the Yearly/Forever plans. As a Productivity Ninja, I create some of the content within the Academy so come over and see what’s available! 

Quick View with Alfred

Quick View with Alfred on macOS

I’ve been using Alfred on macOS to locate and open files for years now. It’s quick, efficient and just the sort of tool any serious Mac user should use. One thing I didn’t realise though was that when searching for files, you can perform a Quick View in the same vein as the native Finder application. 

All you have to do is type in your search keys as normal and when the potential results are listed, press or ⌘+Y to bring up the Quick View. 

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When I found out about this, I did a quick search online to see how many other ‘one-key’ shortcuts were available within Alfred that I had neglected over the years and I was pleasantly surprised! I’m going to play with some of them and report back on the ones I think you may find most useful. 

How To: Improve the Battery Life of your iPhone

One thing that Apple has worked on a lot recently is the performance of the battery in the various models of iPhone. Battery Life, which is the amount of time that your device is running before it’s in need of a recharge, as well as Battery Lifespan, which is how long your battery lasts until it needs to be replaced, have improved greatly. 

There are, however, steps that we can take as end-users to improve both of these metrics and prolong the life of our devices. Let’s be honest, they aren’t cheap and if you aren’t worried about upgrading every single year then eeking out some extra battery life is always a good thing. 

Temperature

With the (mini) heat-wave we’ve just enjoyed in the UK, I was curious as to what happens to my phone when left in direct sunlight. Quick research pointed out that the optimum temperature for your phone is 16º-22º C (62º-72º F), although it’s still designed to perform well between 0º and 35º, so on this side of the pond, this isn’t too much of a problem. If it does go over 35º, you may find that you permanently damage your battery capacity. Also, if you charge your device at a high ambient temperature, this can damage the battery further. 

On the note of temperature, be mindful of the case that your iPhone is in. The case may act as an insulator and warm your phone up whilst charging. If you notice your phone getting excessively hot whilst charging, make a point of removing it from its case beforehand. 

Latest OS

With the majority of iOS updates, there are tweaks designed to improve battery life and reduce energy consumption. If practical, try to keep up-to-date with the latest version of iOS. This also has security benefits too. 

Brightness

Reducing the brightness of your screen can make a tremendous difference to the battery life. I have mine set to Auto Brightness and (so far) have never felt the need to increase the level manually, even in brightly lit areas. 

Wi-Fi

There are two main points to note with Wi-Fi. Firstly, if you are out and about with no plans to join a Wi-Fi network, then turn it off. If Wi-Fi is enabled then your phone will poll for new networks at regular intervals, reducing the amount of charge you have on your phone for this cycle. Switch it off until you know you need it. 

To that end, not many people know that if you have a choice between using your data connection and using Wi-Fi to access data, Wi-Fi actually uses less power, so always opt for that where possible (and secure). 

Background Activity

Do all of your apps need to be polling in the background for new information? Go to Settings -> General -> Background App Refresh and you’ll see a list of applications with toggles next to each. Turn off the ones that aren’t needed. If you’re feeling daring, turn them all off with one switch at the top of the screen. 

Location Services

Lots of applications try to enable Location Services by default, however, I’d say there is only a handful where this is truly useful. To see your applications that have this enabled, go to Settings -> Privacy -> Location Services. Turn off those that aren’t needed. 

View Battery Usage Information

If you go to Settings -> Battery, you can see a list of applications that have been in use over the last 24 hours, or 7 days, listed in order of battery consumption (highest to lowest). From here, you can see the culprits that need tweaking, although be mindful of the fact that the percentage is not an exact science, it’s just relative to the total amount of battery used. If you don’t have a battery problem, then the percentage is OK. For more information, click the clock icon to see some facts relating to exact amount of time on screen as well as background activity to ascertain whether you need to take action. 

I hope that helps. Any other advice for readers, please feel free to post in the comments