Bartender 3 Update

One of the benefits of an upgrade to the Mac Operating System is a sudden influx of updates to our favourite applications. In order to ensure compatibility, new versions come flying thick and fast with a selection of new features, cosmetic enhancements and generally great stuff!

Once such update comes from the team at Surtees Studios and that is their flagship product, Bartender. A staple in the arsenal of many Mac Power Users, Bartender is a utility that takes control of your menu bar, allowing you to ‘hide’ certain icons and notifications whilst only displaying the essentials, as chosen by you. We’ve all encountered the ever-growing row of icons so this is always one of the first apps I install on a new device. 

Bartender 3 deviates a little from previous versions. In the past, you would click a little Bartender icon in the menu. This would display a row of previously hidden icons underneath the menu bar. Very discreet indeed. However, due to limitations within the High Sierra update, Surtees have had to take a different approach. Rather than a 'submenu bar', we now have an 'in menu bar'. Clicking the Bartender icon will replace the permanent items in the menu bar with the hidden ones. 

Confusing? I thought so too at first - however a few quick changes to my configuration allowed me to work around this design change and my setup is working now as well as ever. I’ve got a few more items contained within the Menu bar itself on a permanent basis whilst the remainder are hidden within the Bartender bar. 

I’ve also leveraged the option to Show For Updates for some of my most often used applications. When this is enabled for an application, if there is any kind of status change, such as a mail notification, successful sync or alert, then the icon will appear in the main menu bar for a given amount of time (by default, 15 seconds). I never felt the need for this before however now I find it helpful, especially as I hide my dock by default and miss badge notifications.

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Some people won’t like the change, but I urge those of you to stick with it. Apple has tightened it’s System Integrity Protection security feature which prevents system items from being controlled by Bartender. The team have released a solid upgrade to compensate for this and once you get used to the change, you won’t notice it. 

It’s still a great application and certainly does the job intended. I heartily recommend it.

Trickster Review

Trickster is a great application for keeping track of recently used files on your Mac. I’ve been using it for the last couple of weeks and was pleasantly surprised with the increase in productivity it has brought me. Rather than spend time searching for files, I can hit the Trickster icon in my menu bar and it’s there, ready and waiting for me. 

Here’s how it works:

When you download the application (available on a 14 day trial) and run for the first time, you specify the folders that you wish Trickster to monitor. You can add or remove folders from this list at any time by clicking the Configure File Tracking button in the Filters Menu (see later)

Once these folders have been selected, Trickster hides itself away in your menu bar until you need it. Let’s look at what happens when you click the top hat icon that’s now appeared (I love this icon, especially because the logo for Trickster is a rabbit being pulled out of a hat - love it!)

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At the top, you can see the Anchor icon which pins the Trickster window, leaving it accessible while you browse through other applications.

On the right hand side is a Favourites star. Toggling this off/on will open a side bar that present files and folders you have marked as a favourite. 

You can see some of my recently access files, folders and applications in the middle of the window. Clicking on one of these items brings up two icons - a flag and a gear iconFlagging the file allows that file to be marked with a flag and is able to be seen in a different view. It could be that you are working on a certain project and you would like to flag files that you will need to access frequently within the session of work you are currently in. That's where flagging can come in really handy. The gear icon brings up a context menu related to the file (see image below). This allows you to perform various actions on the item, aside from just opening it.

 
 

To the left of the file list, there are ten icons in a column. These are known as filters and represent different views of the items in the middle column. 

You can rearrange these filters by dragging/dropping in-line. Filters can be added and indeed edited by right-clicking on any existing filter and bringing up the context menu.

When configuring a filter, you can test the filter settings by dropping any file into the box labelled “Drop a file to test”. This checks to see that the file passes the filtering rules that have been applied. 

The ability to set Favourites is great, as well as configuring different Filters so that I can only see image files, or recently access Dropbox files - or even more granular if I so wish. Sometimes I may need a filter that only shows me files with a certain client's name in the filename, within a specific folder. This is easy to do as well. It’s very detailed and allows for almost any situation you need. The feature that blew me away though was the keyboard shortcut support. There are keyboard shortcuts for every feature you need within Trickster. 

Need to open it? Click ctrl and z. From there, you can use the left and right arrows to navigate the different windows. Need to flag a file? It’s  and F. Configure the folder tracking?  and T. There is a whole list of shortcuts that can be found within the comprehensive user manual. 

You can also drag and drop files out of the Trickster window and place them directly into running applications. I love this for inserting image or audio files into documentation that I am providing for clients. With the filters setup correctly on the left, this can make creating this kind of documentation a breeze. 

I recommend Trickster for anyone that has to deal with files that are stored in multiple folders on their Mac (so that’s you, right?!). The developers have clearly sweated the details on making our lives easier. It’s functional, easy to use and can save you a whole heap of time when it comes to your day to day work. 

Trickster is available here on a 14 day free trial and costs $9.95

How to configure Night Shift on macOS

As much as I try to keep my evenings technology free, there are times when I need to open my Macbook lid and crack on with some work.

There used to be a time when this would interfere with my sleep quality, however thanks to the introduction of Night Shift on macOS, for me, this is a thing of the past.

Using similar technology to the application f.lux, Night Shift is a feature which adjusts the hue colours of your display as the evening approaches. With your screen displaying warmer colours, suggested benefits include reduced eye-strain and improved sleep quality.

I use the Auto Sleep application on my iPhone and Apple Watch to track the quality of my sleep and I can honestly say it has improved since I configured the Night Shift feature on my Macbook.

So here is how to set it up:

  • Open System Preferences and select Displays.
  • Click on the Night Shift tab
 
 
  • Select the schedule you wish Night Shift to follow. This can be Off, Sunset to Sunrise or Custom. Sunset to Sunrise will activate Night Shift based on your location and will require enabling in Security and Privacy preferences so that your device knows where you are geographically.

  • I use Custom , with the times set from 8pm through to 7am.

  • Lastly, select the Colour Temperature. I find that having this set at the default is fine, however you may wish for the colours to be even warmer. You will need to test this to suit your own style.

Now one caveat to this feature is that I don't work on any graphics or video editing in the evening. If I did, and had a real dependancies on working with colour palettes then this would be a no-go. So it isn't for everybody.

If, however, you are in a position to use it, it would be great to hear how it works for you and if you find it has improved the quality of your sleep in any way.

Set up Hey Siri on your Mac

Siri has been the personal assistant for iOS since it was first seen on the iPhone 4S in October 2011. Helping it's users find out information by using voice dictation was certainly a great aid to personal productivity (when Siri understood the question correctly of course, which is a whole different conversation!). When iOS 8 was released in September 2014, we gained the ability to activate Siri by speech, as opposed to pressing the Home button. When connected to a charger, Siri would respond to a "Hey Siri" command. Handy.

With the introduction of macOS Sierra, Siri finally found it's way onto our desktops, however minus the ability to invoke Siri with your voice.

The good news is that with a bit of trickery, you can bypass this and shout "Hey Siri" to your heart's content, whilst getting frustrated with the results and fighting the urge to throw your device at the nearest wall. Although maybe that's just me and my strange English accent.

Let's run through the process:

1 - Turn on Enhanced Dication

Go to System Preferences -> Keyboard -> Dictation and select the Use Enhanced Dictation check box. You will be told that this will allow offline use of Voice Dictation resulting in a download being required.

2 - Enable the Dictation Keyword Phrase

Here we are going to set the phrase that your Mac will listen out for to enable Voice Dictation. I wonder if you can guess what it is...

Go to System Preference -> Accessibility -> Dictation

Select Enable the Dictation Keywork Phrase and type in the word hey

3 - Enable Advanced Dictation Commands to invoke Siri

From the same window, select Dictation Commands. Check the Enable advanced commands box and then click the plus button to add a new command.

In the When I Say box, type Siri. Keep While using set to Any Application In the Perform drop down box, select Open Finder Items and navigate to the Siri application.

Click Done.

Now that you know how to complete this to activate Siri, just think of the other potential uses for Voice Dictation that you may not otherwise have known about....

Enabling Two-Factor Authentication on iCloud Accounts

One feature that I love with macOS Sierra that has come as a total shock to me is the ability to unlock my MacBook with my Apple Watch. The reason it is such a surprise is that I never thought it would be something that I would make much use of. After all, how difficult is it to enter a password? Not at all, especially when you find yourself carrying out this action multiple times daily. The muscle memory involved with typing the same sequence of character repeatedly speeds the whole process up.

Yet when I sit down at my desk and lift the lid on my laptop, seeing my desktop within just a couple of seconds never fails to make me smile just a little.

In order to activate this feature, there is a requirement to enable something called Two-factor authentication, a process which I will outline below. This is not to be confused with Two-step verification released in 2014 amidst the furore over various celebrities having their iCloud accounts compromised. With Two-step verification, logging into some (not all) iCloud resources prompted the user to input a code, sent to an iOS device logged in with the same iCloud account. Rushed into production, it was hit and miss and always seen to be a stop-gap whilst a more robust solution was developed.

Two-factor authentication is onle accessible on devices that you trust. Signing into a device for the first time prompts you to enter a password and a six-digit code that is automatically displayed on any trusted devices. I use it daily and so far, I find that it works well. It shows the approximate location of the sign-in attempt and has added automated voice calls as a backup method for sending the code.

You will find a summary of the intricacies of Two-Factor Authentication here as well as a guide on how to set it up, however if you wish to just set it up quickly, follow the steps below:

iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch with iOS 9 and later:

  • Go to Settings -> iCloud -> press your Apple ID
  • Press Password and Security
  • Press Turn On Two-Factor Authentication

Mac with OS X El Capitan and later

  • Go to System Preferences -> iCloud -> Account Details
  • Click Security
  • Click Turn on Two-Factor Authentication

It's important to note that if you still use two-step verification, or have configured this in the past and it is still active, you will need to disable it in order for two-factor authentication to be enabled.

A list of FAQ's can be found here relating to 2FA which are worth reading.