Category Archives: mac os x

Favourite Mac OS X Feature Requests (Updated)

>Here are some of my favourite Mac OS X feature requests, just aimed at improving my efficiency when using the Mac:

  • when replying to a sent email from Mail, make sure the To:/CC: addresses are the same as the original (currently, in Mac OS X 10.5.6, the To: address is set to my own address);
  • make the Finder allow me to show folders first;
  • allow me to put mount points in the Locations bar in the Finder (currently only folders below the mount points can be put in there);
  • make Cmd-` work while dragging from a Finder window, inside the Finder (perhaps this is even a bug on my system?);
  • allow me to configure Dashboard widgets are pre-started before I activate the Dashboard, this saves me quite some time;
  • resize windows from any corner – at least make this an option;
  • in the Finder, have a Go-back keyboard shortcut for going back to the previous location (like Cmd-LeftArrow in Safari and Firefox).
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Posted by on 27 April 2009 in dashboard, features, finder, mac, mac os x, macosx, mail, widgets


Another look at Pixelmator

After posting a quick review of Pixelmator version 1.2.3, I got some comments that basically said two things:

  1. crop to selection is available in the context menu;
  2. paste as a new image is easy to accomplish.

These issues are indeed resolved, see below. So I continued my quest and tried to find the following features in Pixelmator:

  • autocrop
  • show the image size
  • view the name of the assigned color profile
  • remove the assigned color profile
  • show the size of the current selection while selecting
  • edit the selection
  • quantization, convert to indexed color

Crop to selection
Indeed crop to selection is available in the context menu, which is activated by Ctrl-LeftClick or RightClick (if your mouse has a second button).

Paste as new image
Doing a bit of searching I found (on the Pixelmator forum) that pasting as a new image is indeed easy, just follow these steps:

  1. copy whatever you want to paste in Pixelmator to the clipboard;
  2. activate File -> New Image in Pixelmator (Cmd-N); the new image will automatically take the dimensions of the image in the clipboard;
  3. activate Edit -> Paste (Cmd-V) in Pixelmator.

That’s it. Indeed very simple, although not intuitive IMHO.

Autocrop is not available directly in Pixelmator, it seems. However, this is fairly easily worked around:

  1. select the Magic Wand tool (keyboard shortcut: W);
  2. click on the outer region of the image;
  3. invert the selection (Shift-Cmd-I);
  4. show the context menu (Ctrl-LeftClick or RightClick);
  5. select Crop;
  6. press Enter to confirm.

However, since I use this feature a lot, I still prefer to have a single menu option so I can assign a keyboard shortcut to it.

Show the image size
The size of the current image can be viewed using the command File -> File Info… or by pressing the keyboard shortcut Alt-Shift-Cmd-I. Easy enough.

Personally I would prefer to have the option to show the image size in the title bar. This option is unavailable in the Preferences. But this is a minor nuisance.

View the name of the assigned color profile
The assigned color profile can also be viewed using the File Info… command (Alt-Shift-Cmd-I). Excellent.

Remove the assigned color profile
There is no direct menu option for removing the color profile. However, it’s easy to do:

  1. select all of the image (Cmd-A);
  2. copy it (Cmd-C);
  3. create a new image (Cmd-N) – it will automatically get the right dimensions;
  4. paste (Cmd-V).

That’s it.

Show the size of the current selection while selecting
With the Rectangular Marquee Tool (shortcut: M) you can select a rectangular region. While selecting, I’d like to be able to see the size of the selection, because often the selection needs to fit a certain predefined size or maximum size.

In Pixelmator it seems impossible, however, to view the width and height of the selection while selecting it.

Edit the selection
When a (rectangular) region is selected, the selection cannot easily be adjusted. There is a Refine Selection tool available for changing the selection, but this tool does not allow manually editing the selection, for example to add a few pixels on the right.

GIMP 2.4.7 has a simple but powerful feature that allows the selection to be edited with the mouse on 6 axes (top, top-right, right, etc.) This would be a welcome improvement for Pixelmator as well.

Although this (fairly basic) functionality is missing, the power of the Refine Selection tool should not go unnoticed. It allows advanced selection editing, for example to change a rectangular selection area to a rounded rectangular area. Very nice indeed.

Quantization, convert to indexed color
Finally another feature I’m using all the time in GIMP is changing an RGB image to indexed color, to optimize it for display on the Web. This uses a technique known as image quantization, which uses one of a few algorithms to create an optimum palette for the resulting image.

This feature seems to be missing in Pixelmator.

Pixelmator is a powerful image manipulation program that looks very very good. It has various very powerful functions, such as filters, layers, advanced selections, etc. Also it support a large number of bitmap formats for export.

However, for me, Pixelmator is currently not able to replace GIMP for day-to-day image manipulation. It seems to be missing some features that I need to have at my fingertips all the time.

If some of the features I think are missing are hidden somewhere under the surface, please drop me a note in the comments.

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Posted by on 10 September 2008 in image editor, image manipulation, mac os x, pixelmator


>Features missing in Acorn

>I really like the looks of Acorn, a powerful little image manipulation program for Mac OS X. However, there are some hurdles for me adopting it to replace GIMP:

  • It’s not easy to remove all tranparency from an image. It requires creating a new background layer, filling it with white color and then flattening the image. In GIMP, it’s one command.
  • There is no support for viewing or removing color profiles. It seems a color profile can be removed by selecting all of the image, copying the selection to the clipboard and then creating a new image from the clipboard.
  • There is no support for quantization, to reduce the number of colors to produce an indexed color image.

Still, Acorn looks very promising. It looks and feels like an excellent Mac OS X-citizen. It seems strong in filters and automation, but that’s not what I am looking for…

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Posted by on 8 September 2008 in acorn, image editor, mac, mac os, mac os x, macos, macosx, osx


>Favourite Mac apps (updated x5)

>Here’s the list of my favourite Mac OS X applications:

  • Parallels Desktop — For running Windows and Linux in virtual machines. With Windows XP inside it, for testing web pages in Internet Explorer (6, 7 and 8 all have their own dedicated VM). (€80)
  • Adobe Acrobat 8 Professional — Version 9 probably runs better on my Intel Mac with Snow Leopard. I didn’t need all the extra stuff in the Professional edition, but there was no Standard edition for Mac. (version 9 is $450)
  • Cheap Impostor — For creating A3 and A4 booklets. Cheap, effective and fast. ($35)
  • NovaMind Express — For mind mapping, use it for interaction designs for web sites. ($50)
  • Firefox with the Firebug, Web Developer, Weave, CyberSearch, AdBlock Plus and SessionAlive extensions — Nothing beats the fox. (all free)
  • Acorn — Fairly simple image manipulation.
  • Skitch — Easy and simple image editing and sharing for everyone. (free)
  • GIMP — Advanced image manipulation, includingremoval of color profiles. Requires X11. (free)
  • NeoOffice — Complete office suite, based on code. No need to purchase Microsoft Office anymore, it even supports the new .docx and .xlsx file types. (free, donations welcome)
  • Skype — For video conferencing, also with non-Mac people; iChat video quality is much higher though. (free)
  • iWork — Nothing beats Keynote presentations! ($79)
  • Flip4Mac — Be able to watch Windows Media videos (WMV). (free version available)
  • iShowU — Screen video capture. ($20)
  • iTerm — Best terminal program for the Mac – beats Apple’s built-in Terminal application in terms of productivity and usability (free, donations welcome.)
  • iPartition — For dynamically changing hard drive partitions, includes resizing functionality. ($50)

And I’m considering adding the following to my toolset:

  • Pixelmator — For real Mac-style image manipulation. Question is whether it can do what I do with GIMP, including the removal of color profiles and such ($59).
  • Opacity — For creating very nice-looking icons, fast ($90).


  • Sept. 11, 2008: Considering Pixelmator instead of Acorn, the latter just does not have enough features. And added iPartition as a favourite app.
  • Sept. 17, 2008: Added Chicken of the VNC and Chax and listed the price of iPartition.
  • March 9, 2010: Updated information on Parallels. Using a different set of Firefox extensions. Removed SuperDocker.
  • March 13, 2010: Added the SessionAlive extension for Firefox and Skitch.
  • March 31, 2010: Removed OmniPlan, Leap, Chax. Changed the link to GIMP on OS X. Added Acorn and added Web Developer extension for Firefox. Updated some descriptions.
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Posted by on 8 September 2008 in applications, apps, mac, mac os, mac os x, macos, macosx, osx