Five Quick Tips

By Phil Davis Published December 2011; Updated December 2016

Use Spotlight to Launch Applications

The simplest and fastest way to launch an application is to use Spotlight. Use the keyboard shortcut CMD+SpaceBar to open Spotlight, enter the name of the app (usually you only need the first few characters) and click on the app’s icon. It couldn’t be simpler!

Look For The Obvious

When trying to track down a vexing computer problem most of us will spend a lot of time on google, asking experts, calling Apple, etc. However, sometimes we are so immersed in the details we forget to look for the most obvious cause.

In a recent blog, the author was trying to uncover the cause of a drastic slowdown in his iMac’s performance. Nothing worked until he happened to notice that there were 0 GB left on the hard drive! Once he deleted about 10 GB of unneeded files, the Mac ran fine.

Remember: try to keep at least 15% of your hard drive free.

A Quick Way To Add a Software License Items to 1Password

One of 1Password’s features is the ability to securely store all your software licenses. The normal way is to use File > New Item > New Software License from the 1Password menu.

However, a faster way is to view your applications in the Finder, then drag-and-drop the app’s icon onto 1Password’s Dock icon and a new license item will be created with most of the needed information. Then you can paste your license into the new item for safe keeping.

Use Preview to Sharpen Text

Sometimes you have a PDF file that has fonts that are faint or in a color that is hard to read. With Preview you can adjust the contrast somewhat to increase the contrast.* Open the PDF with Preview* Choose File > Export* Click on the Quartz Filter drop-down menu and select Lightness Decrease* Click Save

Force a Disk to “Unmount”

Sometimes Mac OS X goes a little crazy and won’t let you eject an external drive, even after it’s no longer in use by any application. If you can’t unmount a disk even after all open applications are closed, and don’t want to restart your machine, this little Terminal trick is for you.

Open the Terminal utility, and type:

diskutil unmountDisk force /Volumes/DISK_NAME

Replace DISK_NAME with the volume name (yes, it is case sensitive) and you are all set!

What To Do When iCloud Photo Library Isn’t The Solution For You

Thursday, December 29th, 2016  |  Author: 


In last week’s article, I discussed how iCloud Photo Library works to synchronize all of  your photos and videos on all of your devices — Mac, iOS, Apple TV, Windows PCs and so on — so that regardless of the storage available on any device, you have access to your entire visual media library. iCloud Photo Library provides a constant and thorough backup of all of your photos and video as well, without having to put any thought or effort into the process.

But iCloud Photo Library does have some downsides. In order to store all of your imagery — particularly if you also use iCloud for document storage — you may need to have a rather pricey 1TB or 2TB iCloud plan at $9.99 or $19.99 per month. But probably the most frustrating downside for many users of iCloud Photo Library is that deleting an image or video on any device results in that being deleted from all of  your devices (see image below).

Delete from one, delete from allDelete from one, delete from all

In today’s post I’ll cover alternative ways to store a large photo library and show you a method by which you can still delete a photo from one device and keep it on the others.

My Photo Stream
My Photo Stream is a combination of a Photos album and an Apple service that is designed to take your latest photos (it does NOT work with video) and make them available on all of your devices. Enabling it is simple. On iOS devices, just go to Settings > iCloud > Photos and tap the button to “Upload to My Photo Stream” (see image below).

Enable "Upload to My Photo Stream" to send new photos to all iCloud devices(Enable “Upload to My Photo Stream” to send new photos to all iCloud devices)

On macOS, the process is similar; launch System Preferences, select iCloud, select Photos, and then make sure My Photo Stream is turned on (see image below).

Turning on My Photo Stream in macOS(Turning on My Photo Stream in macOS)

As  you can see from the description of My Photo Stream in macOS, it allows you to “Import your recent photos from devices without iCloud Photo Library and send new photos to the My Photo Stream Album on those devices.” In other words, when you take photos on your iPhone or add them to a Mac from a DSLR or other source, My Photo Stream sends those images automatically to an album called My Photo Stream that appears on all devices.

You’ll notice that iCloud Photo Library is turned off in the screenshot above. It doesn’t need to be — if you are using iCloud Photo Library you can also use My Photo Stream. So what’s the difference in how they work? My Photo Stream is designed to upload the most recent photos you’ve taken so that you can view and import them to all of your devices. Photos are only stored in My Photo Stream for 30 days, so if iCloud Photo Library is shut off, you need to move items from My Photo Stream to other albums. If you use both iCloud Photo Library and My Photo Stream, photos added to My Photo Stream appear in the All Photos tab in the Photos app, where they’re then organized in Moments, Collections and Years.

So how can you use My Photo Stream as an iCloud Photo Library alternative? Using My Photo Stream alone ensures that all new photos taken with iOS devices are moved screen-shot-2016-12-29-at-9-58-56-amto your Mac (or PC) where you can manually decide which ones you wish to keep and move them into separate albums. Note that your photos and videos are not backed up to the cloud with My Photo Stream, so you’ll need to manually back up your photos to an external drive. One other caveat — your photo library will not be synchronized across devices. My Photo Stream is essentially just a good method of making sure that new photos are distributed to other devices so you can determine what you wish to do with them.

On the plus side, photos deleted from My Photo Stream on your iOS device or Mac (done by clicking the trash can button or clicking Delete) removes those from both Photos and iCloud. The photos imported from My Photo Stream to other devices aren’t deleted, so this is one way to get around that “Delete from all devices” message seen at the top of this post.

Prime Photos from AmazonPrime Photos from Amazon

Prime Photos from Amazon
Amazon Prime customers who shoot a lot of photos and video should look into the Prime Photos from Amazon app (free) as an alternative to iCloud Photo Library. As part of the Amazon Prime perks, users get unlimited photo and video storage and can even collect imagery from friends or family for inclusion in a “memory”. The app is highly rated (4+ with over 350 reviews for the most recent version) and like iCloud Photo Library, it automatically backs up every image you capture.

The iOS app is fast and well-designed, and Mac and PC users can get work with their photo libraries in any web browser.

Google PhotosGoogle Photos

Google Photos
What free photos app has even a better rating than Prime Photos from Amazon? Google Photos, which is running a ridiculous 5-star rating with almost 2,300 reviews in the App Store. Like Prime Photos from Amazon, Google Photos can be used as an alternate “shoebox” in which to safely store all of your imagery.

Images can be up to 16 megapixels in size, while video can be up to 1080p HD. Beyond that, you’re probably best off with a more professional solution, like storing everything locally on fast RAID drives (the ThunderBay 4 family is perfect for this or any other number of external solutions from and then using a cloud backup for an offsite solution.

There are other third-party solutions, but watch out — over the years, a number of third-party photo storage/syncing services have gone out of business, leaving customers to download their photo libraries in a hurry and then find another place to store all of those images. It’s probably a good idea to stay with one of the “big three”: Apple, Amazon or Google.

How iCloud Photo Library and the Photos App Work

Wednesday, December 21st, 2016  |  Author: 

The holidays are hitting this month and that means time with family and friends as well as making memories with your iPhone or iPad camera. You might very well take enough photos or video to run out of space on your iOS device, so today we’ll discuss how the iCloud Photo Library and Photos app work hand in had to help you manage your photo storage.
The Difference Between The Camera and Photos Apps
Back when the iPhone first arrived on the scene, there was only one Apple photography app called “Camera”. With Camera, you not only took photos, but could organize them, do a little bit of editing, and show them to your friends in the “Camera Roll”. When syncing an iOS device to a Mac, the images were synced to the iPhoto app on the Mac which provided a new way to organize and edit photos. iPhoto finally made it to iOS devices in 2012, bringing with it some of the best photo editing features found in a native Apple app at the time.Apple likes to change things up so you don’t get too comfortable, and in February of 2015, the beta of Photos for iOS appeared. In April of 2015, Mac OS X 10.10.3 was released, formally doing away with iPhoto on both iOS and Mac OS X and replacing it with Photos (see the icon at the top right of this post).

By splitting the functions of taking photos and editing them into two separate apps, Apple was able to focus on adding new features to the Camera app like HDR, Live Photos, Slo-Mo, Time-Lapse, and the Portrait mode (found only on the iPhone 7 Plus), while adding resolution to the cameras and keeping capture speeds fast. There was quite a bit of consternation about the loss of some editing features that existed in iPhoto and didn’t make it to the Photos app, but at least on the macOS version the ability to use extensions adds a tremendous amount of editing power. Hopefully iOS 11 will include Photos extensions.

Basically, Apple took the best photo taking features on iOS device and rolled them into a much more complete Camera app. The Photos app provides access to tools for organizing your media by “Moments”, by place, by type of photo (for example, panoramas or selfies), and more options. On the Mac, the Photos app also has powerful tools for printing your images professionally.

iCloud Photo Library
iCloud Photo Library puts all of your photos in the “cloud”, available on any compatible device over any type of Internet connection. What this means is that on any device connected to your iCloud account, you have full access to your photos. iCloud Photo Library is not enabled by default; you’ll be asked if you wish to enable it when setting up a new device. Should you decide to enable it on your own, the process is very simple. On an iOS device, launch Settings, choose iCloud, and then tap “Photos” (see image below).

iCloud Photo Library is enabled in Settings on this iPhoneiCloud Photo Library is enabled in Settings on this iPhone

Once you’ve done this, your entire photo library is uploaded to iCloud and stored there. This has a couple of enticing benefits: first, your photos are backed up to the cloud whenever you’re connected to Wi-Fi.  Edit a photo, and the edited version appears in Photos on all devices. Delete a photo, and it’s deleted from all devices. The latter can be frustrating if you want to take a photo out of your iCloud Photo Library but want to keep it; we’ll discuss how to resolve that issue on Friday.

What’s the other big benefit of iCloud Photo Library? You can choose to store optimized versions of images and videos on your iPhone or iPad if you’re running low on storage. Your full-resolution originals are still out in the cloud, but you’ll get a version of the image that is optimized for the storage, screen size and resolution of a specific device. This really works — my Photos Library consists of 49, 648 items (both video and still photos) taking up 201.9GB on a 2TB iMac, yet I can view them on a 16GB iPad mini.

How do you turn on iCloud Photo Library on other devices? On the Mac, launch System Preferences, click the iCloud button, and then check the Photos box. Click “Options”, and you can choose to automatically upload and store the entire library in iCloud. Note that it can take quite a while for the photos and videos to make it out to iCloud depending on the speed of your internet connection.

To get access to your iCloud Photo Library on a 4th-generation Apple TV, go to Settings > Accounts > iCloud > iCloud Photo Library. And if you want to access the library from a Windows PC, the process is a bit more complex but can still be done:

1) Download the most recent version of iCloud for Windows (download link)

2) Open iCloud for Windows

3) Next to Photos, click Options

4) Click Done, then click Apply

5) If iCloud Photo Library is already enabled on your Apple devices, the photos will begin to sync with the PC. If you need to add photos to iCloud Photo Library from the Windows PC, just open a File Explorer window, click iCloud Photos (found under Favorites), click Upload Photos, then choose the photos and videos to be uploaded and select Open.

Apple supplies everyone who signs up for an iCloud account with 5GB of free storage. That’s not a lot, and chances are good that you’ll need more storage quickly if you have a lot of photos or videos in your iCloud Photo Library. In the U.S., extra space in iCloud runs $0.99 monthly for 50GB, $2.99 monthly for 200GB, $9.99 monthly for 1TB and $19.99 monthly for 2TB.


You’ll know if you have reached your limit if you see a warning message like that seen above. You have the choice of either going to the next highest storage tier (sadly, there’s no tier above 2TB yet…) or moving some of your images and videos off of iCloud and onto your Mac or PC. To do this on a Mac, just launch Photos, then drag images and videos you want to take out of iCloud Photo Library to a folder on your Mac to copy them. Once you’re done, those photos can be deleted from Photos and iCloud Photo Library.

For many iOS and macOS users, iCloud Photo Library and the Photos app on the respective devices provide a good mix of backup and accessibility of media on any device. On Friday, we’ll follow up with an article about alternatives to iCloud Photo Library.

Newsletter Tip: What are Your Must-Have Apps?

By Phil Davis


I’ve been doing some cleanup on my extensive list of apps, most of which go unused most of the time. It is going to take a while to trim this list down to the ones that are really necessary and useful. It’s amazing how many apps in the list I couldn’t identify without looking them up on Google. I clearly need to be more selective.

It got me thinking also about which of these are really my “must-have” apps — the ones that I use daily and don’t want to do without.

I start by classifying my apps into three categories.

  1. Core Apps: These are the ones that I install first when I do a clean installation of a new OS, or buy a new computer (a very rare occurrence, unfortunately). It’s interesting to think about what you do on a daily basis and which apps you use.
  2. Essential Apps: These are apps that I use often for specific purposes, but are not needed on a daily basis. Even though I don’t need these every day, I still consider this as “essential” to my work.
  3. Useful Apps: These are the utilities, tools, and other apps that are rarely needed, but are vital when called upon.

Another way to classify your apps are by their function. Categories like create, organize, automate, develop, utilities, cloud services, backup, connectivity, security, and tech support.

For what it’s worth here is a list of my “must-have Core Apps.” They start with the usual suite of the programs that Apple provides as part of the OS release such as Mail, Calendar, Contacts, Preview, Safari, Photos, Pages, Numbers, and Keynote.

Then, I supplement these with my top 20 including some that you may not have heard of but are vital to my workflow. These include nvALT (my short-term brain), TextExpander, Marked, Reeder, SpamSieve, FoldingText, and Voila. Finally, I add Dropbox, 1Password, DevonThink Pro (my long-term brain), PDFPen Pro, Evernote, Postbox, Pocket, Alfred, TextWrangler, Carbon Copy Cloner, Dropzone, LibreOffice, and Chrome to the bundle.

So there you have it. Of course, there are many other apps that I use occasionally — utilities, troubleshooting tools, apps to create and manipulate images and videos — the list could get very long. But, the bulk of my time is spent with my must-have core. If you are interested I used the following while writing this article: nvALT, TextExpander, Marked, FoldingText, Safari, and DevonThink Pro.

So, what do you consider as your “must-have” apps? It never hurts to occasionally take an inventory of what is in your Applications folder and do some culling of the ones that you don’t need. Not only will this force you to think about how you work, but it can make it easier to stay on top of upgrades. This is particularly important prior to any major OS upgrades.

Do You Really Need a Word Processor?

By Phil Davis


After reading email and surfing the web, one of the more common tasks that we use our computers for is to write stuff. And when we do, we usually open a word processing program without giving it a second thought.

The question that you should ask yourself is “Do I really need a word processor for this writing project?” Certainly, if you are writing a novel or your resume where you want all the fancy formatting options that your word processor offers. But just to dump a few lines of text on a page? Come on!

Rule #1: Use the right tool for the right job.

Typically, most of us (including me) automatically open a word processing program without thinking about whether it is the best tool for the job. Often it isn’t. We don’t need all the toolbars, special commands, massive formatting options, and all the other overhead associated with this type of tool. In fact, many times the options slow us down and get in the way of our creativity.

Over the past several years, I have been doing a lot of my writing, including writing for the web, using a variety of simple text editors. These allow me to focus on the content and not get bogged down messing with formatting and making it “look pretty” until I’m finished writing.

When I do need to create a document that has lots of formatting, embedded images, tables, and other fancy things, I turn to Pages or LibreOffice rather than the ubiquitous MS Word. LibreOffice is easy to use, loads much faster than MS Word, and is compatible w/ MS Word file formats. Plus, it is free. Pages is also free and is great for jobs that require graphics and sophisticated page layouts. Do you really want to pay $10 a month forever for the latest version of MS Office when there are better options?

Rule #1 revised: Use the right tool for the “write”” job.

If you decide to try something new and simplify your life (always a good thing), take a look at some of the alternatives.

Start with TextEdit built into every Mac. TextEdit can probably satisfy most of your simpler writing needs without getting in your way. But there are others that you might want to try. Several that I use on a regular basis include BywordTextWrangler, and FoldingText. These are just a few of the excellent editors, many of which have both Mac and iDevice versions. Brett Terpstra has compiled a massive list of iDevice editors if you are interested.

If you want to get adventurous, you might take a look at a formatting language called Markdown. Markdown lets you write in plain text, but then use simple symbols to add the most common formatting — bold, italic, paragraph headers, etc. I’m using Markdown to write this article. Once it’s finished I can save in a variety of “fancy” formats, but the raw material is just plain old ASCII text that can be opened in any editor on any kind of computer.

Finally, if you really must have a word processor for the job and you don’t like MS Word, Pages, or LibreOffice, take a look at an interesting one that many professional writers use — Nisus Writer. Nisus Writer is very powerful and it saves files in the RTFD format which can be read by most text editors on any computer. Not a bad feature to have if you want to avoid problems with proprietary formats being changed in the future.

Get LibreOffice 5.0

The Document Foundation has just released LibreOffice 5.0, the tenth major release since the launch of the project. LibreOffice is a full feature open source office suite which includes includes Writer, Calc, Impress, Draw, Base, and Math.

According to the release “LibreOffice 5.0 sports a significantly improved user interface, with a better management of the screen space and a cleaner look. In addition, it offers better interoperability with office suites such as Microsoft Office and Apple iWork, thanks to new and improved filters to handle non standard formats. Other improvements have been added to every module of the suite, and Windows 64bit builds (Vista and later) have been added.”

If you are a Microsoft Office user and don’t want to upgrade to the subscription model of Office for Mac 2016 when it is released, you might want to consider trying the latest version of LibreOffice which is both free and very compatible with Office. While you will be able to purchase a copy of Office 2016 in September and not be forced to pay an annual subscription, but it’s not clear what this will cost. Why not try something new.

I have tried the beta version of Office for Mac 2016 and it is definitely better than Office for Mac 2011, However I’m not willing to pay $10/mo for a subscription or an unknown amount for a one-time purchase of a suite that I rarely use. I find that Pages and Numbers satisfy my occasional requirements for documents and spreadsheets and that LibreOffice fills any gaps. Give it a try and see if it works for you.

Download a free copy of LibreOffice 5.0 and take it for a spin. This is a large file (193MB) so it might take a few minutes to download the file to your computer. OS X 10.8 or newer is required for this version.

Tip: After you install LibreOffice open it’s preferences and select Load/Save > General. Then change the document types to be compatible with Microsoft Office. You can always do this as needed for each document, but I find it much simpler to change the default. Here are the settings that I recommend:


Document Type Always Save As

Text Document Microsoft Word 2007–2013 XML (.docx)
Spreadsheet Microsoft Excel 2007–2013 XML (.xlsx)
Presentation Microsoft Powerpoint 2007–2013 XML (.pptx)


How do I add an additional Gmail account?

These instructions will show you how to add a second gmail account to your existing one. You might want a new one to separate personal mail from business mail, or to use for a club or hobby. There are no restrictions on how many accounts you can have.

The simple way is to go directly to the gmail account creation page ( and fill out the form provided by Google. If you choose this method, do not click the sign in button at the top. This will just take you to your existing account.

Another way is to use your existing account to either (1) create a new account, or (2) login to any of your other accounts. The process is not hard, but requires clicking through several screens to get to the end result.

Read More

Pixelmator for iPad

Take a look at this powerful, yet easy to use image editor available for your iPad. Here is a review of the app along with a couple of video tutorials.

Tricks to Organize Your Bookmarks

Another excellent tutorial from David A. Cox

Are you an “e-hoarder?” Do you need a little organization when it comes to your web browser’s bookmarks? In this class David will share with you tons of little tricks to help get you better organized. Whether you use Safari, Chrome, Firefox, or Internet Explorer, many of these tricks work across the board on all browsers.

Links mentioned in this class:
Safari Sort:
Bookmark Sorter:
Evernote WebClipper:
AM-DeadLink (PC)
FoxTab (Firefox and Chrome)