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Convenience is my Middle Name...

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- Episode 32 - December 10th, 2004

Convenience isn't really my middle name, but it should have been. I love for things to be convenient, and I love convenient things. It's not uncommon for me to spend half a day tinkering with a macro or script or utility or whatever, hoping to make some repetitive task just a wee bit easier and more-dare I say it-convenient.

So here are a couple of my favorite things that make using a Mac (or Macs) more convenient.

I love a shortcut. I look for ways to get from here to there in less time. Time is money and all that rot. I don't think I've pulled down the Edit menu since the 1980s-when I figured out how keyboard shortcuts worked. If I use a menu item more than a few times, and it has a shortcut, I commit it to muscle memory and avoid many time-consuming trips to the menu bar.

But the shortcuts built into applications and Mac OS X aren't enough for me. I need even more shortcuts and so I am a huge fan of both QuicKeys X2 (soon to be QuicKeys X3) and SpellCatcher.

QuicKeys automates your Mac, allowing you to create "shortcuts," that may contain multiple steps, triggered by a keystroke combination, QuicKeys menu, toolbar, or other "trigger." You can build complex sequences or have QuicKeys record your actions for playback as a "shortcut." It's got tons of intelligence built into it and there aren't many things you can do on your Mac that QuicKeys can't do for you, faster, and repeatedly, without breaking a sweat.

I have QuicKeys shortcuts that open the dozen programs I use most. I have QuicKeys shortcuts that open certain folders in a certain Finder view. I have application-specific QuicKeys shortcuts that change built-in keyboard shortcuts (or no keyboard shortcut) to a keyboard shortcut that makes sense to me.

Example: There's no standardization on the keyboard shortcut for "Save As." I like Command-Shift-S to open the Save As dialog box in every program, but not every program agrees. So I've got a QuicKeys shortcut that maps Command-Shift-S to the Save As command in programs that either don't have their own keyboard shortcut for Save As, or use a keyboard shortcut other than Command-Shift-S.

The only downside is that QuicKeys ain't cheap for a utility-$100 (US$94.99 - Amazon). I think it's worth every penny and have relied on it for nearly a decade. But a hundred smackers is a hundred smackers, so for those of you on a tight budget, here's something to consider. Script Software just released a new and improved version of iKey that offers a subset of QuicKeys features for $30. I haven't used it much - all my shortcuts are in QuicKeys and work great so it's hard for me to give iKey much time-but others including Adam Engst seem to like it.

The cool thing is you can try them both and decide for yourself which better suits your needs and style of working on your Mac.

A device that can be controlled remotely is more convenient than a device that cannot. I wouldn't be happy if I couldn't adjust and tinker with my audio and video gear without leaving the comfort of the couch. And I'm the same way about my Macs: I wouldn't be happy unless I could operate any of the six Macs in our house by remote control.

Whenever I need to do anything to, or see anything on the screen of any of the 5 other Macs on our little network, I just fire up Apple Remote Desktop 2 ($259.99 - Amazon) or Timbuktu Pro ($189.99 - Amazon), take control of the remote Mac, and in most cases resolve the issue in a few minutes without leaving my comfy chair.

Here's how it works... Say I'm in my office, typing furiously and trying to finish a column like this one before my editor can call and grumble when my darling teenaged daughter screams something like, "Dad! I can't make iTunes Music Store accept this gift certificate."

Of course I could walk over to her room and see what's going on, but that wouldn't be... all together, now... convenient. If I'm writing, it is more convenient and less disruptive to work on her Mac without leaving my desk. I fire up Apple Remote Desktop and take over control of her Mac, and can see that she's typed a space in the gift code where there shouldn't be one. So I remove the spurious space, click OK, and all is right in the world again. It's fast, easy, and relatively painless for both of us.

I also use this remote control technology to update any item on any Mac in our house without leaving my keyboard. That means I continue working on other things while the updates are being installed. If I had to sit in front of all five computers for a few minutes to do it, chances are it wouldn't get done for a while, if ever. So remote control has become one of my favorite techniques to keep software on 6 computers up to date without wasting needless time or energy.

So give convenience a try. Investigate automation with QuicKeys or iKey, and consider timesaving remote control software like Apple Remote Desktop 2.0 and Timbuktu Pro if you need it.

In conclusion, if time is really money, I may have just saved you a few bucks.

And that's all he wrote.

Bob "Dr. Mac" LeVitus has been a Macintosh user for a long, long time and has written 49 computer books including Mac OS X Tiger For Dummies and GarageBand for Dummies. He also offers expert technical help and training to Mac users, in real time and at reasonable prices, via telephone, e-mail, and/or unique Internet-enabled remote control software. For more information on Bob and his services, visit www.boblevitus.com.

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