Free Is Good: Four Handy Mac Apps

| Computing with Bifocals

Today’s column is about free applications for your Mac that you might actually use. In truth there are lots of free applications available for your Mac. Most of them are well designed and well made by Mac lovers who just want to share what they have developed. But for the beginner, many of them are difficult to understand and/or use.      

For example, check out this app description: “… provides an icon in the menu bar to quickly access your installed applications by scanning standard locations such as local, user, network and developer applications.”, or this one “ … helps you to keep all applications, widgets, preference panes and application plugins installed on your Mac up to date.” This sort of thing makes me want to back slowly away from my computer. Lots of users will say “way cool!”, but some of us need…well..simple stuff.

So here is some simple stuff. Four free applications that are easy to use and very useful. Experienced users are welcome to try them as well.

 

SwordfishExpress 1.3

SwordfishExpress is designed for the individual who occasionally ships things. The person who doesn’t have a method of accurately weighing a package to determine postage. The person who may mail 5 or 6 packages a year. 

The company also offers a paid version for the serious shipper. SwordfishExpress works with OS X 10.2.8 or greater and with both inkjet and laster printers.

What it does is create a package shipping label for you that assures your package is properly labeled and earns you a discount on postage if you take your package to the post office for mailing.

To use it you open the software and fill out the “from” and “to” fields plus the type of service, shipping day and delivery confirmation options. If you have entered a 5 digit zip code, the application will automatically add the additional 4 digits for you. Once you click the “Generate Label button” an official postal service label will be generated.      

Data entry window for Swordfish Express

Your completed label will look like the following. You can print it on plain paper and tape it to your package as long as you do not tape over the bar code. The one qualifier for using this system is that your package must be big enough that the finished label will fit cleanly on the package. Self sticking labels in this exact format are available at most office supply stores.

Sample finished label

 

 

 Art Text 2 Lite

Art Text 2 Lite is another free version of a paid application. It is from BeLight Software, Inc. and is available from the Mac App Store. It works with OS X 10.6.6 or later.

This application is for anyone who is (1) not a graphic artist, but (2) at times wants or needs to make graphically pleasing posters, announcements, etc. You can create 2D and 3D effects and transform shapes.

In the lite version the user has two basic options upon which they can build to their heart’s content. You can select one of their templates and modify it, or you can start from scratch and create your own. Following are some examples that I created in minutes.

This first one is made from an existing template.

Art Text 2 Lite template

I clicked on the word water and a new window opened that allowed me to make alterations. My end product looked like this.

Revised design

There are exact instructions under the help window that walk the user through the process and explain the options; for instance, how to elongate the image and how to transfer it from the application to another application such as Pages.

The second one I made was from scratch. I started with a simple design and with a click of a button, modified it several ways.

The starting point

Variations

Monolingual

Monolingual is not an app that you will use with any frequency.  Perhaps only when you update to a new OS. Because what it does is remove unnecessary language resources from OS X, which will reclaim a lot of disk space. It requires OS X 10.5 or later.  

 

Be aware that it does not just remove unnecessary language resources from your hard drive. It removes it from all your Apple related software as well, meaning Pages, Numbers, Bento, etc. It took almost a half an hour for the app to run through my Mac, but when it was finished I had gained back 2.1GB of free space.

When the application opens the following window appears. Run down the list and check the boxes next to all the languages you want removed. In my case, since I only read, write, and speak one language, I removed all but that one. If you make a mistake it can be corrected by reinstalling your OS, but you don’t want to have to do that. Just double check your list before you click Remove.

Monolingual window


     

EasyEnvelopes for Mac

EasyEnvelopes from Ambrosia Software is a widget for Dashboard, and when you download it, it will automatically be installed with your other widgets. 

Anyone who has ever had to print an envelope on their printer should love this app. It looks up the address in your Address Book, adds a bar code for the Post Office for both 5 and 9 digit bar codes and will add your return address to the front or back of the envelope, or leave it off.

It works with any country’s addressing format and is fully international-friendly. It lets you control the size of your envelope also. This is a one at a time process so it will not take the place of merging addresses for any big project.

Click on the widget and this window opens. As soon as you start to enter a name a list pops up and you choose the one you want. The address is entered as in the example.

Widget starting window

Click on the small i in the bottom right corner and the next window opens. Here is where you enter your return address, select envelope side, choose fonts, and give other directions. Click Done when finished. 

Widget back window

 

The window goes back to the first page. To make it print, double click on the stamp icon.

The address with barcode looks like this.

Address with barcode sample

If you have told the application to print your return address on the back, the process holds for you to turn your envelope over and then click continue.

I have tried to figure out which of these applications I like best, but I really can’t decide. They are all so different. Personally, I will probably use the EasyEnvelope for Mac the most. My handwriting gets worse the older I get and I prefer printing envelopes. This app is so easy to use. I just need to add a few business addresses to my Address Book to make it work. I loved getting back that 2.1GB of free disk space, but until Lion comes out, I won’t need Monolingual again. I guess I like them all. I hope some of you find them useful as well.

____________________

A compilation of tips for beginners can be found in my beginners manual Tips, Hints, and Solutions For Seasoned Beginners Using Apple Macintosh Computers With Leopard and Snow Leopard The entire Table of Contents and a sample page are available for free review for anyone who wishes to see them.

The first is the more traditional printed book format, spiral bound. Cost is US$17.15 each, plus shipping. All the illustrations have been printed in black and white to reduce the purchase price.


The second option is a PDF download version. This is the full version of the book available in the same format as that available in the free review The contents are hyperlinked from the Table of Contents for ease of location. This version is US$9.85. After payment has been verified the purchaser will be sent a URL where they can download of the document.

Anyone wishing to pay with a money order or cashier check may contact me through TMO at nancy@macobserver.com


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Comments

prl53

I use EasyEnvelopes all the time. The one problem I see with it is its inability to allow you to move where the address is located. In my opinion, it’s up to high and to the left. I asked them about this and they said it isn’t capable of making those changes. Even so, I still use it with every envelope I address, using Peel & Seal #10 envelopes most of the time so I don’t have to lick anything.

tammythemongoose


THIS IS THE MOST AWESOME WIDGET!
Wow, this just is so totally elegant! When I want to make a fancy one I use pages but this is very cool when I just want an envelope, nuthin’ fancy please!

What is really good is that it REMEMBERS your custom sizes. So I entered A9 which is the big size you need when a card is a US letter size folded in half (5.75 X 8.75 inches). You just click plus under custom, give it a name and enter your data. You have to name if first before you enter the dimensions. Very cool


Thank you so much!

ibuck

I’ve had trouble for years with envelope printing because my HP inkjet printer mishandles the envelope, so it often prints crooked or gets toner where you don’t want it. I had created my own envelope template, but Easy Envelopes is a lot cooler / better. I love the way it imports the address for you.

At first I was dismayed at the huge size of the widget (compared to others I use), and I couldn’t get the print dialog box using Command-P. But then I discovered that . . .

- the envelope shrinks way down when you click in the circle postmark.
- the print dialog box appears when you click on the stamp ? a printer!

Can’t believe this highly rated widget is FREE.  Thanks, Nancy.

Terrin

Easy Envelopes has been around as a widget a long time. It is one of the best.

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