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Computing with Bifocals - Two Apps for Reading and Browsing
by - June 23rd, 2006

I don't know what the weather is like where you live, but here in Austin, Texas we were hovering around 100 degrees in the early days of June.  I can hardly wait for August.  This is the kind of weather that leads you to stay inside if at all possible, and it is a good time to check out some new software.  I have a few recommendations for your consideration if you are using OS X 3 or greater.  The first two are covered in this column and they are both worth your attention.


Product: LargeType 1.0 (Release Date 9/19/2005)
Developer:   Cold Pizza Software
System Requirements:  OS X 10.3 or later
Description:  LargeType is a Mac OS X service that displays any selected text in large type.
Price:  Free, but a donation is requested

This is a one-trick pony, but it is a most useful trick.  It allows you to highlight text in designated applications, and enlarge the text for easier reading.  It is designed to work exactly like the phone number  enlargement feature that is included in your address book.

In Address Book, place your cursor on the word next to the phone number you want to enlarge, hold down the mouse button and scroll down to "Large Type".  Release the button and the phone number will appear in very large letters across your desktop.

Select "Large Type"

Enlarged Phone Number in Address Book

The application LargeType offers the same feature, but it is available for words and sentences and can be used in Safari, Mail, iCal, iChat, Pages, Keynote, Preview, TextEdit, and Terminal.*  It doesn't work with any of the Microsoft office products.

This is a good application for new users to download and install because all that is involved in the installation is to download the software and then drag the software icon to your Applications folder and release it.  To activate the features you log out and log back in again and you are ready to go.

How to Use It:  Select some text.  Choose "Large Type" from the Services option.  Services is found under the application name's menu on the far left of the menu bar.  So if you are in Safari you will find it under the Safari menu.  If you are in Mail you will find it under the Main menu.

The Services Option in Safari
(Click the thumbnail for a larger image)

The text you have selected will appear on your screen as large  type.  The size will vary depending on the size of your desktop.  It will also depend on how many letters or words you select to enlarge.  Here are some examples.  Obviously, you can  quickly reach a point of dimensioning returns.

3 Words Selected On A 15 Inch Screen

6 Words Selected On A 15 Inch Screen

A Portion of Two Sentences Selected On A 15 Inch Screen

*For those interested in the technical aspects of why some applications work with LargeType and some don't, here is an explanation from  developer Eddie Hillenbrand: 

"LargeType works with all applications built using Apple's Cocoa frameworks.  That is, any native Mac OS X application that only runs on OS X.  It doesn't work with most application built using Apple's Carbon frameworks.  Usual application that run on OS 9 & X or that predate OS X.  Having LargeType, or any application that offers itself as a service, work with a Carbon app requires the developers of that application to do little extra work.  As a result most Carbon developers elect not to spend their time making Services work with their applications.  Cocoa developer get Service support for free.  If there is a specific application that LargeType doesn't work with, I would recommend contacting the developer and requesting Services support in their application."


Product: browseback 1.1 (Release Date: 2/3/06 )
Developer:  SmileOnMyMac
System Requirements:   OS X version 10.4 or later. Broadband Internet connection recommended.
Description:   Browse and search your web history via web page thumbnails
Price: US$29.95 (Available as a Demo from the web site)
Help Manual Available:  Yes.  16 page manual free as a download from web site.

If your Web use frequently results in searches through your History files for pages you have previously visited, then this application, which won MacWorld Best of Show in 2006, will be worth your evaluation.  Mine does, and I love this app.  What it does is keep a record of all the pages you have visited and displays them as thumbnails upon your request.  It works with Safari, Firefox, Internet Explorer and others and can work with just one or all of them at the same time depending on how you set the preferences. 

It also lets you conduct keyword searches of the saved pages using a search box found in the lower right-hand corner of the open window.  You activate browseback by clicking on the Apple key + F12, or by clicking on the icon in the dock, or selecting it from the Applications folder.

The first time you run browseback, the program will load your previous Web history. You'll be asked how much of your history you want loaded. Selecting longer periods of history will result in longer loading times.  

The preferences will let you limit the amount of disk space that can be used by browseback and/or select how many days you want to accumulate.  Days will drop off the end as you add so that you don't exceed your set parameters.  You can direct it to exclude URLs containing specific strings that you want to be excluded from ever being stored.  For instance, you might not want to store your banking records.

Following is an image of part of an active window that is being quickly scanned by mouse rollover.

Partial Window View of browseback

Copies of Nancy's book Tips, Hints, and Solutions for Seasoned Beginners Using Apple Macintosh Computers With OS X are available in PDF download versions  for US$9.57 and in print version for $18.15 plus $4.00 shipping.   To view sample pages and get ordering information visit the September 14, 2004 column.

Post your comments below.

Check out Nancy's complete index of all her columns for the most complete list of tips anywhere. The list is categorized and is a great reference when you are looking for help!

A Capacious Catalog Of Computer Tips

Talking to a generation that remembers what the world was like before there was color, covers issues for people who don't care how their computer works, but rather what their computer and the internet can do for them.

Nancy has a Master's degree in Human Services Administration and prior to her retirement she worked for almost 30 years in field of mental health and mental retardation. She has been a Mac user for 11 years, and has recently developed an avocation of teaching basic computer skills in both group and one-to-one settings.

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