May 18th, 2007
I spent last week on my 6th annual Mid-Atlantic Mac User Group Tour, making stops in Princeton, NJ, and Hershey and Philadelphia, PA. As always, I had a great time visiting with other Mac fanatics, talking about Macs and Apple, and presenting this year's edition of my "State of the Macintosh" address. One of my favorite parts of this presentation is the part where I demonstrate my favorite free and inexpensive Mac programs. And I'll tell you about two of my favorites in just a moment, but first I'd like to once again put in a good word for Mac user groups and why you should consider join one...
Mac user groups rock. You'll meet lots of nice people who enjoy using their Macintosh computers, just like you. You'll learn cool things about your Mac and its software that you never knew before. Most groups give away free hardware and software (a.k.a. swag) as raffle prizes at their meetings. Many groups offer special "member-only" deals on software, books, and hardware. Believe it or not, there are usually members of the opposite sex at user group meetings (and you may even find some of them attractive). You'll find Mac consultants and trainers, special interest groups that can teach you how to master a program or technique such as moviemaking or Web site building. Most groups offer a monthly newsletter, and many of those are excellent resources chock full of useful and original information.
So support your local MUG (Mac User Group). If you don't know how to contact your local User Group, try Apple's Find a User Group Web page. Type in your zip code or state and it'll tell you where to find yours. And if you still aren't sure why you should join a Mac user group, even after reading my epistle above, you should pay a visit to Apple's Why Join A Group page.
We now return to our regularly scheduled programming, a pair of free programs you're going to love.
I have two displays with a total of 3,000 pixels across. So mousing up to the menu bar isn't usually a convenient or economical hand motion for me. So I was tickled to discover Deja Menu, a slick little application that displays the menu bar of the current application at the location of your cursor whenever you press the Deja Menu hot key. Here's a picture of Microsoft Word's menu bar appearing under my cursor with the Tools menu expanded:
Word's menu bar, as displayed by Deja Menu
(Click the thumbnail for a larger image)
I like this utility so well I have one of the buttons on my multi-button Logitech MX Revolution mouse (which I still love) programmed with the Deja Menu hot key.
Deja Menu by Karl Hsu. Free.
I love the idea of Spotlight but hate its execution. It's awkward to use, it often misses files it should find, its indexes have caused me problems time and time again and take forever to recreate, and it displays its results in a weird format that borders on useless.
That's why I don't use Spotlight anymore. Instead, I use DEVONtechnologies free EasyFind. EasyFind suits my searching needs much better than Spotlight. For one thing it doesn't index your hard drive so it ALWAYS finds what you're looking for if it exists on your hard drive. It has a set of radio buttons that make it easy to limit your search to Files & Folders, Only Files, Only Folders, or File Contents, and another set that let you limit your search to All Words, Any Word, or a Phrase. You can also use wildcard characters and Boolean operators such as AND, OR, BUT, NOT, NEAR, and so on. And you can limit your search to specific file types and/or specific folders.
Furthermore, the results of your search are displayed in a Finder-like list you can sort by name, location, modification date, size, or kind.
Here's what it all looks like:
An EasyFind search result
(Click the thumbnail for a larger image)
As you can see I created a case-sensitive search of the Mac Observer folder for files containing the phrase "Steve Jobs." EasyFind found 6 files that met this criteria out of 1022 files in the folder.
If you use Spotlight I urge you to give EasyFind a try. It's extremely useful and you can't beat its price -- free.
EasyFind by DEVONtechnologies. Free.
That's all for now, but I'm always on the lookout for other useful free or almost-free utilities that make using your Mac better. If you have a favorite you'd like to see highlighted in a future Rants & Raves column, please let me know.
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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