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I post anything I find intersting or entertaining -- from tech news to book quotes to new sites I've found (and tips on web development, in general).

Assigned Spaces in Lion

The target audience for this tip is probably pretty niche, but hopefully it’ll help someone else out, as I was endlessly frustrated by my iCal following me around from space to space in Lion.

With Expose and Spaces being consolidated into Mission Control in Lion, one issue I encountered was that apps that were previously designated as being assigned to “All Spaces” (in the Exposé settings in Snow Leopard’s System Preferences) continue to be assigned to All Spaces in Lion.  But, there’s no similar table in the Mission Control settings to change what space each app is assigned to.

Turns out, Apple did away with that list of settings and put the preference where it makes the most logical sense — right in the dock menu:

Click and hold (or right click) on the app’s icon in the dock, go to the “Options” submenu and you’ll find an “Assign To” setting, where you can select if you’d like that app to appear on All Desktops (/Spaces), the current one that you’re in, or if you’d like to be able to freely move it around in Mission Control (that’s the None option — it has no assignment).

If you’ve found yourself in Mission Control, trying to drag and drop a window from one space to another and it’s just not cooperating, this is likely the issue you’re having.

Update 7/23/11: To be clear, this option only appears when you actually have multiple spaces.  To make a new space in Lion, open up Mission Control and hover your cursor in the top right — clicking the transparent icon of your desktop background will open a new blank space.  But most of the time you’re not just making an empty space, so new in Lion you can drag any window in Mission Control up to the top row (with the rest of the spaces / full-screen apps) to create a new space with just this window.  Really handy.

Using Gmail labels in Lion’s (Updated 2x)

Prior to Lion, I had been using Sparrow as my primary email client because all of my primary email addresses are Gmail-based, and Sparrow was written from the ground up for Gmail (and added in MobileMe and IMAP support later).  Apple’s in Snow worked with Gmail, it just didn’t work well – labels were relegated to the depths of the sidebar and thus fairly inaccessible without totally cluttering your Mail sidebar.

Lion brings a significant revamp of Mail, with tons of new features that makes managing your mail much easier than in the past.  One of these niceties is the addition of the Favorites Bar, which will feel instantly familiar if you use the Bookmarks Bar in Safari. It holds quick links to your Inbox, Sent Mail, and any other mail folder you want access to:

You can add mail folders to the Favorites Bar by dragging and dropping them from the Mailbox List (if you’re not seeing it, click the “Show” button that hangs out on the left side of the Favorites Bar) right into the Favorites Bar.  And since Gmail labels show up as folders in Mail (look for the name of your Gmail account near the bottom of the Mailbox List, and if necessary, hover your cursor over the list item and click “Show”), you can add your labels to the favorites bar.


Update 7/23/11:

Adding labels to messages

A glaring omission from my original post: how to add labels to messages.  There are a few options:

  • Option 1 – Contextual Menu: Right click / CTRL+click the message you want to label, choose “Copy To” and select the label (again, looks like a folder here) you want to add to the message.  A handy trick here is the “Copy to Folder Again,” where folder is the last label you applied (with the handy keyboard shortcut: Option + Command + T).
  • Option 2 – Menu Item: Same as above, but use the “Message” menu from the menu bar.
  • Option 3 – Toolbar Item: If you’re more of a toolbar person (I am), add the “Copy to Folder” button to the toolbar. To customize your toolbar in Mail, just like in any good Mac App with a toolbar, choose the View menu -> Customize Toolbar and drag the icon to your toolbar.

Update 7/24/11:

One other way to add labels:

Option 4 – Drag & Drop: If you’ve got your mailbox list visible (leftmost panel with all your folders), you can drag & drop a message into the appropriate folder. Make sure to hold down the Option key while you drag & drop to ensure you copy to the label folder instead of moving it there!

Smart Folders a first class citizen in Lion

Smart Folders have always been a feature of (Mac) OS X that I’ve wanted to use.  On paper, they sound perfect: a custom, predefined search that appears just like any other folder in the Finder.  But that’s just the problem – in Leopard and Snow Leopard, the contents of the Smart Folder would not display in Column view. Instead, a preview was given – basically, the Finder in Column view treated Smart Folders like files. Dumb files.

Thankfully, that has been remedied in Lion. Smart Folders now work just like any other folder:

And they’re fast.  Really fast.  I’ve noticed all of Spotlight to be markedly faster in Lion (so, if you’ve just upgraded to Lion and you’re waiting for your Spotlight to reindex, it’s worth it), and that definitely carries through to opening and manipulating Smart Folders.

In fact, they’re so fast, a Smart Folder is now the default folder when you open a Finder window in Lion — All My Files.  This is just a smart folder querying all your drives for all of your files: PDFs, Images, Movies, Spreadsheets, and so on.  As others have mentioned, the power here really comes when you start refining the search using the Finder’s search bar, searching not just file names, but contents as well.

Smart Folders were Apple’s first attempt to change the way that the average person manages files on their Mac.  With Lion, they’ve really become a suitable accompaniment to the ragged folder hierarchy that we’ve had to deal with, allowing us to group files and folders from anywhere on our machines into one “folder.” That said, I’m not quite ready to dump all my files into one folder and just use search queries to find what I’m looking for.  Not yet, anyways.


Get your Library folder back in OS X Lion

Shawn Blanc gives us all a tip on how to make your ~/Library folder reappear in Lion in his review — Use the terminal command:

chflags nohidden /Users/YOUR USERNAME/Library

An alternative is to use the menu command Go -> Go to Folder (or Shift + Command + G) and type in “~/Library”, but this seems rather tedious every time you want to the Library folder, especially if you use it often and with different folders (it pre-populates with the last used folder).

Given that so many other changes have ‘revert’ switches (mail layout, indicator light for open apps, scroll direction, etc), I’m surprised there isn’t one buried in System Preferences. That said, as with most of the bigger changes in Lion, this will end up benefiting a huge majority of users who don’t know – and don’t care to know –  about how their system files are organized.

When my iPhone camera trumps my DSLR

This photo was taken with an iPhone 4, using the Pro HDR app (iTunes link) to make a 2-exposure HDR.  The remarkable thing is that I took the same exact shot using my Canon XTi DSLR, exposure bracketing ±2 stops to make a 3-exposure HDR, merging in Photomatix and post-processing in Photoshop, and I still couldn’t get an image that was as powerful as this one.

People, including myself, rave about the camera in the iPhone 4, not just because it’s the decent ‘camera you always have with you’, but because of the ridiculous number of photography apps that let you edit your images to your liking.  The iPhone really is the digital Polaroid — you can capture, edit and share images all from one device.

Spotify comes to the US

Shawn Blanc‘s initial impressions on Spotify, and the differences between this (new to the US) streaming music service and other competitors like Rdio.  All positive, it seems.

My Thoughts

Personally, I’m giving the premium plan a go for a month ($9.99/mo for unlimited music streaming to both desktop and mobile, with offline saving of songs). So far, I’m thrilled.  Think of it like the iTunes store without the purchasing option, and instead of hearing 90 second previews of songs you get the whole thing.  Granted, Spotify’s streaming library isn’t quite up to snuff with iTunes’s, but I’m definitely satisfied so far.

The part I’m most excited about is the social aspect of the service — sharing new music is something that I’ve always done with friends, but it seems to be becoming harder and harder to do so as our music libraries are getting split between devices.  Spotify’s features like collaborative playlists and public music profiles will (hopefully) help me both share music with friends and find out what they’re listening to. And, no need to find out their usernames — Spotify uses Facebook Connect to give you access to your ‘friends’.  Sharing music with them is as simple as dragging and dropping a song onto their name, sending the music to their Inbox of tunes.  I dig it.

Those Dogmatic Cultists

Gruber’s take on the idea that Apple’s customers are brainwashed into purchasing their products, culminating in an astute point that as the number of Apple lovers is rising, those who are against the company are starting to become the “dogmatic cultists”:

It’s the Apple-haters who are beginning to look more and more like dogmatic cultists who have their heads in the sand.

Light Field Cameras by Lytro

Via Lytro:

How does a light field camera capture the light rays?

Recording light fields requires an innovative, entirely new kind of sensor called a light field sensor. The light field sensor captures the color, intensity and vector direction of the rays of light. This directional information is completely lost with traditional camera sensors, which simply add up all the light rays and record them as a single amount of light.

The premise is simple: instead of capturing red, green and blue color values and compositing them into a static image like traditional CCD or CMOS image sensors, this new sensor records other and more useful properties of the light hitting it that allow for a more accurate reconstruction of the scene after processing.  I’m not just talking about better white balance or being able to retrieve information “lost” in the highlights or shadows — you can actually refocus the image while post-processing it.  Amazing

Although I’m not a huge fan of the way they’re trying to market it, the science behind the idea is sound and could revolutionize not just photography but digital imaging in general.  Whereas CCD and CMOS sensors are effectively trying to replicate the way that images are stored onto film, these new Light Field Sensors are innately digital and show a huge leap forward in terms of the thought process behind digital imaging.

In particular, I’m excited about the applications to the medical imaging field — what happens when we replace the typical CCDs with these Light Field Sensors?  We’ll be able to capture the entire scene as it is, not as it’s seen through the ‘eyes’ of a sensor.  I, for one, am excited.

Get nerdy and read the founder’s dissertatation here.

Moo Cards!

I got me some Moo Cards!

They’re really great quality for the price and quantity, and their online tools are a pleasure to use.  My favorite feature: it’ll grab all your photos Flickr (and you can sort by album), so no need to waste time uploading – just select your photos, create your layouts, and your done.

My (first) order was just 50 to test the quality – color me impressed. Really pleased with how they came out.  I’m totally digging the rounded corners!

If you want to order some of your own, please use my referral link (and hey, you’ll save yourself 10% in the process!)

Wunderkind Login / Signup UX Win

I used Wunderlist as a GTD tool when it first made its iOS appearance.  That lasted about a week before I reverted back to my default task management tool – my (really, really bad) memory.  Suffice it to say, when it showed up on the Mac App Store as a featured app this week, I decided to give it another go.

I’m not going to give any kind of review of the app, or the service (but, I have to say, if you’re looking for a way to keep all your tasks in sync across all your devices, this has to be the cheapest way — it’s free).  I wanted to point out a nice UX feature of the website — the single signup / login form:

Already have a Wunderlist login? Great, use it.  Don’t have one yet? Just enter your email address in the same field.  Also, I’m personally a fan of allowing Facebook login for those potential users who are a little queasy about setting up another account with a another service.

Anyways, props to 6wunderkinder for the great app and simple login experience.  See it for yourself here.