Three displays: two stacked, two mirrored

At the moment my display setup consists of two 24″ monitors stacked vertically. Today I had a visitor and wanted to show stuff across my office desk and found the following gem regarding multiple display setups (from the Display Settings Help):

If more than two displays are connected to your Mac, you can specify that some are mirrored displays and others show the extended desktop. For example, if you have three displays, you can have two displays showing the same information and the third display showing the extended desktop.

  1. Set up all the displays as an extended desktop.
  2. Option-drag a display icon onto another display icon to mirror those two displays.

So now I could continue with my regular setup, but flip open the lid of my Macbook and use it show stuff to my visitor!

Three displays, two stacked, two mirrored
Three displays: two stacked external displays with the lower external display mirrored to the built in display of my Macbook 15″
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Use Choosy.app to interactively choose which app to use to open any file

I have been using Choosy for a very long time (a quick search through my email revealed that I started using the beta in 2008 and bought my license in 2009).

Today I discovered a way of using Choosy to pop up a selector for any file type.

Select between opening a PDF file in Preview.app or Skim.app

Some time ago I added a rule to Choosy that gave me the option to edit a local .html file using Sublime Text in addition to selecting a web browser to open it in.

Rule for adding Sublime Text to browser selection when opening a local HTML file

Here is how to do it:

  1. Create an alias of ~/Library/PreferencePanes/Choosy.prefPane/Contents/Resources/Choosy.app (if you have installed Choosy all users remove the initial ~) and put it in your Applications folder.
  2. Create a rule in Choosy in the advanced tab
  3. Set the rule trigger to require that all the following conditions are true:
    • Web address begins with file://
    • Web address ends with <file extension> (replace <file extension> with the file extension of your choosing, e.g. pdf).
  4. Set the action to be “Promt to select from these browsers…”
  5. Select the applications you want to be able to choose from (they need not be browsers).
  6. In Finder right click a file that has the extension you just created a rule for, choose Get Info and change the Open with application to the Choosy.app alias you added to your Applications folder.
  7. Click “Change All...” so that all files with that extension are affected.

Thats it! Now when you click a file with that extension, it will open in Choosy, which in turn will show you the app selection popup. Below is a screenshot of my PDF rule:

Rule for opening a PDF file in Preview.app or Skim.app

Left handed mouse pointer

  • Are you left-handed?
  • Do you use your left hand to controll your mouse with the buttons reversed?
  • Do you use a Mac (Yosemite)?
  • Has the right-handedness of the mouse pointer irritated you at some point?

Here is the solution. Download Mousecape (check the releases page, the latest release at the time of writing is 0.0.5 which is the second download on the page).

After downloading, installing both the app and the helper app, do the following:

  1. Go to the Mousecape preferences and choose “I am left handed”.
  2. Dump the system cursors into a cape from the menu: “Capes” → “Dump Cursors”
  3. Apply the Cursor Dump cape (right click → apply)
  4. Done!

Sova eller stänga av?

Jag postade en bild på Facebook igår där min Mac hade en upptid på 34 dagar och fick då en kommentar kring miljöaspekten på det hela. Eftersom jag har en laptop så stängs locket på den efter arbetsdagen och den tas med hem för eventuellt kvällsarbete. Normalfallet är dock att den inte öppnas förrän nästa morgon. Upptiden handlar alltså för min del om tid sedan senaste omstart, snarare än tid som den varit på. Man kan ju dock undra om det är bättre att stänga av den eller låta den vara på? Nedan följer resultatet av en undersökning i form av omskrivna kommentarer:

Jag har levt med föreställningen om att det inte är så mycket ström som dras när datorn sover, bara tillräckligt mycket ström för att minnet ska finnas kvar – allt annat är avstängt (skärm, CPU, hårddiskar), så det borde inte gå åt så mycket alls. Tänker man i batteritid, så kan den ju sova i dagar, så det är ju inte så mycket som dras.

Ur ren miljösynpunkt finns det nog dock en gräns för när det lönar sig att stänga av datorn snarare än att låta den sova eftersom min Mac. Den tar mänligen ganska lång tid på sig att kallstarta (mest alla program som jag drar igång), så att det finns ganska många minuter av hög strömförbrukning.

Vet dock inte hur många timmar det i så fall skulle röra sig om – dvs när det blir vettigare att stänga av än att låta den sova.

Därför gjorde jag en liten undersökning. Jag lät datorn sova mellan igår 17:07 och idag 07:32 och såg att det gick åt 767 mAh från batteriet. När datorn är igång drar den mellan 1.3A och 1.7A (mellan ~10.5V och 11.5V). Antar att batteriet ligger på 12V, så approximation ger att 767mAh skulle ha räckt i ca 30 minuter.

Jag provade sedan att stänga av och sätta på den för att se hur mycket el som används. Det tar nästan exakt 30 minuter för mig att stänga ner, sätta på, logga in, och sen dra igång alla mina småprogram (dropbox, google drive, etc som går på automatiskt) + mail och webbläsare (som minimalt antal program för att jobba) på min dator (inte SSD).

Batteriet låg på 3092mAh när jag började stänga ner och när jag fick upp webbläsaren låg den på 2169mAh, dvs en förbrukning 923mAh. Så just i detta fall, skulle det ha förbrukats mindre el genom att använda “sova”.

Brytpunkten, baserat på dessa mätpunkter ger att jag borde stänga av datorn om jag inte ska använda den på 17,35 timmar!

Det är ju inte en uttömmande undersökning, men borde ju i alla fall ge en pekare på elförbrukningen för just mig och min dator som jag använder den idag.

The battle of the Markdown enabled, typographic, full screen editors

Update 2011-10-22: Dan informed me with a comment that Byword has received significant updates since my first review. I have therefore updated this review accordingly. Thanks Dan!

iA just released its writing application iA Writer for Mac which is very similar to Byword for Mac (which in turn was very similar to iA Writer for iPad ;)). On the surface, both these apps look quite similar, but there are quite a few differences once you start using the applications. This comparison will be a simple feature by feature comparison.

  • Color scheme: Byword has two, a light and a dark. The iA color theme and the Byword one are basically the same. iA Writer however, uses a paper-like texture as background. Also notable, is that iA Writers cursor is light blue and slightly thicker than a regular cursor (actually, it is just a bit thinner than the size of the gap between two characters).

  • Fonts: iA Writer offers no choice (applies to both font size and font face) by design. Byword gives the user a choice of five preset fonts (Baskerville 17pt, Cochin 17pt, Courier 15pt, Georgia 16pt and Helvetica Neue 15pt), but also allows the user to select any other font using the standard OS X font selection dialogue. iA Writer uses Nitti Light somewhere around 20pt by Bold Monday, the same font as in the iPad version of Writer.

  • Markdown: iA Writer is definitely in the lead here. Markdown is recognized and nice stuff is done with the text in the editor. For example lists using asterisks have their asterisks put in the margin, whereas asterisks used to put emphasis to text result text being underlined. Headings in iA Writer are also highlighted. Markdown support in Byword is in the form of a preview mode. In my experience, I have never had much use of Markdown previews in any application. Syntax highlighting on the other hand, is very nice. iA Writer’s syntax highlighting is also nice as it also has some layout magic thrown in (similar feel to the kind of Hogbay’s TaskPaper).

Update 2011-10-22: Byword has since my first review added syntax highlighting, or rather, de-lighting, as characters part of recognized Markdown syntax are faded into the background. The font weight is also changed depending just like in iA Writer. ByWord does not change the layout (no list indents, or outdent of ‘#’ heading markup). ByWord also added an additional feature which iA Writer does not have — completion of parenthesis, just like TextMate. It also adds them in on either side of a selection. I think this is great!

  • Focus Mode: iA Writer gives you an on-off switch. Byword gives you a choice of different focus modes/forces you to choose. Byword’s focus can be set to either a specific number of lines (1-9 lines) or to a paragraph. iA Writer’s focus mode seems to have some heuristics built on. It defaults to a single sentence, but certain (undocumented) conditions extend the focus to the previous sentence (current sentence is still focused). Scrolling using the trackpad (and mouse I assume) in iA Writer temporarily disables the focus mode, which is resumed as soon as a key is pressed.

Update 2011-10-22: Byword has since my previous review added functionality for temporarily exiting focus mode when scrolling with the trackpad/mouse and then resuming the previously selected focus mode.

  • Full screen mode: Byword has a scrollbar near the text. iA Writer’s full screen scroll bar is located at the right edge of the screen and disappears when you start writing. Choice between two different widths. Both iA Writer and Byword fade the text into the background at the top and bottom of the page. iA Writer’s fade is complete after half a line, whereas Byword’s fade is slower – one line. Also, iA Writer has smaller top and bottom margins – about one line. Byword’s top and bottom margins are about four lines. Byword has three width settings for fullscreen mode; Narrow (40 characters), Medium (58 characters), and Wide (80 characters). iA has one width setting at 64 characters.

Update 2011-10-22: Byword has been updated to also fade the scrollbar, and it seems like fade gradient has also been adjusted to half a line.

  • Windowed mode: Both apps loose their chrome when you start to type. iA Writer retains the exact column width of 64 characters per line. Byword on the other hand, re-flows the text if the window is narrower than the chosen width.

  • On screen information: In full screen mode, iA Writer does not present any information. In windowed mode, iA Writer has a status bar indicating whether Focus Mode is turned on or off, current word and character count and the total reading time of the text.

  • Statistics: Both iA Writer and Byword count the number of words and characters. As mentioned earlier though, only Byword displays them in full screen mode as well as windowed mode. iA Writer also has a reading time estimate.

  • Find/Replace: iA Writer uses a Find/Find & Replace bar at the top of the screen/window. Byword uses a popup in the top right corner of the screen/window. Byword has a search history and an option for case sensitivity. There is no case sensitivity option in iA Writer. Byword highlights all instances of the found word. iA Writer only highlights the current found instance.

  • File Formats: iA only does plain text using the .txt extension. Byword supports both rich text and plain text. If a plain text document uses a Markdown file extension, Byword assumes it is written in Markdown. iA always assumes Markdown.

Update 2011-10-22: iA Writer now supports the .md extension and uses it as its default.

  • Spell checking: iA has turned this off by default. Good choice.

  • Keyboard shortcuts: iA Writer has sentence level movement bound to cmd-left/cmd-right, i.e. the cursor moves to the next and previous sentence using these keyboard commands. Regular line begin and line end are accessed using fn-left/fn-right. Byword keeps the system default of moving to the beginning and end of line when using cmd-left/cmd-right. Both Byword and iA Writer move the cursor to the beginning/end of the paragraph using opt-up/opt-down. The full screen shortcut is the same for both Byword and iA Writer – cmd-. Focus mode shortcuts however are different. iA Writer used cmd-d whereas Byword has several for its many focus modes; cmd- for line focus and cmd-opt-1 for paragraph mode.

Final thoughts

Writeroom was the first dedicated commercial fullscreen text editor which sole feature was to provide a minimal, distraction free writing environment. Several other apps followed which provided similar functionality. I would like to say that Byword is not much different from Writeroom or the applications that followed Writeroom. In my mind, Byword is a Writeroom-like application that uses an iA Writer for iPad inspired theme. This theme however is a very nice and useful theme, and it works quite well. iA Writer for Mac however, feels like a new kind of dedicated fullscreen editor that has evolved from the Writeroom-like applications. iA were the first to introduce focus mode with their iPad app. Byword wanted to do something similar, but iA’s approach is better in my opinion. The Markdown support is also more useful in iA Writer. Byword has support for reading Markdown (and that is not really needed – the whole point of Markdown is for it to be readable even as markup), iA Writer has support for writing Markdown.

Since these are all paid apps, I should mention price. Byword (USD 10) is almost half the price of iA Writer (USD 18). Writeroom is selling for about USD 25 which is USD 7 more than iA Writer at the moment, and USD 15 more than Byword. I think Byword is definitely worth USD 10, unless you already have Writeroom as you can just chose your font and colors in Writeroom to mimic those of Byword unless you want Bywords focus mode and better width settings in window mode. If you want the better focus mode though, I would recommend you choose iA Writer which gives you a really good support for writing Markdown. The one reason not to choose iA Writer would be if you want to write Rich Text, in which case, Byword I think is the best choice (unless you want to choose you own foreground and background colors, in which case you should choose Writeroom).

Update 2011-10-22: Byword has added features which mimic those of of iA Writer. In addition, Byword has parenthesis completion like TextMate which I think is great. Which app you choose is up to you. All apps are great, but which is best for you depends on your needs as always.

Update 2011-11-07: I found this review by Brett Terpstra (Marked, nvAlt) which informed me of some really cool and useful keyboard shortcuts which are not available in e.g. iA Writer. I have started to use them now, and they are great!