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One of the best parts about using Gmail is accessibility. I can be on a mobile device, work computer, or desktop and always have access to my email, calendar, documents, etc. Thanks to Google, all of this is possible. It’s just as easy to configure your Gmail account on Mac OS X Mail as it is to access it online. Today, I’m going to show you how to setup iCal with your Google Calendar — it’s actually quite simple.

  1. In iCal, go to Preferences under the iCal menu.
  2. Select the “Accounts” tab in the Preferences window.
  3. Click the “+” button on the bottom left corner to add a server account.
  4. When the “Add an Account” pop-up window appears, select “Google” for “Account type”. Fill out your email address and password.
  5. Now click the “Create” button.
  6. You should be in the “Account Information” section now.
  7. If you’d like to, you can change how often iCal refreshes the calendars by choosing from the “Refresh calendars” drop-down menu.
  8. If you have special calendars such as “US Holidays” go to the “Delegation” tab and enable them.
  9. To add special calendars to your Google Calendar, read these instructions from Google.

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When it comes to web browsers, the one that stands out the most is Firefox. It has a wide variety of add-ons, themes, and settings which are very customizable. The most powerful part — the add-ons — is where the true beauty lies within Firefox. One add-on in particular — Greasemonkey — is extremely useful. It can change any website to display extra information, re-organize site layouts, and unlock “hidden features” of a site to make it easier to use. For example, a website like Grooveshark has a humongous advertisement panel on the right side of the screen. In my opinion, it gets in the way when using their site. With Greasemonkey’s Grooveshark script, it completely removes that advertisement panel so you’re free from distractions. That’s just one example of how you can use Greasemonkey. Other Greasemonkey scripts that I use almost daily include De-Sidebar Facebook, Remove Digg Ads, Flickr Buddy Icon Reply, Flickr Ad Removal, Flickr Titles + Descriptions Batch Tools. For more Greasemonkey scripts, please visit Userscripts.org.

Screenshots: Grooveshark without Greasemonkey script Grooveshark with Greasemonkey script

Have you ever not found a song you wanted on iTunes? Annoying, right? For me, I typically find my music on SadSteve or YouTube (yes — YouTube). A while ago, MacHeist hosted a mission which included some handy applications, such as WireTap Pro. At first, I had no reason to use this application, then I discovered its amazing capabilities for recording line-in audio (e.g. YouTube music videos). Unfortunately, Ambrosia Software feels that it’s necessary to make WireTap Pro ridiculously expensive ($69). I believe it’s important to make money as a software developer, but that’s just insane. Due to the fact many of you reading this tutorial either did not win the mission on MacHeist (two years ago) or you don’t want to spend $69 on WireTap Pro, I’m going to show you how to record (streaming) audio for free, with Audacity.

  1. Download AudacitySoundflower (special audio plugin, free), and LAME MP3 Encoder (exports MP3).
  2. Open up Soundflower in /Applications/Soundflower/Soundflowerbed.
  3. Click the Soundflower icon in the menubar.
  4. Make sure under Soundflower (2ch) “Built-in Output” is selected.
  5. Open up the Sound preference pane in System Preferences.
  6. In both the Output and Input sections, select Soundflower (2ch).
  7. Open up Audacity, and go to Preferences.
  8. In the Devices section, set Soundflower (2ch) as the Recording Device and 2 (Stereo) as the Recording Channels.
  9. Leave “Built-in Output” as the Playback device.
  10. In Audacity Preferences, go to the Libraries section.
  11. Click the Locate button next to MP3 Library.
  12. The location should be “/usr/local/lib/audacity/libmp3lame.dylib”. Click Browse, then click Open to load it.
  13. Click OK. You may need to quit and re-open Audacity for the MP3 library to work.
  14. Finally, the moment you’ve been waiting for…
  15. Go to YouTube and type in the name of the song you want. Select the music video for the song.
  16. Click the record button in Audacity (red circle button) and start recording the song from the YouTube music video.
  17. When the song is over, click the stop button (yellow square button) in Audacity.
  18. Go to File > Export.
  19. Type in the song information (title, year, genre, artist). Click OK.
  20. In the Save As window, type in the song title as the filename. Change the Format to MP3 Files.
  21. Click Options if you want to adjust the MP3 settings. Then click Save.
  22. Import the song file into your iTunes library.
  23. Done.

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One of the greatest things about iLife is the simplicity of the applications included within it. Whether it be iPhoto, iMovie, iWeb, GarageBand, or iDVD, each application has a very intuitive user interface that makes it easy to use. However, there are times when it can be a little bit confusing to do certain tasks. I will admit, I still use Toast Titanium for anything going onto a DVD, including photo slideshows, movies, and music. Creating photo slideshows within iDVD are rather easy, so I want to show you how to make them:

  1. Create a New Project once iDVD opens up.
  2. Choose a Theme from the sidebar.
  3. Go to the “+” icon in the bottom left corner and choose “Add Slideshow”.
  4. Select the button text and edit it to your liking. To change the font, right-click on the text and choose “Show Inspector Window”.
  5. Edit the Drop Zones (i.e. Background images) by going to “Edit Drop Zones” under Project. Then drag images onto the Drop Zones.
  6. To setup the slideshow, hold down Shift + ⌘ (Command) + “M” or go to View > Show Map.
  7. Now click the “View Slideshow” thumbnail.
  8. Import or drag the images into the window that you want to use for the slideshow.
  9. On the bottom of the View Slideshow window, adjust the settings for Slide Duration and Transition.
  10. Click the Play button.
  11. Once you are satisfied with the outcome of the slideshow, insert a DVD and click the Burn icon located next to the Play button.
  12. After iDVD has completed burning the DVD, it will let you know.

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For many computer users, backing up your information should not be something to forget. It’s actually something many people are fairly lazy about or they just don’t think that they will lose their data. Thankfully, when Apple released Mac OS X Leopard, they included Time Machine, which backs up your files automatically. I stopped using Time Machine because it was taking up too much disk space on my external hard drive due to the way it was made to work. It backs up files that were changed, but it still for some odd reason, does not do it right. Carbon Copy Cloner, on the other hand, works like a charm. The first time you use it, it makes a complete copy/clone of your Macintosh HD. Then whenever your next backup is scheduled it backs up only files that have been modified. Carbon Copy Cloner also comes in handy when your Macintosh HD won’t boot up because it creates FireWire-bootable backups. I’m just going to share a few tips on using the application and why it’s a must for any user.

  1. First, download Carbon Copy Cloner.
  2. Once you open up Carbon Copy Cloner, select Macintosh HD under Source Disk.
  3. Connect your external hard drive (backup drive) and select it under Target Disk.
  4. Under the Cloning Options menu, choose “Incremental backup of selected items”.
  5. Check “Delete items that don’t exist on the source” if you want the same files on both disks at all times.
  6. Check “Archive modified and deleted items” if you want the same files on both disks, but want to archive deleted files.
  7. Click the “Save Task” button on the bottom to save these backup settings.
  8. Now, you just need to set a time to run the backup. I prefer to run mine on a daily basis. Save any changes you make when you’re done.
  9. If you are using a FireWire external hard-drive, hold down Option when you boot up your Mac and you will be able to run Mac OS X from the drive.
  10. If you plan on using this app, consider making a donation to Mike Bombich (for developing it as freeware).
  11. Just got to the Help menu in Carbon Copy Cloner and select “Donate to Bombich Software”.
  12. In the window that appears, choose a method of payment as well as how much you want to donate.
  13. Then click “I Paid” to remove the banner/ads from Carbon Copy Cloner (which would appear during backups otherwise).

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Last year I purchased Roxio Toast because I needed a customized DVD burning software for my family video project. What drew me to Toast, was the ability to fit more onto a DVD disc without sacrificing quality. After spending more time with it, I have come up with several helpful ways to use Toast to its full potential.

Importing DVD’s For Use With iPod or iMovie

  1. To import DVD’s into Toast, go to the Convert menu (AppleTV/iPhone icon).
  2. Once, you have inserted the DVD of your choice, choose how you want to export it.
  3. Located in the bottom left corner is a small gear icon which shows you the export options.
  4. If you want to export the DVD for use on your iPod or iPhone, select the corresponding name under the Device drop-down.
  5. If you want to export the DVD for use in iMovie, select “DV” from the Device drop-down menu.

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Burning An iMovie Project Without Using iDVD

  1. One of the key problems with iMovie is that you have to go through iDVD to burn your iMovie project onto a DVD. With Toast, you just drag your iMovie project and it takes care of the rest.
  2. To start, locate your iMovie project in Finder.
  3. Then, drag it into the DVD-Video section under the Video menu.
  4. If you wish to add a menu-style you can, but you don’t have to because the disc will automatically start playing the movie.
  5. Now, click the Record button.

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Adding Flare To Movie DVD’s With Menu Styles

  1. If you are making a DVD with several movies on it, you might want to consider using menu styles to visually organize the movies.
  2. In your Toast project, choose the menu style you want by going to the Menu Style drop-down menu in Options sidebar.
  3. Once, you have selected a style, feel free to edit the settings for that style by clicking on the More button in the Options sidebar.
  4. A window will appear with three tabs: Disc, Menus, and Encoding. Choose Menus.
  5. In the Menus window, you can add a title, edit the font colors, change the number of buttons, and so on.

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Creating A Photo Disc For PC and Mac Users

  1. Toast makes it very easy to create a PC and Mac compatible photo disc because it uses Mac OS X drag-and-drop technology.
  2. Simply just drag pictures from iPhoto, Lightroom, or where ever your photo library is into Toast’s Photo Disc section under the Data menu.
  3. When you are all set, click the big red Record button and soon enough all of your pictures will have been burned onto a DVD or CD.
  4. If you insert the photo disc into your computer, you will get a few neat options: Slideshow, Add to iPhoto (for Mac users), and Photos (folder).

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It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything, so I’ve had plenty of time to work on some projects of my own. One has been trying to completely edit and re-organize my photo library. I have been using a mixture of iPhoto, Bridge, and Photoshop for most of photo editing needs until now. I’ve transitioned into one mainstream way of editing my photos via Adobe Lightroom. It makes things so much easier for me to quickly catalog and edit all of my pictures in one screen.

Change Lightroom’s View Mode For Easier Editing

When I edit photos, I prefer to have no distractions at all. That includes Gmail notifications in my menubar, extra panels in Lightroom, and the Mac dock. This way I can get maximum screen real estate.

  1. Go to Window > Screen Mode > Full Screen and Hide Panels.
  2. If want to show a panel that is hidden in one of the screen modes, just click on one of the arrows for that panel.

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Stacking Images of Similar Form and Design

After making the move from iPhoto to Lightroom, I wanted to figure out an easier way to catalog similar pictures. Instead of making a folder for similar images, I can create a virtual stack of them. This way when I’m looking through 5,000 pictures, it takes up less space in the library window.

  1. Select images in the library that are of the same thing or very similar in form.
  2. Right-click and choose Stacking > Group into Stack.
  3. Since I’ve probably used this about fifty times now, it makes it easier to add a keyboard shortcut for this command. Read my article on making keyboard shortcuts if you want to know how.
  4. If you get a pop-up that says “Could not create stack”, right-click on the images you want to stack and choose “Show in Finder”. Now move them to the same folder.
  5. Then synchronize Lightroom so the changes appear. Go to Library > Synchronize Folder… and it will sync the library with the selected images.

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Keyboard Shortcuts To Be More Efficient In Lightroom

As you know, I love using keyboard shortcuts when possible. Not only does it improve your proficiency with the application, but it also makes editing images a breeze. I’m only giving just a few because these ones are the ones I use the most.

  1. When you are in in any screen and want to quickly get back to your library, hit the ‘G’ key.
  2. To move to the Develop panel, hit the ‘D’ key.
  3. To quickly adjust the screen mode, hit the ‘F’ key and shuffle through the different modes.
  4. To rate pictures for faster searching later on, just hit the number (1-5) on your keyboard.
  5. To add a color label to your photos, just hit the number (6-9) to on your keyboard.
  6. To quickly compare two selected images, tap the ‘C’ key.
  7. To rotate an image 90° clockwise, hit ⌘ (Command) and “]” and to rotate an image 90° counter-clockwise hit ⌘ (Command) and “[“.

Use SlideShowPro To Make Your Own Professionally Designed Web Galleries

Ever since I got back from recent vacation, I’ve been looking for an online service to share my pictures on. Most of the ones I looked at had either limited storage (Picasa) or a generally basic interface. SmugMug was nice, but not quite at my level of customization. Then I thought I’ll just host my own gallery with my website because it’s easier, faster, and cheaper thanks to SlideShowPro.

  1. To install SlideShowPro, buy it from here.
  2. Once you have downloaded the zip for it, find the “slideshowpro.lrwebengine” file inside the Web Galleries folder.
  3. Now drag the “slideshowpro.lrwebengine” file and the Web Templates folder into “Library/Application Support/Adobe/Lightroom/Web Galleries”.
  4. The next time you open up Lightroom go to the Web panel and choose SlideShowPro from the “Engine” menu (top right).
  5. Adjust the settings until your happy with the gallery, then hit the “Export…” button to export the gallery.
  6. Use an FTP program (Coda or CyberDuck) and upload the folders onto your server.
  7. To view a sample photo gallery, check out the examples page on SlideShowPro’s site.

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There are many different translation services available online such as FreeTranslation.com and Google Language Tools. The great thing about those services is that you can almost always find what you need. The downside about those services is that they only work when you’re connected to the internet. Thanks to Philipp Brauner‘s Dictionary.app plug-in, you can now use a translation service (German to English) right within the Dictionary application. The coolest feature about this plug-in is that it doesn’t require you to be connected to the internet while you use it. The package includes the complete German to English vocabulary from Dict.cc. I congratulate him on making this app as it comes in handy when you’re on the run and need to quickly access to a translation service, but don’t have internet-access. One more thing to mention is that this plug-in works with Spotlight, the Dictionary.app, and the Dictionary widget as well. As of now, this plug-in is only for German to English translation, but hopefully in the future, Philipp will continue developing this plug-in to include more languages.

screenshots: Click here for a screenshot

Thanks to Philipp Brauner for asking me to write up the article!

In the new version of Microsoft Office (2008), you have probably noticed the massive improvements to the user-interface. Thanks to designers at EnhancedLabs, the interface is remarkably beautiful. One of the main features to point out in the new version of Office are the Toolbars which now carry so much functionality with the SmartArt Graphics, Quick Tables, Charts, and the Document Elements. You can do just about everything you can imagine possible with Microsoft Office 2008. I’ll get you started by pointing out where the new features are and how to use them.

Using Handy Toolbars in Word

  1. When you first open Word, you’ll see a new toolbar with many new additions.
  2. When you select something from the toolbar like SmartArt Graphics, it should appear directly within your document.
  3. When it appears, go ahead and enter in any data you need to, then feel free to customize the looks of it with the Formatting Palette.

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Word’s New Layout Views

  1. In the new version of Word, there are new layout views such as Publishing Layout which is an amazing page-layout view with lots of templates.
  2. The second layout update is the Notebook layout, which you just about customize any way you like.
  3. I highly recommend you spend the time to go through each of those layouts and edit the built-in templates to learn all of the features they’re capable of.

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Setting Up Default Fonts in Microsoft Office

  1. If you used Microsoft Office 2004, then you probably remember that the default font was Times New Roman. That’s not the case with Office 2008 — it’s now Cambria.
  2. Most of the documents I make with Word, must be in Times New Roman. To change the default font, hold down the ⌘ (Command) + “D” keys to activate the Font window.
  3. Locate Times New Roman or whichever font you wish, then click on the “Default…” button in bottom left corner.

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“Slide Thumbnails” Sidebar in PowerPoint

  1. When you opened up PowerPoints in previous version of Microsoft Office for Mac, there wasn’t a sidebar that showed thumbnails of each slide. With the new version a sidebar has been included with this feature. I personally like it, so I can easily identify a certain slide and go right to it.
  2. With PowerPoint open, just click on the sidebar in the left-hand side and select “Slides” instead of “Outline” to make the thumbnails appear.

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PowerPoint Slide Transitions And Animations

  1. Now in PowerPoint, adding Transitions and Animations has never been easier.
  2. If you’d like to add a Transition, just choose “Transitions” from the Toolbar.
  3. For Custom Animations, select the part of the slide for which you want to animate, then click on the icon in the Formatting Palette.

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Changing The Looks Of Your Graphs in Excel

  1. Just like in Numbers ’08, you can now easily change the look of your Excel Graphs right from the Toolbar.
  2. Select the graph for which you want to change.
  3. Select another style from the Toolbar.

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Included with all new Macs is a neat little app called OmniOutliner. It serves as an “outliner” application which helps you put together your ideas. When you first open OmniOutliner, you may be shocked by how plain and simple its interface is. After this article, you will be surprised at all the power that OmniOutliner has. My main usage for this application is to make and manage my to-do lists — and man does it do a great job of doing that.

  1. Go ahead and open up OmniOutliner.
  2. Click on the “Inspect” button in the top right corner, or just hold down the Shift, ⌘ (Command), and “I” keys.
  3. In the document that is open, select everything by holding down the ⌘ (Command) and the “A” keys. Now in the Inspect panel, go to the “Document: Display” section. Check off “Horizontal Grid” and “Vertical Grid”.
  4. If you’d like to change the color of the grids, just click on the small color box beside “Horizontal/Vertical Grid” in the Inspect panel. Then select your color using the Color window (personally, I prefer a light gray color because it’s easier to look at).
  5. One of the key steps in setting up a to-do list is proper organization.
  6. The best way to organize your to-do list is with “categories”, such as “Other”, “To Buy”, “Projects”, or “Organize”.
  7. To make these categories, just type the word in the first line with bold (hold down the ⌘ (Command) + “B” keys) print followed by a colon (“:“).
  8. After you’ve typed the category title, hit the Return key, then the Tab key.
  9. To add a column for due dates, just click on the “Add Column” button.
  10. Now just type in your due dates in that extra column.
  11. If you plan to use OmniOutliner a lot for one to-do list, I recommend you set it up to open that to-do list every-time you use OmniOutliner.
  12. Just hold down the ⌘ (Command) and “,” keys and in the preferences window, check off “Open documents which were open last time you quit”.
  13. That’s it! You can do as much customization as you want, but I prefer to keep my to-do lists very simple and easy to follow.

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