E L S U A ~ A KM Blog by Luis Suarez

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Mac Tip #3: TextExpander – Mac Typing Shortcut Utility Saves You Time!

Continuing further with the blog post series of Mac Tips I have been putting together over here on the good number of (social software) tools I get to use on a regular basis to help me be more productive, I thought I would cover today what, to me, is perhaps the biggest productivity tool I have bumped into on the Mac for the nearly two years I have been using my MacBook Pro as my main work machine.

It’s one of those tools that I would not classify per se as a social software tool, yet, it surely is helping me engage further in the social networking space much easier, and faster (As well as healthier!) than whatever I could have imagined so far. Yes, indeed, I am talking about the superb TextExpander, your next best friend on the Mac!

TextExpander "saves you countless keystrokes with customized abbreviations for your frequently-used text strings and images" and although initially it may not say much more about it, once you start watching your behaviour of how you interact with your computer you immediately get hit by the numerous ways you could make use this application itself. And from there onwards, there is no way back! However, I thought I would expand further on the topic and perhaps share with you five different reasons as to why you would want to consider this tool to, at least, give it a try at some point. Thus here we go:

  1. Saving keystrokes: If you are one of those people that gets to type quite a lot of text all over the place, and if that text string happens to be rather repetitive sometimes, why should you type it again, right? Well, with TextExpander, a couple of keystrokes and off you go, it will add that text for you automatically, whether just plain text or rich text! Even images!! Amazingly easy!
  2. Spell check: With TextExpander you will no longer need to use a spell check; the application itself will become your default spell checker for everything! And all of that thanks to the AutoCorrect group of snippets. A huge database of strings that will correct on the fly almost every single spelling mistake you make. Try it! I know you will thank me later! Yes, it is *that* good!
  3. Filling out forms: How many times have you had to fill in an Internet form or a specific document, presentation, spreadsheet, regular text file, whatever, with the same information details over and over again? Far too many, right? Well, with TextExpander, a couple of characters and voilá! Your forms instantly filled in and ready to go! Priceless!
  4. Wealth of macros: One of favourite reasons. While you get to educate TextExpander to include the regular (rich) text strings you will want to avoid typing again, there is already a wealth of group snippets that you can import right away and start seeing the benefits of using this tool. Right from the Snippets user preference you can rather go ahead and create your own or import those already existing ones! That way you don’t have to start from scratch! Nice, don’t you think?
  5. Watching over your health: Repetitive Strain Injury anyone? In the past I have talked about RSI a couple of times and have shared a number of tips on how to help prevent it. Well, perhaps one of the most compelling reasons I can mention for TextExpander is how it helps you save time by not having to constantly be typing away the same text strings, which means that with a couple of keystrokes you are off to insert the text you need without having to type it and therefore freeing up your hands from your keyboard. To that extent one of the nifty features is providing you some statistics on how many characters you have saved, but most importantly how many hours you have saved in the end as well!

    And I can only say that in my case it has been plenty of them, so you can imagine how grateful both of my wrists are about the extended breaks I am enjoying from that all of that typing away! W00t!

I am sure there would be plenty of other reasons why you would want to make extensive use of the fantastic TextExpander application, so I encourage you all to perhaps share through comments what your favourite ones are. Yes, I do realise that there is a price tag for this tool, and, to be honest, considering the amount of time I have been saving already; considering as well how much less I get to type on a daily basis, I can certainly state that $30 is not that expensive. Quite the contrary! I consider it quite an investment not only for my time saved, but, most importantly, for my own health! And that’s what really matters, don’t you think?

Oh, to wrap this Mac Tip #3 blog post, I thought I would give a special thanks as well to Euan Semple, who first introduced me to TextExpander through Twitter and encouraged me to give it a try and from there onwards I haven’t been back and more and more by the day it’s becoming that essential tool for my Mac I cannot longer live without! So, thanks much, Euan! 🙂

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Mac Tip #2: Picasa – The Easy Way to Find, Edit and Share Your Fotos

It is that time again where I get to blog about that series of Mac Tips I started a little while ago,  talking about some of the most helpful and resourceful productivity tools that surely are helping me get the most of out of my MacBook Pro experience as my primary work machine and at the same time help me stay on top of things while giving up on email at work altogether.

Well, today’s Mac Tip  doesn’t have much to do with email per se, but I am sure you would find it equally helpful. Specially, if you have to handle large amounts of pictures in a very short period of time… If you have been following this blog for a while you would know by now how when I made the switch from a Windows notebook into this MacBook Pro there were two different applications I knew I was going to miss big time.

One of them hasn’t made it just yet into the Mac world (So I will not mention it this time around, waiting for that time when it is finally there!), but the other one has and this is what this blog post will be about; my favourite program to handle pictures on the Mac: Google’s Picasa!

There are plenty of different reasons why, if you haven’t given a try to Picasa on the Mac yet, you actually should. However, I thought that for today’s Mac Tip I would share with you five reasons why it would be worth to give it a try and, I am sure, keep it! So let’s go!:

  1. Handling large amounts of photos: Must confess, up until now, I have been using both iPhoto 08 and Aperture and just simply loading both libraries of my pictures archives (Over 15GB) would take a good amount of time that with Picasa just doesn’t happen. Open up the application and voilá, ready to go! And the same thing happens with navigating the different galleries. Just too slow compared to the snappy Picasa. Thus if you have got large amounts of pictures, Picasa will do the job beautifully faster!
  2. Exporting and uploading with Flickr Uploadr (into Flickr): One of my favourite features from Picasa. That is, the capability of working with your photos, adjust whatever settings, export the new picture and ready to be uploaded into my Flickr account with the lovely Flickr Uploadr. Just perfect! Allows me to have control over the quality of the pictures I would want to share and that’s why you may have noticed how I have started to share many more pictures in there than in previous months. Main reason: Picasa itself.
  3. Creating collages on the fly: One of my other favourite features. Putting together some of my favourite photos and then on the fly create some amazing collages that surely have the effect I would want to provide. Check, for instance, the collage I put together for my Twitter homepage background. It was done with Picasa’s collage capabilities. Very nice!
  4. I’m Feeling Lucky: To me, the one single feature that makes Picasa on its own worth it! That super nifty and incredibly powerful button that when displaying a photo you click on it and it does a wonderful job for you improving the overall quality of the picture. Just amazing! I used to do this with both iPhoto and Aperture (And, except for more complex tweaking of images where I still use the latter), and very soon it became a bit painful for simple image processing. With this particular option in Picasa it gets the job done in a blink! Like I said, this feature alone is worth while downing and installing Picasa itself.
  5. Free: Yes, of course, I have to give this one as well as one of the top 5 reasons. Very few of the image processing and handling tools out there for the Mac are freeware. Both iPhoto and Aperture cost money (And quite a bit in the case of Aperture!), thus knowing there is a very qualified tool for this kind of job that you can get for free in a Mac is just a no-brainer. Don’t you think? Yes, I know it is beta as well, but we do love betas, don’t we?

And that would be it. Top 5 reasons for me as to why Google’s Picasa has now become my default Mac application to handle, process and share pictures (In combination with Flickr Uploadr). I know there are plenty more, but I think those five would be good enough. And if not, check out the end result of what this superb tool can do for you and for your pictures:

Gran Canaria - Ayacata

Not bad, eh? Not bad at all!

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Mac Tip #1: MacBreakZ – Healthy Computing Made Fun

MacBreakZ for Mac OS X: Healthy Computing Made FunIf you have been reading this blog for a little while now, or if you have been following me online in multiple social networking sites like Twitter, you will know how for the last 18 months I have seen the light and have become the proud owner of a MacBook Pro as my main work machine. During that time I have tried several dozens of applications trying to help me increase my productivity into new levels and although with some of them such improvements haven’t been there, with some others the jump has been tremendous!

So I thought it may be a good time now to share with you folks a series of what I call Mac Tips, putting together short blog posts sharing some further insights on some of those incredibly helpful and resourceful tools I have been using at work all along, some of which have been incredibly instrumental in my successful quest of giving up e-mail at work.

Yes, that’s right! This is going to be the first of a series of blog posts where I will be sharing with you the productivity tools, as well as the social software tools, I am using to eventually move out of e-mail successfully, which I know is something that most of you would find interesting and perhaps somewhat intriguing.

Every now and then, what I will be doing is putting together a short blog post, shorter than this one, definitely! (This longer one is the kick-off one!), where I will share 5 different reasons as to why I really am enjoying using that tool and how it has improved my productivity at work. And all of that using my MacBook Pro.

Why using my Mac? Well, in most cases to prove the point that you, too, can be productive at work using something else than Windows. Plenty of times I get people looking at me with weird looks when I tell them I work for IBM and I use a Mac. This is just the perfect opportunity for me to share with everyone out there how it is possible to do that! So, let’s get the fun going, before this entry becomes longer than I expected!

Mac Tip #1: MacBreakZ – Healthy Computing Made Fun

In the past I have been touching base a couple of times on the important topic of working in a healthy environment, whether at the office, on the road or from home. Specially sitting in front of a computer for many hours a day, it is something that no-one should ignore. To me, on the Mac, that lovely tool that looks after my health is MacBreakZ. Preventing Repetitive Strain Injury (a.k.a. RSI) is probably one of the best things you can do to keep yourself healthy while sitting in front of a monitor for far too long. Thus here are 5 reasons why you would want to give it a try yourself:

  1. Its incredible ease of use: That’s right, installing and setting it up to match your needs is very easy to do. I set up mine to kick in every 30 minutes with a 5 minute break in between and so far I am loving it!
  2. It actually works: I have tried in the past a couple of other applications in this space of preventing RSI like Time Out, but somehow I noticed how they weren’t as effective and convincing as they could have been. MacBreakZ does the job beautifully, so much so my wrists are now very very grateful!
  3. Its sounds: One of the issues I had with some of the tools I tried in the past was the fact their sounds were not as wonderfully annoying are those from MacBreakZ. I mean, if you exceed the time for a specific break, this application will keep nagging on you with a lovely sound till you eventually give up and move away from the keyboard. Love it!
  4. Its price: Yes, I know, it is not freeware. It costs 24.95€, but if I look into the potential amount of money that it has helped me save keeping me in good shape with my wrists, elbows, etc. etc. and away from the Mac when I should, I think that amount of money is a very worth while one! Don’t you think?
  5. Its tips: Finally, this is probably one of my favourite reasons to use MacBreakZ, and, in a way, it kind of reminds me of Workrave for Windows. Every time you take one of those breaks, MacBreakZ actually shows you a few tips with graphics showing you different types of very easy stretches you can do while at your desk; some of them which I am sure you are all familiar with (As you will find them in other programmes), but with plenty others I was not aware of and which after executing them on a regular basis not only is it good fun, but you get to feel the stretch and how it helps release the pressure of your muscles and tendons. Amazing!

    Never thought that so relatively easy stretches, yet so powerful, would have such effect and since I have set up the system to kick in every 30 minutes it helps me stay on top while I learn new ones! Ideal as well for when you are on the road and you have a spare minute in between to keep stretching! Just brilliant!

Oh, and one other really neat feature that I certainly like about MacBreakZ is the fact that if you try to type for an extended period of time, right after you have just finished with one of those breaks, it immediately tells you to slow down with a beep, beep, beep sound that reminds me I need to stop now!

Thus there you have it, my first Mac Tip on one of my favourite Mac programmes available out there looking after my health while I am typing away on those long days in front of the Mac: MacBreakZ.

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