4 New things I learned today about my Mac’s Dock

I was catching up on some reading today and one of the articles that I read was Get to Know Your Mac’s Dock by Kirk McElhern. I’m not a Mac newbie but even as an experienced Mac user (sometimes considered a power user) I still learn new things all the time.

“One of the key elements you use to interact with your Mac is the Dock. You can use the Dock in many ways: you can open apps, you can open files by dragging them on icons in the Dock, you can open folders that you’ve stored in the Dock, and more.”

In Kirk’s article you will discover the many configuration options available for the Dock, and the best way to turn the Dock into a high-powered productivity booster.

The 4 things that I learned

  1. Magnification

In the early days, the Dock’s magnification was on by default; these days, now it’s off by default. When you select this setting, the Dock icons increase in size when you hover your cursor over them. This has the advantage of providing a bigger target when you drag a file to the Dock, but you may, like me, find it a distraction.

  1. Animation

The Dock preferences have a few settings for the way things animate in the Dock, or when you minimize windows by clicking the yellow button at the top left of a window or by double-clicking a window’s title bar.

  1. Add files and folders

You can also add files and folders to the right (or bottom) section of the Dock; just drag them there, to the left of the Trash icon.

  1. Click and hold menu

You’ll notice other settings in the menu that displays when you click and hold an app icon: you can have it launch at login, you can show it in the Finder, and, if you use Spaces, you can assign it to a specific desktop.

The changes I made

Previously I had the Dock on the bottom with Hide on and a smaller size than the default. Now I have the Dock on the left with Magnification on, and Genie effect Animation, and the same smaller size. I also removed a few apps that I rarely use. I’m liking my new Dock setup.

A keyboard shortcut for a markdown link in Drafts – Keyboard Maestro

Lately, I’ve been doing more of my writing in Drafts. One thing that I miss is a keyboard shortcut for a markdown link. In other writing apps like iA Writer, Byword, Ulysses, and etc, ⌘K is the keyboard shortcut for a markdown link. Since I use links fairly often I miss not having it when I’m writing in Drafts.

I solved this by creating a Keyboard Maestro macro for ⌘K to insert a markdown link when I’m writing in Drafts. Now when I press ⌘K in Drafts I get the markdown link syntax []().

Here’s the macro setup:

First, you have to create a Drafts group. When you do this be sure to set Available in these applications: to Drafts.

Now the macro:

Hold off buying the current M1 MacBook Air

According reporting from Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman, Apple is developing a new MacBook Air model that will launch later this year or in 2022. “It will include Apple’s MagSafe charging technology and a next-generation version of the company’s in-house Mac processors. Apple has discussed making the laptop smaller by shrinking the border around the screen, which will remain 13-inches. The current model weighs 2.8 pounds and is just over half an inch at its thickest point.”

What’s coming to the MacBook line in 2021

I recently wrote that I was thinking about holding off on buying an M1/8GB MacBook Air.

This week we got more information about what we might expect in 2021. According to a 9to5 Mac article, it sounds like we’ll be getting MacBook Pros with no Touch Bar, more ports, and the return of MagSafe. There’s also mention of a redesigned MacBook Air late in the year.

That said, I would love to get in on all the excitement around the M1 MacBook Air but I think it’s worth waiting to see what’s to come.

2021 MacBook Pro to charge faster via MagSafe – 9to5Mac

Following a report from Ming-Chi Kuo offering a variety of new details on the 2021 MacBook Pro refresh, Bloomberg is out with its own report on the changes. The report adds additional details on the return of MagSafe, and teases a redesign for the MacBook Air.

In case you missed it overnight, Kuo reported that Apple has some major changes in store for the 2021 MacBook Pro, which will be available in 14-inch and 16-inch variations. The new MacBook Pro is rumored to adopt a flat-edged design similar to the Phone 12 and iPad Pro, add more IO ports on the side, bring back MagSafe charging, and ditch the controversial Touch Bar.

Finally, the Bloomberg report teases that Apple is also “planning a redesigned MacBook Air,” but that it will not be released until “long after the next MacBook Pros.”

Notably, we’d previously heard that Apple would release a more affordable MacBook Air in 2022. It’s unclear if this is the same machine, or if Apple could be planning a redesigned version and keeping the current MacBook Air around at a lower price.

Mac security explained

Great show today on Mac Power Users podcast. David and Stephen go into detail explaining Mac security. I walked away from the show with a better understanding of Mac security and a better feeling about the security built into my Mac. I recommend listening to this episode if you would like a better understanding of Mac security.

Episode #570 Mac Power Users – Security Explained

From the beginning, Mac OS X was designed with security and privacy in mind, but over the years Apple has worked to make both the Mac’s software and hardware more even more so. This week, Stephen and David cover what’s what when it comes to Mac security.

Notes and more to Devonthink

The year has just begun. A few days ago I published my Essential Mac Apps story and guess what? I’m making changes.

I wrote that I’m using Apple Notes for all my notes. Last week I began to have regrets. The reason, I’m uncomfortable having my notes in a proprietary database system.

I started considering other options including moving back to text files. The advantage of text files being there is no lock-in. They are more accessible and reliable. Another benefit is the ability to change client apps seamlessly. Edit one file with iAWriter, edit another with 1Writer, and a third with Byword. So I settled on moving my notes back to text files.

Over the holidays DEVONtechnologies put all their apps on sale at 30% off including upgrades. I took advantage of the discount and upgraded Devonthink to version 3 even though I wasn’t currently using it.

After moving my notes to text files actually, .md markdown files, I decided to put Devonthink to use. I indexed all my working files notes included to Devonthink. I chose indexing over importing so that the files would still be accessible in Finder.

Now, my bookmark collection, notes, personal files, research projects, and writing files are all in Devonthink.

Maestral: An open-source Dropbox client for Mac

Dropbox has taken a lot of heat from users lately. They aren’t happy with the app that’s now part of the Dropbox install. Like me, most users would like to have the Finder integration only. That said, I only have a couple of Dropbox folders that I would like to have on my Mac but I don’t want them enough to have the new Dropbox app installed.

Last week macosxguru mentioned Maestral in his 2020 Review. Maestral is a light-weight and open-source Dropbox client for macOS and Linux. It uses the public Dropbox API and integrates with Finder just like Dropbox used to do. I’ve been using it for a few days and have had no issues.

If you’re interested in Maestral an app bundle is provided for macOS High Sierra and higher and can be downloaded from the Releases tab on the Maestral GitHub page.

Adobe Ends Flash Player Support, Recommends Uninstalling Immediately

Adobe Flash Player has always been a source of malware for Mac and PC users. Now is the time to remove it if you still have it installed. The below article also explains how to remove it.

Adobe Flash Player End of Life

Since Adobe will no longer be supporting Flash Player after December 31, 2020 and Adobe will block Flash content from running in Flash Player beginning January 12, 2021, Adobe strongly recommends all users immediately uninstall Flash Player to help protect their systems.

My 2021 Essential Mac Apps

Every year towards the end of December I evaluate the apps that I’ve been using and what I will use for the next year. I find that writing this out helps me better evaluate the apps that best fit my workflows. Once I complete my evaluation, I summarize it in a post on this blog.

Another reason for this post is that visitors are always asking me which apps I use for specific tasks. To keep from repeating myself over and over, here’s the list of apps that I use.

My setup:

  • MacBook Pro early–2015 13” (soon to be replaced with a MacBook Air M1/8gb)
  • iPhone 11
  • iPad 5th Generation (which I rarely use these days)
  • Apple Watch 44 mm Series 4

Table of Contents

Web

Safari – Safari is my browser of choice. I use Wipr with Safari to block ads, trackers, cryptocurrency miners, and other annoyances.

As we all know some websites don’t play nice with Safari. In those situations I use Firefox.

Communication

Fastmail – I’ve been using Fastmail for email ever since I left Gmail over 6 years ago. I also use it for calendar, and contacts.

Fastmail has an iOS app, that I use, but none for the Mac so I use the Fastmate app which is a native Fastmail-wrapper.

Messages – Messages is how I communicate with family and friends.

Calendar and Tasks

Fantastical 3 – Fantastical is my calendar and task app. It integrates perfectly with my Fastmail calendar appointments and events and Apple Reminders tasks.

Reading

Reeder – Reeder is what I use for my Feedly RSS feeds. Anything that I want to read I save to Instapaper for reading later.

Twitter – Twitter is for news and the feeds for apps that I use.

Writing

Drafts 5 – I’ve been using Drafts for several years. It’s the launching-off point for text for me. I use the actions to copy it, share it, or deep link into other apps and services.

iA Writer – iA Writer is my current writing app of choice. For preview I use Marked 2 side by side with iA Writer. Everything that I write goes through Grammarly for proofreading grammar and spelling.

Apple Notes – Notes that I want to keep long-term go in the Notes app.

Utilities / Productivity

Bitwarden – Gotta have a password manager.

Alfred – Alfred is Spotlight on steroids. I’d be lost without it.

Keyboard Maestro – Keyboard Maestro is another app that I can’t live without it. I use it for keyboard shortcuts, launching apps, opening files and folders and automating actions. It has a learning curve but once you start to get the hang of it you can do amazing things. I’ve written about Keyboard Maestro here.

PopClip – I use PopClip to manage what I do with selected text. I’ve written about PopClip here.

Hazel – Hazel watches whatever folders I tell it to, automatically organizing my files according to the rules that I’ve created.

Yoink – Yoink speeds and up my workflow by simplifying drag and drop. I’ve written about Yoink here.

Dropzone – Dropzone makes it easy to copy or move files to my favorite folders, open applications and uploading files to the Internet right from your menu bar.

App Cleaner – AppCleaner is my app uninstaller. I use it because it deletes all the junk that gets left behind when you drag the app icon to the trash.

Moom – I use Moom for window management.

Witch – Witch is my app switcher.

Bartender 4 – Bartender is the app I use to organize my menu bar. I’ve written about it here.

ScreenFloat – ScreenFloat is my app for taking screenshots and storing them.

TunnelBear VPN – TunnelBear is my VPN for security on public WiFi and for web browsing privacy.

PCalc – PCalc is my stock calculator replacement. I use it for its additional features and customization.

My 2021 Essential iOS Apps

 

Toggle Control Center with a keyboard shortcut in Big Sur

I installed Big Sur on my 2015 MacBook Pro the other day. One area that I wanted to customize was the menubar. There is so much blank space between the icons, it’s a gigantic waste of space and looks awful. Even after installing Bartender 4 to organize my menubar I wanted to move some items to the Control Center for better organization.

Now that I have items in the Control Center, that used to be visible in the menubar, I’ll be accessing Control Center more frequently. Rather than clicking Control Center, I wanted a keyboard shortcut to toggle it open and closed. I did this with a Keyboard Maestro macro.

Credit maxwellj02 for the apple script:

tell application "System Events"
    tell process "Control Center"
        tell menu bar item "control center" of menu bar 1
            click
        end tell
    end tell
end tell

By the way, my Big Sur install went perfectly and I haven’t had any issues.