Adam C. Engst, publisher of the excellent TidBITS newsletter ("Mac news for the rest of us"), called out to the Twitterverse for help with a pet vexation. He wanted to be able to simply click on the Desktop and have all Finder windows come in front of all other windows. Normally when you click the Desktop, the Finder is activated but its windows may be obscured behind those of other applications.
And thus FinderFront was created. It is a simple — and completely free — tool to bring all Finder windows to the front when you click anywhere on the Desktop. If the Finder is already active, it does nothing, to avoid blocking selection of any icons on the Desktop.
It doesn't show any windows or menus when launched, and doesn't appear in the Dock, so it'll be practically invisible. If you find it useful and want it to keep working after you restart your Mac, add it to your Login Items in the Accounts pane of your System Preferences.Download FinderFront now! It's free!
Simon version 2.5b2 has now been released:
Saturday is the 25th anniversary of the introduction of the first Macintosh.
I first used a Mac back in high school in New Zealand, where I volunteered as head student librarian. The school had mostly Apple IIe computers, but bought one of the newfangled Macintosh computers in 1984. It was an original 128K Mac, with a single internal floppy drive. Back then, the OS, an application, and data fit on a single 400K disk. We used MacWrite for letters and other documents, MacPaint for occasional graphics, and the OverVUE database for some records... though not a full book catalog.
I bought my first Mac four years later while at university, in 1988. It was a Macintosh Plus, one of the new platinum-colored models. And I even had a second 800K floppy drive and a dot-matrix printer! Later, I added an external hard drive (I think it was 10 MB, though I could be wrong).
Those were the days... working on a 9-inch 512 x 342 pixel monochrome display... which is actually not much more than the iPhone screen resolution, to give some perspective.
When my wife and I got married, Apple gave us a PowerBook 150 as a wedding present, since we had met while using Macs with the fledgling internet. Our wedding was covered on local TV news and newspapers. Yep, meeting over the internet was a novel concept back then.
Just before we moved to the US, we bought a clamshell iBook G3, which we still have, though I only use it for Mac OS X 10.3.9 compatibility testing. Then an iMac G4, which sadly seems to have passed away, a PowerMac G5 that I still use for Mac OS X 10.4 testing and as a music server, and lastly my current machine, a 17" MacBook Pro.
(We've also had a few other Macs: a Mac mini we use with our TV, a MacBook I bought to take to WWDC before I got my MacBook Pro, then subsequently gave to my wife's mom, and my wife has had a couple of 15" MacBook Pros.)
All in all, it's been a great 25 years. I've enjoyed using and owning the various Macs over this time, and look forward to many more years. Happy birthday, Mac!
Simon, my flagship product to monitor websites and servers for changes and failures, has been updated to version 2.5b1, the first beta release of a feature update.
This update includes several great improvements:
Services and Notifiers:
Yesterday I talked briefly about the updated Dejal website design, but I didn't mention the biggest change: the whole site is now displayed in an optimized state when viewed on an iPhone or iPod touch.
When viewed there, it will use a simplified header with just the Dejal logo, plus special menus similar to iPhone-native ones, and will display the sidebar content after the main body content. It also fits the text to the screen, adjusts image sizes if too large, and other optimizations:
So how do you access the other pages? Simply tap the Dejal logo to display a special menu page, that includes the items from the normal page header in an iPhone-friendly menu. The Mac and iPhone pages are also displayed more simply, too.
There is also a checkbox at the bottom of every page to toggle iPhone-optimized mode off and on (as you can see in the above picture). By default it is on, but if you turn it off the page will change to use the same layout as on your Mac or PC, where you can pinch to zoom etc as normal:
One thing worth mentioning: since the Forum etc tables are too wide to fit, they now scroll horizontally. There's no real need, but if you want to see obscured columns you can use two fingers to scroll horizontally:
I hope you enjoy the changes! Again, please let me know if you notice any issues with any aspect of the new website design.
Over the last couple of weeks I've been tweaking the Dejal website design. Nothing too radical, but some visible changes, and a number of behind-the-scenes changes too. The redesign is now live.
The most visible change is the page header: it no longer has the app icons. Instead, it has new Mac and iPhone items, which lead to pages of those products. The header also looks more modern than it did.
The reason for moving the product icons out of the header was simply that it was running out of space. I recently released my first iPhone app, SmileDial, and will be releasing more new apps this year.
The apps aren't gone completely, though: I've added them to two boxes in the sidebar, one for Mac apps and the other for iPhone apps. The Mac box includes an item for my free stuff, too.
On the product pages, I've made several more changes. The product icon, name and slogan are now displayed above the body content, and the submenu of product pages is drawn differently. Plus the buy/download links in the sidebar are drawn differently, with boxes for beta and older versions as well as the current general release, where appropriate.
I'm still tweaking a few aspects of the site design, but it's mostly done. If you notice any broken links, overlapping or incorrectly sized blocks, or other things that don't look right, please let me know.
My blog posts often just cover new releases, but sometimes I post general-interest or developer-interest topics. Some highlights from 2008 included:
I hope you enjoyed these posts.
The year 2008 was another interesting year for Dejal. Here are some highlights:
Simon: My flagship website and server monitoring tool had one significant update, version 2.4, with a couple of fix updates bringing it to 2.4.2. These versions added the Twitter and Calendar plug-ins, plus enhancements to several others, and lots of other improvements. What's next? Version 2.5 is currently in development, and will have the first beta release shortly. It includes a significant new SMS notifier, plus other enhancements.
Time Out: My handy break reminder tool was updated to version 1.5.2, plus some work was done on version 2. I had hoped to get version 2 released in 2008, but it got postponed due to some other projects. What's next? Version 2 is still coming, probably around May 2009.
Caboodle: This handy snippet-keeper app was updated to version 1.2. This release included several encryption enhancements and other improvements. What's next? I have a long list of ideas for Caboodle. It should see several significant enhancements in 2009.
Narrator: My fun speech synthesis app had a major upgrade and rewrite using Leopard technologies, plus some fix releases bringing it to version 2.0.3 currently. This major upgrade was much deserved, since the previous release was back in 2003! I also started experimenting with giving away Narrator licenses via TrialPay. What's next? Narrator 2.1 will be released before the end of the year, with fix releases before that.
BlogAssist: This useful HTML markup tool was updated to version 2.2, with 2.2.1 the latest release. It added much-requested repeating formatting, and other changes. What's next? I have several ideas for BlogAssist, too, with several updates planned.
Macfilink: My affiliate link cloaking app was updated to version 1.5 and released as freeware. This was a tricky decision, but I still feel that it was the right one. I don't currently plan on any further improvements to it, as it does it's one job very well, but will do bug-fix releases as needed.
SmileDial: I released my first apps for iPhone in 2008. SmileDial Lite and SmileDial Pro are innovative apps using a visual address book for your favorite people, to make it easy to text and call one or more people. What's next? A minor release will be done soon, with some feature enhancements planned.
What else will 2009 bring? I'm about to start a new Mac app with a companion iPhone app as a joint venture with another developer. I want to write at least one other new iPhone app, too. But I don't want to push back updates to my existing apps more than necessary. I'm also currently working on some updates to the website, including optimizations when viewing on an iPhone, which I'll roll out soon.
I'm looking forward to another great year. Thank you to all of my customers who have helped support Dejal.
It's the end of the year, so it's time for my traditional list of the cities I spent one or more nights in during 2008:
Portland, OR (home)
Warm Springs, OR
Not very much travel this year... no air travel at all, which is rather unusual. Next year my wife and I are hoping to get back to New Zealand for a visit around Christmas time... but we've talked about that for years, so who knows if we'll actually do it.
I'm pleased to be able to participate in macZOT's New Year's Bundle. I'm including Dejal Caboodle, my handy app to store snippets of text, images, PDFs, and other documents in an organized way. Read the product page for more information about it.
This bundle includes several great apps, perfect for those who just got a Mac for Christmas, and for long-time Mac owners. It is also a responsible bundle: $5 from each sale is donated to Heifer International to help people around the world feed themselves. This is a great charity organization that I personally support too.
Check it out:
I've just added a demo video to the SmileDial site, that goes through most of the functionality in SmileDial Pro (SmileDial Lite is very similar, but without the multiple-people features and the shake-for-contact-info feature).
I recorded the video using the excellent ScreenFlow application, recording SmileDial Pro running in the iPhone Simulator. Then I tidied it up a bit to remove lengthy hesitations in my interaction (but the speed of the app isn't changed). I had to fake displaying the contact info via a shake, since the simulator can't do that; ScreenFlow's animation ability helped with that, moving a static image of the contact info into view and out again in almost exactly the same way it appears in reality. I also inserted static images to simulate making a call and creating a text message. And I replaced the status bar with static images (black and white ones) to avoid distracting clock jumps in my edits and when looping.
It turned out that ScreenFlow refused to export the portrait orientation as .m4v video without stretching it, so I exported it in Lossless format then used QuickTime Pro to convert to .m4v, which can be played both on desktop machines and the iPhone. The movie auto-plays inline on the Mac, and plays on command full-screen on the iPhone, for the genuine experience.
For fun and a better context, I embedded it in an iPhone frame on the page. I also added some more screenshots.
Portland only gets a few snow days per year (sometimes none at all), so when it does snow, drivers aren't always prepared. A couple of years ago I posted an amusing/scary video from downtown Portland, and today I encountered another one, from the current snowy weather we're having. This time, it's a small hill in the Southwest Waterfront district. The amazing difference: not one accident!
SmileDial Pro and SmileDial Lite are now both available on the iPhone App Store. Here's a product-page-as-blog-post description of both editions:
Call someone by touching their smile, or send them a text message by touching their eyes! Not as creepy as that sounds, really! SmileDial displays a photo of someone's face: tap the top half of the photo to send them a text message, or the bottom half to call them.
SmileDial Lite helps you call and text your favorite person. SmileDial Pro extends this to multiple people: swipe through multiple faces to choose the one you want. SmileDial Pro also enables you to call them via other phone numbers, send an email, visit their website, map their address, and more, in a fun way: shake the iPhone to show more contact information.
A tap of the button flips the photo over to reveal fields to edit the name and numbers for text messaging and phone calls, plus buttons to show the contact info and change the photo.
When you first use SmileDial, it automatically flips so you can specify a person. You can simply enter a name and numbers and choose a photo. Or you can pick an existing contact, via the Choose a Contact button or the button in the name field. This will ask for a person and, if the they have multiple numbers, which one to use.
If the chosen contact has a nickname, that is used for the name. You can change the name and numbers as desired, too; the original contact won't be altered. After providing one of the numbers, it is automatically copied to the other if blank.
A contact's photo is used for SmileDial, if available. It is previewed in the background of the edit mode. You can also choose another photo: an existing one from the Camera Roll or Photo Library, or take a new photo with the iPhone camera. The photo can be moved and scaled as desired, e.g. to show just the person's face. The new photo is stored in the Camera Roll, so you can import it into iPhoto or use it elsewhere if desired. And again it doesn't alter the contact record, so you're free to have fun with it.
If you want to use a different number, simply tap it to edit. It is automatically formatted. This formatting can be disabled via the Settings app if desired. You can also choose a different number from the contact info: simply clear the field then tap the button to reveal the available numbers of the contact.
Once a contact has been specified, the Choose a Contact button becomes Show Contact Info. Tap this button to access the full contact information.
If you want to change the person used for SmileDial, you can clear the name and tap the button to choose a different contact. But for SmileDial Pro, you have another option: add a new person.
SmileDial Pro includes a People button while editing. Tap it to display a list of people in the order they appear on SmileDial's main side. You can change the order, delete them, or add any number of new ones.
SmileDial includes helpful hints at the bottom of the screen while editing, plus an introductory hint when you first flip back to the main side. This hint can be shown again via the Settings if desired. The About screen includes convenient buttons to access the Dejal website, too... in fact you can tap any of the displayed information to view related pages, e.g. the version number to go straight to the release notes.
SmileDial Lite is available completely free! SmileDial Pro is provided with "sustainable pricing": an inexpensive price that will enable planned updates for both editions. SmileDial is not "abandonware". Dejal is a long-established independent Mac software company, now expanding into iPhone software (which uses much the same Cocoa technology).
Dejal has a reputation for prompt and friendly support. Check out the SmileDial Forum for assistance from the developer and other customers, to suggest new features or enhancements, or provide other feedback.
Today marks the official release of SmileDial Lite, the free edition of SmileDial. This is my first iPhone app... the first of several planned ones.
SmileDial Lite is a simple app. Once configured, it shows your favorite person's face when you launch it, and you touch their smile to call them, or their eyes to create a text message to them. (Get it... talk with the mouth, read with the eyes.)
You flip the photo over to configure (it auto-flips on first launch). Here you can specify the name and numbers to use for text messages and phone calls. You can also display more contact information, and change the photo.
SmileDial Lite is completely free. Check out the SmileDial site for more information, or the iPhone App Store to download it:
SmileDial Pro is currently in review at Apple, and should hopefully be available soon. See the SmileDial Features page for a comparison of the two editions.
In keeping with the topic of my previous blog post on Better living, I thought I'd share something else that might help.
I know that a lot of people who use and enjoy Dejal Time Out do so to protect their vision, which is why I link to the Rebuild Your Vision program from the Time Out site. Of course, many others use Time Out to protect their wrists from RSI, or other reasons.
But for people concerned with the effects of long-term computer use on their eyes, the Rebuild Your Vision program can help to improve common vision problems such as nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism, and aging vision (presbyopia).
The exercises and techniques are designed to strengthen and relax your visual system just as you would any other weak part of your body, improving your vision and helping you to see clearly -- naturally.
The catch is dedicating 25 minutes a day to the exercises and techniques. The program is very easy-to-follow and is laid out in a step-by-step, minute-by-minute format. Once you receive the package you can begin the exercises within 10-15 minutes. Most people see a marked improvement within the first few weeks, with significant improvements in the following 2-3 months.
From today until Christmas Eve, Orlin is offering an additional $20 off the Rebuild Your Vision Program to Time Out users and readers of the Dejal blog. He's also including 4 additional bonus items.
To get your discount, go to:
When you checkout there will be an option to enter a coupon code. Here's the special code you will need to claim your additional discount:
Coupon Code: CHRISTMAS20
What could be better than giving the gift of sight to a friend, a loved one, or yourself this Christmas? Don't go another year with vision problems that are only going to get worse. Take the first step to improving your vision - for life.
With US Thanksgiving coming up tomorrow, I thought I'd take this opportunity to reflect briefly on ways to improve one's life.
Of course, I'd be remiss if I didn't start off by plugging my own contribution to this goal: Dejal Time Out, my handy Mac app that reminds you to take regular breaks, featuring both micro-breaks for a quick breath and longer breaks to get up, move about and stretch. If you're not already using Time Out, I really recommend it. Lots of people have written to tell me how much it has helped them. And it's completely free! Check it out.
But I also wanted to mention a couple of other things. Firstly is a blog posting sent to me by a fan of Time Out, listing 50 video games for physical therapy and rehab. These are games for the Wii and other gaming systems, plus other options, that make physical activity and recovery from injuries fun and easy. That seems like a great way to motivate people to exercise more, or help those who have limited options.
While physical well-being is important, a major area of stress for many people is financial worries — especially in these troubled economic times. An Australian friend of mine, Jason Anderson, has recently started a blog aimed to help people get this area of their lives under control: Live To Budget. The site has budgeting tips, money-saving recipes, and more. If money worries are getting you down, or you just think you could be spending your money more wisely, I recommend taking a look at this site.
Finally, back to the Thanksgiving theme, I just wanted to say that I am very thankful for my great customers. Spending money on Dejal software is always wise. Dejal has enjoyed significant growth this year, so thank you to those who have purchased my products, have donated for Time Out and my other free products, or who have provided feedback to help improve them. I have big plans for the coming year, so stay tuned!
I hope everyone has a safe and enjoyable Turkey Day, if you're celebrating it.
BlogAssist, my handy tool to add HTML tags to text via the clipboard, dragging to a floating window, or inline via the Services menu, has been updated to version 2.2.1:
This is a recommended update for everyone.
So people with discerning tastes of course want only the best ingredients. Once again, the Give Good Food to Your Mac promotion is here to help.
You can select from a delicious range of quality Mac software, sampling each to find just the right items for you. Then construct a recipe of delights, receiving an increasing discount the more you purchase.
I am very pleased to be able to include Dejal Narrator to this elite selection. Narrator is an elegant speech synthesis application that has a unique feature: the ability to mix multiple voices in one document, e.g. to listen to an interview or read out a story with multiple characters. It also supports exporting to iTunes or sound files, so you can make your own synthesized voice podcasts.
So take a moment to browse through the ingredients and enjoy the savings on many fine specimens of Mac software!
Macfilink, my affiliate link cloaking tool, has been updated to version 1.5, and released as freeware.
Yes, that's right: formerly a shareware product, Macfilink is now available to everyone at no cost. The license features have been removed, so it won't remind you to purchase or require entering a license.
If you're not familiar with Macfilink, it is a simple tool to take an affiliate URL and mask it so an affiliate page appears to be one of the pages on your site. You can see an example via the Time Out site for the third-party Rebuild Your Vision program. Notice how the web page address remains on my site, and it (optionally) includes a header linking back to the main Time Out page, with the third-party content below. If you look at the page source, the affiliate link isn't even visible there.
So why did I decide to release Macfilink as freeware? Put simply, because it does one task, and does it very well, but I can't think of any features I want to implement to enhance it. Also, being a very niche tool, it has never been a big seller, which means it isn't really possible to justify spending much time enhancing it, even if I did have some ideas.
Sure, I could keep charging for it, but in my view, if I'm not committing to ongoing enhancements, I shouldn't be charging for it.
I want to emphasize that I am not discontinuing Macfilink. If bugs turn up, I will do maintenance releases as needed. I just don't plan to add new features. It does everything it needs to do.
So download Macfilink and enjoy with my compliments!
Completing the series on Caboodle 1.2, here's information from the updated Caboodle User Guide, describing the new Security preferences:
The Preferences window is displayed via the CaboodlePreferences... menu item. This is the Security page. It includes options for the encryption features.
Default password: This password is one that can be offered in the encryption and decryption sheets, if there isn't a password in the keychain for the entry, or a previously-entered password. It is therefore mainly useful when you launch Caboodle, if you don't store passwords in the keychain. This default password is also stored in the keychain, to keep it safe. There is no default password initially.
The following checkboxes are grouped by encrypting and decrypting, so you can have different behaviors for each if you prefer. These are evaluated in this order, so a keychain password takes priority over a previously entered one or the default password:
Offer the password saved in the keychain for this entry, if any: If this checkbox is selected, Caboodle will look in the keychain for a password previously used for this entry. If there is one, it will be offered in the encryption/decryption sheet. This is on by default.
Offer the password previously entered for any entry, if any: If selected, Caboodle will offer whatever password you most recently used for any entry. For example, if you encrypt an entry then select another entry and ask to encrypt it too, Caboodle will offer the same password as a suggestion. You can of course type another one if you wish. This defaults to on.
Offer the default password: This checkbox indicates that you want to be offered the default password, as entered above, if there isn't a password in the keychain or a previously entered password. This defaults to on.