Hide, split and restrict with new Mac options.

Mac may be introducing only a handful of new options in its latest releases, but the feature set makes up in quality what it lacks in quantity. This week’s tech tips will find us back on the Mac side of the computer world, while we let the Windows users mull over the Windows 10 upgrade discussed last week.

  1. Automatically hide or show the menu bar

The menu bar has been a staple on the Mac desktop since its first release in 1984. In the years that have passed, it was an option that could be used, but not hidden. It sat there with an alluring yet ominous presence, hiding a portion of that wallpaper scene that we so adoringly love. With OS X, you can regain that small portion of real estate and see your wallpaper in all its glory. Open System Preferences, then go to General and click on “Automatically hide / show the menu bar.” You can still glide your mouse over the area once occupied by your menu bar and it will re-appear ready for use. Mouse away from it, and it disappears once again.

  1. Use split screen

The use of two windows or apps side-by-side just got easier with the release of OS X El Capitan. Hold down a left-click on an open app’s green Maximize button and drag it to the left or right of the screen, then release. Next, click on a second open window or app to snap to the opposite side.

If you already have a window in full-screen view, you can still view it in split screen by going to Mission Control and dragging a new window onto the thumbnail of the full screen app. Next, click on the second app you would like to open.

Apps that need more screen real estate to enter split view may display a message that they are not available in full screen mode. This is not always true, they may just need a higher resolution on your monitor. Setting a higher resolution will give your apps more screen real estate.

If holding down the full-screen button doesn’t enter split view, go to Apple menu – system preferences, click Mission Control, and make sure “Displays have separate spaces” is checked.

3. Restrict what someone can do – and when!

 

The parental controls in OS X may appear simple at first glance, but there are plenty of additional options in there – some that go beyond basic underage access restrictions. A few of the more useful options include setting a “bedtime” after which users won’t be able to access the computer, limiting the functions or accessibility of apps of a user, or restricting computer use to a certain length of time each day,

Summary:

We have knocked out three more off the infamous list of 50 things to do with your Mac. Only 44 more to go. Keep checking back for more great Mac and Windows tips in future articles. If you have any you would like to share, email me at pailwriter@outlook.com and we will try to get them in an upcoming article.

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Windows 10 Free upgrade ending soon

Windows 10 free upgrade ending July 29. Microsoft is engaged in a final push to get users to upgrade, pushing fresh new features and overhauls to its design. However, is Windows 10 right for you? Here are some arguments, both for and against the upgrade.

For the upgrade:

1. New Features

Not everyone agrees about the value of Windows 10’s new features, but most agree the new operating system (OS) offers more than previous versions of Windows. The introduction of Cortana, a new virtual assistant, who’s intentions are to provide you with traffic and weather reports for your day and answer simple questions. Cortana also helps with your scheduling and to-do lists.

Rendering 3D graphics in games and other applications is boosted with the new DirectX 12 including faster boot times than that of Windows 7 and 8.1 and more support for multi-monitor setups. Side note: DirectX 12 can also be installed on Windows 7 and 8.

Storage from and to multiple drives, both locally and online, can be pooled more easily.

2. Support and Upgrades

While Windows 7 and 8 still have some years left before Microsoft stops supporting them, Windows 10 is being promoted as the “last” OS your computer will need. However, they are reflecting in their lifecycle fact sheet that support will end Oct, 14. 2025.

Rumor has it that Microsoft will eventually move Windows and Office to become a service or subscription after the 2025 end date for Windows 10. There was some thought of this as early as Windows 7 when it was in production and known only by its codename Blackcomb.

3. The return of the desktop

Windows 10 brings back the familiar desktop and start menu – well kind of. The start menu looks similar to the Windows 7 version, but has the tiled start screen from Windows 8 tethered to the side.

Some nifty upgrades to the Windows desktop include better support for Virtual Desktops and an enhanced Task View. These allow the user to easily jump between open apps and virtual desktops.

4. Better data access

Windows 10 takes advantage of Internet connectivity in a way its predecessors don’t, plugging users into a wider range of information and automatically syncing information with cloud services.

Searching from the Windows 10 taskbar will search more than just files on the hard drive, it will also search Windows Store apps and Microsoft’s Bing search engine. Windows 10’s integration with cloud services such as OneDrive helps automatically sync files between PCs and Cortana can share your profile between devices.

Against the upgrade:

1. New Features

The new smart assistant Cortana is not actually that smart, according to most users I have talked with. Often responding to simple questions with a Bing search rather than a direct answer, I found it frustrating and had better results with a simple Google search done by myself. The new Edge browser should have been a good idea, but with most new web browsers, it needs a lot of work. It lacks key features that are common-place in other browsers such as Firefox.

2. Privacy

Windows 10 collects more data than I am comfortable with. I am okay sharing how I use Windows and what apps I use, but I am concerned about Windows collecting what I type, my contacts and location. When Cortana is enabled, this data extends to my web browsing history, voice commands and more. The data gathering settings can be turned down, but not off.

Updates on Windows 10 also happens more frequently than older versions of Windows. Users have less control over when updates are done and what changes these updates will make.

3. Old Hardware / Software

Windows 10, like other Windows releases, does not support certain older hardware or software. I am not referring to items from the 80’s, I’m talking about hardware and software that worked fine on Windows 7. I found that printers are the least supported item, but some video cards were not supported either. When I spoke to the Microsoft tech support, their response was to simply buy newer hardware.

Older software that I paid good money for was no longer supported, but I could (with some software) buy an upgrade from that company that did allow it to function on Windows 10. So now I’m left to wonder; how much is that FREE upgrade to Windows 10 really going to cost me?

4. Missing features

A key item missing from Windows 10 is the Windows Media Center. This software was designed for TV, music and movie playback. The Windows store offers a version for you to download, but at an extra cost. There are some open-source (free) media programs out there to fill in the gaps.

Solitaire is still there but it comes with full page ads that you have to work around. You can disable them, but only by purchasing the solitaire game from the Windows store.

Another issue I found was that on some laptops, Windows 10 did not allow moving icons on the desktop. Where they landed is where they stayed. Even when creating a new icon, it was populated on the desktop in a random spot and was not movable. So, I could not arrange my icons to my viewing pleasure.

Conclusion:

If you decide to make the upgrade, there is one option not found in previous versions of Windows, the option to go back to Windows 7 or 8. You have 30 days to revert back to your original OS if you decide Windows 10 is not a benefit to you. In my experience, this option works most of the time. Two of the computers I tried this on crashed beyond repair.

So, there is a short list of my pro’s and con’s regarding the upgrade. I will leave it up to you the user to determine if the upgrade would be a good thing. My personal opinion is, if you are a heavy graphics user, (games and video) you may want to try it out. If you are a basic user, (Internet, email, word, etc) you may want to stick with Windows 7 or 8.

Mac OS X Tips and Tricks

For all you Mac enthusiasts out there, this is your time to shine with tips galore. We all know your Mac can do millions of things, but sometimes even the best of us forget some of the really cool stuff it can do for us. Below is a few of the 50 popular tips in my arsenal.

Disclaimer – much to my disappointment, I must emphasize that some of these tips need recent versions of OS X such as OS X 10.10 Yosemite or OS X 10.11 El Capitan, but not all them do. Some are tips that Apple has slipped into upgrades that you may have totally missed, while others may be classic “aha” moments of “I totally forgot you could do that!”

  1. Making your Mac Talk and Listen

A feature in OS X 10.8, is Mac’s ability to talk to and listen to you. (Unlike my kids who never seem to listen but certainly enjoy the art of speaking their minds.) While these are often pinned as accessibility features, they can be useful tools for everyone. We are all guilty of shooting off an email without proofreading or attaching a document we scanned over too quickly. As humans we have a tendency to ‘auto-fill’ words as we proofread our own work. Instead, select the text and go to Edit> Speech> Start Speaking. You may control the speed and select from a variety of preloaded voices in the Dictation and Speech System preference pane.

If you find that you use this feature often, enabling a keyboard shortcut is the best option. The default shortcut is Option + Esc, but you can change this in the Dictation and Speech pane.

Your Mac is also a good listener. In OS X 10.8 you can also dictate text anywhere you would normally type. Using the default options in Mac, simply press the Function key twice and then start talking. No need for those bloated overpriced Text to Speech programs; Mac has it built in.

  1. Signing PDFs Without Printing and Scanning

We may be brainiacs of the 21st century,  but we are still signing hard copies of all manner of things. When you are emailed a PDF to sign and email back, you know the routine. Open, print, sign, scan, reply and attach. Mac users can avoid all this and actually sign the PDF right in the email.

Drag a PDF into the email you’re sending, hover over it, then at the top right you’ll see a little button appear. Click it and you get a range of Markup options, including an option for signing documents. You can also add your signature by holding a signed piece of paper up to your webcam. Mac does a great job of cutting it out of the background. You can also sign with your trackpad. If you have an iPad stylus, you can use that instead of your finger.

  1. Import with Image Capture

Mac users sometimes overlook Preview’s power features and almost always ignore Image Capture completely. Before you spend your family’s fortune on bloatware apps that bog down your computer with worthless software, you may want to revisit Image Capture in your Utilities folder. This Mac default program allows you to control most modern scanners (including the ones built into multi-function printers) both wireless and wired. You can also import from digital cameras, including the iOS devices.

Open Image Capture and pop up the panel at the bottom left corner for extra options. Here is where you tell your Mac which app should launch when you connect your devices (including ‘none’.) For example; you could launch Aperture when you connect your digital camera, but launch nothing when you dock your iPhone.

We still have 47 more cool tips, but we can’t list them all here at once. Keep checking back for more great Mac and Windows tips in future articles.