Answering reader questions about the arrows on screenshots

I get lots of questions about how to do things on Apple products. In this case, the reader asked:

In her article…”Dealing with Adobe Flash Player" Pat uses some red arrows to illustrate items in the Safari Preferences/ Extensions section. Are those arrows made with Skitch, or if not, what program ? They really help to pinpoint what to look at.

While others extoll the wonder of Skitch, I try to use Apple's included programs as much as possible so that I can easily explain them to others.

For those screenshots, I started with a screen shot made using Command - Shift - 4. This command changes your cursor into crosshairs on your screen. It also shows the position of the cross hairs on the screen.


There is another keyboard combination, Command - Shift - 3. It will take a shot of the entire screen. I seldom use it because I usually want just a portion of the screen.

I have my Mac set to open Preview when I double-click a graphic. To set this up, highlight the file.


Now go to the File menu in the Finder . Select Get Info…


You will then see a box similar to this:


In the Open with menu button, select Preview. Below that button, there is an button to “Change All… Select that button if you would like all graphics to open in Preview.

When you open the graphic in Preview, the tool bar may be too short to show the Edit tools. In that case, click and drag the lower right corner of the window (notice the red circle below.


The last item in the standard Preview toolbar is Edit. It is possible that you will not see the entire toolbar unless you open the window to a wide view.

When you click the Edit button, it will turn blue and many icons will appear. You will want to open the window wide enough to see all the icons.


You can see the tools and what they control in the above picture. Notice that I snuck in an extra, the Text tool. While its color is controlled by the Color button, the font choice and size are controlled in the Preview > Tools menu


When you are finished making changes to the picture, Save it.

You can add questions and comments to blog articles by clicking the word Comments at the end of the article.

It will open an additional area where you can type. I use the Disqus commenting system. You may already have a Disqus account if you leave comments on other web sites.

The reader asked several other questions. I while I will be answering the one about 1Password here on the blog, another question is specific to his computer. In general, I do not answer that kind of a question here. If you want specific help, please consider sending a request for help. We can use our special software to take a look at your computer to teach you how to do something. The cost is $60.00 per hour. Send us a message at or give us a call at 408 627-7577.


Putting icons on the desktop and sidebar

Back in earlier Macintosh Ddays, we tended to have several things on our Finder (desktop), placed there by the operating system. Soon, some people began to think of the desktop as a place to store things. Some people took it to the extreme. Their desktops began to look like this:


While it might be useful (?), it also causes the computer to continually redraw the icons to keep track of them. When your desktop looks like this, it is slowing your computer down.

To remedy the problem, the engineers at Apple decided to unclutter the desktop by turning off some icons. While a clean desktop is the ideal, there are times when having some icons visible on the desktop is desirable.

If I teach you how to put some icons back on your desktop, will you promise not to leave it looking like this the screenshot?

When you would “prefer” to have your computer act in a different way, you need to work with the “Preferences” There are lots of preferences on your Mac and in order to change them, you need to look for Preferences in each application. They are stored under the application’s name.


Open the Finder Preferences, choose the button for General. Place a check in each of the boxes and your hard drive and any connected devices will appear on your Finder (Desktop)


Click on the button for Sidebar. I have checked every item. It simply makes it much easier to navigate around my computer and our home network if I can see all these items in my sidebar.


I would recommend marking all the items in “Favorites” and “Devices”. If you have a home network, the items under “Shared” will also be useful.

Look for a coming blog post where I talk about fonts.



Dealing with Adobe Flash Player

I woke up to the news of yet another Adobe Flash Player security concern. The article is on the Mac Observer web site.

So, just what is Flash? According to

Adobe Flash Player is the standard for delivering high-impact, rich Web content. Designs, animation, and application user interfaces are deployed immediately across all browsers and platforms, attracting and engaging users with a rich Web experience

According to

Adobe Flash (formerly called "Macromedia Flash") is a multimedia and software platform used for authoring of vector graphics, animation, games and rich Internet applications (RIAs) that can be viewed, played and executed in Adobe Flash Player. Flash is frequently used to add streamed video or audio players, advertisement and interactive multimedia content to web pages, although usage of Flash on websites is declining.

Steve Jobs had
very strong feelings about Flash and refused to incorporate it into iOS, the operating system for Apple’s iPhones and iPads.

Flash works on Macintosh computers, but in my experience, it is more of a curse that a feature. In fact, it is usually to blame for many of my computer headaches. I decided to strictly control it several years ago and I could not be happier! The problem with Flash is that it just doesn’t know when to stop! Flash is an Internet browser extension. If it is used on a web site, Flash Player starts up and it does not turn itself off until you quit the browser (think Safari, Firefox, Chrome etc.) While it runs in the background it continues to demand RAM from your computer and it slows down the processor, making your computer run slower--and slower--and slower. Soon you begin to see spinning beach balls each time you try to click a link or even use a different application.

There are ways to limit the effects of Flash on your computer. I use
ClickToFlash, a Safari Browser Extension. It prevents Flash content from loading automatically. When I encounter Flash content, I see this:


If I click the Flash button the content for the clicked box shows. When I leave the webpage, ClickToFlash turns the Flash player off. It doesn’t turn on again until I click another Flash box.

Screen Shot 2013-09-11 at 9.36.10 AM

When you go to the
web page for ClickToFlash, there are download links for both ClickToFlash and the ClickToPlugin. Today we are only going to deal with ClickToFlash. When you click the link, this is downloaded to your Download folder:


Double click on it and this will appear:


Click the Install button and a web page will appear where you can choose just what the ClickToPlugin will do:


In general, you can ignore this for the moment. An easier way to learn about ClickToFlash is to go back to the webpage. If you want to get it back, the easiest way is to open Safari Preferences.


Make sure you have selected Extension at the top and ClickToFlash in the left column. Click the link to Marc Hovis to get back to his web page for explanations and instructions. You will make any changes by clicking on “Click this checkbox to access the settings.


In general, the defaults work well, but if you want to tune it more finely, there are lots of choices.

In tomorrow’s article, we’ll look at just how to install Flash updates. You would think it would be easy, but through experience, I know that about 75% of our clients don’t manage to install all those Adobe Flash Player updates!


New Apple Products – Getting the Bigger Picture

Do you remember the World Wide Developer Conference Keynote back in June? It had some really important announcements. No, I am not talking about iOS 7 or Mac OS X Mavericks. I am talking about the new MacBook Airs and the new technology they introduced. I am also talking about the new AirPort Time Capsule and AirPort Extreme that were not really a part of the Keynote, but they were addd to the Apple Store that day.

If you go to the links for the AirPorts you will see this graphic:

The big deal is the addition of the new
802.11ac specification. This change will mean faster data speeds, double channel bandwidth, support of dual-band and a new antenna array to make the Wi‑Fi signal stronger and clearer.

Okay, enough with the spec mumbo-jumbo. This is what it really means.

While each new iteration of Apple products adds new features, occasionally a feature is added that causes the whole landscape to change. This new Wi-Fi standard will have that effect. Right now even 802.11n is pretty slow. It is fast enough for streaming video and high quality audio to one or two devices, but that is not what happens in my home in the evening. We are frequently streaming video from one of our AppleTVs while one or more people are multitasking on their iPads or iPhones. When one of the other 3 or 4 computers begins a backup to the Time Capsule, things slow down and we see pauses and pixelations. We need better wireless throughput--and that is what this new standard will provide.

As we wait for the September Apple product announcements, there are many industry pundits who are making all sorts of predictions. I usually don’t make my own, but this time I will.

Apple will be replacing every piece of equipment in its lineup in the next few months. We have already seen new MacBook Airs and Wi‑Fifi devices. I look for the Airport Express and the AppleTV to be replaced. Apple has already announced the new MacPro. Look for a complete refresh of the MacBook Pro, iMac and Mac Mini lines. Expect all new iPads and iPhones.

It is Apple’s adoption of the new Wi‑Fi standard that is the game changer. Since Apple products have defined the wireless computing space since the introduction of the first AirPort, this new standard will quickly be added to the entire Apple product lineup.

The June WWDC announcements were a signal to me to begin my upgrade plans. I bought the new AirPort Time Capsule the day after it was introduced. I knew I would be replacing my older Time Capsule with a new one because my daughter and son-in-law were in need of a larger back-up device. I will be replacing my beloved 17” MacBook Pro because the hard drive is now too small, I need more RAM, and its processors are showing their age. I need a new bigger, faster main computing device.

The iPhone 5S looks to be a major improvement over my iPhone 5. I am looking forward to the rumored camera and flash improvements, the rumored fingerprint sensor--and the 802.11ac Wi-Fi. I am intrigued by the gold color and I am seriously considering the 128GB of storage space. I like to record video with my iPhone and it takes up a lot of room!

I will also be getting a new iPad. I haven’t decided if I will choose the Mini or the regular iPad. The deciding factor may be the Retina display. I really like it in my iPad 3 and I do not want to return to a regular display.

As for the Apple TV, we now own two of them. I will buy at least one new Apple TV because of 802.11ac. My buying plans will depend on the form factor of the new products for TV.

That leaves my two AirPort Extremes. Both are 802.11n devices. They are used to extend our wireless network. Its signal is affected by our wall of electronics in my kitchen. Since I added the new 802.11ac Time Capsule, the Wi-Fi signal seems to do better, but I am waiting to test it with a new device.

I am really looking forward to the improved wireless speed. Although our entire home has Ethernet wiring, we use Wi‑Fi for our computers and Apple TVs. Because we have so many devices in our home, I am looking forward to faster data.

Here is a little buying advice. Because Apple will be releasing all its new devices with the new standard, this is not the time to be buying close-out and refurbished Apple devices. This new Wi‑Fi standard will be around for the next 5-7 years. It will be a game changer!


Taming your menu bar with Bartender

I am a long-time Mac user. I also like things to be convenient and easy to get to. Perhaps that is why my Dock looks like this:

There are 56 icons in my Dock. I try to thin it out occasionally, but those are 56 things that I think I need to be able to get to without searching. My everyday Mac is a 17 inch MacBook Pro, so I have a lot more screen real estate than an 11 inch MacBook Air. Even the 15 inch MacBook Pro, non-Retina has a much narrower screen.

I keep 32 items in the Favorites section of my sidebar:


Perhaps that is why I keep 32 items in the right end of my menu bar! Click on the graphic to get a better view!


I reduced the width of these pictures to 650 pixels so that I could show you the effect of keeping so many items in my menubar. If your eyesight was really good, you would be able to notice that I am showing you how they look in the Finder. That is good because the Finder has the smallest number of menu items in the left side of the menu bar. Use an application like Adobe Photoshop Elements and you go from seven items in the left side of the menu bar to eleven--and just about all of the words are longer. That means some of my Menu Bar icons will disappear when I am using an application with lots of menu items! You can click on the graphic to get a better view of my menu bar.

While I am certain that most of you don’t have nearly so many items in your menu bar, I suspect you could probably do with a few more to make your computing life easier.

To add to my problem, I do lots of presentations so I am frequently lowering the resolution of my screen when it is displayed on an LCD projector or on a large-screen TV. This is what the menu bar looks like on my projector:


These are the missing icons.

And this is what it looks like when it is attached to a monitor:

These are the missing icons:

I have little choice in where the icons are displayed in the menu bar. When they disappear, I am simply not able to use them.

When these kinds of issues appear in the Macintosh, there is usually a developer who has the same problem and he writes an application to solve it. In this case I discovered
Bartender from Surtees Studios. When Bartender is installed an icon that looks like an ellipsis (&hellipWinking is added to my menu bar.


When you click the ellipsis the rest of your menu bar icons appear in a bar under the visible items:

ellipsis bar

Notice the small gear at the end of the lower bar. Click it and you can configure Bartender:

ellipsis preferences

These are some of the available choices in the Preferences menu:


When I am in the Menu Items area, I can choose how Bartender will interact with each icon. I want to always see the Time Machine icon, so I have chosen Nothing (see above). In the case of Universal Access, I don’t use it too much, so I choose to have it appear in the Bartender Bar:


There are many more ways to adjust Bartender. It is easy to configure.

While many applications are free, developers often earn their living or make extra money by developing applications and selling them. In the case of Bartender, there is a four week free trial available. After that, the charge for it is $15.00. I really appreciate the functionality of Bartender, so the price seems fair to me. If you set your screen to a lower resolution or if you use an LCD projector, I suspect $15.00 will seem like a good price!