Practice Piano Scores The Fun Way With Synthesia And Your Keyboard

practice pianoThere are some people who claim that playing Guitar Hero doesn’t teach you how to play guitar. I hate to break it to you, but those people have it by the right end.

However, that doesn’t mean we should dismiss computer-aided learning of musical instruments. We previously published articles on the same note, where I detailed 3 Useful And Free iPad Apps For Starting Musicians, and Ryan Dube talked about the Top 5 Sites For Learning Piano Online.

Computer-aided learning, although not always a substitute for a music teacher, gives you the feedback you wouldn’t get from a plain old piano book. Moreover, gamification can it easier to practice piano, and a lot more fun by introducing elements usually found in computer games. Computer games like guitar hero.

Synthesia (Mac) (Windows)

There are many ways to describe Synthesia, which is a free application available for Mac OS X and Windows computers. One way to describe it would be to draw the comparison with Guitar Hero—that is, a game—albeit with a lot more keys. Synthesia can also be seen as more serious (but still fun) application to practice your keyboard or piano skills. On a basic level, it helps you master the scales, and guides you through the finger exercises you’d usually find in an introductory piano course. On a more advanced level, it’ll help you practice complex musical scores.

practice piano

So how does it work? Like Guitar Hero, notes fall down from the top of your screen. Blue and green notes are meant to be played with your left and right hand, respectively. When the note hits the bottom of your screen, you hit the corresponding key on your electrical piano. Using the player, you can slow down or speed up the score to correspond to your playing level.

Keeping track of your hits and misses during the song, Synthesia awards you with a score that shows you how well you performed. Enter the gamificaiton. You can set personal goals and strive to meet them, challenge your friends to beat your scores on the online scoreboard, or compete with the scores of more practiced players.

What You’ll Need

Obviously, Synthesia would be a bit hard to play on your computer keyboard (or worse, using the mouse). Instead, you’re supposed to get out your electrical piano, keyboard, or synthesizer and connect it to your computer.

how to practice piano

Some of the newer keyboards might have a USB interface, but really all you need is a MIDI interface (those ginormous plugs present on most keyboards) and a USB-MIDI adapter, which can be purchased for a few bucks online, or found in musical instruments store. Follow the manual of your keyboard and adapter in connecting it to your computer, and test the connection in Synthesia’s preferences.

Import Additional Songs

Some practice songs and a lot of classical music is already included when you download Synthesia, but you’re not limited to that, or even to what Synthesia provides. In fact, you can use Synthesia to play and practice any MIDI song. A lot of websites that provide musical scores also let you download a MIDI file. Barring that, just search for it on Google, and the chances are good you’ll find something.

how to practice piano

When you’re in the song browser in Synthesia, just press the blue button in the lower left corner of your screen to add additional songs to Synthesia. In the ensuing pop-over (seen in the screenshot above), you can tell Synthesia what folders to watch for additional songs.

Premium Learning Pack Features ($ 35)

Although Synthesia is free to use as is, you can unlock a number of additional features by purchasing the USD 35 Synthesia Learning Pack. Among other things, this sets you up with Melody Practice, finger number hints, sheet music display, note and key labels, and section looping.

practice piano

Melody practice stops the score until you hit the correct note, and the aptly named sheet music display allows you to read the sheet music in addition to observing the falling notes, as shown in the screenshot above. Of course, all of this is completely optional, and Synthesia is worth the try either way.

What do you think of Synthesia’s gamification of piano scores? A great way to promote practice, or distracting the serious musician from more formal tools? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below the article!

8 Smart Folders You Need On Your Mac & How To Set Them Up

Smart folders take a preset search query of your choosing and filters for relevant files accordingly, making them one of the most underused and genuinely useful features of Mac OS X.

These folders have the potential to be immensely useful from a time-saving productivity standpoint, but you’ll need to take the time to set them up properly first.

Mastery of this productivity boon can transform the way you use your Mac, but you’ll need to learn the ropes first — which is where we come in.

What is a Smart Folder?

Here’s the most important point to remember: a smart folder is technically not a folder. It is more a saved search in a new Finder tab. This is why a smart folder is also known as a virtual folder, because unless you run that saved search, the folder will not appear.

A smart folder is therefore one that searches for the files you specify, and places them all in one location for easy viewing. This is especially useful if the files in question are scattered all over your computer, and cannot be moved together into one folder. The smart folder concept also makes an appearance with a smart playlists in iTunes, smart mailboxes in Mail and smart albums in OS X Photos.

So let’s set up a smart folder and see how it all works.

Setting Up a Smart Folder

Open a Finder window and go to File > New Smart Folder. If you prefer the keyboard ninja shortcut approach, hit command+alt+n. Either way, it opens up a new tab in Finder, which will end up being your smart folder.

8 Smart Folders You Need on Your Mac & How to Set Them Up smartfolder1

You’ll be given a choice of locations to search, just click on This Mac for the search to cover your entire hard drive. Next click on the plus “+” sign in the far right of the screen.

8 Smart Folders You Need on Your Mac & How to Set Them Up smartfolder2

You will then be given two menus – Kind and Any.

8 Smart Folders You Need on Your Mac & How to Set Them Up smartfolders3

If you click on the first one (Kind), you will see some search parameters. Kind is the type of file you are looking for, such as the file format, when it was last opened or modified, its name, contents, and so on.

8 Smart Folders You Need on Your Mac & How to Set Them Up smartfolders4

The second menu is context-based depending on what you choose in the first. With “Kind” selected it list the various types of file (Document, Image, Movie and so on) that you may want to filter for in your smart folder.

8 Smart Folders You Need on Your Mac & How to Set Them Up smartfolders5

So let’s say for the sake of argument, you choose “Image”. Instantly, every image on your computer will appear on the screen, along with another menu, giving you the opportunity to finesse it even more with the type of image. The default is JPEG but you can drop the menu to choose others such as PNG, GIF, and more.

8 Smart Folders You Need on Your Mac & How to Set Them Up smartfolders6

If you want to fine-tune your search even more with further parameters, click the plus “+” on the right hand side, and repeat the process. Remember that every parameter you add will make your results more exacting by omitting results based on your criteria. When you are finally satisfied with what you have selected and want to save your smart folder, click the Save button on the right.

Next you’ll need to assign a name to your search. You can also say whether or not you want the search to appear in the sidebar of Finder. For the sake of simplicity, I named the search “JPEG Images”.

8 Smart Folders You Need on Your Mac & How to Set Them Up smartfolders7

To find all of your saved searches, simply go to Library > Saved Searches. You may want to drag that box to the sidebar of Finder instead, so you have ready and instant access to all of your searches.

8 Smart Folders You Need on Your Mac & How to Set Them Up smartfolders9

It’s super easy to edit a saved search. Just click on the search you want to alter, and then click the gears icon at the top of the screen. Click on Show Search Criteria to be taken to the filters again.

8 Smart Folders You Need on Your Mac & How to Set Them Up smartfolders10

Is That It?

In case you are thinking that this is limited to text files or images, let me show you what else smart folders can do. Remember the Kind menu at the beginning? Well, as you can see, that menu has Other at the bottom, and that opens up a huge number of other potential filters:

8 Smart Folders You Need on Your Mac & How to Set Them Up smartfolders11

There are ones for music files, image editing, encryption methods, email, calendars, fonts, and much more. Just uncheck the boxes for the ones you want to include in your filter, and uncheck any that you don’t want included. It’s all very flexible.

There are so many uses for smart folders, that it is limited only by your imagination. My favorite one is filtering out all the huge files taking up the most space on my tiny Macbook Air hard drive. I can then decide whether to keep them or delete them.  And what makes smart folders really smart is that the saved search continually updates, as you add files or delete them to your drive.

Smart Folders You Need

Here are some smart folders which you should be setting up on your Mac. No doubt it will spark more ideas.

Find Out Where All The Huge Files Are

8 Smart Folders You Need on Your Mac & How to Set Them Up filesizegreater

I made it 500MB, but of course, you can change that to whatever you want.

Find & Delete .DMG Installers

8 Smart Folders You Need on Your Mac & How to Set Them Up fileformat

Because they do tend to stack up a bit. If you find your downloads folder is constantly clogged up, you should start taking the trash out automatically!

Find Apps You Haven’t Opened In A While

8 Smart Folders You Need on Your Mac & How to Set Them Up lastopened

This one has multiple time periods, or you can specify your own. This helps you do a bit of spring cleaning by seeing at a glance what you haven’t used recently.

See All .MOV files But Exclude .MP4 Files

8 Smart Folders You Need on Your Mac & How to Set Them Up moviefiles

The second part of this filter can be achieved by holding down the Option key while pressing the “+” button. The “+” then becomes three little dots. Click on that, and you will get what you see above. You could use this for any media or filetype — .JPEGs instead of .PNGs, .DOCX instead of .RTF and so on.

Filter By (Multiple) Tags

8 Smart Folders You Need on Your Mac & How to Set Them Up tags

If you right-click on a file, and choose “Get Info”, you are able to tag the file with keywords. If you want to filter a smart folder by only certain tags (like unfinished work you want to get back to or photos you want printed in one go) then create a filter to do so.

Fine-Tune Your Recently Created Documents List

8 Smart Folders You Need on Your Mac & How to Set Them Up created

If you work a lot on your Mac then it may be useful for you to see all of your recent work in one folder. You can specify a custom time period and make it more specific to your needs by focusing on certain file types (like .XLS spreadsheets) while ignoring everything else.

Generate iTunes Playlist By Genre

8 Smart Folders You Need on Your Mac & How to Set Them Up itunes

iTunes also employs uses smart folders, which it aptly dubs smart playlists. Open iTunes and select File > New > Smart Playlist and you will get a box like the one above. You can then filter by artist, album, genre, and many more, or you can have 25 songs selected at random if you want a surprise.

Find Your iPhone Photos in OS X Photos

8 Smart Folders You Need on Your Mac & How to Set Them Up iphonesmartalbum

Just like iTunes, OS X new Photos app also employs smart folders as smart albums. These work in an identical manner, allowing you to run a custom query for specific attributes. One handy smart album filters by camera type in order to show you only your smartphone images — if you have multiple years of photos spanning several devices, be sure to include them all!

What smart folders do you use on your Mac?

Learn Your Keyboard Shortcuts Using Cheatsheet [mac]

mac keyboard shortcutsIf you’re growing tired of constantly moving your hand back and forth from your mouse or trackpad to the keyboard in order to launch or quit an application, pause iTunes playing, or copy or paste text, it’s probably time you start learning how to use keyboard shortcuts.

For the Mac, there’s a new free application in the App Store called CheatSheet that provides you with a simple, single-click action to view a list of keyboard shortcuts for the current application you’re working in, including the Finder.

How It Works

CheatSheet works pretty simply. When you’re in an application, you hold down the ?-Key (Command key) for a couple of seconds, and then a list of all the keyboard shortcuts for that application will appear.

mac keyboard shortcuts

The screenshot above is a full screen view of over 50 keyboard shortcuts available in the Finder. The shot below is a zoomed-in view of the list. Keyboard shortcuts are categorized by the same menu items you would find when you click on the menu bar of a current application.

keyboard shortcuts

Of course you probably won’t be able to memorize every keyboard shortcut, but each time you commit yourself to using a keyboard shortcut rather than heading for the same item in the menu bar, you will begin to commit that keyboard shortcut to memory. And that’s where CheatSheet comes in. Yes, it’s somewhat of a hassle to bring up CheatSheet, but the more you use it, the less you will use it over time.

Desktop Wallpaper

If you to want master the keyboard shortcuts for a particular application you use often, you might consider making the CheatSheet list for that application a temporary part of your desktop wallpaper. To do this, you will need a screenshot application like LittleSnapper that can take a timed screenshot while you hold down the ? key for your selected application.

keyboard shortcuts

After you make the screenshot, you can open it in OS X’s Preview application and use the annotation tool to highlight several of the keyboard shortcuts you want to learn. Save the annotated screenshot and use it for your desktop background, where you can quickly glance at the keyboard shortcuts you want to master.

Create Keyboard Shortcuts

Some applications don’t have keyboard shortcuts for particular menu bar items. For example, in Safari, “Reopen All Windows from Last Session” under the History menu doesn’t have a keyboard shortcut; but creating one is relatively easy.

keyboard shortcuts

Launch System Preferences and click on Keyboard. Select Application Shortcuts > Safari. Click the + button and type “Reopen All Windows from Last Session” (without the quotes), and add a unique keyboard shortcut. I chose ??O (Shift+Command+O). Click the Add button to save it. When you navigate back to your Safari, the keyboard shortcut should be added. This process can be done for other menu bar items in any application.

mac keyboard shortcuts

After you add a custom keyboard shortcut, it will show up in CheatSheet as well.

There’s no other features for CheatSheet. Its only Preferences option is setting the delay time (shorter or longer) for launching the sheet after pressing the ? key.

If you find using keyboard shortcuts is a quicker way to navigate your Mac, you might want to try other keyboard shortcut-related applications like Keyboard Maestro and Shortcuts for creating keyboard shortcuts for launching applications, folders and files, AppleScripts, and other system-wide actions.

For other ideas on this subject, check out these articles:

Let us know what you think of CheatSheet and how much you use keyboard shortcuts on your Mac.  What is your favourite shortcut and why?

4 Ways To Get Windows On Your Mac

Want Windows 8 running on your Mac, but don’t know where to start? That’s understandable: there are a lot of options out there, and it can get overwhelming.

Whether you’re interested in more advanced gaming on your Mac, or simply need to run a particular Windows program from time to time, you might feel like you’ve no idea where to start. To make things simple, let’s quickly go over your two main options:

  • Dual Booting: This means that, when you start up your computer, you can pick between running Windows or OS X. Windows can make full use of your Mac this way, but it can be inconvenient – you need to restart your Mac every time you want to switch between operating systems.
  • Virtualization: This means that, when you’re running OS X, you can run Windows at the same time. Windows won’t run as well this way, because it can’t use all of your Mac’s resources, but this method can be more convenient – you can switch between Windows and Mac programs instantly.

Of course, this is just a starting point – things get far more complicated. For example: you can dual boot Windows using the hard drive inside your computer, but you can also boot Windows from a USB drive if you’d like. There are three major programs for running Windows in a virtual machine, all with pros and cons of their own.

So, what’s the best way to get Windows on your Mac? I’d argue it depends on your situation. Let’s look at four methods.

Note: You Need Windows To Do This.

If you want to run Windows 8 on your Mac, you need a copy of Windows 8. There’s no working around this (at least, not legally). You can buy Windows 8 from Microsoft; prices vary.


You can also check sites like eBay or Amazon for discounts. Another thing worth noting: if you’re planning on dual booting, you really should back up your files first.

With that out of the way, let’s explore different ways you can run Windows on your Mac.

1. Dual Boot Windows On Your Mac, Using Your Mac’s Hard Drive

The easiest method, which offers the best performance, but takes up space on your hard drive and requires you to restart your computer every time you want to run Windows. Recommended for gamers.

Your Mac comes with Boot Camp, which makes it easy to dual boot Windows. With this set up you can choose to boot OS X or Windows when you start up your Mac. You’ll want at least 30GB free on your hard drive to do this, and more is recommended if you plan on installing a lot of Windows software.

Getting started is simple: just launch the Boot Camp Assistant found in the Utilities folder.


Start the program up and you’ll be guided through the entire process. Windows drivers for your Mac will be downloaded, a partition will be created on your hard drive and a good chunk of the Windows installation will finish before you even restart your Mac.


Simon showed you how to install Windows 8 on a Macbook using Bootcamp back in 2012, and the process hasn’t changed much since then.

2. Boot Windows On Your Mac From An External Hard Drive

Slightly more difficult method that requires access to a PC running Windows to set up. Worse performance than Boot Camp, but better than most virtual machines. Requires you to restart your computer every time you want to run Windows, but doesn’t take up space on your Mac’s hard drive.


Don’t have a lot of free space on your Mac’s hard drive? It’s also possible to boot a full version of Windows on your Mac from an external drive. You can use this disk on any Mac, and all of your installed Windows programs will come with you.

The catch? You can’t use Boot Camp to set the process up. I’ve found a method that works, but it requires access to a PC running Windows. Ask a Windows-using friend nicely if need be – you’ll only need the machine once.

You’ll also need a free program called WinToUSB, and a USB drive to install Windows onto. I used an old external hard drive, but if you have access to a flash drive bigger than 32 GB it should work. USB 3.0 is recommended.

Setting Up

Plug your USB drive into the PC, then open the Disk Management utility. Right click the USB disk itself (making absolutely certain that it is your USB disk – you’re about to delete all files on the drive).


If you see the option to “Convert to GPT”, click it. This will format the drive, but is necessary in order to create a drive that will boot on your Mac (or any UEFI-compatible device). If you see the option to “Convert to MBR”, don’t click it: simply delete the partitions on the drive.

Double-click the empty space on your newly empty drive and create a FAT32 partition – it doesn’t need to be bigger than 100 MB – to serve as the boot sector. Next, create an NTFS partition for the remaining space – this is where Windows itself will be installed.


Your external drive is now ready for WinToUSB, so fire that application up. You’ll need to point it toward your Windows 8 install disk/ISO, then to your USB drive. Assign the Boot and System partitions you created earlier.


Click next, and WinToUSB will install Windows on your USB drive. When it’s done, unmount the disk from the PC and plug it into your Mac. Shut your Mac down, if it’s currently running, then turn it on while holding the Option key.


You should see your USB drive as an bootable option – click it to continue, and Windows will start (though it may restart once or twice to complete the installation process). You’ll have Windows running, but your WiFi and a number of other things won’t work – you need drivers.

Reboot your Mac to OS X and download the Boot Camp drivers. You’ll probably want to put them on another USB key, so you can access them from within Windows. Reboot into Windows, then run the installer.

Eventually you’ll have a full version of Windows running from USB, complete with Mac drivers. A huge advantage of this set up is you can run the same instance of Windows on any Mac, and all your programs will come with you.

3. Virtualize Windows On Your Mac Using Parallels ($80)

Easy but expensive tool for running Windows on your Mac the same time as OS X. Performance won’t match a dual-boot setup, but you don’t need to restart your computer to run Windows software. Built specifically with Macs in mind. Recommended for anyone who needs to run a few specific Windows programs from time to time.

Setting up virtual machines can be a complicated process, but Parallels makes it simple. Just point the program to your Windows install disk, configure a few settings and the rest is taken care of.

4 Ways To Get Windows On Your Mac setup

We’ve shown you how Parallels lets you run Windows faster, so check that review out for a look at how the program works.

Parallels also offers a lot of great Mac-specific tricks, like support in Windows for your favourite Mac keyboard shortcuts, and letting you create a virtual machine of your Boot Camp partition in just a few clicks (meaning you can run the same instance of Windows as a virtual machines or on its own).

Parallels is generally considered to outperform VMWare Fusion ($50), its main commercial rival, in terms of both performance and features – but Fusion is also a solid, cheaper option to look into. Check out Wikipedia’s comparison of the two apps for a quick rundown.

4. Virtualize Windows On Your Mac Using VirtualBox (Free)

Slightly more difficult software for running Windows on your Mac the same time as OS X. Performance doesn’t match Parallels, but also isn’t much worse. This cross-platform program is short on Mac-specific features.

Time is money, the old saying goes, but that only really applies if you don’t enjoy tinkering. If you’re willing to spend a bit more time getting a virtual machine set up, I highly recommend installing Windows 8 using VirtualBox. It’s what I personally use, mostly to test Windows software.


We offer a complete guide to setting up VirtualBox, so check that out if you want to learn how to use this powerful software.

As for Mac-specific features? A lot is missing out of the box – don’t expect your Mac keyboard shortcuts to keep working. But some things, like copy-pasting between programs, work great. And there’s a lengthy tutorial for running a Bootcamp partition, if you’re willing to spend some time on it.

What Did We Miss?

These four methods are, to me, the best ways to get Windows running on your Mac. Which to use probably depends on your situation, but they should cover most common usage scenarios.

Of course, I could be wrong – which is why I love our readers. They point out things I miss. If you can think of something, let me know in the comments below. Looking forward to it!

Do you run Windows 8 on your Mac? How and why?

How To Take Screenshots On Your Mac: Tips & Tools

There are many ways to take screenshots with OS X, using both built-in and third-party tools — each with its advantages and disadvantages. Here’s everything you need to know about taking screenshots on your Mac, from keyboard shortcuts to great apps.

Screenshot Keyboard Shortcuts in OS X

There are three different OS X keyboard shortcuts that you can use to take screenshots, each that covers a different area.

Command + Shift + 3

This keyboard shortcut will take a screenshot of your entire screen and save it the desktop as a .PNG image.

Command + Shift + 4

This combination allows you to select the part of your screen that you’d like to include in the screenshot. After pressing these keys, your mouse will turn into a crosshair that you can click and drag across the screen; once you’ve selected the area that you want, let go of the mouse button, and the screenshot will be saved to your desktop (if you want to cancel the screenshot, just push escape).

Command + Shift +4 + Spacebar

If you want to capture a specific application window — and nothing else — use this shortcut and then press the spacebar; you’ll see your cursor turn into a camera and the current window will be highlighted. To change the focus to a different window, move the cursor over that window. To switch back to the crosshair, just press the spacebar again.

Additional Controls

If you add the control key to any of the combinations above (for example, command+control+shift+4), the image will be copied to the clipboard instead of being saved in the default location (desktop). Pressing shift will lock your adjustments to either the X or Y axis only (depending on how you’re moving the mouse when you press it).

Pressing the option key will scale the selected area from the center, instead of from where you first clicked. And if you hold the spacebar after selecting an area of the screen, you can move the area that will be captured.

Using Grab, OS X’s Built-In Screenshot App

In addition to the keyboard shortcuts listed above, OS X includes an app called Grab that will let you take screenshots. To find Grab, go to Applications > Utilities or use the Spotlight search feature to search for it. When you open it, you won’t seen any windows, but a number of menu options are available.


In the Capture menu, you’ll see Screen, Selection, and Window, which correspond to the options above. The fourth option, Timed Screen, allows you to take a screenshot 10 seconds after pushing the Start Timer button. This is useful for capturing events that need your mouse to be in a certain place (like a tooltip or a menu).

You can also use the Preferences menu to choose a specific cursor to be displayed in your screenshots. Unfortunately, this means that you don’t always get the correct cursor—but that can be solved by using any of the methods below.

Once you’ve captured your shot, you can simply copy it to the clipboard using the Edit menu and paste it into an image editor like Photoshop or Pixelmator for saving as you see fit.

Taking a Screenshot with Preview

One disadvantage of Grab is that there’s no way to change the file type; your screen capture will be saved as a TIFF file, and there’s no way to change that. If you use Preview instead, however, you can save as any file type.


To take a screenshot with Preview, go to File > Take Screen Shot and select the type of shot you’d like to take (unfortunately, there’s no timed screen option). Once you’ve done this, select the location and file type before you save.

Taking Screenshots with Other Apple Programs

Other Apple programs, including Mail and TextEdit, allow you to take screenshots and embed them directly into your document without first saving and finding your image file. Just right-click in the text area and select Capture Selection from Screen (you’ll need to be in rich-text mode for this to work).


While Capture Selection from Screen is the only option available by default, you can add others from the Services preferences. To do this, go to System Preference > Keyboard > Shortcuts and select Services from the menu on the left. Check the boxes for the types of screenshots that you’d like to include in the pop-up menu in these apps.


Customizing Screenshots with the Terminal

You can use the terminal to change some of the behaviors of screenshots (and do lots of other cool things); most of these are very useful and will help you be more efficient in your screenshot-taking. We’ll go through a list here. To get started, open up the Terminal app (in Applications > Utilities).

You can copy and paste the commands below, which have been appended with killall SystemUIServer — a command which restarts the part of your OS responsible for actioning these changes.

Change the Screenshot File Type

Screenshots are saved by default as PNG files, but you can save them as JPG, BMP, PDF, TIF, and a few other more obscure formats. To change the default screenshot file type, use this command:

defaults write type [type] && killall SystemUIServer

Just replace [type] with the three-letter code for the format you’d like to use.

Change the Screenshot Save Location

By default, your screenshots will be saved to your desktop. If you’d like them to go somewhere, else, you can use the following command:

defaults write location [path] && killall SystemUIServer

You can either type the file location (like /Users/dann/Documents/Screenshots) or drag-and-drop the folder into the terminal to populate it with the proper path.

How To Take Screenshots On Your Mac: Tips & Tools terminal folder e1433772244522

Disable OS X’s Window Shadow in Screenshots

To make your screenshot “pop” a bit more, OS X includes a small shadow around the border of the window when you take a screenshot of a single application. If you’d rather not have this, you can turn it off with this command:

defaults write disable-shadow -bool true && killall SystemUIServer

To turn it back on, just use this:

defaults write disable-shadow -bool false && killall SystemUIServer

Change the Default Filename for Screenshots

When you take screenshots with the keyboard shortcuts, the images are saved with pretty unexciting names, like “Screen Shot 2015-06-09 at 10.08.23.” To change that, you just need to put this into Terminal:

defaults write name [file name] && killall SystemUIServer

If you enter “Spreadsheets” as the [name] variable (you’ll need to use double quotes), your screenshots will now have filenames like “Spreadsheets 2015-06-09 at 10.08.23.” It’s not a big difference, but it might help you organize your files if you take a lot of screenshots.

The Best Screenshot Apps for Mac OS X

If you want more features than OS X provides for taking screenshots, there are a number of apps that you can use. Here are four of the best.


It’s free, it takes both screenshots and videos, it uploads your files to the cloud where you can easily share them, and it has a relatively easy interface. For all of these reasons, Jing is a fantastic option if you’re looking for a more robust screenshot solution than the tools that come with OS X.



We’ve talked about why Skitch is a good option for simple image editing, but it also has built-in screenshot and timed screenshot capabilities. You can annotate your images directly from the app, too, saving you from having to open your file in another program to edit it.


Another well-regarded free app, Monosnap allows you to take screenshots and edit them from the same app; you can add text and arrows, just like in Skitch, making it easy to draw attention to a specific part of the screen. You can store your files in the cloud and share them, as well.


This app makes it super easy to move your screenshots after you take them; just use it to create the image, then drag it to Mail, Finder, Preview, TextEdit, or wherever you want it to go. Couldn’t be easier.

Screenshot Mastery

If you’ve made it this far, you’re officially an OS X screenshot master. You know the keyboard shortcuts, the hidden options, the other apps that can natively take screenshots, and some of the best third-party options. Now that you have all of these skills, you shouldn’t need to run a search for screenshot info again!

What’s your favorite screenshot tip? Is there anything you haven’t been able to figure out how to do? Share your thoughts and questions below!

Which Is Best, A Macbook Air Or Macbook Pro? Both Models Compared Side-by-side

macbook air vs. macbook proYou might think Apple’s relatively small laptop selection would make choosing a model easy. For some people, that’s true, but for others the tight range of options and prices makes for a difficult choice. A consumer with $1,200 could end up looking at both versions of the Air and the 13-inch Pro.

I think all of the MacBooks are a good choice, but the reasons why are various.  A 13-inch MacBook Air has different hardware and options than a 13-inch Pro but, because Apple doesn’t sell laptops based on specs, understanding the differences can be difficult. I’ll help you sort through the clutter and decide which MacBook is for you.

Size & Weight

macbook air vs. macbook pro

If you want small – like, really small – the MacBook Air 11.6” is the only choice. There’s no equivalent Pro model and even the 13-inch Pro w/Retina is about an inch wider and taller, plus it adds well over a pound of weight. But be warned; the 11.6” Air is so small it can be uncomfortable to use.

The 13-inch Air and 13-inch Pro make for a tricky comparison because there’s really two versions of Pro – standard and Retina. The 13-Inch Pro w/Retina is actually thinner and lighter, coming in at 0.75 inches thick and 3.5 pounds. That’s just one-tenth of an inch thicker and a half-pound heavier than the 13-inch Air! Personally, I don’t find this a functional difference, so I recommend buying the 13-inch Pro w/Retina over the Air (if you can afford to).

Those who can’t afford Retina, however, are stuck with the vanilla Pro design. It’s almost an inch thick and weighs 4.5 pounds, so the difference between the 13-inch Air and 13-inch Pro without Retina is significant. Indeed, the old 13-inch Pro is heavy even compared to similar Windows laptops, so it may not be the best pick for those who frequently travel.

Obviously, if you want a 15-inch system, the Pro is the only choice. The gap between the Retina and standard version continues; the 15-inch Pro w/Retina is thinner and weighs just 4.5 pounds while the vanilla model tips the scale at 5.6 pounds.

Battery Life

macbook air pro

The loser in this battery life contest is the 11.6-inch MacBook Air. Apple quotes that it offers up to five hours of wireless web browsing, but you’ll eat through it faster than that if you’re watching high-definition video. This is because the smallest Air has the smallest battery.

Everything else, from the 13-inch Air to the 15-inch Pro w/Retina, is quoted at seven hours. Professional reviews have found that, while there are some small fluctuations, the quoted figures are a decent approximation. All 13-inch and 15-inch models offer similar real-world battery life and are, as Apple’s ads say, capable of surfing the web for about seven hours.

Just one word of caution – battery life will take a tumble if the optional discrete graphics chip found in the 15-inch Pro is engaged to power a game or high-definition video. Depending on your usage, this could result in lower real-world battery life.


macbook air pro

Both the MacBook Air and Pro use Intel Core processors, but the type used is far different. The Air relies on what Intel used to call an “ultra-low voltage” chip. On paper, this is a huge difference – the 13-inch Air has a 1.8 GHz standard processor while the basic 13-inch Pro comes with a 2.5 GHz processor.

But in real-world reviews, the 13-inch Pro doesn’t destroy the Air. It’s a bit quicker in most tasks, but if you didn’t compare them side-by-side, you’d probably never notice. How can this be? It has to do with the Turbo Boost feature offered by Intel’s processors. This allows the Air’s low-voltage processor to nearly match the clock speed of the Pro’s standard processor.

The 15-inch Pro comes with a quad-core that can give its smaller brethren a thrashing. Under the right conditions, the 15-inch Pro is up to 75% quicker than other MacBook models. However, this only matters for users who run demanding software optimized for multiple cores. Users who stick to web-browsing and light productivity won’t see much difference.

Gamers will also want the 15-inch Pro because it’s the only model with optional discrete graphics. Then again – why are you gaming on a MacBook?

Display Quality

macbook air pro

The vanilla Pro offers Apple’s least attractive display with the 13-inch model offering a resolution of 1280×800 and the 15-inch model using 1440×900.  The Air, by comparison, provides 1366×768 in the 11.6-inch and 1440×900 in the 13-inch, which translates to higher pixel density and a sharper image. Color accuracy and contrast is fairly uniform throughout the Air and vanilla Pro models.

Apple’s Retina technology is, of course, the way to go if you value quality. The 13-inch Pro w/Retina has a resolution of 2560×1600 while the 15-inch model offers 2880×1800. That’s a pixel density of 227 and 220, respectively, second only to the Chromebook Pixel. Color accuracy and contrast values are great, as well. The only downside is cost, as you’ll have to spend at least $1,499 for the 13-inch and $2,199 for the 15-inch.


macbook air vs. macbook pro

Apple’s vanilla Pro, the thickest laptop it sells, offers two USB 3.0, Thunderbolt, FireWire, Ethernet, a card reader and audio-0ut. The 15-inch model also include audio-in. Slimming down to the Retina (pictured above) means ditching Ethernet. However, Apple throws in another Thunderbolt port and HDMI, which seems like a good deal. Both Pro models are competitive with PC laptops of similar size.

The Air, however, suffers a port shortage. Both the 11.6″ and 13-inch models offer just two USB 3.0 ports, Thunderbolt and a headphone jack. The 11-incher even ditches the card reader. That could prove an annoyance for anyone with a digital camera (Apple probably hopes you’ll just snap pictures with your iPhone instead).


So, we’ve now covered all the important points. What’s the verdict?

My pick for the best overall MacBook is easily the 13-inch Retina. When you drop the extra $300 for this model you’re not just getting the great display. You’re also getting a very thin and light laptop with excellent build quality and great battery life. If you can afford the 13-inch Pro w/Retina there’s no reason to consider the Air or vanilla Pro (except for aesthetics).

If you’re on a tighter budget the 13-inch Air is probably your best choice. This model offers a better display than the 13-inch vanilla Pro, is much lighter, and just slightly lags in performance. You should only buy the vanilla 13-inch Pro if you need extra connectivity, an optical drive or a large hard drive.

I don’t recommend the 11.6″ Air because it has just sixty-four gigabytes of standard hard drive space and only five hours of battery life. You can fix the storage issue by upgrading, but at that point you may as well buy the Air. Maybe you think you need an 11.6″ laptop; believe me, you don’t. The 13-inch Air is easy to take anywhere you might travel.

If you’re looking for power, the 15-inch Pro is the obvious pick, because it’s the only model available with a quad-core processor. But do you go with the vanilla or Retina? That’s a hard choice because the size and weight benefits of the Retina design matter less to buyers of large laptops. As a result, I think you should buy for the display and display alone; if you want it, buy it. If not, don’t.

The Top 5 Websites For Ipad App Reviews

ipad app reviewsFinding good iPad apps in these new fangled app marketplaces is hard enough at the best of times, so let me show you 5 of the best sites I use to find great iPad apps and those little hidden gems, without having to trawl through the entire app store.

The problem with the built-in in app store is that by default, it lists the top apps as being the bestsellers or most downloaded, and frankly I’ve never trusted the wisdom of the crowd. Check out the top paid apps at the time of writing. Number one is a pokey TV app that basically copies the functionality of various region-specific TV apps.

ipad app reviews

A closer look at the app reveals the average review is just 2 stars, with 80% of all the people who purchased it rating it one star. Curiously, you can’t sort by ranking. Way to go designing usability there, Apple!  So off we go, in search of reliable app reviews…


A no-nonsense iPad app reviews site that covers a lot of ground, my favourite part of the site being the App Lists.  This is similar to our very own Best Of Software pages, but focusing on a single topic – Best Holiday Baking Apps, for instance. It’s refreshing to view app round-ups without having to painfully search yourself and try out each one.

ipad user reviews


While not strictly a reviews site, this site offers pretty much every kind of functionality you could possible want from the app store itself – and much much more. Where to begin? With RSS feeds for everything, you can view the stream of apps with various powerful filters:

  • iPad, iPhone or Universal (and now Mac apps too).
  • All paid or free apps only.
  • Updated apps, new apps, or price Drops

ipad user reviews

It can be a bit much sometimes, but if you’re looking for a raw stream of new or recently made free apps – and don’t mind wading through the chaff – nothing beats it.

iPad Board Games

Okay, I admit it – this is my site. Having recently taken on a few incredible new writers (that frankly put my own review efforts to shame) and publishing two or three times a week, my hobby project is now the leading site for iPad board game reviews. With honest and extensive reviews from real board game fans, iPad Board Games is a site you can trust – but then I would say that wouldn’t I?

If you think that board games are boring, you really ought to go check out some of the highly rated games, and be prepared to have your eyes opened to a whole new world. I’ll tell you now – Monopoly is nowhere to be found. The current top games include Carcassonne, a beautiful tile laying / city building game with incredible depth and strategy and comprehensive online play options; and Ticket to Ride, a classic Eurogame that sees players racing against the clock and each other to build the greatest rail line across the American continent. You wouldn’t believe the quality of some of these board game conversions – most other iPad games just don’t compare.

ipad user reviews

iPad AppStorm

Launched only a few months ago as an offshoot of the main AppStorm site, their iPad specific in-depth reviews, opinions and news make for a great read. Though there does seem to be a definite “productivity” slant to their app choices, they still offer a good variety that keeps this site permanently in my RSS feed.

ipad consumer reviews

An article highlight – Is an external keyboard really worth it? – convinced me to hook my wireless keyboard to my iPad instead of my main Mac, as it’s just too small for daily use, but absolutely perfect for working on my iPad on the move.

Vital Titles

Finding child-appropriate and still genuinely fun or educational titles is perhaps the hardest thing to do. It seems like a lot of child-focused software is just mass produced junk that’s designed to cash in on unwitting parents, and that’s where sites like Vital Titles come in. An up and coming site, Vital Titles covers a wide variety of genres and ages, with honest reviews and a real parent’s take on things. We need more sites like this!

ipad consumer reviews

Honorable Mention: Discovr Apps ($0.99) – One App To Rule Them All

This paid app help you discover similar apps with a visual representation of the results. To use it, you start by typing the name of a single app, and are presented with other suggestions. It’s a bit like Wikipedia in that you never quite know where you’ll end up, but it’s simply a great tool to discover apps that might be better or more suited to your needs than the original one you thought of.

ipad consumer reviews

Newcomer: Yahoo! AppSpot

Free, but only available to US iTunes account holders, Yahoo! brings us a curious little attempt at replacing or augmenting the app store. One user loves it – “finally, a search that returns relevant results“, while others complain it scans their library yet gives random suggestions for apps they might like. Knowing Yahoo!, it’ll be dead and useless in a few months, but if you have a US account then give it a whirl and let us know how it works out in the comments.

ipad app reviews

What’s your favourite site for iPad app reviews? Do you feel I’ve made a glaring omission here? Of course, there is one increible news source I didn’t mention – MakeUseOf! In fact, you can follow all our iPad related stories here, and with a new member of the team an enthusiastic iPad user, I think there’s going to be even more coming this way soon!

A Windows User’s Quick Switching To Mac Guide

If you have a nagging urge to read this article, I’d imagine that you’ve been a Windows user throughout your technological life. Switching from one operating system to another (in this case to a Mac) is far from easy, especially when the two operating systems have so little in common.

Uprooting yourself from a perfectly safe and familiar surrounding which you were enveloped in while using your PC and switching to a Mac may be uncomfortable and in fact, downright awkward. But trust me, once you understand the difference between the two and learn to adapt to the “Mac style”, the dust should inevitably settle and perhaps you’ll eventually enjoy using a Mac.

This switching to Mac guide or call it a crash course will be a stripped down version of most tutorials on how to use a Mac. I will only touch on the bare essentials and hopefully that will make your learning experience a less complicating one.

Installing Apps

If you’re looking to install an application in Windows, most likely you’d have to double-click on the setup.exe file to run in the installer.

On a Mac, the majority of apps are packaged in a disk image called a DMG. The usual installation procedure is:

  • Double-click the DMG to mount it
  • Once mounted, its contents are automatically displayed
  • Click and drag the app to the Applications folder
  • Unmount the DMG

switching to mac guide

Sometimes, an app will come with an installer. Simply follow the instructions and you’re golden.

Uninstalling Apps

If you need to remove an application in Windows, you’ll have to head into Control Panel -> Add/Remove Programs.

On a Mac, because most apps are self-contained, all you need to do is drag the app from your Applications folder to the Trash. Finito.

switching to mac from windows

Tweak Settings

In Windows, Control Panel is the operations center. Everything you need in order to change any settings will be found there.

A Windows User's Quick Switching to Mac Guide systempref menubar

On a Mac, you’ll need System Preferences. It can be accessed from the Apple menu, located in the top-left hand corner or in the Utilities folder (Applications -> Utilities). Every customizable setting — from display font size and screen saver patterns to Bluetooth and Printer Sharing — will be found there. If you can’t seem to locate the setting you need, use the Spotlight search field within System Preferences to narrow down the possibilities.

A Windows User's Quick Switching to Mac Guide System Preferences

Exploring For Files

If you need to explore the contents of say, the Program Files folder in Windows, you’ll definitely use Windows Explorer and would presumably start by double-clicking My Computer.

On a Mac, what you would use is the Finder. Click on the Finder icon (the smiley face) on the Dock and a new Finder Window will open, displaying the contents of your Home folder. From there, you are able to access your Applications, Documents, Downloads, Movies, Music and Pictures folders.

switching to mac guide

Keyboard Shortcuts

Most Windows keyboard shortcuts revolve around the Control button. To copy — Control + C, to paste — Control + V and so on.

On a Mac, the big kahuna is the Command button. It’s located next to the spacebar and has a clover icon on it. You’ll definitely need to reprogram your fingers (your thumb, actually) to hit this button instead of Control.

For a complete list of commonly-used Mac OS X shortcuts, refer to MakeUseOf’s Cheat Sheets page or the Mac Manual.

Launching Applications

The regular rigmarole to go through if you need to launch an app in Windows would be to click on Start, then go on from there depending on how you have your Start menu customized.

On a Mac, the Dock is where you’ll start. Drag all of your favourite apps — internet browser, instant messaging client, music player, movie player, etc — from the Applications folder onto the Dock for easy access.

A Windows User's Quick Switching to Mac Guide unhealthy dock

Dealing With Unresponsive Apps

If something went wrong while using a Windows PC, most users will instinctively press the infamous Control+Alt+Del key sequence to invoke the Task Manager.

On a Mac, if an app isn’t responding, your safest bet is to force it to quit. You can do this by right-clicking the app’s icon on the Dock and click on Force Quit.

A Windows User's Quick Switching to Mac Guide forcequit

Alternatively, you can learn to use Mac’s task manager — Activity Monitor.

System Maintenance

If you get a whiff that your Windows PC is starting to clunker and slow down, the obvious easy-fix is to use Window’s Disk Defragmenter.

On a Mac, fragmentation is automatically dealt with by the operating system so you don’t need to worry about that. If you notice your Mac starting to slow down, take a look at some optimizers in this article and here for a couple of tips to keep your Mac running smoothly. Many (even seasoned) Mac users will advise you to run Disk Utility to repair file permissions as a cure-all for Mac slowdowns. I have to point out this is a myth. Repairing permissions deals with a very specific issue, read more about it here.

I hope that this crash course helps any recent Mac Switchers out there to comprehend the alien (albeit very pretty) operating system before them. I can’t emphasize the importance of user experience here. You’ll only learn to master a Mac after you’ve used it for some time and no tutorial can completely substitute your personal learning process.

Image credit: Daniel Morris

How To Make An Old Mac Feel Like New Again

Every computer begins to show its age over time. You know the signs of an out-of-date Mac: you can make a sandwich in the time it takes to boot your machine, you can’t install the newest version of macOS and enjoy all its features, and forget trying to run modern resource-intensive software.

But it might not be time to get a new computer just yet. Macs hold their value for a reason, and there are steps you can take (both free and paid) to get some more life out of it.

If you feel like you need to give your Mac a second wind, here are some great ways to freshen it up.

Upgrade to an SSD

Far and away the best upgrade you can possibly make on your Mac is to replace its old mechanical hard drive with a solid-state drive (SSD). Unlike older hard drives, SSDs have no internal moving parts and their speed improvements boost performance across the board. Whether you’re booting your Mac, opening applications, or moving files, you’ll feel the benefits of an SSD.

No matter which model of Mac you have, be sure to check out website like Crucial’s Mac SSD compatibility page or a retailer like MacSales to make sure you order a compatible drive and that the process isn’t too difficult to perform. Most MacBooks only require removing a few screws to make the swap, but older iMacs don’t have the hard drive in such an accessible spot.

Fortunately, SSDs have had a huge drop in price recently, so you can get a high-end Samsung 850 (500 GB) drive for about $160, or a more modest Samsung 750 (250 GB) drive for about $70. Remember there are a few key factors to consider when buying your SSD, and bigger is always better when it comes to storage capacity.

Increase Your RAM

Second to an SSD is adding more RAM to your machine. While an SSD improves performance in every aspect, more RAM means that you can run more things at once without feeling the drag. If you like to stream Spotify while you have 23 Chrome tabs open as you follow a crazy tutorial for Photoshop, you probably need more RAM.

Again, you’ll need to check out specifics for your Mac here. You can go to Apple > About this Mac to view how much RAM you currently have in your system, then visit EveryMac’s RAM compatibility page to see how much RAM you can put in your system. In some cases, Apple has specified a minimum which is completely safe to exceed.

Once you’ve determined how much RAM you can expand to, it’s a good idea to visit Crucial’s Mac RAM finder to see which sticks of RAM are compatible with your device. You may be able to find RAM for cheaper on Amazon, though it’s a bit of a gamble as everything from Crucial is guaranteed to work. If you decide to buy on Amazon, verify that the supplier has stated the RAM will work with your exact model.

Uninstall Old Applications

If you have an older Mac you’ve probably got some applications sitting around that you never use. In your quest to freshen your Mac’s pace a bit, it’s a good idea to identify these apps and get rid of them. Find a tool you tried and disliked but never removed? Sitting on some outdated software that’s still taking up a lot of space? Let’s get rid of it.

Thankfully, it’s possible to uninstall just about anything on your Mac. The best way to quickly uninstall multiple apps, including removing the extra files that the built-in method of deletion might miss, is to use AppCleaner. This utility simply has you drag and drop an app’s icon to its window to remove all of its associated files.

Don’t feel like you need to uninstall every application you have, but the ones you haven’t used in years should probably be chucked.

Use Lighter Applications

Once you’ve eliminated the software you no longer use, it’s smart to look at the software you do use. While there are plenty of apps that we love on Mac, there are also some to avoid, which goes double if you’re using an older system.

For instance, you should think twice about using Chrome on Mac due to heavy battery drain, slower system performance, and poor integration with the rest of the OS. For a speedier experience that’s more power and resource efficient, you should stick with Safari. After all, it does contain a ton of cool features and is way better than it used to be.

You can probably identify similar applications on your system that you could replace with a lighter alternative. Could you get by with a Photoshop alternative until you’re able to upgrade your system? To identify more apps that are using a lot of power, utilize the Activity Monitor to see which are using the CPU heavily, sucking up your RAM, or draining your battery in the Energy tab.

Reinstall the OS

For Windows users, reinstalling the OS every once in a while to fix problems and clean up cruft is an oft-quoted, if not really necessary, step. We’ve discussed the reasons you might want to reinstall the OS on your Mac, and concluded that one good reason is to speed things up if everything is slow.

If you’re looking for a fresh start on your machine, upgrading the hardware per above combined with a fresh install of macOS is a great option. However, with years of files on your system, this might not be practical. In that case, your best bet is to clean old junk off the system, back it up with Time Machine, and reinstall. We’ve written a complete guide on the reinstall process for more info.

Give It a Fresh Coat of Paint

The above steps are the important parts of making your Mac feel like new, but there are a few optional parts of the process, too. If you’re sick of staring at the same old desktop all the time, change it up! There are tons of ways to personalize your Mac desktop, and you can tweak Safari to make it perform exactly as you want.

Unfortunately, El Capitan lost a lot of the customization options possible in earlier versions. If you’re still running an older version of OS X this won’t affect you, but it’s a good point to note should you be up to date. It won’t affect you from customizing your dock or arranging your menu bar, though, so don’t despair.

Don’t Forget Physical Cleaning

Once you’ve done all this, take a quick look at the physical state of your Mac. Is there any residue from spills on the system, dust on your keyboard, or other unsightly aspects? If so, take a few minutes to follow our MacBook and iMac cleaning guide to get your keyboard, mouse, and screens spiffy and clean. You can also take a look at our general PC cleaning guide for more ideas.

As Good as New

With a few upgrades and a little maintenance, your Mac might just feel like a new machine. Following all these steps means you have a blazing new SSD, plenty of RAM for keeping applications open, more optimized apps for better performance, less clutter, and possibly a quieter machine to boot.

This might help you get another few years out of your older Mac. It’s a lot cheaper to spend $100 on new components and take the time to perform some upgrades than it is to buy a new computer.

Looking for an even speeder computer? Check out our hidden tricks for making any Mac a bit faster.

What other steps would you take to make an older Mac feel like new? Let’s talk about how we could add to this list in the comments.

4 Resources To Become A Backup Master With Time Machine [mac]

4 Resources to Become a Backup Master with Time Machine [Mac] TimeMachineiconIn a recent MakeUseOf article, Apple’s Time Machine was listed as one of the top free applications for Mac users. Not only is it free, but it’s probably one of the best and easiest methods for backing up data on your Mac.

While the ultimate free backup tool for Mac backup is an application like Carbon Copy Cloner, Apple Time Machine comes installed with Mac OS X Leopard and Snow Leopard. Apple has made setting Time Machine about as easy as frying a two eggs in a skillet. So there’s little excuse for not setting it up.

When you attach a large external drive to your Mac, you will be asked if you want to set up Time Machine to run on that drive. From there, it will take you through the process of set up.

apple time machine

Though Time Machine is pretty easy to set up, the purpose of this article it to direct to other resources that will help you understand various problems and other information that you might need to know for Time Machine to run effectively on your Mac.

Time Machine 101

The first place to look is the source itself. Check out Apple’s Mac 101 document on Time Machine. It includes a summary of how to set up Time Machine, how to set preferences, how to select and restore files from within the application, and how to transfer your current hard drive to a new hard drive. The instructions are very clear and concise.

apple time machine

Apple Time Machine Video

I couldn’t locate the original video about Time Machine on Apple’s site, but here’s copy of it on YouTube. Though it doesn’t tell you how to troubleshoot the program, it gives you an introduction to its capabilities.

Troubleshooting Time Machine

For the most part, Apple Time Machine should work fine on a well-running Mac and external drive. But as with other computer programs, there will often be times when you need to troubleshoot problems with the application, or when you have particular needs beyond a basic Mac setup.

The Apple discussion board includes two very good documents, one for Frequently Asked Questions and the other for troubleshooting issues.

apple time machine

The FAQ document covers a list of 25 questions, such as “How big a drive do I need for Time Machine?” to “How do I restore my entire system?” Although the document is lengthy, you should check it out before asking a similar listed question on the discussion board.

apple time machine backup

Similarly, the Troubleshooting document includes solutions for problems pertaining to when backups fail, when the Select Disk button doesn’t work, and various error messages.

These documents also link you to useful free third-party resources that work with Time Machine, such as an application called Time Tracker, which shows most of the files saved by TM for each backup (excluding some hidden/system files, etc.).

If you’re wanting to back up multiple computers with Time Machine, writer Joe Kissell explains how to do so in this Macworld article.

I have been running Time Machine for over year now and have not had too many problems, except for occasionally not remembering to reboot the external drive that Time Machine is saving backups to. When the drive is not running, of course, Time Machine can’t perform backups, and sometimes it fails to notify you when backups were not done. So it’s important to keep the Time Machine icon running in your Mac”˜s menu bar, so you can check to make sure it’s running on a regular basis.

apple time machine backup

Also, remember to try to use an external drive large enough to include some of your most precious media files stored in say iPhoto, iTunes, and your documents folder. The rule is always to have files backed up in at least two places, so an application like Carbon Copy Cloner, which backs up your entire internal disk drive is another essential resource.

Let us know about your experiences with Time Machine. Have you ever needed to restore files from it? Has it ever failed on you? What recommendations do you have for using it?