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Tag: mail

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Data Detectors for Safari on the iPad Please

Now. I love data detectors. It is one of the most unsung and brilliant of Apple’s innovations with OS X. It just works, although I mourn the fact that it’s not spread much beyond a bare implementation in Mail (a very useful one at that though).

Now with the introduction of the iPad data detectors have taken on a whole new form in their beautiful implimentation of the the Mail on the iPad.

Just click and hold on the address details you are given three options:

Data Detectors in iPad Mail

1. Open in Maps, which finds an address for you in a matter of seconds:

Go to Map in iPad Mail

2. Create a New Contact from the information it’s discovered, which leads you to this:

Add New Contact from iPad Mail

3. Add to an existing contact which brings up a list of your contacts and away you go:

Add to Existing Contact in iPad Mail

I have over a 1000 contacts in my address book, but even then there are gaps, missing addresses, phone numbers, etc, which I can now easily add from a contact.

Now just the other day I was looking up a business on the internet and needed the telephone number and I was thinking how great it’d be if this were implemented in Safari on the iPad (or on my desktop too!) then I could just add all this information to an existing contact or a new contact pretty much instantaneously…

I’m a small business consultant enabling small business owners to achieve sustainable growth, whilst working part-time at Tees Valley Arts. For more about me personally see peterneal.co.uk

Psst… Want to Know Some Secrets?

My friend the irresistible @tsmarsh just reminded me of the wonders of custom preference panes for OS X, with this delectable tweet:

@tsmarsh

Sweet! http://tinyurl.com/568fkc Now I can break my mac with the same impunity as the freetards.

I’ve been using Secrets, the preference pane he’s referring to, since March 2008 after I first stumbled across it via the renowned macosxhints.com site shortly after I believe it was released. It is a cheats way to change ‘secret’ settings in both the OS and other programs for those of us who are sometimes too timid to resort to the terminal or just want to be able to tick a box to apply or more importantly sometimes unapply a secret setting.

It’s exactly the sort of program I love: simple, clean, straightforward, and community driven. It’s open source so if you stumble across a new secret whilst browsing an obscure blog, then you can post it to the site and once verified (I presume) it’ll be added to the program forthwith. If you want to refresh your secrets just click the handy update button and off it goes… reporting back new secrets under the new secret option at the top.

Secrets Preference Pane

The fact that Secrets even exists is proof positive for me that many Apple users don’t always believe the Apple way is the right way and want the ability to easily change some basic fundamental settings of their favourite programs to perform the way that is best for them rather than they way Apple or other program writers have decided is best by default.

So let me let you in on a few of my secret preferences (in no particular order)

  • Mail – Send Windows friendly attachments (why this isn’t activated by default beats me!?)
  • Dictionary – Reuse dictionary definition window (I use dictionary alot, so I like not to have dozens of dictionary windows open, just the one…)
  • Dock – Dim hidden apps (absolutely essential, Apple should have added this feature as a default years ago!)
  • Finder – Enable finder quit menu item (yes finder sometimes I’d like to be able to just quit you, especially when my keyboard is not responding :-()
  • Finder – Use .DS_Stores on network (uncheck and bye bye pesky .DS files!)
  • iTunes – Allow half star ratings (for those songs that just don’t quite make a full five stars!)

These are just a fraction of the customisations I’ve activated so trot along to the Secrets website and join the Mac personalisation revolution now!

I’m a small business consultant enabling small business owners to achieve sustainable growth, whilst working part-time at Tees Valley Arts. For more about me personally see peterneal.co.uk

Essential Communication Tools

When setting up a new system as well as setting up a standard email program such as Apple Mail or Thunderbird I also setup a couple of other essential communication tools, mostly to help me keep in touch with the user, in this case Glyn, but also to maximise the number of methods by which that user can communicate with the world.

Which Email program?

To be honest since 10.3 I’ve used Apple’s Mail as my principal email client, prior to this I used Eudora and I have, to be honest, occasionally dabbled with other programs such as Microsoft Entourage; but the email client I generally recommend to switchers is Thunderbird.

The reason for this is because when I am brought into consult at a small firm I generally find them running un-patched versions of Outlook Express, which is in my experience is the easiest and quickest root to viral infection in the Windows world, in these situations I replace it with Thunderbird, which being free adds no additional cost burden. So when we come to switching it seems best to go with Thunderbird to minimise the amount of adjustment the user requires.

However, as Apple has improved Mail, or more importantly improved it’s integration with the Address Book and iCal adding great usability functions like data detectors, (essential time savers once a user becomes more savvy) it has become an increasingly attractive client. Thunderbird 2 still uses its own address book rather than the system wide one offered by Apple, and although version 3 now offers integration it feels like it has been in beta forever.

The ability to sync Apple’s integrated address book with google mail accounts (including google apps accounts) in Snow Leopard has proved to be a great additional benefit for small businesses, especially as you can hack this to provide a locally available address book to all users in a company by using a single master default email such as info@foo.com to sync addresses to, which is great for small businesses. (if you’re running 10.5 this tutorial will show you how to hack this feature to make it available for you).

Google Sync from Apple Address Book
Just tick the box to activate Google Sync

So after a quick discussion with Glyn as to these pros and cons we decided to setup his email with the Apple Mail program, which ran smoothly, although I think it is a shame that you can’t select the type of mail service you are connecting to when you enter the initial details as this would cut down the setup time significantly whilst you wait for it to determine if there is a mail server present at the address you have given. It would also be great if you could tell Mail that it was a google apps account so it would pre-fill the imap and smtp details for you (come on Apple should be easy enough to do!).

Other tools communication tools…

It is really important for a small business to be reachable by as many methods as possible, as we have moved into an era of increased connectivity it is important that they adapt to this so that they can reach the broadest possible audience.

The first tool I always start with is Skype. Although I tend to use this less and less since the advent of Google Talk, I still find that many of my clients use the program on a daily basis. As Slingsby Interiors didn’t already have a skype account, Glyn and I downloaded the latest client and within minutes had managed to bag slingsbyinteriors as a name, surprisingly easy to do for most small businesses.

Then we moved on to setting up Google Talk, for which I always use a great little open source program called Adium, which is compatible with just about every protocol you can imagine from: AIM, MSN, Jabber to Yahoo to name just a few, meaning you only have to install the one program. As well as integrating with the built-in Address Book it offers tabbed browsing of conversations and all important growl notifications.

After a quick series guide around each of these programs, Glyn is up and running and ready to communicate with the world and more importantly after I installed skype on the PC in the 1st floor office he no longer has to run upstairs or use the intercom when he wants to ask Kay in accounts a quick question!

UPDATE –

Apparently you can bypass the automatic mail setup by holding down the option key after you’ve entered your email address and password, changing the button to continue and allowing you to continue as you normally would. For more see macosxhints.com

I’m a small business consultant enabling small business owners to achieve sustainable growth, whilst working part-time at Tees Valley Arts. For more about me personally see peterneal.co.uk

Catering to a Business Switcher

So I’m starting the rather insidious process of introducing a Mac to one of the businesses I consult for, why would that be insidious I hear you ask? well once you introduce one shiny new Mac in my experience it’s not long before more follow… after all when compared to the horrid beige (or slightly nicer black) desktops most firms seem to have it is unsurprising that a measure of jealousy starts to creep into the lucky recipients colleagues mind and before long they’re all clambering to have a nice shiny Mac (after all they usually (and correctly) argue, “It looks so much easier to use!”).

So I thought I’d share with you the process I go through when configuring a new Mac, what programs I add to make sure that their transition is quick and easy and they gain the maximum benefit from switching. I’ll also be giving a shout out, for my first time, to some of the best shareware, open source and small developer maintained software that I use on a daily basis that is so helpful to me and many other Mac users round the world; feel the love developers! As well as posing some questions about what are the best methods and approaches for going about the task.

I’m going to stretch this over a number of posts, but we’ll start with the setup process, so:

I’m working with a new 13″ Macbook Pro. We bought it online yesterday morning and it had arrived by lunchtime today (which impressed everyone in the office) I opted for a refurbished model, as it was 16% cheaper than a perfectly new model and effectively the same. It’s going to be used by Glyn, the youngest member of staff who is currently sharing a desktop in my client’s show room with an older colleague. I’d normally start by letting him open and unpack the box, but he was out at lunch when I arrived so I got straight to the unpacking and getting ready for his arrival.

When introducing a new computer, especially when someone is switching from PC to Mac I always start by allowing them to run the initial setup process, it’s always good to let the new user experience the speed and straightforwardness of getting a Mac up and running from scratch, their genuine surprise at how quickly they are up and running is always a source of encouragement and help in getting them to engage with the new machine and I find can help make the transition from Windows to Mac much easier.

So 15 minutes later we are up, connected to the office network and begin our configuration. First things first I tutor them on the importance of keeping the machine up-to-date, something people who run PCs rarely do as much as they should, by introducing them to the apple button in the menu bar and getting them to run their first Software Update.

10 minutes later we and we are running 10.6.1 and have installed all of the available updates. I’m amused by Glyn’s surprise at how smooth this process is and especially by the reboot time after the installation, which is down to seconds (he normally goes and makes coffee whilst his old desktop boots up in the morning! LOL – I guess he’ll just have to carry his new MBP with him from now on!)

Whilst we were downloading the updates I walked Glyn through program switching and the strange notion for most PC users, especially those with older systems, that you can actually run lots of programs simultaneously without having to wait an inordinately long time  for the system to respond. I am not helped at this point by my own MBP slowing to a crawl by the fact that I am running a dozen programs and have 120 or so sites open in Safari, which adds a frustrating 2 min delay to me finding their computer passwords so I can connect the new MBP to the windows printers available on their network.

This does however cause Glyn much amusement as he normally has to go and find the piece of paper with such passwords written on, rather than relying on a technological solution to the problem. Anyway whilst we wait for my MBP we switch on sharing to allow me to place the printer drivers we will need into his public folder. I am disappointed to say that the new method of not installing all printer drivers by Snow Tabby means I have to resort to running installers, including activating rosetta, which is an unnecessary pain.

Anyway five minutes later we have the Windows shared Epson setup and have printed a test page successfully, although we did have to resort to using the Gutenberg printer driver for their Epson Stylus SX200 as the Epson drivers don’t work (fortunately I installed the printers on my MBP earlier in the week to test and had identified this problem). The HP3600 is a little more problematic. It doesn’t automatically detect the driver, even after installing it from disk (as expected) and we have to manually select the printer, as well as running Software Update to make sure that we actually have the right version from Apple.

This process only takes ten minutes however, and whilst we were waiting for these things we installed the stella Dropbox, which installs in a few seconds and lets me run through the drag and drop process of installing apps and warn of the dangers of running programs from a disk image, Glyn handles the transition like and pro and I’m not seeing glazed eyes, so I think that the message will stick. Phew.

Now on to Mail. It’s simple and quick to add Glyn’s Google Apps account via imap and in less than a couple of minutes it’s downloading all of his email and now he’s pretty much ready to go. Although there is lots more software to install, all of which I’ll come to in other posts, he can email, print, and courtesy of Dropbox he has all of the files he needs access to. Textedit will keep him going with word docs for the rest of the day, as he finds his way about the system and I go head upstairs to move the remainder of the companies folders across to dropbox and recreate their locations with symbolic links, whilst he has a play.

Now that the most essential basic programs are installed, or configured I’ll be taking the new MBP home with me at the end of the day to install the rest of the programs he’ll need to become the savvy Mac user I know I’ll be proud of. Catch you later.

I’m a small business consultant enabling small business owners to achieve sustainable growth, whilst working part-time at Tees Valley Arts. For more about me personally see peterneal.co.uk