Snow Leopard and Cocoa Finder: what to expect?

January 15, 2009

finderThese past few weeks there’s been lots of fuss about the finder being rewritten in Cocoa for the release of Snow Leopard. What I noticed is that a lot of people don’t actually understand what this mean.. in a nutshell: The Finder rewritten in Cocoa will be, at first glance, the same old Finder! Only rewritten in Cocoa! Why then is this good at all? For 3 big reasons:

    In the rewriting process, a better organized code should lead to less bugs and improved efficiency (at least after a period of testing, which doesn’t necessarily end on the release date..). This might even result in the finder being faster, but I wouldn’t count on that. Cocoa is certainly better that Carbon in hundreds of ways, but speed is not one of them (it’s actually slightly slower, being Objective-C and not pure C).
    Cocoa is a framework that gives access to lots of features Carbon lacks, and in Snow Leopard it’ll support 64 bit, while Carbon won’t. Moreover, the new “Grand Central” set of technologies, that is supposed to bring better multiprocessor support, is mainly Cocoa centric.
    And don’t forget cocoa Bundles! If you’ve read my previous post about these little apps, you can imagine the possibilities!
    Developing in Cocoa is much, much, much faster that in carbon. You should expect bugfixes and new feature being released more frequently for the Cocoa Finder.

In conclusion, Cocoa isn’t a magic wand that’s make the Finder a whole new experience, faster and full of gadgets. But it isn’t a matter of secondary importance either, as it appeared in this post I read..


It’s all about customization

January 15, 2009

onyxThe point is not which one (look, method, app… ) is better, but which one you feel more comfortable with. This is why Onyx was created, to let you edit all those hidden OS X settings that someone at Apple thought you shouldn’t know about.
The most important tab found in this free app, that you can download here, is the “Parameters” one. I can’t tell you much more, you have to read thru all the possible customizations and choose the ones that fit you style.

Here are a few I find interesting:

  • disable the .DS_Store files creation on network volumes (those files are ugly under windows networks..)
  • edit format and path of screenshots
  • show complete path in finder windows (this one is a MUST!)
  • customize the Dock to your every need: make it 2D, move it on the right.. and best of all, use transparent icon for hidden apps!
  • last but not least.. make the iTunes link arrows point to you library and not to the Store!

Of course, this program is not the only one available for such purposes, but it is probably the most complete. SuperDocker is nice too, it has a wonderful cocoa interface, even though it is far more limited than Onyx.

P.S.: Nuclear Mouse creates some problems with applescript, and it interferes with the execution of Onyx. You should disable it (drag the bundle out of the plugin folder to the desktop), run Onyx and then if you wish enable it again.

Why Cocoa is better than Carbon

January 14, 2009

If I really wanted to completely answer this question it would took me some time, and it would result in a boring and dull post (since I am no Cocoa expert..). Why then this title? Because there’s one way in which Cocoa is better than Carbon that will make all efficiency fanatics rejoice: it lets us load objective-c bundles in existing, compiled application.
What does that mean ?! Easy enough. A developer can add custom code that replaces and extends some functionality of existing Cocoa apps.
Here’s a collection of the most useful bundles I found…

1. Afloat (free)

Ever wanted to watch a movie while browsing or writing a letter? I have. And with Afloat I can! This little app lets you keep any window of you choice floating on top of everything else, and even show it on all desktops (spaces). Moreover, with it you can adjust the opacity (= make transparent) of windows and a few other little tricks.

My favorite one is the “Show Window’s file in Finder”. Clicking it (under the Window menu) you can reveal in Finder the file you’ve opened, be it a document, an image in and so on!

2. Megazoomer (free)

One thing that by default is wasted in OS X is screen real estate. The dock is an example: it’s pretty much useless and it takes a lot of space in its initial configuration (it can be improved upon though, I’ll post about it..). And the maximize button (green round one, top-left corner..) doesn’t help, because it doesn’t maximize but resize to a supposedly optimal size. I’m not against this behavior at all, but I like Megazoomer because it fills this hole nicely. You just click cmd-Return (or Window->Mega Zoom) and your window goes full screen!

3. Multiclutch (free)

MultiClutch allows you to assign custom keyboard shortcuts in a given app to a given gesture. An example? Here’s my firefox configuration:

– zooming gestures actually zoom the page (like safari)
– rotate moves to the previous/next tab
– swipe down opens a new tab
– swipe up closes the current tab
– swipe left/right go back and forward (like safari)

Pretty efficient, isn’t it? Unfortunately this app won’t let you use four finger gestures and deactivate global shortcuts for specific applications.


4. Nuclear Mouse (free)

This is a little nice utility that lets you drag windows clicking anywhere on then while holding down the Option key, and resize them with Option-Command. Very simple yet useful, even more so because of the borderless nature of OS X windows!

5. Visor (free)

This bundle is the perfect companion of all you terminal addicts out there (that includes me too..). Instead of having all those floating terminal windows, à là OS X, you have this nice systemwide console that slides down from the top of your screen, in which you can open as many tabs as you like. It is bindable to any hotkey you like, so that you can access the shell from anywhere easier that ever.



The possibility offerd by objective-c code injection are many, and this area of development is still hot. I’d suggest that you follow in particular the Afloat website, since they’re now developing a manager that lets you organize these bundles, an idea that hopefully will lead to even more apps being developped this way.

(This is my first post, many more will follow that will go deeper into how to work efficiently on OS X. Comments, of course, are welcome!)


January 12, 2009

As a long time windows user, when I switched to the mac I felt a bit.. handicapped! All the tricks I used to know and master on Windows were gone, all the keyboard shortcuts were different and pretty much everything I did, I did slower.

In these past few months I tried to recreate an environment which was at the same time easy to use and efficient (meaning not too much command line..).
And here now I’ll be posting all the new tricks I come up with, all the new programs I find to be useful.. well you got it..

As a side note, if my English sounds weird to you, here’s why: I’m Italian! (and Italians are notorious, at least in Europe, for sucking at foreign languages!)

till next post..