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Photo management for the Mac in 2018

Photo management for the Mac in 2018

Taking a lot of pictures is wonderfully easy and affordable nowadays. But once you have taken all those pictures, you need a good way to organize those photos.
In this post, I will cover what I think are the best tools currently available to help you manage your photos on the Mac in 2018.

When it comes to photography software, applications are usually split in two different categories: Photo management software, and photo editing software.
Photo management software allows you to import all your pictures and organize them in various ways so that you can easily find them, and also share them with others. Typically, you can also do some light editing inside of those apps as well, so that you can improve your pictures and make them look better, or get creative with them.
Photo editing software allows you to get far more creative and do powerful photo editing, graphic design, and even blend images and graphics together.

Well known examples of photo management apps for Mac are iPhoto (now discontinued), Photos, Lightroom and Picassa (also discontinued).
Well known examples of photo editing apps include Photoshop, Pixelmator, and Affinity Photo.
In this article, I’ll be focusing on the best photo management apps for the Mac. I’m also taking into consideration that ideally, you’ll want something that not only works well on the Mac, but also syncs well with your mobile devices.

Photos : The first and most obvious option is the application which comes pre-installed on every recent Mac, iPhone, and iPad since 2015. Photos replaces Apple’s older photo management app called iPhoto, which was used and loved by millions of people before before discontinued by Apple in favor of Photos. Photos was introduced to replace iPhoto presumably because they couldn’t really make iPhoto work on mobile devices, and they needed something that would work well on both the Mac and iPhone / iPad.
For most users, Photos can do everything necessary, and is probably the only program you’ll need. While the original version of Photos that came out in 2015 was overly simplistic and lacked many features of its predecessor, the current version built into macOS High Sierra is very nice indeed.
It features a simple interface that let’s you easily organize and group your pictures by year, places, media type, people, and much more. But the biggest improvement in the latest version of Photos is how much better the editing options have become. You can now radically adjust and improve your pictures using some of the new and improved editing tools which were previously only available in programs such as Photoshop and Aperture. There are powerful adjustments available such as light, Color, white balance, levels, curves, definition and more. That’s on top of your standard Black & white, retouch, cropping and red-eye tools. You also have some pretty nice filters available right in Photos. And finally, Photos also allows you to use 3rd party extensions that extend your editing capabilities even more.
So, Photos really is becoming a very full-fledged and powerful program that will satisfy the needs of most Mac users, and it really is worth taking the time to learn how to get the most out of it. And it is completely free. But in case you want something a little different, or more powerful, I’ll be looking at a couple of alternatives to consider next.

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom: Lightroom has been around since 2007, and has become a massively popular program amongst hobbyist and professional photographers alike. At core, it is a very powerful tool that lets you organize your pictures in a multitude of ways, and also offers some very powerful editing and sharing tools. Adobe has recently split Lightroom into 2 different programs: Lightroom CC and Lightroom Classic CC. The Classic version is the version that’s been around since the start, while the new CC version is a somewhat simplified application that is very much geared towards photographers who are looking to keep all their pictures in the cloud. It is also focused on people who want the ability to work on multiple devices easily and have everyting sync seamlessly.
And even though you can still buy Lightroom Classic for a one-time fee of $150. But Adobe is really pushing for customers to sign-up for one of their Creative Cloud plans. For $10 a month, you can sign-up for the Photography plan, which includes Lightroom, Photoshop, and Adobe Bridge and is frequently updated with new features. It is a really good deal if you’ll be using any of these applications frequently, and want access to frequent updates and new features. But this subscription model is pretty unappealing to many people who would rather just pay once for their software and own it outright. So, in conclusion, Lightroom is an excellent program used by millions worldwide. But it does have a steeper learning curve, and you have to comfortable with their monthly or yearly subscription model. If you’ve never used it before and you’re pretty serious about your photography, it’s worth checking out all the features it offers and giving it a try.

ON1 Photo Raw: If you’re looking for an excellent photo management and editing program that does not require a monthly subcription payment, this may be the best option currently available. This is an excellent photography application which has been around for a few years, and they have consistently improved this program over time. It is created by a small company in Oregon, and I’ve been very impressed the care and attention they’ve put into this product. For $120 one-time fee, you’re getting an incredibly powerful photography application that will satisfy the needs of just about anyone. You can also use some its features within Photos, and they also offer tons of free training videos on the support section of their site, which is really awesome. As you can probably tell, I’m very impressed by ON1 Photo Raw and I think it’s an excellent alternative to both Photos and Lightroom, or it can be used alongside both of those programs in order to enhance your pictures in new and innovative ways. I encourage you to look on their website to see what you think for yourself.

The other options I’ll talk about briefly are programs worth checking out but are not as versatile as the top three listed above:

Google Photos: This can be used predominently to back-up your photos to your Google account. Any photos stored on your Mac or mobile devices can be backed up, and you can then organize them and do some light editing through a web browser. Like most Google services, this is completly free. If you’re not currently backing up your photos to any cloud services, and you don’t to pay for such a service, you’ll probably not find anything better than Google Photos.

Adobe Photoshop elements: This is sort of a mix between what you get with Photos while adding some of the more basic Photoshop features. If you want to get creative with your pictures without having to learn some of the more complex and difficult aspects of Photohsop, this might be a good option for you. For $80, you get a very sturdy photo management app, with some pretty powerful editing features. Some users complain that the Photoshop elements interface is not very intuitive, but overall I think this is a very solid program sold at a very reasonable price.

Capture One: This software is very much geared towards serious or professional photographers who mainly shoot RAW images. It allows you to organize your images much the same way as Lightroom or ON1 Photo Raw, but has some very powerful editing features. This application is mainly used by serious photography professionals for good reason. The editing features are nothing short of phenomenal, which is why it’s also the most expensive program covered in this article. At $20 a month, or for a $300 license, it’s obvious that this software is aimed at serious hobbyists or professionals. Check out the website, and download the free trial version if the software interests you.

I’ll try to update this article if I find something else worth mentioning, or if someone brings something else to my attention. But hopefully, this can help you make a decision that helps you organize your photos and make them look their best.

 

Posted by Ian Van Slyke in Mac, Photography, Recommendations, Software, 0 comments
Backing up your Mac

Backing up your Mac

Backing up your Mac regularly is quite possibly the most important task you should get in the habit of doing as a Mac user. Your Mac’s hard drive will most likely fail at some point. It may take a couple of years, or quite a few years. And in some rare cases it can happen after just a few months. Sometimes, just a small drop of your laptop, or an electrical surge can damage the drive and eventually cause hard drive failure. Which is why it’s extremely important that you backup your computer on a regular basis. That way,  you can recover all of  your data from that backup if something goes wrong.
I do a fair amount tech support and data recovery work. And for me, one of the worst situation is diagnosing a failed hard drive, and finding out that the client does not have a recent back-up. That could mean thousands of photos and videos gone all of the sudden. Or important work and business documents that are no longer accessible. Sometimes the data can be recovered, but in some cases the drive is so damaged that the data cannot be recovered. Or it can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars to get the data recovered. So, this is really important stuff !

So, in this article, I want to cover the 2 basic ways you can backup your Mac. Personally, I think the easiest and quickest option is to backup to an external drive plugged into your Mac. You can then use the built-in Apple application called Time Machine to completely backup your Mac on a daily basis, or just once in a while. You can use pretty much any external drive, as long as it’s big enough in size to hold your data. This kind of external drive from Western Digital, or something similar, should be good enough for most people: Western Digital 2TB drive
Time Machine is not your only option, but it’s definitely the easiest. Here’s a good article that shows you how to use Time Machine.

time machine image
If you’d like something a little more powerful, and with more flexibility, here are some other good options:

Carbon Copy Cloner 
Super Duper
Mac Backup Guru

Another way you can backup your data is by doing it through the cloud, and you have many services you can choose from.
Basically, there is two varieties of cloud solutions:
1) Companies that specialize exclusively in offering backup solutions such as Dropbox, Backblaze or Carbonite.
2) Cloud services offered by large companies as an added feature to their other services, such as Apple’s iCloud, Google Drive, and Microsoft’s OneDrive.

Each service has its own pros and cons, and you’ll want to do a little research before you pick any one service. You can of course combine some of these services together for different purposes. You could for example, use iCloud for photos, Dropbox for business documents, and OneDrive for various other files. It’s completely up to you to decide what works best for you, and it will probably also depend on what services your family and co-workers use.
But most importantly, pick a system that works for you , and make sure use it. If you’re looking for something fast and easy, your best option is to use an external hard drive with Time Machine. If you are constantly traveling and would rather not have to lug around an external drive with you, then a cloud solution will be best. And if sharing files or collaborating with others is essential to your workflow, a cloud solution will be most useful.

As far as I’m concerned, you cannot overdo it with backups. I highly recommend that you have a Time Machine backup along with at least some of your files backed up to the cloud. Take your time to set things up correctly, and you could end up saving yourself  a lot of frustration and money in the long run.

Posted by Ian Van Slyke in iCloud, Mac, Productivity, Recommendations, Tips & Tricks, 0 comments
3 tools to cut out distractions on your Mac

3 tools to cut out distractions on your Mac

There are times when you really need to get things done on your Mac, and you need to make sure you can avoid distractions as much as possible. Notifications, pings, emails, and other intrusions can put a severe dent in your productivity. Fortunately, there are tools that can help you specifically resolve that problem.
In this article, I’ll show you 3 things you can do to cut back on those pesky distractions:

First off, your Mac already has one very useful tool built-in, which is the DO NOT DISTURB feature. This is similar to the DO NOT DISTURB feature on the iPhone. This feature is available on the Mac in Control Center, which you can access from the very top right of your screen. When you click on the 3 little bars icon at the right top corner, that will open up Notification Center and by default you should be in the Today tab. At the very top, you should see today’s date listed, along with the weather forecast and some calendar information. If you scroll UP, you’ll see the DO NOT DISTURB on and off toggle switch. Using this switch, you can turn on DO NOT DISTURB for however long you need, so that you’re not getting notifications on your Mac. Very useful !

The second tool I’d like to recommend is an app for Mac called Focus. Focus gives you a lot of flexibility to block certain distracting websites, and you can even block certain distracting apps for a set amount of time. This way, you can block sites like Facebook, Twitter or whatever other site you may find yourself going to compulsively for a set amount of time. You can also block apps like Apple Mail or Outlook if you find yourself checking your email too often when you should be working. So, any distracting website or app can be blocked for a short or long period of time. Focus is not the only app capable of doing what it does, but with it, you do get a lot of options such as scheduling, statistics, and the ability to take breaks.
You can purchase the Focus app for $20 on their website by clicking here. I’m not associated with this company whatsoever, I just love this product.

The third and final tool I want to bring up is called Self-Control, which is very similar to the Focus app, simply with less options. But this one is free, with an option to donate if you choose to. But you get the same functionality of being able to block both distracting websites or apps on your Mac. It’s simple and to the point and a great little app. You can download it here.

Alright, so those would be my picks for 3 of the best ways you can help yourself stay on track and get stuff done without getting caught up with distractions on your Mac. If you have any other recommendations, please them below.

 

Posted by Ian Van Slyke in Mac, Productivity, Recommendations, Software, 0 comments
New Firefox Quantum

New Firefox Quantum

Yesterday, a big update to the Firefox web-browser was released. Firefox Quantum was redesigned for better and faster performance, less impact on the battery, and a nice shiny new interface. They’ve done an excellent job with this big update. I think Firefox was already an excellent browser, but they have been losing market share to Chrome in a big way the last few years. Far less people use Firefox nowadays than they did 5-6 years ago, as Chrome has sort of taken over. The improvements in this version may help Firefox regain some users. At least I hope so, since competition is a good thing, and Mozilla (the makers of Firefox) is a great non-profit organization as well. Download or update to the new version and check it out.

Posted by Ian Van Slyke in Mac, Productivity, Recommendations, Software, 0 comments
Tips for your Apple ID password

Tips for your Apple ID password

If you use any Apple devices, you have an Apple ID. And that Apple ID is crucial since that’s how Apple tracks what you’ve purchased, downloaded, and particularly if you’re using any of the iCloud services whatsoever. And while it’s always been important to create and use a strong password for your Apple ID, I feel that it’s even more important now than ever, given how many important hacks have been occurring the last few years. So, make sure to use 2 Factor Authentication, and then make sure you’re using a really strong password.

Also, I see more people using the Notes app on their Mac and iPhones to store sensitive information, such as all their passwords and financial information. So, it seems to me that Apple ID and iCloud login info will become an increasingly appealing target for hackers in the coming years.
I work with clients every week, and even though I try very hard not to let people share their login info with me, they will often blurt it out right in front of me, or write it down so that I can see it. And what I can say, is that most people are using awful passwords.

Apple’s guidelines is that your password must contain at least eight characters, a number, an uppercase letter, and a lowercase letter.
So, here’s my recommendations for this password:

  1. Don’t make it unnecessarily long. I’ve seen people use passwords that are 25 or 30 characters long, and that’s going to be a major pain in the ass when you have to enter that whenever you download a new app. Keep it short. Use just 8 characters, just like Apple wants you too. Try not to go over that.
  2. Use a password that you are not using anywhere else. You should do this for most important passwords anyways, but it’s particularly important with this password.
  3. Use something that makes no sense whatsoever. I see people use their dog’s name and birth-date all the time. Or their kids name. These are things that can often be found online if someone is trying to guess at your password. Social engineering is one of the key tools that hackers use, so don’t use anything that someone could find out online with a little bit of effort.

So, my recommendation is avoid at all cost using something like this: Julie1992 – It might be easy for you to remember, but you’re probably using names and dates that mean something to you, and chances are that you used something similar on other websites as well.
Use something like this instead: bur83-Lk – That makes absolutely no sense, and it should be very unique. And it’s really not that hard to memorize if you give it a try.

So, that’s it in a nutshell… I strongly recommend using a nonsensical password that’s short enough for you to memorize and type with ease. Hopefully, a strong password will help save you from any security breaches in the future.

Posted by Ian Van Slyke in iPhone, Mac, Mac Security, Recommendations, Tips & Tricks, 0 comments
Great free software for your Mac

Great free software for your Mac

There are some great Mac software available your computer, which can help make your Mac run a little smoother and safer. Today, I will list 3 of these tools which I highly recommend, and that I’ve been using for years.

The first one I’d recommend is OnyX from Titanium Software. This utility lets you clean up and customize certain aspects of your Mac without requiring you to learn a ton of features. You still need to be careful, as it is pretty powerful, but as long as you stick to the default options and do not turn on the features you don’t understand, you will be fine. You can download OnyX from here.

Another piece of software that I would strongly suggest you install on your Mac is Malwarebytes for Mac. This program lets you easily remove any malware you may have inadvertently installed on your Mac. Even though they now also offer a paid yearly subscription, the free version still does a fantastic job of removing any malware from your computer. This is an incredibly useful piece of software which can be a life-saver if you have adware on your Mac.
You can find Malwarebytes for Mac on this page.

And finally, I’m also a big fan of AppCleaner. If you decide to remove an application from your Mac, you should make sure that you remove every little bits and pieces from your computer. If you simply drag an application to the trash, there will still be plenty of small helper files left on your Mac. AppCleaner searches your whole computer and removes everything associated with the software you’re getting rid of, which is really great.
You can download and then install AppCleaner from this page.

That’s it, hopefully, you will find these applications useful for your Mac for some time to come. Enjoy !

Posted by Ian Van Slyke in Mac, Recommendations, Software, Tips & Tricks, 0 comments
Using the Focus app for productivity

Using the Focus app for productivity

There are times when you need to get some serious work done on your Mac, and you cannot allow yourself to be easily distracted. Of course, these days, that is easier said than done. Between Email, social media, Netflix, YouTube, web-sites, games and whatever else you might find yourself compulsively going to when working on the computer, it can be hard to resist distractions. But of course, there is technology available to help you resist those urges. I’ve been using the Focus app for a couple of years now, and I find it to be a fantastic tool.
Once installed, you can use Focus to create timed sessions during which you can either block certain applications from working, or block certain distracting web-sites, or do both. I often use Focus to block my Mac Mail application from working, while also blocking a large list of web-sites from being accessible.

You can customize a number of things about Focus, including which apps and web-sites you can block, create schedules, choose how long your focused sessions last, and plenty more. I definitely recommend this app, and you can try for free for 14 days, and buy it for $19.99 if you want to keep using it ( I am in not affiliated with this company in any way ). You can find the Focus app on their website at https://heyfocus.com/

Posted by Ian Van Slyke in Mac, Productivity, Recommendations, Software, 0 comments
Avoiding malware on Mac

Avoiding malware on Mac

Over the last few years of working with clients, I’ve seen a huge spike in people picking up malware/adware on their Mac. Malware is a pretty broad term which encompasses all sorts of malicious software, but the kind you’re most likely to get on your Mac is usually adware. Once on your computer it will embed itself in your web browsers and might start re-directing your web traffic, change your homepage, and probably show you all sorts of unwanted ads, warning messages and pop-ups. Malware on the Mac is not particularly harmful, but can be very annoying, and seriously limit what you can do on the web. That being said, it’s usually fairly easy to remove.

But ideally, you want to avoid picking up malware in the first place by taking some basic precautions. One of the most common ways that people pick up malware on their computer is by mistakenly downloading fake Adobe Flash updates. You’ll see some sort of pop-up that tells you need to install a newer version of Flash, but when you click on it you end up unknowingly installing malware instead. Here’s how you should install Flash updates the safe way :
Go to your System Preferences and click on the Flash Player at the bottom left of the window.

macOS system preferences

Once there, look for the Updates tab and run a check to see whether you do need updates. And if so, do it from here. This is one of the best ways you can avoid malware.

The other big precaution you can take is by not downloading movies, music, software and games from illegal sharing sites. Unfortunately, even though it may be tempting, those sites are filled with offers for free stuff that often turn out to be infected with malware. So, you just need to use good judgement there.

And finally, my other big recommendation is to stay  away from anything called MacKeeper, MacDefender, or MacSecurity at all costs. These programs are actually malware themselves, and try to fool people into downloading the software and then make the problem you’re trying to fix even worse. If you’ve ever downloaded any of these, remove them from your Mac using MalwareBytes for Mac. This is an excellent piece of software that removes malware from your Mac, and it’s free.

So, there you go, hopefully this helps to keep your Mac safe out there 🤓

Posted by Ian Van Slyke in Mac, Mac Security, Recommendations, Tips & Tricks, 0 comments
Apple’s new Public betas

Apple’s new Public betas

This week, Apple is releasing the public betas for some of their upcoming software updates. Yesterday, the iOS 11 public beta was made available for download, and adds some nice features, especially for iPad users. While I don’t really recommend trying the public betas so soon after they come out, the iOS 11 public beta does seem pretty stable already.

But the one I really want to talk about is the upcoming macOS High Sierra public beta. I usually try out these public betas as soon as they come out just to get a feel for the new features before they are released to the public at large. That is part of my job after all.
But I will not be doing that with the macOS High Sierra public beta. This update introduces a brand new file system to the Mac called APFS. This new file system has already been introduced on iOS and has been working great so far. But things might get a little trickier on the Mac, and that’s why I would highly recommend holding off on installing macOS 10.13 on your Mac until all the kinks have been worked out by Apple. So realistically, you should probably wait until the end of July at least.

Posted by Ian Van Slyke in Apple news, iOS, iPhone, Mac, Recommendations, 0 comments
Microsoft OneNote App

Microsoft OneNote App

My favorite note taking application for the Mac is Microsoft’s OneNote, which works on the Mac, iPhone and iPad. It’s a wonderful and full-featured note taking tool that has been around since 2003 on Windows, and since 2014 on the Mac. It allows you to blend text, images, videos, PDF’s, graphs, tables and whatever else you can think of to create notebooks blending all these elements together. You can use it for super basic note taking, or very complex presentations using all types of media. You can create to-do lists, use it for project management, write in it using a touch-screen, and all sorts of other uses. If you haven’t yet tried OneNote, do yourself a favor and download it (it’s free) and play around with it. It’s quite easy to use and you’ll quickly discover all it’s potential.

You can find out more about OneNote here

Posted by Ian Van Slyke in iPhone, Mac, Productivity, Recommendations, 0 comments