There are a number of text expanding utilities available in OSX such as TextExpander that let you define keywords that are automatically expanded after you type them so that repetitive phrases can be rapidly entered.  While TextExpander has lots of options it costs $29.95.

I really don’t like to pay that much for a utility and so was happy to come across a utility that does text expansion and is free.  Kissphrase is a preference pane and as the name implies it really does “Keep it simple stupid.” No fancy features you just enter your keywords and their matching phrases and when you enter the keyword it automatically expands after you also enter a space, tab, return, etc.

One caveat is that it does not seem to work if the very first thing you enter at the beginning of a line or text box is a keyword.  But as long as you have any characters (including a space) preceding the keyword the phrase expands just fine.

This is great for those often used phrases and for snippets of text such as URLs or HTML tags.

Update: I found Kissphrase too buggy.  I later went ahead and bought TextExpander when it was on sale along with 1Password.  I have found TextExpander to work perfectly and to be quite the timesaver.  Once I setup the shortcuts to use I found that I used them often.  Especially great for working with html code and TextExpander includes a bunch of default shortcurts for html code.  The annoying thing is that when I go to work with a Windows machine I so miss having TextExpander available.

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One of the reasons I recently bought an iMac earlier this month was that I had read that Leopard would be released on Oct 26th and would be eligible for a free upgrade to it.  If you bought a Mac after Oct 1st of this year you could request a copy a Leopard and only pay the shipping fee.  So I did this from the online Apple store last week.

I find it annoying thought that Apple waited till today to ship it and thus I will have to wait till probably Wednesday to get it.  I can’t see a good reason why they had to actually wait for today for those who ordered by preorder to ship it.  Shipping it earlier this week  would have been much more sensible, though I would guess that  they wanted to make sure that no one received it before the official date.  Though considering the post office this seemed not very likely in most cases.  It would have been nice to have Leopard up and running for the weekend so that I would have had plenty of time to explore it more fully.

Oh well.

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If you are running two separate computers as I am you could soon go crazy using two keyboards and two mice.

There are hardware solutions called a KVM switch (Keyboard, Video, Mouse) that allows you to use just one set to control everything, but these can be semi-pricey and you have to manually switch between what system they are controlling.

I didn’t need a monitor solution since I setup my main monitor to work with either system and could simply select the source at the press of a button. I did though need a good solution for the keyboard and the mouse.

Thankfully there is a great free open source software called Synergy that allows you to use a keyboard and mouse on one system to control another system via a network connection. Synergy is just plain great software and I use to use it with my main PC and a laptop. There are versions of Synergy for both the PC and the Mac and they inter-operate beautifully. Even better is that you can do copy/paste operations from one system to another. It is great to just move the mouse cursor from one system to the next and the keyboard automatically works with whatever system currently has mouse focus.

Lifehacker has some good instructions for how to set this up for a dual systems (specifically a PC and a Mac). The interface for setting up the PC version isn’t exactly pretty and a little confusing to get going. Though someone has created a GUI wrapper of Synergy for OSX that is much easier to setup.

Synergy once setup just plain works and you soon forget about it and just go to work using its capabilities.

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I have been using multi-monitor configurations for quite a while and I can now hardly deal with only having the real estate of one monitor.

Previously I had a dual-monitor setup with my home PC and now that I have an iMac I have three monitors on my desk. The inner (and outer) geek in me rejoices at having so much screen real estate, though when I am doing my work I really gets tons of use out of such a setup and can get things done much more quickly that way.

I soon found that working with my iMac I really missed not having another monitor to work with. But even I draw the line at having four monitors on my desk as being a way too excessive. Just the energy requirements can seem extravagant. Though after seeing Al Gore’s three large monitor setup and a wide screen tv I don’t feel as bad.

My main working monitor is a 22 inch HP widescreen and I thought about maybe getting a switch so that I could go between using it with my PC and my iMac. I found a much better solution. This monitor had both a DVI and VGA display adapters which and a button in the front to switch between the two inputs. This was perfect since some monitor switches have a problem with ghosting if their is not enough shield around the VGA side.

This though is one thing annoying about Apple and sometimes their willingness to choose aesthetics over functionality. Their newer machines instead of using a standard DVI port, uses a mini-DVI port – an Apple only standard. Now this can make sense on a laptop where space is limited, but there is plenty of room on the back of an iMac. Now I have to admit the arrangement of USB, firewire, ethernet connector, and the mini-DVI port is quite aesthetically pleasing since every port looks roughly the same. So since this is not included with the computer you have to buy a mini-DVI adapter to be able to connect it to an external monitor. In my case instead of just buying one DVI cable I had to add the short adapter (which at 19 bucks is about the same as the much longer DVI cable.) Regardless though this is a much better solution than a monitor switch, which would have probably cost much more to get one that wouldn’t have ghosting problems.

I have to admit how pleased and happy I was in the how simple it was to setup. After I hooked up the new cable to my monitor with the adapter, the iMac recognized that an external monitor was being used and started to use it immediately. With Windows I always had to set it up first to start using the new monitor and to stretch the desktop onto it.

OSX System Preferences does allow you to set the screen resolutions for both monitors or if you want to mirror them. You can also set the arrangement of the displays depending on whether the external monitor is the left or the right and to also set which monitor has the menu bar. The preferences for the dock allow you to move the dock, but the options are only left, right, and bottom. It would have been nice to have a little more control of this since the bottom position refers to only the first monitor.

I did have one glitch at first where the context menu would come up on the first monitor even when you had right clicked something on the 2nd monitor. But a reboot cured this.

I do love how rock solid video is in OSX. On Windows if I moved a screen with video from one monitor to another you would often get glitches until you had dropped it in place.

Another thing I love about OSX is that you can easily set the wallpaper for either monitor independently. In Windows this is not supported directly, though there is a recent freeware program called Display Fusion that allows you to do this. In OSX just right click the display and select Display Desktop Background and you get two dialog boxes (one on each monitor) where you simply select the background you want to use.

So now when I am doing Windows intensive work I can switch my monitor to work with the PC and still have access to one Mac screen and when I am doing mainly Mac stuff I can switch the monitor source to the Mac and still have one Windows screen. This works great.

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There seems to be two terms of art for those people coming from the world of PCs to Mac.

Switcher – Those who are moving totally to the Mac platform.

Slider – Those who are moving back and forth between the two platforms.

I am definitely in the “slider” camp since I make my living writing code for Windows primarily using Microsoft’s Visual Studio and Adobe’s Flash.  And while Flash and some other programs I use like Dreamweaver are available on the Mac, it is pretty much all PCs at the workplace.  I have been using PCs at home for years.  I started computing by learning basic on a school mainframe and then later owned a Commodore 64, Commodore 128, Amiga 500, and then PC compatibles using DOS and then later Windows 2.0 through every version up to Vista (yes even the horrible Windows ME).

Listening to a lot of podcasts both technical and Catholic I was hearing more and more about using Macs. I got an iPod a couple of years ago and I fast became an admirer of its beauty and ease of use after having several portable mp3 devices starting from a Rio MP3 CD player. The iPod was a gateway device for me to start seriously looking at Apple computers and with the advent of the Intel based Macs and the ability to run Windows via both Boot Camp or in a virtual machine using Parallels or VMware Fusion this was the incentive for me to buy my first Apple computer, an iMac.

Being a lifetime geek I love playing with computers, operating systems, and various programs.  Being a Catholic we often talk about the concept of both/and instead of either/ or.  So I am quite Catholic when it comes to operating systems instead of being Windows or OSX or Linux – why not both/and?

The point of this blog will be exploring the Mac and making the adjustments from being mainly a Windows users and the best interact with both.  I will deal with mostly Mac software, but also hardware as it relates to running both a PC and a Mac.

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