Category Archives: MacOS

How make Safari download PDF files instead of opening them in-page

When I find a link for a PDF file I don’t want Safari to open it in-page. Why not? What if I just want to download it to read it later? What if I have a list of PDF files that I just want to click one after another to start downloading them? What if the PDF file is too big and my internet connection is too slow, so I have a blank window waiting for the PDF to complete the download? What if I have too many opened tabs in Safari and I don’t want to kill my machine downloading a 100MB PDF file?

To force Safari to download your PDF files just open a terminal window and type this:

defaults write com.apple.Safari WebKitOmitPDFSupport -bool YES

If you want to change it back just type:

defaults write com.apple.Safari WebKitOmitPDFSupport -bool NO

You should restart Safari.

How to Disable the Character Accent Menu in OSX

I came into this last year (I think) and I found the solution somewhere and I added it to my personal notes. After a Mavericks reinstall I got the same problem. Starting with Mountain Lion (not sure) when I hold a character, instead of getting the usual character repetition, I got an annoying pop-up menu like this:

annoyingmenu

It only appears when you hold a character that could have an accent like åàáã and so forth.
I find this solution annoying for people that is quite fast at typing. I consider myself fast, so waiting for the pop-up menu to appear and then select the right character consumes too many milliseconds.

To stop that pop-up from appearing just open a terminal and type:

defaults write -g ApplePressAndHoldEnabled -bool NO

If you want it to come back type:

defaults write -g ApplePressAndHoldEnabled -bool YES

You have to close your app and open it again in order for this change to take effect, or just logout and login again.

How to write those accented characters? Simple key combinations. For example for US keyboards:

alt + e = ´ (áéíóú)
alt + ~ = ` (àèìòù)
alt + n = ˜ (ñã…)
alt + c = ç

Just to mention a few. Other keyboards might have a different combination, but I noticed that it’s almost the same. For example, the Japanese keyboard uses the (alt + _) to get ” ` ”

Once you get used to these combinations, it’s faster than using that pop-up menu.

First impressions about Mavericks

I installed Mavericks over Mountain Lion on a MacBook Air early 2011. Let’s first start with the good stuff I found so far:

  1. More disk space. Before the installation I had 22GB free and now I have 34GB free. I have no idea what stuff was occupying 10GB of space, anyway it’s gone!
  2. Faster! Yes surprisingly it’s faster than Mountain Lion and Lion. I was a little bit afraid about the speed, specially after seeing how bad iOS 7 is doing on the iPhone 4 and the iPad 2.
  3. All my important apps work. So far I tried: TrueCrypt, VirtualBox, Chicken, Google Earth, LightRoom, Photoshop CS4, Illustrator CS4, AptanaStudio 3, Libre Office, TextWrangler, Audacity, VLC, JEDict, CyberDuck, Skype, go2Shell, Temperature Gauge.
  4. Leap Motion drivers work.
  5. Full screen works as indicated by Apple. I finally have my top bar enabled on the second monitor so I can now work full screen without sacrificing one monitor. I had one pretty bad issue that will be explained later in the post.
  6. The american voice Samantha is sexier than before.
  7. Disk utility didn’t crash until now…
  8. Battery had a better performance. I didn’t measure the charge time, but it discharges at a slower pace.

Bugs:

  1. I can’t rotate the second monitor. I used it at 90 degrees rotation but I can’t use it now. It was very handy specially to see the iPad/iPhone simulator working on it… Look at the image. This is ridiculous:
  2. Bug Rotation

  3. When I activated the second monitor in LightRoom it worked fine. But the second one’s top bar overlapped the maximized Lightroom’s second view. I can adjust that by making the second view a window but there should be no overlap of the content.
  4. bug full screen

  5. Sometimes you get something like this. I was in the launchpad and the app behind got an alert. The mouse pointer was operative with the launchpad icons but the content of the program overlapped the launchpad view. I had to click outside the window to get rid off the launchpad and respond to the message. If this is not a bug, it’s poor design
  6. bug launchpad

  7. In Lightroom I don’t get the right colors on the controls. Look at the image on the left is from Lightroom running on Mountain Lion and the right one on Mavericks. Don’t you see something is missing?
  8. mavericks lightroom bug

  9. I also had an issue with the keyboards. I have a Japanese keyboard which I use most of the time. I also installed an Italian and Spanish keyboard when I have to write in those languages. The problem is that the Japanese keyboard, when is set to Romaji, it means to write in roman characters, thinks that the previous used keyboard is the default romaji. So I ended up with a Spanish keyboard when I want to use the Japanese distribution. This didn’t happen with Mountain Lion. I fixed it by installing the US keyboard which maps the Japanese one. This is conceptually wrong, because based with the previous schema, the US keyboard should match an US keyboard distribution instead the Japanese one. Finally I gave up all the keyboards and I followed the advice of my friend @rcivit Now I use shortcuts to create characters like éáñ and so forth. Anyway I still have to install the US keyboard on a Japanese keyboard to have the right mapping…

So far so good, I won’t rollback to Mountain Lion mainly because Mavericks seems faster and more battery friendly. Anyway I wouldn’t use it for your production machine after at least 5 or 6 months.

The challenge of user interfaces simplification

iOS 7 is here. I’ve been using it since the first beta. As far as user interfaces are effective, I don’t care too much about aesthetic, also because it’s totally subjective. What is ugly for you is beautiful for someone else. In a previous post I shared a couple of screenshots showing the difference between icons in Xcode 3.2, 4.6 and 5.0. You can see a progressive simplification of the interface. First flatting colors then flatting depth. The challenge with this design is to avoid reaching the point of maximum simplification. Let’s look at the icons in detail:

simplify

Symbols don’t have any meaning by themselves, we give meaning to symbols and icons which simply are symbols, ideograms, pictograms. If we keep the design around the first icon on the left, it’s possible to change its look without changing its meaning. It’s not a practical need, but an aesthetic one, and I understand that’s more a marketing choice than a practical one. Even if nothing really changed inside the application, a new look gives you the idea that you have a new and fresh product.

The problem with the icon on the right is that simplification reached the limit. It’s so simple, so minimalist, that a change of its design means also changing the symbol and therefore removing the meaning. Symbols are powerful and that’s why many people over the years in history tried to steal symbols and change their original meaning, like the the Nazis did with the swastika. We should avoid changing symbols too often, because that removes semantic consistency in the interface and creates confusion.

Another example:

simplify02

The icon in 5.0 is a simplification of the correspondent in 3.2. The icon in 4.6 is a change in the previous symbol, creating confusion and inconsistency. Then they changed it back again to the original one. The new one has very little room to evolve or change without changing the symbol. It’s the extreme simplification of the original one.

I think that iOS 7 and the OSX interface and design are great. They are simple, effective, intuitive and fun but over simplifying hides the potential risk of reaching a point where simplification cannot be accomplished anymore and the only possible choice is changing the symbol, therefore breaking consistency.

I’m curios to see if, at this point, they will be able to update the design in the future without breaking the symbolic consistency.