Web Browsing With Safari

Here are the slides from the May, 2022 MacMAD meeting on browsing with Safari.

Web Browsers: Chrome, Edge, Safari, Firefox
Search Engines
Anatomy of a URL
Top Level Domain, e.g. .com
Domain Name
Subdomain
Your Internet Environment
ISP: Internet Service Provider
Email Provider
WiFi
Web Sites
Password Manager: Apple Keychain

Use iPhone as Web Cam with Detail

I have a MacMini which has no built-in camera. During the pandemic, I have been doing more on-line teleconferencing (mostly Zoom and Facetime meetings). I have used various cameras and various software to connect them to my computer.

I recently came across Detail, from Detail.co . This application allows you to use your iPhone or iPad as a web camera for your Mac. This is the best solution I have seen yet, and the iPhone has a good-quality camera, so my video looks good.

The Mac application does much more than that, which is both an advantage and disadvantage. It is a disadvantage in that it makes it harder to learn to use. There is a video tutorial on the site. The quick summary is to download the Detail app from the iOS or iPad OS App store on your iPhone or iPad, and also download the app for Macintosh from the web site. The app can work wirelessly, or via a USB cable (recommended).

You may want a tripod adapter for your phone. I bought this one and it seems like a good one. You might want to use that with a small desktop tripod like this, if you don’t have one.

Detail is not free, and they are kind of cagey about the price. I actually don’t know how much or how often they charge. There is a 14 day free trial period. I discovered and got access to Detail through my Setapp subscription, which is excellent for just-in-time discovery of useful, curated apps.

Self Help: How to Find a Lost File

You had an important file, but now you can’t find it anywhere. In this article, we’ll look at tips for finding that lost file. First, for MacOS, and then for iOS/iPadOS.

Finding a file on MacOS

Searching with Spotlight

You might be tempted to search with Spotlight (the magnifying glass icon in your menu bar). Spotlight might find your file, but by default, it returns a lot of results other than files and folders. You might not be able to see the tree for the forest in your Spotlight results. If you visit Spotlight in System Preferences, you will see that Spotlight returns results in up to 20 selectable categories, many of which are not relevant. For instance if you had a file related to a jacket in size 42 long, you might search with Spotlight for 42L. Spotlight will unhelpfully inform you that 42L = 1.48 cubic feet.

Finder Search

You can perform a search in any Finder window by clicking the magnifying glass icon in the upper right of the window, and typing your search term. This is different than Spotlight, and it searches only files.

Beginning a Finder Search for 42L

In the example above, you have typed “42L”. You will see that it has found two files, neither of which actually have 42L in the filename. However, there are two clickable options here that you should consider. If you click the dimmed word Filenames, the search is restricted to only filenames. Otherwise it will find any file that contains the search term. To start with, the search only includes the folder you happened to start in. In this case, that is the Documents folder. If you click “This Mac”, then it will expand the search to your entire computer.

Also, if you click the + to the right side, next to Save, you will get the option to further restrict your search by Kind, Last Opened Date, Last Modified Date, and a great many other attributes. For example, you could select documents whose Kind is Image. That would find only photographs or drawings.

Searching This Mac for all Image files.

By clicking the column headers in the Finder you can sort by Name, Size, Kind, Date Last Opened, etc. This can help bring likely files to the top. Consider searching by Kind, Date, Size, etc., without using a search term. You may have forgotten what the file was named exactly, or it may have been accidentally renamed. By doing this, you may find a file whose name was mangled somehow. If the file is fairly recent, it pays to look at the Recents icon in the Finder sidebar. Maybe you will recognize your file in that list. Again, you might want to sort the list.

Don’t forget to check the Trash. Files in Trash should show up when searching This Mac, but it’s worth a look.

Check the Desktop. Don’t just look at your desktop on the screen. MacOS has a feature called Stacks, which tends to hide things on your desktop. You either need to expand each of those stacks by clicking on them, or else open a Finder window, and visit your Desktop folder directly.

Plan B: Other Places to Search

Maybe the file isn’t actually on your computer, but it exists somewhere else. For example, a lot of Apps like to save files on Cloud Storage of some kind. Here are some ideas of places to look:

  • iCloud Drive
  • Microsoft OneDrive
  • Google Drive
  • Evernote
  • Dropbox
  • Network-Attached-Storage (NAS)
  • USB Stick/Flash Drive
  • Your other computer or phone or tablet
  • Camera Memory Cards
  • Virtual Machines (files in a Virtual Machine won’t be found when searching outside that machine.)

The cloud storage services are often mirrored to your local system, but not always. So, you may need to sign into their web interface and browse the files there.

Plan C: Files in Transit

Think about where your file originated in the first place. Most of the files on your computer, you didn’t create. They came from somewhere else. If someone sent you that file, it may still be available. If it’s not too embarrassing, you can always ask the sender to send it to you again. Otherwise, check your messaging apps and services:

  • e-Mail Inbox(es)
  • Apple Messages App
  • Facebook Messages
  • What’s App
  • Hangouts
  • We Chat
  • Signal

The file may still be in the message by which it originally arrived. If you originally downloaded the file from the internet, it’s probably easiest to just find it again with Google and re-download it.

If you created the file locally, did you ever send it to anyone else? If so, a copy of the file may exist in your outbox on one of the above services. Or, you can ask a recipient to send you back a copy.

Searching for a lost email is another topic in itself to be covered in a later post.

Plan D: Recover from Backup

Maybe the lost file used to be on your computer, but it was accidentally deleted. This is the scenario where backups come in handy, especially Time Machine backups. You have been performing regular backups, right?? Well, even if you haven’t, there is a good chance that Time Machine has saved your bacon. By default, Time Machine keeps some backup versions of files on your local computer even if you have never performed a Time Machine backup to an external drive (like you should!).

To recover files from Time Machine, it helps if you have some idea where in your file system the file was located. If you’re not sure, you can start with the usual suspects like the Documents folder, the Desktop or the Downloads folder. Open that folder now, in the Finder. Attach your Time Machine backup drive if you have one. Make sure that your folder of interest is the active Finder Window.

Click the Time Machine icon in the menu bar (it looks like a clock). Select Enter Time Machine. This will open sort of a time-tunnel view of that particular Finder window.

You can navigate back to some older version(s) of that folder and look for your file. If you haven’t backed up to an external drive, there may be very few snapshots available for viewing.

Finding a File on iOS or iPadOS

The key place to look for files on iOS is the Files App. It has a blue folder icon. Like MacOS, it has a Recents view which can be helpful. It can show files stored directly on your device as well as files stored on iCloud Drive. You may also have various other cloud services folders under Files. There are also the Shared, Recently Deleted (Trash), and Downloads folders. These are all worth checking.

In iOS or iPadOS, you can search for a file by swiping down from the center of the home screen. This will bring a search text box onto the screen as well as an on-screen keyboard. You can then search by typing or by voice.

I hope you were able to find your lost file, or at least to find some hints useful for next time.

Lessons Learned

I use an external drive with my Mac to supplement the internal storage. I have been using the external drive primarily to store my Photos Library and iTunes Library, but I have a lot of other files there also. (Here’s an article about putting your Photos Library on an external drive.)

I bought a new 1TB External SSD to replace the mechanical 1TB drive I had been using. I figured this would be a nice speed-up, and more in line with what my Mac is capable of.

SSD next to 3.5 inch External drive
The SSD is Small

From the photos on-line when I ordered the SSD, I expected it to be larger — about the size of a regular 3.5″ external drive. It is much smaller. It’s about the size of a stack of four or five credit cards. This would be a great thing for travel.

I knew that I should format a new SSD with the newer APFS format for use with MacOS (currently 10.15 Catalina). So, after reading up on that, I fired up Disk Utility, selected APFS, and hit Format. I immediately realized my mistake. I was formatting my original external drive with my data on it, not the new one! It only took a few seconds to lose everything on that drive.

Lesson Learned: Make Very Sure Which Drive You are Formatting!

The good news is that I had a backup. (You have backups, right?)

Lesson Learned Previously: Always Have Backups

After initially trying to restore from backup using Carbon Copy Cloner, I ended up just copying the files to the new SSD using the Finder. But I didn’t have enough space on the drive and deleting big files and folders didn’t seem to make any difference in the amount of free space. I finally found that Carbon Copy Cloner had created some invisible space hogs on that drive called Snapshots.

Lesson Learned: If Deleting Files Doesn’t Increase Free Space, Look for Snapshots

Snapshots can also be created by Time Machine.

Lesson Learned: CCC Creates Snapshots which you can remove from within CCC.

Once I got rid of the snapshots, I was able to restore everything to the new drive easily.

Now I wanted to make some changes to help prevent similar accidents in the future. I give my drives unique descriptive names. I also wanted to give my hard drives unique icons. Any external drive I attach normally shows up with the same generic icon. If they all look alike, it makes mistakes like formatting the wrong drive more likely. I used icons that physically resemble the drives they represent, but you can use pictures of your cat, or whatever images you like.

I found this article explaining how to change the icon of drives. I ended up finding a lot of nice icons at Deviant Art. Often, the icons or images you find online are not in the correct format for MacOS. I used Image2Icon to convert them. You can find it on the Mac App Store, but I already had it via SetApp.

Since subscribing to SetApp, I always look in there first for any unique Apps I need. I usually find something that does what I want.

So, now my drives have unique icons like this:

Icons

Lesson Learned: You can and should give your external drives unique icons.

Besides external hard drives, you can also assign special icons to thumb drives or camera cards. Again, that seems very helpful in keeping them straight in your mind.

However, I have found that the procedure of pasting a new icon onto the icon of my hard drives does not work for some drives.

I found that for some drives, you can paste the icon file, but for other types of drives, you must copy and paste an actual image. If pasting the icon file doesn’t work, you can open the icon image using preview, make a selection, copy that, and paste that into the icon in the drives “Get Info” window. That seems to work.

I’m still finding that I can’t change the icon of partitions on an APFS partitioned drive. If anyone knows how to do this, please leave a comment. Thanks.

Digitizing a Book

Recently, I digitized some historic school yearbooks and I want to share some tips on how I did that. It was less work than I thought, and it went pretty fast due to some automation. There is certainly more than one way to do this, but this worked for me.

My goals going in were:

* Good Quality Images
* PDF Output with Searchable Text
* A Separate Image in the final document for each page in the book 
* Automate as much as possible

I used a DSLR camera to photograph the pages. I’m not going to go into a lot of detail on the photography aspect, although it is important. You want a lot of light coming from an angle. I used off-camera flash, with a wireless flash trigger. The camera and the flash were on tripods, and the yearbook was on a low coffee table. The camera was looking straight down onto the book. There are many camera settings and lighting settings that will work.

My Camera Settings

I wanted to be able to go through the entire book and not have to do anything else except turn a page and click the shutter. A wireless remote for your camera helps, although for the last book I digitized, I couldn’t find my remote and did it manually, with a 2-second delay to prevent camera shake. That was not too bad.

I taped some rulers to the table to keep the book firmly in the same position so it wouldn’t move between shots.

To save time, I photographed two facing pages at a time, on one image. These were separated later in software. There was plenty of resolution for this to still yield a quality image.

I set my camera to record JPEG images rather than RAW, because they are smaller and easier to deal with, and because I knew I had the exposure correct and wouldn’t need to adjust it in software.

Software Tool Kit

Affinity Photo 
Renamer 
PDFpen  
SetApp  (Renamer and PDFpen are available in SetApp) 
Workflow

I brought the camera images onto my Mac. Then I used the Affinity Photo App to separate and crop the images of the individual pages. I used two main features of Affinity Photo: Macros and Batch Jobs.

First I recorded a macro. I selected an image about 1/4 of the way through the book. I recorded a macro in which I cropped and rotated the left side of that image as a single page. I saved that macro as something like YBCropLeft. Then I repeated the process for the right-hand image, and saved that macro as YBCropRight. But I didn’t save any changes to any images yet.

Because of the way a physical book lies on the table, the ideal crop for all pages is not identical. To mostly compensate for this, I went through this process twice for each book, once for the first halt, and again for the second half. Each time I picked an image about half-way through that half of the book as my prototype for recording the macros. The first prototype was 1/4 into the book, and the second prototype was 3/4 into the book.

Now I used the Batch Job feature of Affinity Photo, which is in the menus at File:New Batch Job…
I dragged all the images from the 1st half of the book into the sources pane. I selected the YBCropLeft macro (and Applied it). I clicked “Save as JPEG” and picked a new, different folder for the output files.

When you run the batch job, you’ll be amazed at how quickly it processes all of those files. The resulting files will still have the same names that came out of the camera, e.g. IMG_1234.jpeg. But, now they are cropped to the left side only.

Affinity Photo doesn’t give you any naming options for the output of a batch job. This is where Renamer comes in. I used Renamer to quickly add an “L” to the end of all the output file names. So, for example, IMG_1234.jpeg became IMG_1234L.jpeg. This is so we can keep them straight and don’t have two files both with the same name.

Now, repeat the batch job, this time using the YBCropRight macro. Put the output into another new folder.

Again, use Renamer. This time, rename all the right side files to have an “R” at the end, so the names will become something like IMG_1234R.jpeg.

So, now, we repeat the entire process for the 2nd half of the book. Record two new Left and Right macros. Run two new batch jobs, sending the output to yet another pair of empty folders. Rename them to L and R as appropriate.

Now, copy all the R files and the L files from both halves of the book into one big folder. There shouldn’t be any duplicate file names. “L” happens to alphabetize ahead of “R”, so, the left side of each image will be alphabetically just ahead of the right side of that image, which is exactly what we want.

Now, if you had any oddball pages that didn’t fit the pattern, go ahead and digitize them, and contrive a file name so that they fit in the correct spot. For example, you might name the image of the front cover something beginning with “A”, so it will be in the front, and the back cover something like “Z”, so it will come last. If your book has a centerfold or map insert or similar, copy it separately and name it something that puts it at the appropriate spot in the alphabetical list of images. Or, you can just wait and insert it into the PDF at the appropriate place.

Now is the time for PDFpen. Open PDFpen and open a blank, new document. In a Finder window, select all the images (I had hundreds of them, one per page, and drag them all to the empty PDFpen document window. PDFpen will just slurp all those into one big PDF. The free Apple App Preview might be able to do this step also, but it didn’t seem as robust about it as PDFpen.

Proofread the document, making sure the pages are all in the right place and are all right-side-up, etc. PDFpen makes it easy to drag pages into the order you want, if they are incorrect for some reason.

Save your work.

The feature that we really needed PDFpen for is OCR (Optical Character Recognition). This will allow turning a bunch of pixels into searchable and selectable text in your document. For some reason, PDFpen hides this powerful feature with a weird User Interface quirk. If you look at the Edit menu in PDFpen, you will see OCR Page. But, we want to go ahead and OCR the entire document! That option isn’t visible unless you press the Option key. Then you will see the OCR Document item under the edit menu.

Go ahead and do that. It takes a few minutes, depending on size, and gives a “bing” when it is done.

Save your work again. This is your final, searchable PDF document.

Helping Someone Remotely

How can you help another computer user from a distance? I am going to show you a super easy way to help another Mac user using software that came with your computer.

Sometimes we get questions about computer problems from friends and family. It would be so easy if we were in the same room and could see and interact with their screen. But if they are far away, or in 2020, staying isolated because of Coronavirus, how do you help them?

If you and the other person both have Macs, and you can send and receive messages using the Messages app, then the answer is just a click away.

The Messages App

To connect to your friend’s computer, we are going to use the Messages App (formerly known as iMessage). This application comes with every Macintosh. It isn’t obvious, but the humble Messages app has a superpower. It can remote control a computer screen.

It might be good to first verify that you can send and receive messages to and from the remote computer. You must be connecting to your friend via their email address, which should be associated with their Apple ID.

If you see the blue text bubble(s) when messaging your friend, the next steps should go smoothly. If you see green text bubbles, or can’t send and receive messages at all, see the Difficulties section below.

To begin screen sharing, make sure that the correct friend’s conversation is highlighted in the Messages window. Then, select Ask to Share Screen from Messages’ Buddies menu.

Ask to Share Screen menu item

This will cause a message to appear in the upper right of your friend’s screen asking them to allow screen sharing:

Accept Screen Sharing

When they click Accept, they will get one more message:

Click Accept to allow remote control

For troubleshooting with a trusted friend, it is usually easier if the recipient allows you to control their screen as well as observe it. Control is the default.

Once they click Accept, screen sharing will begin.

Either party can end screen sharing. Remember that if the computer restarts, or if you quit the Messages app, screen sharing will end and need to be restarted.

I have successfully talked some very inexperienced computer users through this process on the phone. They only have to be able to see when they receive a text message, and then click Accept twice. After that, you will be able to help them.

You’ll probably be talking to your friend on the phone to get this started. When screen sharing starts, it also starts an on-line voice conversation. You should be prepared to end the phone call when this happens to prevent echo, feedback and confusion. You will still be able to speak to each other via the computer (if both computers have microphones and speakers — most do).

Difficulties

If this is not working as expected, check the following:

  • Both computers must be running MacOS
  • Both computers must be connected to the Internet
  • Both parties must have an Apple ID
  • Check that the email addresses being used for communication are listed in System Preferences/Apple ID under Name, Phone, Email in the Reachable at section. If not, they can be added there.

Controlling Your Device with Gestures

These are the Keynote slides from MacMAD’s February 2020 (updated 2022) meeting on using Gestures on iOS and Macintosh. Note: this presentation contains some short videos so is rather large (~160 MB). The link is to a Keynote presentation file shared in iCloud.

The same slides in PDF format.

See also: Basic iPhone Gestures (2017).

How to Upload Images Right-Side-Up

A frequently asked question on the Internet is:

“My photo appears correct on my computer, but when I uploaded it to [website], it is sideways. How can I make my image upload in the correct orientation?”

This problem is surprisingly universal, it affects many different web sites and users of Windows, Macintosh, tablets and smartphones are all affected. It most often affects photos that were taken in portrait orientation.

Local Image Correct Orientation
Uploaded Image Sideways

The problem is caused by the varying interpretations of the image rotation tags in the EXIF data accompanying digital photos. This problem is not likely to go away anytime soon because the meaning of the rotation tags is somewhat ambiguous, and there is disagreement about what the correct way to handle them ought to be. Some software thinks it should apply the tags, other programs or sites think they should ignore the tags or remove the tags.

There is an easy solution for users: Edit the photo in your photo editor of choice (with the possible exception of Windows Picture Viewer). Rotate it to be right-side-up if necessary. Then make some other change that affects the image. Tweak the contrast or the color. Crop the image slightly. Almost any change will work. Then, save it.

The saved image will have its pixels oriented properly and have no Orientation tag, or have the default Horizontal tag. Everybody agrees on how to display an image like that. When you upload it, it will display the same as you saw it on your computer.

If you edit an image, but only rotate it, your editor will probably just change the Orientation tag without changing the image pixels. Unfortunately, not every program or site will interpret the Orientation tag the same way as your image editor.

If you make a change to the actual image, it forces the program to completely re-write the image from scratch, which results in an image with the default orientation.