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Free time savers for the Mac

THE Mac is a great machine out of the box, but junk can collect as you use it over time and slow it down. Also, as good as OS X and the built-in Mac applications are, there are many ways to do things just a tad more efficiently and to extend the Mac’s functionality.

This week, we renew our search for free utilities and programs that address both these concerns. Here’s what we found.

Clean up your Mac. There are many utilities—some paid, others free—that tune up your Mac. A recent addition to this class of software is Mac Clean 2, a slick utility from iMobie (www.imobie.com/macclean/) that can be downloaded free from the company’s website (It doesn’t seem to be in the App Store).

At its most basic level, Mac Clean 2 clears out the accumulated junk on your Mac. This includes junk left on your machine by your browser, including Internet cache files and cookies, browsing and download histories, sessions and site preferences.

Mac Clean 2 will also tag and clean out junk left by the system, including useless or outdated cache and log files, as well as unnecessary supporting files created during the installation or debugging of programs, and stuff that’s still sitting in your trash bin.

On my first run on my Macbook Air, Mac Clean 2 quickly scanned my system and recovered 2.3 gigabytes of disk space simply by cleaning out all this junk. If you are so inclined the program gives you control over what to keep and what to delete.

The program also comes with nine cleaning and tuning utilities that enable you to quickly locate old and large files and tag the ones you don’t need for deleting; find and delete duplicate files; permanently delete confidential files and leave no trace of them behind; remove thumbnail junk left by iPhoto; remove unwanted language files that come with OS X; shrink the size of applications by removing redundant binary files; uninstall programs without leaving any junk behind; manage extensions and plug-ins efficiently; and completely empty the trash bin by deleting its contents securely.

Instantly remove desktop clutter. I don’t really need this utility because I am very particular about keeping my desktop clean of data files, but I know a lot of Mac users who could use HiddenMe Free (in the App Store). The utility sits as a dot on the status bar—click it to instantly hide multiple rows and columns of desktop icons and click it again to show them. You can also set a hotkey shortcut to toggle between hiding and showing the icons.

Set alarms and reminders. From FIPLAB Ltd., the company that gave us the excellent MailTab for Gmail, the free utility Timeless (in the App Store) is billed as the best and most gorgeous alarm clock and reminder application for the Mac. The interface is certainly clean, colorful and absolutely easy to use. You can set an unlimited number of unique alarms and give each a descriptive title, and go into full-screen nightstand mode. Choose from 20 alarm sounds or add your own custom sounds.

Control multimedia apps by touching air. ControlAir (in the App Store) is a nifty utility that lets you control multimedia applications like iTunes, QuickTime Player, Spotify and VLC by holding up a finger in front of the Mac’s camera and “air clicking” on controls that drop down from the top of the screen. The utility worked well enough when I tried it, though sometimes the dropdown controls took a while to appear. I’m not sure air control is any faster than moving the mouse through the trackpad, but hey, it’s a whole lot cooler.

Change screen resolution quickly. Display Menu (in the App Store) is a free utility that sits on the status bar that lets you change your display settings with a single click. This is particularly useful if you’re setting up a mirror of your screen on an LCD projector.

Check free disk space. Disk Space Tab (in the App Store) is a menu bar utility that displays graphically the amount of free space you have on hard drives, external drives, network drives, DVDs and CDs, memory cards and USB drives.

If your status bar is starting to feel a bit crowded after installing these utilities, don’t fret. You can get rid of the ones you don’t need. In my case, I rarely use Bluetooth, so I don’t need its icon taking up space on the menu bar. To remove an icon, simply position your mouse over it, hold down the Command key and drag the icon over to desktop. Poof – no more unwanted status bar icon. Chin Wong

 

Column archives and blog at: http://www.chinwong.com

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