Pixelmator 2.2 Blueberry - Mini Review

Pixelmator got an update a few weeks ago to version 2.2 called Blueberry. I didn't write about it at the time because I wanted to have a chance to play with it for a bit first. It was only a point update, so I wasn't expecting much. In my view, it's a mixed bag.

Pixelmator 2.2 Blueberry review

Let's start with the good stuff.

The new Paint Selection Tool is a welcome addition to the tool set. It makes the selection process much faster and is, for the most part, accurate enough. Obviously, it's not as powerful as Photoshop's multiple selection tools (for those wondering), but that's ok. It gets the job done and is a pleasure to use. This is my favourite feature of the new version.

The Light Leak Effect is fun to use and the Instagram crowd will love it. It's like Instagram on steroids with endless possibilities to customise the effect, so it's easy to create your own look. Personally, I don't think I'll use it much because it's not my style, but it's really nicely implemented and fun to play around with.

Pixelmator is still a normal buy-a-license kind of app, as opposed to that BS Adobe is doing with their subscription-only model. Sorry, had to vent on that one a bit.

Now with the not so good.

Most of the other new features are for graphic designers, not photographers. I fear Pixelmator is heading down a "let's be Photoshop and Illustrator combined" road. I believe this is a way to be kinda ok at both, but not great at anything. That's not a good place to be.

What I liked about Pixelmator was that it felt like a true photo editor for photographers. Sure, version 1 was buggy and it was missing many features, but it was heading in the right direction.

Now they're all excited about their new shape tools and vector features. They even "sneaked a feature" that turns Pixelmator into Vectormator. What. The. Hell?

Sure, the designer features are good and work remarkably well. But seriously, how many photographers add squares and butterfly shapes to their photographs? Text, maybe. Sometimes. At the very end of the process. I still think text should be at the bottom of the feature list in an photo editor for photographers.

Where are features like non-destructive adjustment layers? Or real PSD and TIFF support? Or 16 bit? Or a Liquify Tool?

They actually hinted that layer styles were coming in 2013 back in December 2012. Whilst that would be awesome, their communication back then suggested they were putting their efforts into non-photography related features. I even said I felt they were going to "follow the Photoshop path and become a bloat trying to please everyone".

I have to say I'm slightly disappointed with Pixelmator 2.2 Blueberry. It seems Pixelmator is no longer a photographers application. The question will no longer be photographers asking "how good is it as a Photoshop replacement" but it'll be web designers instead.

Still, I'm hopeful. And for $15 bucks I still think everyone should buy it. Maybe if enough of us support the developers they'll have an incentive to add the features photographers want.

Temporarily bypass Gatekeeper to install applications from unidentified developers in OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion

Gatekeeper is a new security feature in Mountain Lion, Apple's latest operating system. It basically prevents you from installing applications from developers not "identified" by Apple.

In it's default state, Gatekeeper will only allow apps from the Mac App Store or developers that have signed up with Apple to be installed. For the most part, I think this is a good thing.

However, sometimes you do want to install software that Gatekeeper is blocking. For example, I recently installed Apple Aperture on a Mac and one of the plugins I use to export to 500px was blocked. I got the following message saying "Install 500px Aperture Uploader can't be opened because it is from an unidentified developer".

Temporarily bypass Gatekeeper to install applications - Example of Gatekeeper blocking installation.

To bypass this, you can disable Gatekeeper from System Preferences - Security & Privacy - General. But you'll need to remember to change it back afterwards.

An easier way is to just right-click on the installer and choose Open. You'll get the same warning dialog but with an option to Open. Clicking this will bypass Gatekeeper this one time and allow you to install the app without having to change settings.

The order of files and folders in Mac OS X

I like to keep folders and files organised and systematically arranged in my computer. It's important that they're always in the same order so I can quickly find them without having to think about it. Not everyone is as OCD as I am when it comes to this, but those that are might find this useful.

The Mac has a specific order in which it shows folders and files when arranged alphabetically, or as it's called in the Finder in OS X, "sort by name."

Obviously, any files or folders that start with a letter will be sorted alphabetically. And those that start with numbers will be before these. For example, a file named "2012-08-15 something.pdf" will go before one named "something.pdf".

However, that's not enough for me. I want some folders to always be at the top, and some to always be at the bottom. That's where special characters are useful.

This is the order the Mac sorts characters (in Mountain Lion): space, underscore, dash, exclamation, question, at, star, accent, hat, plus sign, open bracket, equal, close bracket, pipe, tilde, numbers, letters, µ, π, Ω, and .

Mac OS X order of characters

Space comes before the letter "A", so do most punctuation marks. I use a space for the 2 folders I keep at the top, an exclamation mark for my "action" folders, and the @ symbol for 2 folders that hold temporary files. The other ones before numbers and letters I don't use.

For the one folder I like to keep at the bottom I use the Apple symbol .

Note that some characters are reserved by the system for specific things and shouldn't be used. For example, files starting with a period are treated as hidden files by OS X.

By the way, here's how you get those 4 characters at the bottom: µ (Option M), π (Option P), Ω (Option Z), and  (Shift-Option K)

My life is so hectic that my computer is like my haven of minimalism. And I like to keep it tidy.

Notification Center in Mountain Lion

One of the new features in Mountain Lion, the upcoming version of OS X, is Notification Centre. As Chris Herbert at Macstories explains:

Among these changes, and one of the most important pieces, is Notification Center. As the name suggests, it is basically Notification Center ported from iOS, running at a system level on Mountain Lion. Besides having the same UI elements we see on our iPads and iPhones everyday, it also has a badge mode much like Growl, our favorite open source notification system for OS X.

I like the concept of Notification Center on a Mac. It would be convenient to see all notifications in a single place and I can see that saving a bit of time. However, I'm not so sure about that badge mode a la Growl.

I installed Growl once and hated it after a few minutes. I found messages popping up on screen every time something happened extremely annoying. I can't think of anything that's that urgent that requires a bloody popup to interrupt what I'm currently doing. The only app that did that in my set up currently was Dropbox and I didn't like it, so I turned it off.

How to force the dock magnifcation in OS X Lion

In Mac OS X, I keep the dock on the left side of the screen with magnification turned off. I find it distracting to have the icons magnifying as I scroll through them.

However, I just found by chance that if you hold down Shift-Control (⌃⇧) while hovering over the icons in the dock, you can force magnification.

I love finding little things like that.

iCloud vs MobileMe

MobileMe was an important part of my workflow for many years. I guess I was one of the lucky ones that never experienced any major issues, so it became an integral and trusted part of how I work.

So when Steve Jobs announced iCloud, I was excited. It seemed like a great enhancement to the suite of tools I already used. And although I still wish Gallery hadn't gone away, I jumped straight in the day it was available.

Now, after having used iCloud for a while, I've been thinking about how it compares with MobileMe.

iCloud vs MobileMe

Mail, Calendar, Contacts

No difference. Maybe the way iCloud manages these is different than how MobileMe did it, but from a consumer point of view, it works exactly the same as it used to. Everything syncs as expected between 2 MacBook Pros, iPhone, iPad and the web app.

I did experience a short glitch the day I migrated to iCloud, where I couldn't get emails for a few minutes, but it fortunately hasn't happened again. It could've been the heavy load from everyone who got in the first day.

Mail, Calendars, and Contacts work as advertised. Hardly exciting or a reason to think it's better than MobileMe, other than these services are now free.

iTunes in the Cloud

This didn't exist with MobileMe, so it's all new. In the Apple website, they make it look like this applies only to music, and that books, apps, and backup are a separate feature. I find that strange as these are all managed by iTunes. I like to think of them as the same thing. iTunes in the Cloud basically allows you to have your iTunes purchased content available from any device and in sync across them.

iTunes in the Cloud is pretty cool overall, and each feature provides different benefits:

  • Music: It's great if all your music was purchased from iTunes, but most of mine was ripped from CD's ages ago, and I kept buying CD's for a long time as I like the cover art and wasn't a fan of the DRM Apple had. For recent stuff I've mostly bought on Amazon because Apple's international pricing sucks. iTunes Match solved this problem and it's amazing, but that's for another post.

  • Books: Works as advertised. I bought the Steve Jobs biography on the iBookstore from the iPad and it downloaded to my Mac and iPhone seamlessly. I also like that it keeps the pages syncronised, which works even if the book wasn't purchased from Apple.

  • Apps: Also works as advertised, as in it downloads apps you buy from an iOS device in the Mac. It's handy as a backup I guess, but I'm not sure I like this feature given the new over the air backup in iOS 5.

  • Backup: Seems great and both my iPhone and iPad tell me they're backed up. It's pretty cool that it happens over the air without me having to worry about it, but you never know if it's working until you need it. Not sure how to test that it works without having an additional iPhone/iPad to test on.

Photostream

It's very cool, but falls short. I like that I don't have to sync my iPhone manually any more to get my photos into Aperture. But since it doesn't work with videos you can't escape the wired sync. I now have a bunch of videos in my iPhone that haven't made it to the Mac.

I don't use Photostream on my Apple TV as it'll show screenshots, photo reminders, and other random stuff. I really only use it to sync, so not being able to delete a single image from my photostream doesn't bother me that much.

Documents in the Cloud

This also didn't exist in MobileMe, but it's a major dissapointment right now on Apple software.

iWork apps only sync between iOS devices, and not with the Mac. If you create a Keynote presentation on the Mac, you need to manually uploaded to iCloud via the web app. It then creates a new copy which syncs fine between iPhone and iPad, but it's no longer related to the original Mac version anymore. This makes it useless to me. A few weeks ago, I uploaded a Numbers spreadsheet and updated it on the iPad. Then I needed to update one thing on the Mac and now they're out of sync and neither is the master one. Not syncing with Mac is just stupid.

Third-party apps, on the other hand, are starting to use iCloud effectively. iA Writer, for example, now syncs seamlessly between the Mac version and the iPad version via iCloud. I'm writing this in iA Writer right now and have gone back and forth between Mac and iPad multiple times. It's bliss.

Day One also just implemented it and, after a few hiccups setting it up, it's now working flawlessly. The cool thing is that it syncs in the background, so your data is updated all the time.

I'd love for other apps to implement it, like OmniFocus, 1Password, and Yojimbo.

Find my Friends

Also didn't exist in MobleMe. I haven't used it much and honestly find it more creepy than useful. Maybe I just haven't been in the situation where I need this functionality.

Find my iPhone

Now this is cool. As far as I can tell, it's the same as we had in the MobileMe days.

What's gone from MobileMe

MobileMe Gallery

This sucks. Big Time. I used Gallery it a lot and I still haven't found a replacement for this feature. I guess not many people used it, but for those of us who did it's a real loss. Nothing even remotely similar in iCloud.

iDisk

I never really used it for much other than keeping hi-res backups of my photos (via Gallery), and the public folder to share stuff or have people upload. This is a big fail for Apple. They should've done it the way Dropbox did. I won't miss iDisk one bit.

iWeb Publishing

Personally, I only played around with iWeb now and then, so I won't miss it. It never worked consistently across browsers (it was especially bad in Internet Explorer), and web pages built with iWeb were extremely slow to load. However, I'm sure many people will miss this one.

Other syncing

MobileMe could sync Dashboard widgets, keychains, Dock items, and System Prefrences. I never used this, so loosing it doesn't bother me.

It's probably not fair to compare MobileMe vs iCloud. Even though one replaced the other, there are enough differences between them to see them as different products. Overall, I do like iCloud and the only MobileMe feature I'll miss is Gallery.

On using MobileMe in Lion

Thomas Brand on how to continue using MobileMe in Lion:

migrating to iCloud from MobileMe means losing the ability to sync Dashboard widgets, Keychains, Dock items, System Preferences, and data from third-party Mac apps that integrate with MobileMe

I never used MobileMe to sync widgets, keychains, dock, or preferences, so that didn't affect me personally. Other than mail, calendars, contacts, and notes, the only thing I synced through MobileMe was my OmniFocus database. And I knew I could switch OmniFocus to sync with the Omni Sync Server is that stopped working, so I jumped in and moved from MobileMe to iCloud.

It was a seamless process and except for a couple of hours of email downtime everything is working fine. OmniFocus sync is working as usual without me doing anything.

However, if you're using MobileMe and use iDisk to sync data (Yojimbo, for example), it might be better to wait until there's an alternative. Same if you have some Macs running on Snow Leopard or earlier.

Interestingly, I updated my main MacBook Pro (Lion 10.7.2, iTunes 10.5) and iPhone/iPad before migrating my MobileMe account over to iCloud. But I didn't update my older backup MacBook. That one was still running Lion 10.7.1. The next day I used it and my email was working fine. It seems a Mac running 10.7.1 logged into a MobileMe account still works normally even though the account has been moved to iCloud.

The dancing lion

There's shit dancing around everywhere in Lion. Start writing an email and up flies the new message window; download something in Safari and whatever it is flies up toward the upper right corner; buy a new application on the Mac App Store and there goes the icon flying happily to the doc.

Animations are cool, but I think Apple might've taken it a step too far this time.