02 December 2013

...to have PCs behave more like Macs

Dear Reader

I recently spent four months as a PC user.

Despite my greatest efforts to get the machine match-fit by installing Windows equivalents of all my usual production tools (such as PlainClip and HexPicker), it's a grave understanding that it doesn't, and never will, behave quite like a Mac. Not that I'm some toffee-nosed Apple fanboy; I've often used PCs in tandem with my work and am quite rational about the technology and what one gets out of it. I'd just kind of forgotten the little niggles that come from using a platform not built bottom up for design. One example in particular: the lack of preview for Photoshop files which forces you to open 200mb of layout and realise it's not the droid you're looking for.

But still, the PC I used at work was the PC I used at work, so I made it the best PC I used at work that I possibly could.

If you're a Mac user who has made - or is making - the switch, here's my list of mods, tweaks and rubs applied to the PC which helped me endlessly day-to-day and which may help you too. Hey, some may be features already in Windows 7, but I never found them myself by prodding Google or lurking around forums. To be frank, the result - should you get involved - is akin to a mock Tudor house. But at least it's habitable.

One last thing. Some mods can make a PC unstable. My experience with what I installed had been good. Switcher sometimes quit on me, and QTTabBar sometimes stopped working, but what I'm trying to say is, you're a grown up; if you install these, and your PC crashes, it's not my fault.

Anyway, here you go:

On the Mac: The Dock
PC equivalent: ObjectDock
Cost: Free 30 day trial, licence approx £7
THE DOCK! Waaaaah! Oh my gracious how I needed this. There are other PC docks out there, but this fitted my needs the best, and appeared to be the most stable. It takes some messing with the prefs to get it how you like it, but you can pin your most valuable apps, folders and drives to your heart's content. Some things you still miss, like bouncing alerts when you get a mail or Skype message. However, I found a good workaround is to set up ObjectDock to display system tray icons, meaning alerts still show. Lovely!

Mac: Hexpicker
PC: Hex Color Finder
Cost: Free
Take hex values from anything visible on screen.

Mac: PlainClip
PC: PureText
Cost: Free
Strips out embedded meta data from text when cutting and pasting from one doc to another. PlainClip is possibly the greatest plug in ever created for Mac, so to find the PC equivalent was OH MY GOD!
Tip: Set up PureText to display in the system tray as it didn't seem to work as a link on ObjectDock. Every time you need to strip out data from the pasteboard, just click the icon.

Mac: Grab
PC: Snipping Tool
Cost: Free (bundled with Windows)
If you want to do more than just ‘Print Screen’ this allows you more control over screen grabs.

Mac: natively view preview of PSDs
PC: Mystic Thumbs
Cost: Free 30 day trial, licence approx £15 single / £18 business
It does lots of other stuff I didn't need, but the main thing is *you can see a preview of your Photoshop files* within explorer. Best purple lady I ever spent for work.

Mac: Reads HFS formatted drives
PC: MacDrive
Cost: Free trial, licence approx £32
Worth not having the hassle of shifting archives and reformatting my external Mac drives. There's a free app called HFSExplorer but despite all my efforts, I couldn't get it to work.

Mac: Mounted drives appear on desktop
PC: DeskDrive
Cost: Free (but DO consider donating to its developer Mike Ward)
No biggie for most I'm sure, but when I plugged a drive in, I wanted to see it on the desktop. Suddenly I could. And it cost me the price of a coffee.

Mac: Quicklook
PC: MacComfort
Cost: Free limited version (which allows use of 'Quicklook'), full fat version approx £11
This does all sorts of things relating to making the PC more Mac-y, changing the PC to use Mac keystrokes, adding Active Corners and Spaces. But all I really used it for was QuickLook. It's not amazing, to be frank, a bit shit, but hitting spacebar displays a preview of the file selected. Beggars can't be choosers!

Mac: Folder colour labelling
Windows: Folder Marker
Cost: Free
Doesn't quite do the same thing as a Mac (marking the whole folder line with a colour strip) but it does colourise folders. However, you lose the preview of whatever documents are within the folder.  Maybe the least useful mod made. In fact, I barely used it.

Mac: Column view
PC: QTTabBar
Cost: Free
Not its primary function (that's adding tabs to Windows Explorer) the best thing QTTabs adds are cascading menus which appear on the fly when you click a folder, allowing you to see the contents without opening it. Almost like column view.

Mac: Expose
PC: Switcher
Cost: Free
Pretty much works like expose, you can even assign your own hotkey within the app. F3, natch.

Mac: Volume controlled on keyboard
Cost: Free
With my plugged-in Mac keyboard, the volume control keys (once assigned) control the PC volume without fiddling around with the stupid volume mixer on the toolbar. Plus the volume icon appears onscreen with that familiar pop-pop-pop sound thrown in. Makes you miss home, though. I tip my hat to the developer Matthew Malensek.

Mac: FontBook
PC: NexusFont
Cost: Free
Windows’ built in Font management is foul and does nothing apart from act as a dumb repository (sorry if you’re one of the developers who worked on it, I’m sure there’s a lot going on under the bonnet). Nexus offers a few more features and the ability to make ‘sets’ of fonts.

Mac: Black pointers and The Spinning Beach Ball of Death
PC: Reskin with Mac cursors
Cost: Free
Try these.

Missing from Windows: 15 years of Mac hotkey muscle memory
Patch: retraining yourself
Cost: time
I've added a Mac keyboard to my set up but nothing can help me with all my hard learned keystrokes and diacritic inputs. That's a hard one to accept.

The above mock Tudor house image is used courtesy of Jesse Raaen.

16 October 2013

…wearing my holiday badges with pride

With a big hat tip to the honourable Scout and Guide badging system, here are four of my holiday badges - earned with pride!
Holiday memory badges ©Kate Whiteman

08 September 2013

...the London commute as a blur

I spent many an hour being pulled by train to and from London in the first half of this year. Time goes slow as the world speeds by. Looks pretty, though. Here's a series of dusk shots taken from the window in April. Of course, everything looks amazing framed within the fuzzy constraints of an animated GIF. So I turned it into an animated GIF.
But what would make this GIF even better? Overlaid text set in hot pink Times New Roman Bold Italic. It's a deal!

18 August 2013

…the art of scaffolding

Left: Serpentine Gallery Pavilion. Right: Co-op, London Road, Brighton
Making the most of another sunny day I headed to the Serpentine Gallery, interested to see this year's pavilion, Sou Fujimoto's temporary outdoor structure. 

On arrival I saw latticed steel poles combine with glass panels to create a massive climbing frame/seating area. It was great, kids were clambering over, adults were sipping tea and relaxing. The glass worried me slightly - I envisaged visitors slipping - their tea spilling onto the glass. But then I told myself to get over it. This is ART baby!

The next day, I headed down London Road, Brighton. I hadn't been that way for a while so it was quite something to see the Co-op building demolished, with only the facade in place, supported by a whole load of scaffolding.

What struck me was the visual similarities between this and the Serpentine structure. This was another massive frame of steel poles standing proud against the blue sky. They're both intended to be temporary and, maybe for different reasons, they both caused people to stop, look and take in the sight. 

Fujimoto's structure is a considered an aesthetic piece of art whereas the scaffolding surrounding the former Co-op may be seen, by some, as an eye sore. However, I like to think that art can exist beyond gallery pavilions and can be incorporated in the mundane and everyday.

18 July 2013

...making a good impression using letterpress

A change is as good as a rest they say, so when the opportunity to do a day of letterpress came up at Ink Spot Press, I thought this extended screen break would do me good. And I thought right!

Typesetting, using predominantly only a Mac for over a decade, can turn you into somewhat of an automaton. Not that that's necessarily a bad thing. With the help of InDesign (and once-upon-a-time, QuarkXpress) I've been able to track, kern, lead and adjust type size at the drop of a keystroke. It's a modern privilege which has afforded me quickly and easily to hone my skills.

Having not touched letterpress since art school, I thought I'd forgotten everything involved. But from a heady combination of real ink smells and expert tutoring from lovely letterpress geek Sarah Bryant, the memories soon came back. If you've never had a go – and get the chance to – taking the time to compose metal type by hand and then seeing your work embossed with ink on to paper is BRILLIANT!

And as always, part of the process is all about making mistakes!

29 April 2013

...being kept in The Loop

The Loop special edition, 2013 Pick Me Up
Running a successful newspaper isn't easy. On the spot copy requests, impossible image sourcing, last minute editorial changes, fierce deadlines hanging over your neck. And we should know, having ran a successful rag for 30 minutes one Saturday afternoon within Somerset House as part of the excellent Pick Me Up 2013 graphic arts festival. And when I say ran a successful newspaper, I mean sat down amongst a bunch of kids with pen and ink concentration, spitting out four pages of templated content and having a nice lady print off ten copies (in fantastic monotone tabloid red), from which one they kept and pinned on the wall and another we posted through our neighbour's letterbox for their Sunday morning bulletin.

Nothing like running a successful newspaper, then.

The Loop special edition, 2013 Pick Me Up

The Loop special edition, 2013 Pick Me Up

A big thank you to The Loop folks who let us sit down and join in the fun; essentially like clambering aboard some kid's summer bouncy castle party. It was great to see all these little future Jon Burgermans and Malika Favres going about their creative business. Luckily, judging by how focussed the kids were, our frantic scribing under the pressure of their peerage went unnoticed.

Here's a digital edition. And when I say digital edition, I mean photograph of the front and back of our version of The Loop.

The Loop special edition, 2013 Pick Me Up, by Will Weaver and Kate WhitemanThe Loop special edition, 2013 Pick Me Up, by Will Weaver and Kate Whiteman

02 April 2013

...visual noise

Napoleon III Apartments at the Louvre and a collection of power tools.

13 January 2013

...craft worship

Kate Whiteman, kneeler, hassocks, St Peter's church, Firle
Call me a heathen, but I always thought Hassocks was just a village in West Sussex - until I took a trip to Firle that is. Whilst having a wander around the village, my visiting Canadian pal Launa requested we take a look at St Peter's, Firle's 13th century village church. After opening the (very) heavy wooden door and stepping into that unique church stillness, I was struck by rows of colourful scenes cross-stitched into beautiful pew kneelers, giving the church a certain warmth despite the low temperature! Since that initial visit I returned, armed with a camera, as I couldn't resist recording some of my favourites. I also did a little research on them and, as well as finding an excellent database of kneelers recording many examples of this lovely craft, discovered that they're also referred to as 'Hassocks'.

Kate Whiteman, kneelers, hassocks, St Peter's church, Firle