Showing my Dock in public

by Michael Alderete on 10/2/2003

A deceptively frivolous article on MacDevCenter has inspired a lot of people to show their Docks in public. (The Dock is an application launcher / current applications list / application switcher in Mac OS X, analogous to the Taskbar + Start Menu in Windows.) I noticed a particular commonality among many of the Docks posted, and wanted to ask about it. But before I asked people about their Docks, I thought I ought to show mine.

My mac os x dock (click for full-size version)

From left to right: Finder, System Preferences, iPulse, Eudora 6 (with Eudora 5 icon), OmniWeb, NetNewsWire Pro, Interarchy, BBEdit, Terminal, iCal, iTunes, iPhoto, SuperGetInfo, StuffIt Expander, Spell Catcher X, Radio UserLand.

Now, here’s my question. Many of the Docks being posted include an FTP client on them. Without exception (that I have seen) that client is Transmit, from Panic Software. Why are people so universally choosing Transmit? Is it that much better than the competition?

I’ve been using Interarchy for a very long time, since way before Mac OS X. I’ve found the Mac OS X version to be pretty good, now that it’s hit version 6. I don’t really want to switch, but if I’m missing out on the best FTP client, I would actually like to know it.

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NoteTaker vs. NoteBook

by Michael Alderete on 5/13/2003

Aquaminds NoteTaker has deservedly received some good press recently, including a nice mention in the May Macworld’s “More Mac Software Bargains” article, where it’s one of the most expensive items listed. It’s a really fine outlining and semi-structured way to organize information for Mac OS X.

An interesting thing about NoteTaker, it’s based on code written years ago, for a NeXTSTEP application called NoteBook. As it happens, when Millennium Software Labs (the company that published NoteBook) disbanded, two people got the rights to the source code. A founder at Aquaminds is one of them, and a founder at Circus Ponies is the other. And Circus Ponies just recently announced their newest version, named (curiously enough) NoteBook.

The two products are both priced under $100 (NoteBook just barely), and have enough similarities that you can see their common ancestry. And they’re different in some interesting ways, too.

The most interesting thing about NoteBook, though, is the competitive upgrade. It’s $10! That price is so low, it’s a no-brainer to buy the software. And there’s a wide range of products which qualify you for the competitive upgrade, too.

But hurry, the offer only lasts another five days, expiring on the 18th. Buy it now!

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I need a calendar

by Michael Alderete on 5/12/2003

I was recently trying to give someone a date for an upcoming event, and I didn’t have a good way to put a calendar in front of my face while sitting at my computer here at home. While this blog has a reasonable calendar in the sidebar navigation, it’s not terribly useful in that it can’t look to the future. I don’t use iCal, because it doesn’t synchronize events with my Outlook schedule on Windows at work, making it essentially useless (more on this in a future post). For just a monthly calendar, it takes too long to launch.

I want something very small, with a clean, simple interface. I don’t need a scheduler, I just want a small, navigable monthly calendar. It needs to be omnipresent, which ideally means it’s available from the menu bar. On Mac OS 9, I had a perfect little application called SimpleCalendar, which brought up a calendar window less than two inches square, that could be easily maneuvered into the future or past. But this app doesn’t exist on Mac OS X, and isn’t a menu bar app, which I’ve decided I want (since menu bar items can be very stable under Mac OS X, unlike Mac OS 9).

A quick trip to and a search for “calendar” yielded about 8 suspects, which I downloaded and tried. Some were simply unsuitable, being application-only calendars. A few were too obtrusive, taking too much room in the menu bar, or shifting menu items around when toggling the display. And some tried to do too much.

MenuCalendar I finally settled on MenuCalendar. It puts a very small icon in the menu bar, at the far right, shifting everything else over to the left. It uses a NSStatusItem to put up the icon, which means it’s relatively supported and stable. And clicking it drops down a monthly calendar pane that is tremendously similar to the old SimpleCalendar window, which I loved.

There are a few things I’d like to see improved. For example, today should be highlighted with the system preference highlight color, or at least be user-changeable; it’s hard-coded right now. I’d also like to be able Command-drag the menu bar icon to be next to the clock. And most annoyingly, clicking to drop down the calendar seems to only register the mouse down event; when I move the mouse off of the icon, the other menu items will drop down as though I was holding down the mouse button, when I’m not.

Ultimately, I’d like for the calendar to drop down from the menu bar clock. There were a couple utilities that almost did this right (e.g., PTHClock), that I could have replaced the Apple clock with, but they had one or two minor things wrong. MenuCalendar seems like my best option right now, but I’ll keep looking.

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