Thursday, February 24, 2011 “Cool Websites and Tools [February 23rd]” plus 10 more “Cool Websites and Tools [February 23rd]” plus 10 more

Link to

Cool Websites and Tools [February 23rd]

Posted: 23 Feb 2011 07:31 PM PST

Check out some of the latest MakeUseOf discoveries. All listed websites are FREE or come with a decent free account option. You can make use of them without spending a dime. If you want to have similar cool websites round-ups delivered to your email daily email subscribe here.

Add Your Website Here!


Joy Of Baking – If you love making cookies and baking pies then Joy Of Baking should be in your list of daily must-visit sites. It is an incredibly comprehensive resource on baking and dessert recipes. Be it cakes, cupcakes, cookies, muffins, puddings, scones….you name it and you'll get the recipes. The homepage has links to all of them. Read more: Joy of Baking: Cool Resource on Baking and Dessert Recipes


Koobits – A good eBook reading application is one that lets you read nearly all eBook formats. In addition to this, the app must also help you get new eBooks. Anybody looking for such a competent eBook app will surely be pleased with Koobits, a desktop application sized at nearly 12MB. It provides you with a virtual bookshelf that showcases all your eBooks. Read more: Koobits: A Great Desktop Ebook Reader Application



FlickSquare – Foursquare is a cool service to use where you check into places and can even take photos of them with your smart phone. FlickSquare lets you save those photos to your Flickr account so you can view them whenever wherever. Once you go to and authenticate your Foursquare and Flickr accounts, the service then posts any Foursquare images you take immediately to your Flickr account. Read more: FlickSquare: Automatically Sends Your Foursquare Images To Flickr



Facto – Do you want to start sharing random facts about yourself with friends? If yes, then you should check out a site solely dedicated to this purpose called Facto, a free to use website that lets you share facts about yourself with friends. All you do is create an account with the site and start sharing. All your shared facts can be seen in your dashboard. Read more: Facto: Share Random Facts About Yourself & Get Your Friends’ Reactions



textWeight – Most of us set weight loss goals but soon forget about them. To prevent this from happening, something that constantly reminds us of our weight loss plans would be greatly helpful. textWeight is a nifty weight loss reminder tool that provides you with that. After you sign up with the service using your phone number and password, you will receive a text message every morning. Read more: textWeight: Get Weight Loss Reminders To Keep Your Weight In Check


These are just half of the websites that we discovered in the last couple of days. If you want us to send you daily round-ups of all cool websites we come across, leave your email here. Or follow us via RSS feed.

Hey Facebookers, make sure to check out MakeUseOf page on Facebook. Over 24,000 fans already!



Similar MakeUseOf Articles

Manage Your Unread RSS Feeds Better With These Tips

Posted: 23 Feb 2011 05:31 PM PST

manage rss feedsYou may have RSS feeds accumulating dust over time, but that unfortunately doesn't mean the number of unread items will kindly reduce for you. Usually, the feeds (find some interesting ones here) get updated often and increase daily so in order to catch up with the reading, displaying your feeds somewhere more accessible or at least, have them come to you may prove useful.

What's better than showing you your feeds to read right on your desktop? You could benefit from any built-in gadgets that can show you bits of news to help you catch up with unread pieces.

Be Selective With The Feeds You're Trying To Keep Up With

In order to reduce the number of items to read, you could also narrow down the topics you're interested in, edit the RSS feed yourself (unless your favorite blog offers feeds by categories)  to remove items that you’re not going to read or care about anyway. If you want to be in total control of what shows up in your feeds, you can also create your own feeds by learning a bit of code.

manage rss feeds

To save yourself some time, there's Skeedy, a web-based app that helps you follow your favorite topics, instead of any specific blogs. You could also try your luck with, which summarizes long articles or frequently-updated feeds to smaller, more manageable versions.

Making Your Feeds Come To You (Display Them On Desktop)

If you're more like me and have a few favorite blogs you're always looking forward to read but don't have enough time, consider displaying your feeds on your desktop with gadgets for Windows. While Windows Vista's sidebar gadgets often left the user with more to be desired, Windows 7's gadgets have a few additional features. You can make the gadgets a bit bigger, and for the feeds gadget, you can even add and edit the feeds (which I don't think you could do in Vista).

The list of feeds on the feeds gadget by default are, according to Internet Explorer 7 , the feeds you've subscribed to and ones that you might be interested in. In order to add your favorite blogs to the RSS reader gadget in Windows 7, you'll need to first visit the webpage you wish to see on your desktop (for instance, CNN) in Internet Explorer and subscribe to the feed.

unread rss reader

You can double-check that you've added the site by going to Favorites > Feeds. Now, right-click on the desktop and select Gadgets.

unread rss reader

Once the gadgets show up, add the RSS gadget and click on the wrench icon for Options on the side of the gadget.

unread rss reader

You should now have the recently added feed in the drop-down list.

unread feeds

unread feeds

You can now select how many entries to display and click OK. If you resize the widget, you'll probably get a better view of the feeds.

The benefit of having a gadget on Windows 7 is that it won't be too resource-intensive and you don't need to download anything extra, just a tiny bit of set up in Internet Explorer.

Using additional, third-party RSS feed viewer gadgets include Feed Viewer, Hermes auto-scrolling reader and RSS Reader Plus can be a great idea because they are usually steps above the simple (built-in) RSS reader. With RSS Reader Plus, for instance, you can customize everything in the feed displayed, including fonts, color and sizes.

unread feeds

It even provides scrolling text, especially useful when you're trying to get an overhead of everything that's being expressed. One thing about the RSS Reader Plus is that it's currently very young so there are typos in the gadget.

manage rss feeds

If you prefer full-blown programs, you could benefit from using Feedling, which sticks your feeds on top of your wallpaper, perfect for this purpose (see Timmy’s screenshot above). Don't forget there are many traditional desktop applications, such as the cross-platform Google Reader app, and the open-source RSS Bandit.

How do you manage keeping up with the constant stream of updates from your favorite news sources? Share your tips in the comments!

Image credit: pandemia

Got Questions? Ask Them Now FREE on MakeUseOf Answers!



Similar MakeUseOf Articles

Zenphoto – A Mighty Powerful Photoblog Engine For Your Website

Posted: 23 Feb 2011 03:31 PM PST

photo blog engineLast month we highlighted Pixelpost, a very capable and easy to use (if slightly outdated) photoblog engine. Despite being a fantastic little freebie, a number of readers got in touch to tell us how great Zenphoto is.

I originally used Zenphoto a few years ago, and immediately noticed that the project has come on leaps and bounds since then. I’ll be looking at version in this article, which at the time of writing has only been out for a couple of weeks. If you couldn’t be sicker of Flickr and fancy hosting your own hard work then step inside.

Setting Up

Much like Pixelpost, ZenPhoto is designed to run on a web server and you’ll need your own hosting package to install. You’re going to need an Apache server with PHP version 5.2 or greater and MySQL 5 or better. As of version 2.0 it is now possible to use PostgreSQL and SQLite databases as well.

The installation process is a fairly painless experience, and one that Zenphoto prides itself upon. You can download the latest version from the homepage in .ZIP or .TAR.GZ format. Once downloaded (it’s around 6MB compressed) extract the folder to a location on your hard drive.

photo blog engine

Now upload the folder you just extracted to the desired location on your webserver. If you upload Zen to your root folder (usually a folder called “httpdocs”) your Zenphoto gallery will be found at You will need an FTP client to upload, something like Filezilla is perfect.

The upload process can take a while, depending on your upload speed so whilst that’s completing you might as well create a MySQL database. Your hosting company probably provided you with a web control panel like Plesk or CPanel to complete such a task.

Once done make a note of the database name. You’ll also need to add a user to the database, make a note of both username and password. You’re now ready to install, simply visit and follow the instructions.

photo blog software

Admin Duties

One you’ve set database options and defined a username and password, you’ll be taken to the admin panel. Zenphoto’s admin interface is definitely more attractive and probably easier to work with than Pixelpost, though the general layout remains the same.

photo blog software

One of the first stops you’ll want to make is the Options tab, which can take you a while to work your way through. Here you can customize the general settings related to your Zenphoto installation including RSS, plugins, your theme, upload settings, image display and comments.

photo blog software

When you’ve finally set everything up (and it can take a while) you’ll probably want to upload something. Luckily you won’t need to create any albums before uploading, as there’s an option to do so on the fly. Tags don’t quite operate in the same way and do need to be added on the Tags tab and then be attached to each image.

photo blog tools

Batch uploading is possible as Zenphoto will accept .ZIP archives that contain recognised image types. Arranging everything just the way you want it is made infinitely easier thanks to the drag and drop interface and galleries can be manipulated in this way too.

Once you’ve uploaded an image or .ZIP collection, you can then add titles, descriptions and individual attributes to your photos. There’s even the option to take care of watermarking for you and a fantastic thumbnail editor, allowing you to get the perfect crop.

photo blog tools

EXIF data can be extracted from your images and put to good use, for example using the Google Maps plugin you can show visitors where the image was taken using the latitude and longitude stored in the image (if your camera supports it, of course).

photo blog tools

You can add all these settings manually for each image of course, and once you’ve filled it all out you’ll probably have something that looks like this:

Whilst viewing your site’s front end you may notice there’s a handy Admin Toolbox in the top right corner, allowing you to manipulate various pages. From this box you can go straight into editing an image, log out and get back to the admin panel.

This is a really handy little feature which means you won’t be constantly fumbling around with bookmarks or the address bar when you want to change something.

photo blog engine


At this stage Zenphoto probably looks a bit drab and boring, and there’s still plenty more that can be done with it. I’ll be following this up with another post about themes, integrating your galleries and even turning Zenphoto into a blog-style CMS centred around your images.

The exhaustive list of features supported by Zenphoto makes for a thoroughly impressive cost-free package. Let us know what you think of it or share your own gallery in the comments below.

Do you like MakeUseOf articles? Don’t forget to share our articles with others! It’s really important to us.



Similar MakeUseOf Articles

How To Use Voice To Text Dictation With Express Scribe

Posted: 23 Feb 2011 01:31 PM PST

voice to text softwareWhen you do a lot of phone interviews that get published in text format on the web, transcribing audio files becomes a big part of one’s life. There are a lot of people that have the need to transcribe voice to text, such as doctor’s that record a log of office visits, journalists that conduct audio interviews, or even students that record class lectures.

For years, I’ve been looking for a high-quality free voice to text software solution that will automatically take an audio recording and transcribe it to text. Such an application will put a lot of transcription companies out of work, but it’s a dream that I believe will come true some day. Recently, I conducted another hour-long interview and in my search for such applications, I saw Jeffry’s article on how to transcribe audio using Express Scribe.

Jeffry did an awesome job covering most of the features of this application, but as he said in the last paragraph of the article – he hardly scratched the surface. A notable advanced use he noted is the application’s ability to dock recordings and integration with speech recognition software. In this article I’m going to show you how you can take advantage of those two features.

Dock & Speech Recognition to Transcribe Your Voice

Obviously, the first thing I wanted to do with Express Scribe (Windows/Mac) is to stream an audio file to automatically transcribe the interview. This is my pipe dream, so I had to try. Although the odds were good it wouldn’t work, because the computer would only be able to learn my voice. Either way, the first step is to enable the built-in voice recognition service in Windows 7 and train it to understand your voice.

Go into the Control Panel, click on “Ease of Access“, and then select “Speech Recognition.”

voice to text software

First select “Start Speech Recognition“, and this will enable the feature as part of your Windows experience. I very highly recommend that you click on “train your computer to better understand you” and go through the training sequence at least twice – it only takes about 5 to 7 minutes at a time. Speak as plainly and articulately as possible.

voice to text

To enable speech recognition in Express Scribe, just click on Options and select the “Speech to Text” tab. You’ll see the default profile show up in the dropdown box. This is the profile that you’ve just trained to recognize your speech pattern. Click on “Add” so the profile shows up in the list.

voice to text

Now that it’s ready to transcribe, the first thing I wanted to try was bringing in voice audio files and seeing how well the software transcribed them. You do this by clicking on “Dock” and then choosing the Audio File Transfer Method.

voice to text

Using this selection, you then choose a folder where your external recording device, like a digital recorder, downloads files to your computer. This will import all of those files to Express Scribe. I used this feature to import audio files from my interview folder. Here’s what the transcription looked like.

voice to text programs

As you can see, the transcription was pretty much garbage. Nine times out of ten the transcription can’t even get started, and when it does it will write a few words and then completely bomb out. Obviously, the automatic transcription of audio files that I dream about still hasn’t come true, but that doesn’t mean I’ve given up on Express Scribe. There’s still the fact that it is trained to recognize and transcribe my voice. So I could still make use of the software to transcribe my own voice recordings and dictations.

To do this live (with your microphone), all you have to do is plug in your microphone and then click “Dock” and choose the Audio Cable option. The following screen will appear, showing the audio level of your microphone and that it’s actively streaming in the live audio. Go ahead and start dictating.

voice to text programs

Of course, if you’ve recorded your dictation on a digital voice recorder, all you have to do is hook up your voice recorder output to the microphone input of your computer, and this feature will stream in the audio (that’s actually what it’s intended for – docking your recorder).

When I was finished dictating a long sentence, I clicked “done” to see how well the software performed. As you can see below – pretty stellar. Only one word wrong (and should have been “can”), but that was because I stumbled when I spoke.

voice to text programs

This is pretty impressive, and I can see using Express Scribe to transcribe a whole lot of recordings that I make while I’m mobile – it’ll save a whole lot of time in transcribing my audio, because I’ll only have to go back and edit any small mistakes.

The accurate transcription from audio to text is not an easy feature to find in most free voice to text software, so it was surprising to see Express Scribe do such a good job. Another nice feature is the “Incoming” feature within the Options menu. Here, you can configure a certain recording directly on your hard drive for automatic syncing.

voice to text software

Configure a Dropbox account linked to this directory, and you have a fast way to upload your recordings from anywhere straight to the directory where your Express Scribe software is waiting to transcribe your dictation.

In Express Scribe, you’ll have a really fast and convenient way to quickly transcribe any of your own audio recordings accurately and fast – especially if you automate it by syncing it to a Dropbox account. So, give Express Scribe a try and see how well it transcribes your voice. Share your experience in the comments area below.

Got Questions? Ask Them Now FREE on MakeUseOf Answers!



Similar MakeUseOf Articles

Hot Tech Deals [Feb 23rd]

Posted: 23 Feb 2011 12:30 PM PST

If you’re in the market for a new computer, laptop, mobile phone, games and other accessories; don’t waste your time searching online. We’ve taken the liberty of locating the best tech deals and unifying them into a single post for your convenience.

For more fresh hot deals, visit our Hot Tech Deals page, which is constantly updated.

  1. Novatel MC950D Ovation 7.2 Unlocked Wireless USB Modem $14.99 Free Shipping
  2. TODAY ONLY Creative Aurvana In-Ear Headphones $44.99 Free Shipping
  3. HP Pavilion dv6-3143us Intel Core i3-370M 2.4GHz 15.6in Laptop (4GB/500GB/Radeon HD5650) $549.99AR via code EMCKHHH22 (Exp 2/28)
  4. BlueAnt V1x Bluetooth Headset w/ Voice Control & Noise Cancellation $24.99 Free Shipping via code EMCKHHH88 (Exp 2/28)
  5. Garmin nuvi 2250LT GPS Navigation (3.5in, Text To Speech, Lifetime Traffic Updates) $99.99 Free Shipping via code EMCKHHH73 (Exp 2/28)

Image credit: Modified from Svengraph’s icon set

Got Questions? Ask Them Now FREE on MakeUseOf Answers!



Similar MakeUseOf Articles

5 Websites To Make Your Own Personal Movie Lists

Posted: 23 Feb 2011 11:31 AM PST

personal movie listHow many movies have you watched in your lifetime? How many more do you plan to watch in the time that's yet to come? If you are a dyed-in-wool movie addict, you will have a list of movies that you want to watch put down somewhere. Most probably, it will be in your brain or scrawled on paper.

The true blue fan will shirk both and instead opt for the many online movie cataloging applications that have come into the picture (pun intended). But cataloging movies is a humdrum way of looking at it. Building custom lists of movies (for example, a list of movies I haven't seen) is an exercise of fun and discovery. The best part of it is that it helps you dig up movies you never even heard of.

So, here are five applications that help you make your personal movie lists and discover new ones in the process.

IMDb – My Movies

personal movie list

What better place to create your personal movie list than with one of the web's topnotch movie sites. Sign up or log in with your Facebook account. Strangely, it didn't let me sign up with my Gmail account. It is also a bit confusing because a free trial of IMDb Pro tries to sidetrack you with its paid offer.

But once you are in, you can use the site's huge database to create your personal movie list, sort them into categories, tag them with your own notes, and also use the advanced search feature to go through your extensive lists. You can search the site as you normally do. On each movie's page, you will notice an icon that says “Add to MyMovies.” If you click it, the movie will be placed in your “Pending” bin. This is the simplest way to start with your list. A new feature lets you share the list publicly.


private movie list

If making your own list of movies sounds like plodding stuff, Flickchart brings the fun back. Mahendra did a complete review when it went beta. Flickchart helps you make a list by showing you posters of two movies at a time. You can click on either or both if you haven't seen them. You can set it to show you movies by genre, by date, by title, by cast, and by studio. Your user profile lists and ranks the movies you haven't seen yet. You can also quickly build up other custom lists by using the dropdown filters.


private movie list

This website doesn't let you create custom movie lists as yet, but it hosts a lot of lists of its own. You can browse these lists and pick up movies to watch. The different top lists are – IMDb, Critics (For example: The Best 1000 Movies Ever Made), Prizes (For example: BAFTA Best Film), Websites (For example: 250 Quintessential Noir Films), Institute (For example: 100 Best British Films), and Miscellaneous lists.

The site uses your favorites to feed you recommendations of movies you should see.  You can add movies to your watch list or even dislike a movie. As you go through the movies and finish watching them, you can tick them off the lists (see directory mention).


private movie list

Flixster is a social network for movie fans. As a community member, you can share your tastes in movies with others and discover new movies while exchanging notes on the ones you have seen. Despite its share of criticism, the site is on the popularity charts of movie websites.

A user's profile page has the My Movies tool where one can create custom lists and add movies with a search (by movie or actor). You can create as many personal movie lists as you want and share them or lock them as private. Related Lists is a shortcut to discover what others have favorite and movies you might have missed.


personal movie list

Maybe there are some movies you plan to watch during an upcoming vacation? Or there's a list you want to create for your kid? MListr not only aspires to be the database for your personal choice of movies, but it also wants to use your tastes and recommend a few choice ones to you using its recommendation engine. MListr also has a few contests going where members are awarded for their lists. You can search for a movie and quickly add it to any of the default lists or the custom one. Some of the titles and their user reviews that come up in the search may have spoilers. The site could do with a better design and more user participation, but it makes creating movie lists a quick search and save job.

My own custom movie lists have served one important purpose. Many times these lists have saved me from buying a movie I have already watched. Thanks to the recommendations, they have also saved me from watching a bad one.

Check out 8 Online Guides To The Best And Worst Movies Of All Time by Mahendra and let us know what your personal movie lists have done to your movie viewing experience.

Got Questions? Ask Them Now FREE on MakeUseOf Answers!



Similar MakeUseOf Articles

Easily Back Up Your Online Accounts For Free With Backupify

Posted: 23 Feb 2011 10:31 AM PST

backup online accountsEverybody knows that keeping backups of your data is one of the Ten Commandments of the digital world. The story of the photographer who lost thousands of his photos from the last five years should convince even the most anti-backup person of the importance of backups.

Still, there are people who don’t do backups – especially of their online data. The reason may be because the process requires a little bit more than just a simple effort. People want everything to be automated, including backups. Automation is exactly what you will get from Backupify.

What Is Backupify?

Backupify is an online service that will help you backup your online account data automatically. It offers 2GB of online backup storage in the free personal plan which you can use to link to five social media accounts. The free plan will back up your social accounts on a weekly basis and it supports social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Google Docs, Blogger and WordPress.

2GB of backup storage might sound small, but it should be more than enough for personal use. If you’d like to try out the service, sign up and choose the Personal/FREE option.

backup online accounts

After logging in, long time Backupify users should see the old platform with the list of service settings and services in beta.

backing up account

There’s a notice on the right side of the window asking long time users to switch to the new platform.

backing up account

The new platform looks different with only one group of services. However, I found that some of the services from the old platform like WordPress, Basecamp, and Hotmail are not available in the new platform. So if you need to back up your data from those services, you can go back to the old platform by going to this address: ““. The new platform address is: ““. The difference between the old and the new is that the old uses “secure” while the new one uses “app” in their URL.

backing up account

Other differences between new and long time users that I spotted are the limit of backup storage and the maximum number of supported accounts. Even though both are taking the free plan, long time users get 10 accounts and 5GB storage.

05a Basic Account Old User

While the new users only get 5 accounts and 2GB storage.

online account backup

Building The Backup List

To add a service to the backup list, click the “Add” link next to it.

online account backup

The next step is to authorize Backupify to access the service. In this example, I tried to add my Facebook account to be backed up. If you are a heavy Facebook user who uploads lots of photos and videos, backing up your account might be a good idea.

online account backup

Then you should allow Backupify to access your Facebook account so that it can perform the backup.

04b Authorizing Facebook

After the service is added, you can configure it the way you want.

04c Configure

In the case of Facebook, you can configure which type of data you want to back up. Click the “On” radio button next to the items that you choose. Don’t forget to save the configuration.

04e Configure Services

Repeat the process to add other services. One service that I personally think should be on your backup list is Google Docs.

04g Google Docs

If you want to, you can delete a service from the list by clicking the “Remove” link next to the service name. You will get a confirmation window before the service is really deleted.

04z Remove service

Backing Up A WordPress Blog

If you are a longtime user and want to add your self-hosted WordPress blog to the backup list, you have to go back to Backupify’s old platform, locate WordPress in the “Services in beta“, and click “Manage“. You will get the link to download the WordPress plugin.

04h WordPress Plugin DL

Download the plugin and install it from the plugin section of your WordPress blog. Go to the “Upload” area of “Install Plugin“, choose the zip file, then upload and install the plugin.

04i Upload WP plugin

The Backupify settings will appear in the sidebar menu.

04j Backupify Settings

Inside it is the “Initialize Plugin” button. Clicking on it will bring you to the Backupify website and your blog will be added to the list.

04k WordPress Added

The backup will be accessible from the “Archives“.

backup online accounts

There’s a problem about adding services from the old platform if you are using the new platform: both platforms are not integrated (yet). So, you have to go back and forth between the two platforms to access the backups. I also don’t know whether the trick will work on the new users.

What I like about Backupify is its ability to back up data from various social medias. Since everything is done automatically, all that the users has to do is set up the services once then forget all about it.

Have you tried Backupify? What do you think about it? Do you know and use other alternatives? Please share using the comments below.

Got Questions? Ask Them Now FREE on MakeUseOf Answers!



Similar MakeUseOf Articles

Mega NAS Giveaway and Folx Winners

Posted: 23 Feb 2011 10:00 AM PST

And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for. We’re announcing the 4 lucky MakeUseOf readers who will each receive one of our NAS review units. Also, we’ll be revealing the 25 winners for the Folx Download Manager giveaway. In total, we’ll be giving away over $3000 worth of prizes today.

Are you lucky enough to be one of the winners? Will you be getting a brand new toy today?

Read on to find out.

Folx Download Manager

  1. George
  2. Ivan Sazonov
  3. Roman Onyschuk
  4. John Kuiters
  5. Rob Weber
  6. Michael Richards
  7. Gary Wertz
  8. David Stoltie
  9. Maco Hui
  10. Karl Joseph Ku
  11. Cesar Garcia
  12. Dave Mewett
  13. Allison White
  14. B.Lee
  15. Corey Faibish
  16. Vincent
  17. Sonal Khodiyar
  18. TanTan Wang
  19. Bryan Hoff
  20. Gilles Boudreau
  21. Damien Michel
  22. Khairul Ashraf
  23. Raymond Barr
  24. Thant
  25. Adam

Mega NAS Giveaway

  1. QNAP TS-419P+ Turbo NAS goes to Thomas Greene
  2. Netgear ReadyNAS Ultra 4 was won by Mark Daniels
  3. Synology DS411j NAS now belongs to Wendy Cheng
  4. Data Robotics Drobo FS NAS is now property of Andrew Miles

Congratulations! To the Folx winners, an email containing download and registration details has been sent to you. To the NAS winners, we’ve emailed you for your shipping information. Please reply within 48 hours.

Thanks everyone! We hope you enjoyed yourselves.

Do you like MakeUseOf articles? Don’t forget to share our articles with others! It’s really important to us.



Similar MakeUseOf Articles

15 Control-Clicking Hints To Make You More Productive On Your Mac

Posted: 23 Feb 2011 09:31 AM PST

mac keyboard shortcutsIf you’re a new or intermediate user of a Mac, you may not have discovered all the hidden features and other controls you can perform by using the Control key on your keyboard, or the Secondary Click button on a multi-button mouse. Control-clicking brings up various contextual menus of items, depending on if you click on your desktop, a file or folder, or an item in an application, like Safari, iTunes, or Mail.

After you go through the list below, you’ll discover how much faster you can get things done by control-clicking instead of heading to the menu bar to perform similar actions.

How It Works

Most new Macs now come with a Magic Mouse – a two-button mouse in which the right side is the Secondary Click or control-click button. If you don’t have such a mouse, you can purchase a third-party one at a pretty cheap price. To use it, simply use your third finger to click the button, and it will reveal a set of menu items.

mac keyboard shortcuts

You can also use the Control key on your keyboard to do the same thing. Simply hold down the Control and then click the main left button of your mouse. It works like holding down the “Ctrl” key on a PC using Windows.

1. Control-Clicking The Desktop

To quickly learn what control-clicking can do, place your mouse’s cursor on your Mac desktop and control-click using the instructions above.

mac control key

In doing this you get several options, including the ability to create a New Folder, open the Change Desktop Background feature in Preferences, and additional items for managing items on your desktop. If, for example, you have a bunch of files on your desktop, control-click it, choose Clean Up, and watch all your files get neatly ordered.

2. Control-Clicking Files

Clicking a file on your Desktop or in the Finder, will also deliver over a dozen hidden items.

mac control key

You can, among other things, duplicate the file, make an alias of it, or send it to the trash.

3. Control-Clicking The Dock

Control-clicking an icon in the Dock allows you to reveal it in the Finder or have it open when you log into your computer. You can also launch the application this way, or remove it from the Dock all together.

mac control key

If you control-click on the dotted space near the right side of the Dock, you can turn on the hiding feature or reposition the Dock on the screen.

control commands for mac

4. Empty The Trash

control commands for mac

No need to take your hands off the mouse to empty the trash, control-clicking on it reveals the menu item to do that.

5. Control-Clicking A Toolbar

Control-click a toolbar of a Finder window and you will get options for quickly changing the views of the window. Notice also there’s a button for quickly removing an item from the toolbar.

control commands for mac

And the Keep Item Visible button? Well, you select it after you click on a item in the toolbar that you want to remain visible when resizing the window containing that item. In other words, the item never gets hidden.

6. Control-Clicking Text

Control-click some text and you will get lots of time saving options, including the ability to copy and paste that text, Google search a word or phrase, or perform spell check functions.


7. Control-Click To Compress Files

If you have a bunch of files you need to email or post on a server for downloading, you can select and control-click on those files, and then choose "Compress…items" from the contextual menu.


This action will copy all the files into a zip file that can be opened up by you or the recipient of that file.


This saves you the trouble of emailing or uploading all the files individually.

8. Control-Clicking Safari

Control-clicking in Safari gets you several time saving contextual menu items. If for example you control-click on a bookmark in the Bookmarks bar, you get the option of opening the bookmark in a New Window or a New Tab. You can also choose to edit the name of the bookmark or its address.


Click on an empty spot in the Bookmarks bar and you can quickly create a new folder.


9. Control-Clicking Webpages

Depending where you control-click on a webpage, you can get several menu options. Click on a blank space on a page and you get the option to reload the page, print the window, or tab backwards.


If there's a photo or a wallpaper file on a webpage, you can control-click on the file and do several things, including adding that image directly to your iPhoto Library or saving it to your Downloads folder.


If you click on a wallpaper image on a page, you can select the "Use Image as Desktop Picture" and instantly have your desktop background changed to that selected image.

10. Control-Clicking Mail


If you control-click the Mail icon in your Dock, you get the option to start a new message or note, or to manually download new incoming mail.

11. Control-Clicking Mail Messages

Control-clicking individual messages in your Mail application allows you to quickly reply to or forward that message.


There's also items for marking a message(s) as read or unread, or deleting it all together.

12. Control-Clicking iTunes Icon

Similarly, control-clicking on the iTunes icon in your Dock allows you to do a number things like rate a playing song, pause play, or move to the next song.


13. Control-Clicking In iTunes

When you control-click on a track in iTunes, you get more than a dozen options. In fact nearly every significant item in the iTunes menu bar can be reached in its contextual menu.


In the latest version of iTunes, you can favorite a track for your Ping account, pull up information about the track, rate it, or create an AAC or other MP3 file format of the track.

14. Control-Clicking In iPhoto

mac keyboard shortcuts

Control-click on a photo in iPhoto and you get the options to rate it, hide it, copy it, throw it in the trash can, or open it in the editor.

15. Service Menu Items

If you want to create your own contextual menu items, check out my article, How to Create Your Own Services Menu Options on Mac. Using an application called Automator, you can create actions to automate all kinds of tasks, including resizing folders and batch changing the names of files.

By now if you have got the hang of control-clicking on items, you will discover that different applications also feature contextual menu items that can save you the trouble of heading to the menu bar or using shortcut keystrokes. So before heading to the menu bar, control-click first to see what you get.

If you know of other hidden contextual menu items that I overlooked in this list, please share them in the comment section. And if you're interested in learning more about Mac automation tips, check out my free MUO Mac Automation Guide.

Image credit: Shutterstock

Got Questions? Ask Them Now FREE on MakeUseOf Answers!



Similar MakeUseOf Articles

Download From RapidShare Without Waiting With Tucan Manager

Posted: 23 Feb 2011 08:31 AM PST

tucan managerSites like RapidShare are a great way to quickly download files of any size, but they aren’t without their downsides. Downloaders usually need to wait for an arbitrary time before a download will begin, while advertisements for wait-free memberships look increasingly tempting. It’s not only annoying; the interface for doing so is usually downright confusing.

Skip this nonsense and get your files. Tucan Manager makes downloading files from single-click file sharing sites as simple as using BitTorrent to download files. The program bypasses the requirement to wait a minute or two before clicking on a download link, and can even queue multiple files for successive downloads if you like.

With support for 13 different single-click sharing sites, Tucan Manager will quickly become your go-to tool for downloading from sites like MegaUpload and MediaFire. Go ahead and download Tucan Manager for Linux, Mac and Windows, but keep reading to see what this program can do.

Using The Application

So you have a link to a file on the likes of RapidShare, but don’t have time to babysit the downloading process. No problem. Just file up Tucan Manager and click “Add Downloads“.

tucan manager

As you can see, all you need to do is paste your link. You can even post multiple links, if you want, with the use of a comma. Once you’ve entered your links you can test to make sure they work:

rapidshare downloader

This will let you know whether the link you’ve copied is valid or not. Some files are taken down from these services (particularly illegal ones), so that might be the explanation for an error. If not, check to make sure your link is a valid one by visiting it with your browser. If this is possible but Tucan doesn’t work, keep reading to find out how to update your services.

Anyway, assuming your links are valid, Tucan will start downloading. The obligatory waiting period still happens:

rapidshare downloader

But, unlike when you use RapidShare with your browser, you don’t need to wait until the waiting period is over. Heck, the program will even solve any captchas for you. Your download will happen automatically:

tucan manager

If you have multiple files set to download Tucan will work through them all in order without your input. This can make using these sites a lot easier, so enjoy!

Supported Sites

Which sites, you ask? Well, as mentioned, Tucan Manager supports 13 different sites as of this writing. These sites include:

  • 4shared
  • depositfiles.coms

Tucan Manager includes a nifty internal updating feature, meaning the scripts that enable downloading from these different sites are kept working for you. If one of these sites isn’t working check the “Service Configuration” panel in your preferences. If updates are available you’ll find them there.

Coming Features

What else could this program do? Well, uploading files.

The team at Tucan Manager say this feature is in the works, and there’s even a button on the main toolbar for doing so. Here’s hoping uploading is added soon, and Tucan becomes a complete manager for all things related to file sharing.

I always like finding programs that make life simpler, and Tucan certainly counts. If you want the hassle to be taken out of downloading certain files I highly recommend it. Do you like Tucan? Let us know in the comments below, and also feel free to recommend any other simple file sharing services.

Got Questions? Ask Them Now FREE on MakeUseOf Answers!



Similar MakeUseOf Articles

A Review Of The New Features Included In Windows Media Player 12

Posted: 23 Feb 2011 07:30 AM PST

features of windows media player 12Are you a fan of Windows Media Player? Aside from the other top media players for Windows, a lot of Windows users still use it because it comes pre-installed and has most (if not all) of the features you would look for in a standalone media player.

As Saikat pointed out a while back, Windows Media Player 11 had a lot of shortcuts, plugins, and nifty features to make your experience more enjoyable. But what does Windows Media Player 12 have to offer? In this new release of Windows’ popular media player program, you’ll see improvements in supported formats and streaming capabilities, new playback modes, and more.

In this article, I’m going to show you what’s new in this edition of WMP, so if you’re a Windows 7 user now’s the time to consider upgrading.

What’s New Inside Windows Media Player 12?

Designed by media lovers, for media lovers. Windows Media Player 12–available only in Windows 7–plays more music and video than ever…

As I stated earlier, if you’re a fan of Windows Media Player, you should enjoys the changes made to the latest version.

The first thing you might want to know is that Windows Media Player 12 plays more types of media than its predecessors. Aside from supporting most AVI, DivX, MOV, and Xvid files, WMP 12 has built-in support for many popular audio and video formats, including 3GP, AAC, AVCHD, MPEG-4, WMV, and WMA. What does this mean for Windows 7 users? No need to worry about installing codecs!

features of windows media player 12

Aside from having the ability to play more file types, you can now play those files in more places as well. Windows’ new “Play To” feature allows you to stream music and video to other PCs running Windows 7, as well as other compatible devices around your home.

windows media player 12

To use Play To, just righ-click the tracks you want to play from your library, or add them to your WMP 12 playlist, and click Play To. This feature makes it easy to stream music, video, and photos from your computer to other PCs, TVs, or stereos on your home network. For example, you can stream music from your PC to your home entertainment system or stream slide shows/videos to your TV.

windows media player 12

Likewise, Remote Media Streaming allows you to tap into your WMP 12 library over the Internet and enjoy your files while you’re away from home.

To use Remote Media Streaming, both computers must be running Windows 7. Windows Media Player will walk you through the steps to turn it on, which will require you to associate both PCs with an online ID, like a Windows Live email address. Once you’re all set up, however, then you can connect to your library from afar.

features of windows media player 12

Other features of note include the new Now Playing mode, while being very minimalistic, gives you a new taskbar thumbnail with playback controls, smarter DVD playback, 15-second song previews, and jump lists for fast access to your favorite media.


If you haven’t upgraded to Windows Media Player 12 just yet, you can download the application here. You can see most of these features in this video walkthough.

Let’s hope this article has helped you to get fully updated on what’s happening inside Windows Media Player 12. Now you can get back to watching movies, listening to tunes, downloading YouTube videos, and all that good stuff. I’m a fan of WMP 12 and will continue to experiment with it to see what else it lets me do. Stay tuned!

What’s your favorite new feature on WMP 12?

Hey Facebookers, make sure to check out MakeUseOf page on Facebook. Over 24,000 fans already!



Similar MakeUseOf Articles

No comments:

Post a Comment