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Best Mac Apps 2: Livedrive, Automator, Filevault, iPhoto, and Ember Basic Tutorials.

Updated on September 30, 2013
Cast your vote for Mac Livedrive

How to Back Up And Share Files With Livedrive

Use Livedrive Pro Suite to back up every file on your Mac and share documents and photos

You might be bored of us telling you to back up your Mac, but you’d be amazed at how many people still don’t keep a second copy of their most treasured photos or important documents. We always advise that at the very least you use an external hard drive to ensure everything is safe, but if you want to be truly secure you can keep an off-site backup and even store your files online. Livedrive does all of this for you automatically, as well as offering you online storage for your most-used files so you can access them on any machine instantly. You’ll have to pay for the service, of course, but here we’ll show you why it’s worth the investment. Remember, too, that you can get a free 30-day trial on this month’s disc to see whether it’s right for you.

Step-by-step: Keep your files backed up

1 Download
Pop in this month’s free iCreate disc and follow the instructions to download the trial of Livedrive. If you like it, you can purchase it at the end of your trial.

2 Grab the apps
Download the app to get your Mac set up with Livedrive, and don’t forget that you can also get an iOS version so you can gain access to your files anywhere while you’re on the move.

3 Management
First, let’s choose what will be backed up to Livedrive’s servers. Click the icon in the menu bar and choose Manage Backups to bring up a new window.

4 Choices, choices
Here you can choose which folders you want to save. There is no limit to the size of the backup you create, so if you want to save everything, you can. What’s stopping you!

5 Schedule
Now click on the Settings tab at the top of the window. Here, you can choose how Livedrive backs up your files, either in real time or every few hours. The choice is yours.

6 Exclusions
You can choose to exclude certain file types from your backup, too. Some are selected by default, and if you also want to exclude other files, you can.

7 Open your Briefcase
When you open the Livedrive application, you will also activate your Briefcase. It will appear as a mounted drive in Finder, and acts as a drop-box for your precious files.

8 Add to Briefcase
Dragging files into the drive will copy them over and upload them to your own personal online storage area immediately, so you can access them anywhere.

9 Restore backups
Of course, Livedrive is there if you need it. Choose Restore Backups from the menu and you can choose files from any of your Macs to restore wirelessly.

How to Back up your Contacts with Automator

Use Automator to back up your Contacts automatically to your Dropbox account

We often talk about how important it is to keep a backup of your Contacts somewhere safe. If they’re only stored on your iPad, or are just kept on your Mac you could lose a lot more than a piece of hardware if the worst were ever to happen. Of course, iCloud can back up contacts, but if you don’t have the cloud service set up on a certain device, want to back up just your work contacts on an unconnected machine, or simply want peace of mind knowing the details of your friends and family are secure, there is another option.
In this tutorial, we’ll show you how to back up your entire Contacts book, or just a select few, to your Dropbox folder automatically. You can run the backup as often as you like, and it all happens in the background.

Step-by-step Back up automatically

1 Calendar Alarm
Open your Automator app and you’ll be prompted to select the kind of automation you want. For this action, select Calendar Alarm so you can set it to run regularly.

2 Contacts
We’ll be working exclusively in the Contacts selection of commands for this task, so choose it from the Library drop-down selection in the sidebar on the left.

3 Find Contacts
Drag Find Contacts Items into the workflow, and ensure that the selection in the top drop-down box says people. Change the second menu option from All to Any.

4 Find your friends
You need to add some terms that will select contacts from the list, so for email make sure the address contains an @ symbol. Every address will, so this shouldn't be a problem.

5 All covered
To ensure you get every contact possible, add another rule and set it to Any content. Input a zero into the box – anyone with a phone number will be backed up too.

6 Get ‘em
You’ll need to add another step to the workflow before you can add an export command. Drag Get Selected Contacts Items in and ensure people is selected.

7 Export
Next, drag the Export vCards option from the left-hand side of Automator and add it to your workflow. This will enable you to save the contacts to a specific folder.

8 Pick a card
Ensure that the option selected is one vCard; if individual vCards is selected here, you will get a huge number of cards in your folder, which will confuse things.

9 Dropbox
Click the drop-down menu to the right and select Other from the bottom of the list. Navigate to your Dropbox folder and choose it as your export location.

How to Activate and Use FileVault

Encrypting your disk provides common sense yet powerful protection for valuable data

When a laptop is stolen it’s not only the loss of the computer that can be upsetting. The idea that sensitive data might get into the wrong hands can be alarming – who likes the idea of a complete stranger looking through their iPhoto albums, for example? Registering a Mac with iCloud’s Find My Mac service lets the owner of a stolen Mac remotely wipe their disk – provided the Mac is put online by the thief – but an extremely advisable step is to enable FileVault’s whole disk encryption.

This protects all the data on the Mac boot disk so that, unless the login password is known, it’s completely inaccessible – even if the recipient of the stolen Mac were to undertake ‘forensic analysis’ by removing the disk and examining its contents using another computer.

Step-by-step Activating and using FileVault

1 Opening System Preferences
Start by opening System Preferences, which you’ll find in the Applications list of Finder. Click the Security & Privacy icon near the top-right, then select the FileVault tab.

2 Authorising changes
Click the small padlock icon at the bottom-left of the System Preferences window and type your login password when prompted. Then click the Turn On FileVault button.

3 Activating different accounts
If your Mac has more than one user account, click the Enable User button to let others unlock the disk at boot. If you don’t, they’ll only be able to log in after you’ve booted.

4 Recovery key
You’ll be shown a recovery key. Write this down (on paper!) and keep it somewhere safe, such as in your wallet or handbag. You’ll need it if you ever forget your login password.

5 Storing the key with Apple
Click Continue in the key dialog box. You’ll be told Apple can store the recovery key. This is wise but not obligatory and depends how much you trust Apple’s security systems.

6 Providing security answers
If Apple stores the key it will encrypt it using answers you provide to three security questions. Make a note of these answers, including how you typed them – did you use capital letters?

7 Restart the Mac
You’ll be prompted to restart your Mac. When it restarts, type your login password and hit Enter. From now on you’ll always need to provide your password immediately at boot.

8 Background encryption
The disk will be encrypted in the background. You can work as usual, and even shutdown/ restart. Monitor progress in System Preferences. It’ll take several hours to encrypt a larger disk.

9 Adding new user accounts
Any new user account you add will be allowed to unlock the disk at boot-up (see step 3). You’ll be able to choose which account to log in to at boot-up by clicking the user icon.

Creative Cropping in iPhoto

Make more of iPhoto’s cropping tools to get the perfect composition

We often talk about the importance of composition when it comes to your shots; proper framing and use of the rule of thirds can do a lot to improve your images. However, when you’re out and about shooting it’s easy to forget these principles.

Thankfully you can still complete a lot of these actions on your Mac. Cropping can make a huge difference to a shot. Whether you want to improve the focus, remove distractions or simply balance your image better, iPhoto is here to help. You can even use cropping to rescue a photo with poor framing.

Have you chopped off part of your subject’s ear in a portrait shot? Crop it close and make it less obvious. Here we explore how cropping can be used to offer a new perspective on a photo.

Step-by-step: Use cropping creatively

1 Correct framing errors
When you’re out shooting, it’s easy to frame shots badly and get a lot of extra, unnecessary space. Use cropping to give your image a tighter overall look.

2 Crop it close
If you’ve almost missed the subject of your shot, or chopped off a part of the shot, make it less obvious by cropping close to the object on the remaining sides.

3 Better balance
Sometimes a shot will be fine as it is, but will look even better if you crop it down a fraction. Here, cropping the shot results in a lovely balance of colours.

4 Rule of thirds
When you’re cropping, lines will appear on screen in a grid. This helps with the rule of thirds, the classic photography guide, so try and put focal points at the intersections.

5 Remove distractions
If a shot has one or two small distracting things going on in the background, you can use the Crop control to remove them and focus on what you want.

6 Landscape
If you have a beautiful shot of a landscape but also captured a lot of sky and land near your camera, crop it to form a wide-angle shot, perfect for framing.

7 Play with ratios
Don’t feel limited to the standard photography ratios. Try playing around with tall and wide shots, as well as square crops, to see what works for you. Experimenting is key.

8 Multiple shots
If you’ve taken a single photo with several small things you want to focus on, duplicate the image and focus in to create multiple images from a single shot.

9 Constrained cropping
Use the preset cropping constraints if you want to print out your photos later. They are popular because they are more standard sizes that can be easily fitted into frames.

Capture Screenshots, Import Images And Get Organised With The Help Of Ember

As Mac creatives, we’re forever searching for inspiration and it appears just about anywhere – from photos we’ve taken, websites we’ve visited and designs we’ve found on sites like Dribbble. The real challenge comes with storing, saving and retrieving those all-important websites and screenshots. Fortunately, Realmac Software’s Ember (£34.99/$49.99, Mac App Store) comes to the rescue. Built upon Realmac’s much-loved LittleSnapper, Ember takes its predecessor’s great screenshot capture and organisation features and combines them with some powerful photo import tools, tagging, search, smart collections and more. All these features combine to make a great way to look after those inspiring images you come across on your Mac.

1 Get set up
When you first open Ember, you’ll be taken through a short setup process. Be sure to download and install the browser extensions to enable you to quickly capture websites.

2 Drag in images
If you already have a folder of images on, for example your desktop, the easiest way to get them into Ember is to select them and drag them straight into the app.

3 Tag ‘em all
As you add images into Ember, it’s worth tagging each of them with relevant keywords in the inspector – it will make searching for the perfect image much easier.

4 Create a collection
Aside from searching your Ember library for relevant tags, you can also organize images into collections. To create one, click on the ‘+’ icon in the bottom-left.

5 Get smarter
Smart collections automatically sort your photos and screenshots based on their attributes – be it tags, rating or type. Simply set these up and let Ember do the rest.

6 Subscribe to sites
Adding blogs to Ember’s subscriptions tab will automatically pull in their images – giving you a more convenient way to keep track of online sources of inspiration.

7 Browse and save
Clicking on any of your Ember subscriptions will take you to a gallery of its most recent images. When you find an image you like, click on the save icon above it.

8 Snap a site
Sometimes website designs themselves can be your source of inspiration. Using the browser extension you installed earlier you can send them straight to Ember.

9 Annotate it
Double-clicking on any image in Ember will open it up with a set of annotation tools. Use these to help you remember anything important or inspiring later on.

How To Make Your Mac Speak To You

Learn how to activate and customise your Mac’s underrated VoiceOver functionality

Your Mac can be an incredible tool for creativity and productivity, but it also boasts some amazing accessibility options that open it up to an entire audience of visually impaired users. The VoiceOver functionality in OS X gives your Mac the ability to talk and read to you. This clearly has a lot of practical applications.In this tutorial we’ll show you how to activate VoiceOver, customise it and where it can be best applied. We’ve also taken a look at how you can manipulate the same system with Terminal to read entire documents or speak particular phrases with just a few simple commands. VoiceOver is yet another powerful tool that many won’t have realised they could activate on their Macs. Here’s how it works.

Step-by-step Make your Mac speak to you

1 Dictation & Speech
First thing you’ll need to do is head to the Dictation & Speech section of your System Preferences. You’ll find it under the System subheading, second row from the bottom.

2 Change voice
The first option available to you is the voice your Mac will speak to you in. There are three female and three male voices to pick from, each fairly digital, but varied.

3 Announcements
One particularly fun setting is to have VoiceOver announce alerts and notify you when an app is in need of your attention. It’s like having a digital butler at your service.

4 Quick key
There are a wide range of apps that work with VoiceOver (some of which we’ll deal with shortly), but for quick speech access you can create a keyboard shortcut.

5 Talking clock
Since we’re giving your Mac a voice to speak with, why not also have it tell you the time at important intervals? Good for helping you manage your day.

6 Settings
Open Accessibility Preferences for some more VoiceOver settings such as Training and Utility, which gives you finer control over things like speech rate and pitch.

7 Verbosity
There are lots more settings in the Utility worth applying, such phonetic pronunciation, and smart adjustments that can help those with sight impairments.

8 TextEdit
A great example of VoiceOver in action is TextEdit. Place your cursor at the beginning of a sentence, highlight Speech in the Edit menu and select Start Speaking.

9 Calculator
Your Mac’s Calculator has a whole Speech section in its menu bar that lets you apply VoiceOver to both the input of numbers and the result separately.

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