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How to: Set up, grow, and move Usher movie libraries

Tuesday, March 27th, 2012

Usher is our powerful movie management tool; its mission in life is to bring order to the chaos that can be one’s collection of videos. To help you get the most out of Usher, this how-to covers setting up Usher’s main Library folder, adding more storage space, and moving movie files to a new hard drive (replacing an existing smaller drive).

Basic Library folder setup

Our recommended setup for Usher is to create your main Library folder on your machine’s boot disk, regardless of whether you intend to keep any movies there or not. By having the main Library folder on your boot drive, you’ll be able to see all your movies, even if they’re stored on a not-currently-connected external drive; you can even edit those movies’ metadata without them being physically present.

(If you’ve got a machine with more than one hard drive, and the extra drive (or drives) is always connected, feel free to place your Library folder on that drive. It’s only drives that are transient in nature that can be problematic as Library folder locations.)

If you simply install Usher and run it, this is the setup you will get—the main Library folder is created in your user’s Movies folder, within an Usher folder we create there. While you don’t have to use this arrangement, we strongly recommend that the main Library folder reside somewhere on your boot drive, or other always-there drive. (You can choose a new location for the Library folder on the Library tab of Usher’s preferences panel.)

After you’ve used Usher for a while, assuming you’re actively growing your movie collection, there’s a good chance you’ll find yourself running short on drive space. Thankfully, Usher makes it really easy to add additional storage space to your collection.

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How-to: Clean up filenames using Name Mangler

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

Name Mangler can be used for many file renaming purposes; many people use it to change the generic IMG_ (or whatever) prefix their camera applies to all photos. Another good use, though, is to clean up filenames—either to remove odd characters (which can happen with web-downloaded files), or to remove characters not allowed in other filesystems, such as NTFS. In today’s how-to, I’ll show you how to do both of those things with some not-too-complicated Name Mangler queries.

Name Mangler 3 includes two entries in its Presets menu—Dumb Down for Windows and Trim Whitespace—that can fix many filename issues. This blog post explains some methods to use when those menu items aren’t enough.

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How-to: Save Many Tricks license files forever

Monday, January 16th, 2012

When you purchase our software directly from us (as opposed to in the App Store), you receive an email with a license file download link. Please download the file right away, as the download link expires in a few days. (If it didn’t expire, pirates could simply post the URL for anyone to use—forever.)

After downloading, double-click the downloaded file to license the associated app; you should see the license file window appear:

Both Peter and I prefer to these license files over serial numbers for many reasons (they seem more personal, they don’t require copy-and-paste and app switching, etc.), but there is one downside: Many users aren’t sure where to keep a copy of the file, to ease migrating to a new machine, or just for safekeeping. It turns out it’s actually very easy to back up these files…

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How-to: Make Firefox’s bookmarks play nicely with Butler

Friday, December 16th, 2011

One of Butler‘s features is a Bookmarks menu that displays bookmarks from a number of browsers, including classics such as Internet Explorer (thereby revealing the depths of Butler’s life experiences).

You can access these bookmarks from the Butler icon in your menu bar, or create a keyboard shortcut to pop it up as a menu near the mouse, put it in a droplet, etc. In short, it’s a quick way to get at your bookmarks without first going to your browser.

Over the years, however, most of these shortcuts have stopped working, as the various browsers changed the manner in which they store their bookmarks. As of today, in fact, only Safari and Camino still appear to work properly. (We’ll see what we can do about updating support for the other browsers in Butler 5, though we’ll probably not bother to look at Internet Explorer.)

Thanks to Butler user Rick, however, we can add one more browser back to that list: Firefox. He discovered a simple way to get Firefox’s bookmarks working again in Butler. (My workaround has been to use Xmarks to sync bookmarks across all my browsers, and then just use the Safari entry in Butler to see them.) Read on for Rick’s solution…

Here’s how to get your Firefox bookmarks back into Butler’s Bookmarks menu:

  1. In Firefox, type about:config in the URL bar, then press Return. You’ll see a warning about voiding the warranty; click on the “I’ll be careful, I promise!” button.
  2. In the Filter box, type autoexport, and the list of matches will be reduced to just one: browser.bookmarks.autoExportHTML.
  3. Double-click anywhere on the browser.bookmarks.autoExportHTML line, and you should see its Value entry change to true.
  4. Quit and restart Firefox.

That’s it; in a few minutes, you should find that the Firefox entry in Butler’s Bookmarks item is now populated with your Firefox bookmarks. Thanks again to Rick for pointing out this workaround.

How To: Use Lion, the Witch, and the Escape key

Thursday, December 15th, 2011

Early in 2011, as we were testing our apps with the Lion developer previews, Peter and I noticed something odd with Witch in Lion: some, but not all, of our Macs were unable to dismiss the Witch switcher panel via the Escape key. Peter dug into Witch’s code, and could find no reason for this, so then we started looking at the operating system itself. What we found is that the problem is indeed in Lion, and it’s related to Front Row (which, ironically enough, isn’t in Lion).

In a nutshell, Lion is reserving the Command-Escape keystroke to activate Front Row, even though there’s no Front Row to activate. So if you use Command-Tab to activate Witch, and then press Escape to cancel the window, Lion sees a Command-Escape keypress, and captures it—Witch never sees it, and its switcher panel isn’t dismissed. (If you disabled Front Row in 10.6, or remapped its activation keys, and then upgraded to Lion, you’re probably not having this problem. But if you did use Command-Escape for Front Row, you’ll want to use this fix.) We filed an Apple bug report on this back in March of 2011, but it’s still open and unresolved.

To fix this problem, we’ve created a simple little application, Escape Key Liberator. Usage couldn’t be much easier: download and mount the disk image, then launch the program (right from the disk image; it’s fine). You’ll be greeted by this incredibly obvious dialog:

Click the Liberate button, then quit Escape Key Liberator. Now comes the only slightly annoying portion of the process: you must logout and login for the change to take effect.

But after that task is done, you should once again be able to use the Escape key to dismiss the Witch switcher panel. You can then delete (or zip and archive, for possible future use on another Mac) the Escape Key Liberator disk image; it’s a one-trick pony, and its trick is done.

(Note: If you’re the kind of person who prefers replacing the transmission in your car yourself, instead of taking the car to the shop, read on for instructions on freeing your Escape key without the ease of a couple of mouse clicks.)

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How-to: Use Butler and AppleScript to open a folder

Wednesday, November 16th, 2011

I know what you’re thinking…how hard can it be to open a folder? Not very hard at all. But what I wanted was a way to open a certain folder with a certain view and sort order, even though I may then change that folder’s view and sort order, thereby messing up future openings of that same folder. In my case, I wanted my Downloads folder to open, at a given size and location, sorted in reverse date order. Moom can do 90% of this using saved window layouts, but it can’t do anything with the actual Finder window, such as setting the view and sort column.

After a bit of work with AppleScript, I came up with a solution that got me everything I wanted. By storing the AppleScript in Butler, I can now open my folder with the press of a hot key, at any time from any application. Here’s how I did it.

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How-to: Use Butler for real-time Google searches

Monday, April 11th, 2011

For those who aren’t aware, Google has a real time search engine that can find up-to-the-second results across sites and social media services for topics of interest. Here’s how to set up Butler to search via this real time search engine.

  1. Open Butler’s main window (via Butler > Customize in the Butler menu, for instance), and go to the Engines tab.
  2. Click the plus sign at the lower left corner of the Butler window, and select Search Engine (or just press Command-N.)
  3. Name your search engine (in the box near the top right of the Butler window). (Press Tab when done.)
  4. On the URL tab, enter this for Prefix: http://www.google.com/webhp?btnG=Search#q=. Enter this for Suffix: &tbs=mbl:1&fp=1&cad=b.
  5. If you’d like to use real time search via Butler’s input box, click on the Triggers tab and enter an abbreviation. (Press Tab when done.)
  6. Click the Configuration tab, then click the plus sign at the lower left again. Scroll down and choose Smart Item > Web Search.
  7. Drag the newly-added Web Search entry to your desired section of Butler’s interface—I do all my web searching via keyboard shortcuts, so I have it in the Hidden section.
  8. Title your newly-added search, using the box near the top right of the Butler window. (Press Tab when done.)
  9. Click the pop-up in the Search Engine tab, and select the newly-created Google realtime search entry from the list.
  10. If you’d like to search via the keyboard, click over to the Triggers tab and set a Hot Key.
  11. Optionally set any other options.

I’ve been using this for a few weeks now, and it works quite nicely (at least using the USA version of Google; I’m not sure about international real time searching).

How-to: Five tips for using Witch (video)

Thursday, February 17th, 2011

In conjunction with the Witch 3.6.1 release today, we’ve created a video that discusses five things you can do with Witch:

  • Basic window switching (really basic!)
  • Creating global hot keys for certain window-related actions
  • Fast toggling between windows without seeing the Witch panel
  • Using shortcuts to see window info, switch to windows, and perform actions on windows
  • Setting up Witch for use with a mouse or trackpad

The video runs just under 10 minutes in length, and is available in two sizes: 640×480 [31MB] or 1024×768 [73MB]. (Both versions are also available in the sidebar on the Witch page.)

How-to: Launch and hide Desktop Curtain at login

Monday, February 7th, 2011
Over the weekend, I was asked why Desktop Curtain can’t be launched and hidden at login—when set to run at login, Desktop Curtain appears (as would any other app set to run at login). While you can’t set this preference within Desktop Curtain, it’s relatively easy to do with some help from Mac OS X.

First, make sure the ‘Launch automatically at login’ box is checked on the Advanced tab of Desktop Curtain’s settings window.

Second, go to the Accounts System Preferences panel, select your account in the left-hand column, and then click the Login Items tab on the right. Find Desktop Curtain in the list, and check the leftmost box, in the Hide column:

That’s it—Desktop Curtain will now launch at login, and hide. To get the most out of this tip, you should also set a global hot key (on the Advanced tab of Desktop Curtain’s settings window), so you can then make Desktop Curtain visible whenever you need to hide your clutter.

How-to: Set playback start/stop points in Usher

Monday, January 10th, 2011

A few users have asked how to set the start and stop points for playing back a particular video—for instance, to skip a portion at the start or end of a video clip that you’d rather not see. (This is the equivalent to setting a Start Time and Stop Time on the Options tab of iTunes’ Get Info window.)

While it’s not quite that simple to mark a video’s start and stop points in Usher, it’s really not much harder. Read on for the quick how-to, in both text and video forms.

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