Create GIFs using TIFF, BMP, PNG, JPEG Images on Mac OS X

GIF is a popular image format that is used on the internet widely for small animations, or any combination of a sequence of images, displayed one after the other, as a continuous moving picture. Due to this capability of the GIF format, and its widespread support across various standards and browsers, it is common to find GIFs on many web pages on the internet, especially social networking sites.

While it is not very difficult to make your own GIF, but special image editing software such as Adobe Photoshop is required to take individual images or frames, and combine them together to create a GIF image.

GIFQuickMaker is a small, freeware utility for Mac OS X, that allows you to use your own images in TIFF, BMP, PNG or JPEG format, and combine them into a GIF image. GIFQuickMaker is freely available from the Mac App Store.

Using GIFQuickMaker is really simple:

    1. Import all the images that you want to use in your GIF into GIFQuickMaker. You can do this by either manually clicking File >> Open, or by simply selecting the required images in Finder and then dragging and dropping them into GIFQuickMaker. Once your images are imported, you will see them in the top left pane in GIFQuickMaker.

    1. After the import is done, select the first image that you want to show up in the GIF, and click the ‘Add’ button. If you want, you can add multiple images simultaneously, by selecting multiple images, and clicking the button to the right of the single ‘Add’ button.

    1. In the same way, add all the frames in your GIF image. You can use the up/down arrow buttons to re-order them.
    2. Apart from this basic ordering, you can also set additional options such as the time duration for display of each frame, the number of times to repeat the GIF animations, or if it should loop infinitely.
    3. Once you’ve set all the relevant options, all you have to do is click the ‘Make GIF Animation’ button, and the GIF is generated. You can view the GIF in the right side pane after it is created.

  1. The last step is to save the GIF, for which you need to click the ‘Save’ button, and select the location where you want to save the GIF.

Get GIFQuickMaker from the Mac App Store

Pin, Add Shortcuts to Important Folders on Your Mac OS X Menu Bar

While some people like to visit Finder every time they want to access a file, other place regularly used folders and files in their Mac OS X dock. Some people use Spotlight for this purpose, yet others use tools such as QuickSilver, Alfred, Launchbar. These are just multiple ways to achieve the same end, and everybody has their own preference.

I like to keep my dock hidden, and it shows up only when I take my mouse near its location on the screen (currently at the bottom). That way it doesn’t end up taking a chunk of precious screen estate at all times, and is accessible to me when I want it to be.

The Mac OS X menu bar, however, is an interface feature that is always present, no matter which app you’re using. The exception to this is obviously full-screen apps (a new feature in Lion), but for the topic at hand, we can ignore these edge cases. Since the menu bar is almost always visible to you at the top, having shortcuts to a handful of important folders can greatly speed up your workflow, and reduce the time you usually take to find and open up a document or file.

XMenu is a freeware app for Mac OS X (developed by DEVONtechnologies LLC) that helps you get quick access to some of the important Mac OS X folders from your menu bar. By default, it displays the /Applications folder in your menu bar, which is the usual location on OS X for all your applications.

Other folders that you can add to your menu bar are:

  • Developer
  • Home
  • Documents
  • User-defined – This contains of a folder within the XMenu settings, and you can place shortcuts or symbolic links to any folders that you want to see in this menu, in that folder. The path to the folder is: ~/Library/Application Support/XMenu/Custom
  • Snippets – Plain and rich text documents, text clippings, Internet locations, and other files added to the folder for the Snippets menu are not opened using the Finder when you select them but their content is inserted into the current application if no modifier key is pressed. The path to the folder for this is: ~/Library/Application Support/XMenu/Snippets

Download XMenu

Simple Digital Clock As Mac OS X Screen Saver

While Mac OS X ships with some great screen savers, most of them are merely ornamental and provide no real functionality. The concept of screen savers were introduced to prevent something called burn-in, which happened with CRT monitors. Now that most people have LCD monitors, the functionality of screen savers is reduced to entertainment and security purposes.

Personally, I’ve setup my Mac to show the screen saver after 5 minutes of idle time. And once the screen saver is up, a password is required to get back to the desktop. This ensures that no one messes around with my system or gets access to my data while I’m away from my seat.

Although the screen saver primarily shows up when I’m not at my desk, sometimes I’m just working on something with pen and paper, or reading a book, and the screen saver that comes on usually has pictures or animations which can distract you from the task at hand. Additionally, they provide no functionality.

MinimalClock is a great, minimalistic screen saver, that shows a black screen, and a digital clock on it, in a nice font, with big characters.

It does not distract, it shows you the time when you need to quickly look it up, and it is beautiful.

It has an option for 24/12 hour time scheme, so you can choose whichever you prefer. If the screensaver does not show up properly when you first install it (it didn’t work for me in the first try):

  1. Install the font manually by downloading it from here, and double-clicking on the files extracted from the package, and then clicking ‘Install Font’.
  2. Install the MinimalClock package again.

Download MinimalClock

Find Mac OS X Software Internet Connections With Programs With Private Eye

An important everyday utility that I use on my Mac OS X desktop is the network MenuMeters meter, and here is what it looks like (circled in red):

This is a simple network monitor, that just shows me upload and download bandwidth in use currently. If I see that a lot of download bandwidth is being used, then I usually come to the conclusion that I have BitTorrent downloads going on in the background, or probably a video is playing on YouTube. Similarly, if I see a lot of upstream bandwidth in use, I think that my sister in the other room is streaming a TV show or movie from my laptop on her HDTV.

While I’m quite accurate at guessing the usual suspects, I’ve been in situations where my connection is exceptionally slow, or feels choked by another application, and I simply cannot find out the app in question. MenuMeters, or for that matter, any other monitor I’ve come across for Mac OS X does not tell me which application is using my network bandwidth. This is where Private Eye comes in.

An early warning: Private Eye comes as an install package (.pkg), and requires a root user’s password to complete installation. Usually, I stay away from such apps, especially ones from untrusted sources, since .pkg installers mess around with crucial system files, and have many times been the reason for complete mayhem on my Mac. Private Eye seems to be trustworthy (looking at the developers website), and is a pretty small app (~500KB), so it doesn’t take up much of your system’s resources.

Private Eye does one and only one thing: since the moment you launch it, it monitors all outgoing and incoming network connections on your system, and reports them to you in a list UI. Why is it great?

  • Simple, uncluttered UI – I cannot stress how important that is for an app, and lately a lot of Mac OS X apps have started focusing on functionality over design. If your user has trouble finding what he wants (in fact it should be obvious from the interface), then your app has failed. Private Eye strikes the right note with a very basic interface.
  • Real time reports – When an app makes a network connection, you see it instantly on your screen. There’s no delay and you don’t have to use a separate recording mode.
  • Easy filters – Since the number of total connections happening on your system can potentially be large, you can easily filter your view to just contain incoming or outgoing connections, or you can look at the connections from a single app.

Download Private Eye

Test Hard Disk Read/Write Speeds In Mac OS X

Video storage and playback, as it is today, is very different from what it was five years ago. A lot of content is being shared and distributed digitally, and in increasingly better quality. Along with it, we have various video formats, some of them compressed, some uncompressed, some lossy, some lossless. To get optimal video playback performance, the very basic requirement is that your storage media should be able to keep up with the demands of the video player, to allow for smooth decompression and decoding, and stutter-free playback.

The practical problem here is that while hard drives always boost performances upto the theoretical maximum, they rarely perform that well in real world conditions. This is where testing comes in: to know if your disk is capable to playing a particular video format, you need to test it with actual data on the disk. This is something that is impractical.

Blackmagic Disk Speed Test is a freeware utility by Blackmagic Design Inc, which helps you simulate playback or recording of various video formats to your disk, so that you can test the performance of the disk and judge whether or not it is suitable for your purpose.

The actual testing process is pretty much straightforward:

  1. Click on the cog wheel to bring up the Settings menu.
  2. Click on ‘Select Target Drive’ to choose which drive you want to test.
  3. Choose a stress limit. 5 GB is the recommended value so that any temporary fluctuations get averaged out over the complete test.
  4. Click on the huge ‘Start’ button in the middle.

Once you start the test, the tool starts testing writes and reads to the disk alternately and gives you output values in the bottom section. After the test is complete, the tick marks in the ‘Will it work?’ section indicate which formats your drive will be able to support in an optimal manner, and the ‘How Fast?’ section values indicate the FPS at which each video format is expected to play.

For someone looking to test out their new SSD or 7200 rpm disk, or any other disk for that matter, Blackmagic Disk Speed Test is just the tool for the job. Its well designed, and pretty easy to use. It comes bundled with a usage manual, which you can read for more details on the working and testing process of the tool.

Get Blackmagic Disk Speed Test from the Mac App Store