HexStyli 6 in 1 Stylus Pen Review

The HexStyli from MobileFun really does seem to be the pen that does it all. It’s shaped like a standard, good quality ballpoint pen, complete with comfortable grip and handy clip to affix it to your pocket or notebook. Weighing no more than a regular ballpoint, it writes beautifully, but the HexStyli does a great deal more than that.

The HexStyli - beautifully presented

The HexStyli – beautifully presented

In the same way that smartphones have presented us with a phone, camera, gaming centre and so much more in one handy device, the HexStyli is not content with being just a pen. It provides a ruler (in both inches and centimetres) and spirit level as well as the refillable ballpoint. It also contains two handy screwdriver heads – one for flathead and one for crosshead screws – accessed by unscrewing the end of the pen.

Lovely to use as a pen

Lovely to use as a pen…

Where the HexStyli really comes into its own, though, is as a smartphone stylus. I’ve tried in out on my iPhone from everything from games to responding to emails. It handled everything with ease and was actually better in terms of accuracy for typing emails than my fingers are. Trying to catch the omnidirectional stylus out, I pressed my homescreen button, thinking the stylus would not be capable of exerting enough pressure for the button to work. I was wrong – my homescreen popped up instantly.

...as well as a great stylus

…as well as a great stylus

Despite my cynical nature, I was actually really impressed with the HexStyli. It’s an attractive-looking piece of kit that’s really handy to have around for a whole range of reasons. Plus, it comes in a lovely presentation box, making it a lovely gift idea. All in all, a great product.

MacKeeper 2.8 Review

How much you should do to keep your Mac environment (and hard drive) tidy and uncluttered is a matter of much debate amongst Apple users. Some claim that OS X is so good at looking after itself that routine maintenance is unnecessary.

I’ll be honest from the start: I disagree with this stance. Yes, I come from a Windows background where occasionally running Disk Cleanup and other tools is routine, but I genuinely believe that Macs need a little bit of TLC too.

As such, I’m a bit of a fan of MacKeeper. I reviewed it some time ago, but there are now plenty of new features, so I thought I’d take a fresh look at it.

MacKeeper now includes 16 different tools for the Mac operating system. As before, my first port of call when I installed the software was the “Fast Cleanup” option – the closest equivalent to the Windows Disk Cleanup tool that removes superfluous binaries, caches and logs.

Now, you will find people who say there’s no need to remove these files, but I think it’s good to have a clear out, especially with Apple increasingly moving towards SSD drives with smaller capacities. As you can see from the screenshot below, MacKeeper found 1.6GB of unnecessary junk on my MacBook Pro – if I only had a 128GB SSD, I’d be very keen to get back that amount of drive space.

Junk

 

Of course, there’s lots more to MacKeeper than this. The cleanup tools go far beyond the “fast cleanup” option. There’s also a powerful duplicate finder, which is very useful for identifying multiple copies of files taking up space, and a handy usage section that quickly shows you what types of files are taking up space. As before, I would caution that these are powerful features that could be dangerous in inexperienced hands!

Usage

The new MacKeeper includes some useful optimisation tools including an update tracker and control of login items and file associations. Yes, there are other places to achieve these aims, but it’s useful to see them all together.

There are also utilities galore: data encryption, backup, file shredding, antivirus and antitheft. There is some duplication of existing Mac functionality, but we like how MacKeeper ties everything together, and REALLY like the tutorials and step-by-step guidance for each feature.

Encryption

As I stated at the start, there are people who will tell you you don’t need a suite of utilities for your Mac. I’m not going to join the debate. All I will say is that I’ve been working in the IT business for over a decade, and I use it on my own Mac. That should be taken as a recommendation!

Windows to Mac – Five Ways to Adapt

If you’ve moved from Windows to Mac, there’s undoubtedly a learning curve involved. However, all it takes is a little “retraining,” and before you know it you’ll be zooming around OS X at lightening speed. Once you get to that stage, it will be Windows that feels clunky and unintuitive – I promise!

However, certain differences will inevitably trip you up to begin with. When my wife (a committed Windows user) has occasion to use my MacBook Pro, I can almost predict when I’ll begin to hear swear words echoing though the house.

So, I’ve produced this guide to help those who have recently moved from Windows to Mac get their heads around some of the most noticeable differences.

Before we start, don’t forget that you can still run Windows on your Mac too! Use the link below to get a 25% discount on Parallels, our favorite virtual machine solution!

Limited time offer – 25% off Parallels Desktop 8 for Mac – Run windows on your Mac – Faster

Gestures

If you have a Mac laptop, or a desktop with a track pad, you’ve got some amazing functionality, quite literally at your fingertips.

Windows to Mac - Learn Gestures

Windows to Mac – Learn Gestures

Most manufacturers of Windows laptops are now trying to copy this, but I’ve yet to see one that comes close to emulating the precise and reliable gesture control on the Mac.

Want to scroll? Just use two fingers instead of one. Zoom? Just pinch your fingers like you can on your smartphone. Right click? Click with two fingers instead of one. There are tons more too – just go to “Trackpad” within “System Preferences” to learn about them.

Managing (and closing) applications

When you first move from Windows to Mac, it can seem a little strange that closing a program window doesn’t truly close a program. In fact, the easiest way to see if a program is running is that it will have a little dot underneath it on the Mac’s dock.

Closing programs “properly” is easy: just use the keyboard shortcut CMD+Q. Simple.

Dealing with the lack of a “delete” key

The lack of a “delete” key on my MacBook’s keyboard is the thing my wife moans about the most, however I can truly say it doesn’t bother me one bit any more – and I spend at least two-thirds of every working day writing articles.

Where is the Mac Delete Key

If you want to delete everything you have selected, you just need to hold the Fn (function) key down at the same time as pressing the backspace key.

Furthermore, there’s actually some advanced functionality hidden away too. Pressing the CTRL or ALT key with backspace will delete the entire word behind the cursor. Pressing CMD with backspace will delete the entire line or paragraph behind it.

It’s well worth remembering that Macs weren’t just designed to be pretty and easy to use. Creative professionals have also used them for many years. There are keyboard shortcuts for everything, and the more time you invest in learning them, the quicker you can travel around the operating system.

Application switching

Are you missing the Windows ALT+TAB combination to switch between applications? Well it’s in OS X too, except you press CMD+TAB instead.

You’ve also got Mission Control if you press F3, which will show you all of your live windows at once, and allow you to spread apps over multiple virtual desktops. Take the time to learn to incorporate multiple desktops into your own individual workflow, and you’ll never know how you managed without the functionality.

Mac Mission Control

Mac Mission Control

Removing applications

Just drag them from the “Applications” folder to the trashcan. Simple isn’t it?

Learning a new operating system is always going to take a little time. The great thing about moving from Windows to Mac is that all the time you invest pays great dividends in speeding up your work. Even after a couple of years using a Mac, I still keep discovering little shortcuts that make me smile. Meanwhile, Microsoft seem determined to make Windows steadily less intuitive. Yes, my wife swears when she tries to use my Mac – but you should hear me when I have to use her Windows laptop!

Looking for a new Mac? Try Best Buy! Buy Online, Pick Up in Your Local Best Buy Store-Same-Day Pickup Guarantee.


Protecting my Mac

If you read my last post about water damage to my Mac, you’ll know that I’m now working from a brand new MacBook Pro.

Buying it was something I really could have done without. I haven’t yet had time to see whether I can get my previous keyboard fixed under warranty, but time and work pressures meant I had to quickly get something new. As such, I am down on a significant sum of money.

So, as you can imagine, I am very keen to keep my NEW MacBook Pro in totally pristine condition. This means that if I’m using it in bed at night, I now walk through and place it carefully on the desk or dining table before I go to sleep. I’m also keen to avoid the day-to-day dinks and scratches that afflicted my old one and allow drinks nowhere near it!

Conveniently, a representative from Gearzap got in touch to draw my attention to their Mac cases, and I review here a clear, MacBook Pro 13 Case from Speck

My New Mac Shell Case

My New Mac Shell Case

I chose a clear one because, let’s face it, it’s daft to spend thousands on a Mac and not be able to show it off a little bit! I’m pleased to say the case is perfect, adding mere millimeters to the shell of my laptop but also the peace of mind of knowing that all the little dinks and scratches will affect the shell and not the pricey Apple kit.

The case is designed in such a way as to leave all the external interfaces fully accessible including the tiny button which displays available battery life (something I always use in the morning to tell me if I can immediately start work or if I have to remember where I left my power adaptor). The only thing the cover doesn’t do is protect my keyboard if I spill liquid on it – so my own precautions must remain in place!

Delivery service from Gearzap was great, with the cover arriving very quickly by courier at my home in Portugal – something that, for some reason, many companies find near impossible to achieve.

So, top marks for my new cover, and the same for Gearzap!

In the interests of full disclosure, this review was prompted by the company’s offer of a review unit, but I have made no concessions in my honesty – I was truly impressed by both cover and service, and I have received no payment for this review.

Windows to Mac recommends: MacKeeper - please click for details!

Mac Water Damage – Alarmingly Easy

I’ve now (sadly) had two direct experiences of Mac water damage.

My first ever Apple Macbook (one of the white ones) died after I spliied a mere three drips of liquid onto it.

Mac water damage - it only takes a drip

Mac water damage – it only takes a drip

Now, I have had to replace my Macbook Pro as the keyboard decided to short out, causing certain keys to fail or produce incorrect characters. This is typical behaviour after liquid damage. In this case, I don’t even remember a spillage, but one must have occurred.

There’s a long and frustrating story attached to why this meant I had to buy a new Mac almost immediately. Basically I had to get work finished before a holiday and was left with no option.

Now I’m back, I can see about having my old MacBook Pro keyboard replaced, or perhaps replacing it myself.

There’s a valuable lesson here, however: Mac water damage happens VERY easily. I have seen Windows laptops go through countless far more severe spillages and live to tell the tale, but I have now lost two Mac laptops to mere drips of liquid. Do yourself a favour – never drink anything anwhere NEAR your Mac!

Have you damaged a Mac with liquid? Share your experiences in the comments section.

Windows to Mac recommends: MacKeeper - please click for details!

 

 

Why My Wife is Still a PC

Anyone who’s read Windows to Mac before will know that I am a total convert to the world of Apple. I’ve begun to display an almost evangelical enthusiasm for converting others. So, when my wife found herself needing a new computer, I thought I may be able to convince her. I had no luck! Here in this guest post, she tells you why.

Having found myself unexpectedly facing a freelance career, after being made redundant from my fulltime job, it was time for me to buy my first laptop. I’ve had laptops before – company ones, ones my husband passed on when he upgraded his own machine – but this was to be my very first brand new laptop.

My husband suggested that I seriously consider buying a Mac. I’ve always been a PC person, but some of the features he showed me on his Mac did get me thinking. I’m not a techie and expressions like ‘SSD storage’ mean nothing to me and certainly don’t get my pulse racing (to my husband’s dismay, my key criterion was that my laptop should be pink).

My wifes pink laptop

My wifes pink laptop

Now although I’m a PC lover, I’m definitely not an Apple hater. I had a company iPad, which I loved, and have just bought an iPhone, which I adore. To own a Mac was a tempting prospect. I love how intuitive Apple’s devices are – both the iPad and iPhone are a genuine pleasure to use and I’m sure that having my own Mac would be the same.

I’ve used Macs on occasion and there are some features that I find annoying, but mainly they boil down to me trying to use PC commands, such as Ctrl+B instead of the little Apple key+B. I’m sure that in a short space of time I would learn to do things the Apple way and the irritations would vanish.

With all this in mind, I was sorely tempted to go for a Mac. What it came down to in the end was price. To buy the very cheapest MacBook Pro would have cost me £999. As I was just beginning my freelance career and wasn’t sure how much money I would be making, I simply couldn’t justify spending that much.

After a great deal of review-reading and hunting around in stores and online, I made my choice – an Asus X401A laptop. I’m very happy with it. It’s fast, easy to use and has the lovely two-finger scrolling and pinch-to-zoom features that the Mac does, all for the bargain price of £299.99. I won’t say that I’ll never buy a Mac, but for now I’m happy to stick with my Asus – it does everything I need it to and is a pleasure to use.

Oh and by the way, it’s pink ;-)

How to Clean up a Mac

There is plenty of debate amongst techies as to how to clean up a Mac. Many say that Macs essentially “clean themselves” – with discs that automatically defragment and cache files that users don’t need to worry about.

I don’t really agree. I admit that I come from a Windows background where running Disc Cleanups and Defrags were routine activities. While these utilities don’t have the same importance in a Mac OS X environment, I still think it’s good practice to stick to a regular maintenance regime. A bit of TLC will go a long way to keeping your Mac running well.

So, I’m going to tell you how to clean up a Mac the way that I do it. As with anything remotely technical, it’s wise to take a backup before a clean up operation.

1. Remove Unnecessary Programs

If you’re anything like me, you’ll often try out new programs and downloads. Once every few months, it’s worth having a good look at your Mac and getting rid of those you don’t need any more.

Removing programs is really easy under OS X – you just find them in the Applications folder and drag them to the trash.

Clean up a mac - drag unwanted apps to the trash

Clean up a mac – drag unwanted apps to the trash

2. Run Software Update

Various programs (and the OS X operating system,) all download updates for themselves over the Internet, but it’s easy to get into the habit of clicking “not now” when the updates try to install.

Once in a while, it’s good to make sure everything is up to date. All you need to do is click on the Apple menu and select “Software Update.” Follow the prompts and wait until everything is installed. You’ll probably have to restart your Mac.

Run software update

Run software update

3. Clear the Desktop and the Trash

If you clutter your Mac’s desktop with files, make sure you have a frequent tidy up. If you don’t need files any more, stick them in the trash. If you need to keep things, drag them into organised folders.

Once you reach this stage, there’s probably plenty of files and old applications in the trash – so click in there and empty it.

4. Run MacKeeper

I use a utility called MacKeeper to clear up temporary and unnecessary files on my Mac. If I use it every few months, its “Fast Cleanup” mode typically frees up at least 1GB of extra disc space. I wrote a full review of this product some time ago.

 

5. Restart and Backup

Once you’ve finished your cleanup, restart your Mac and run a fresh backup. Hopefully, by this stage, you’ll notice your Mac is slightly more snappy and responsive than before.

So there you have it: how to clean up a Mac. If you have any questions, leave them in the comments section below.

The MacBook Pro Trackpad

I love my MacBook Pro trackpad. I use the sophisticated gesture control that it provides all day long; four fingers to switch “spaces” into my virtual Windows 7 environment, a 3-fingered swipe to go back and forth on my Web browser, and the “pinch-to-zoom” motion that’s the same as the iPhone.

While most modern laptops do their best to emphasise this multi-touch functionality, none I have used come close in reliability – which is why I am a little worried by recent events.

My MacBook Pro Trackpad

My MacBook Pro Trackpad

Randomly, my Macbook Pro trackpad has decided to occasionally refuse to recognize my three-fingered swipes. This seems random, although it is within Gmail via Google Chrome that I seem to notice it most.

Has anyone else experienced this phenomenon? Is your MacBook Pro trackpad losing reliability? If so, please let me know in the comments.

PS. I run Windows on my Mac using Parallels – click below for further info:

Parallels Desktop 8 for Mac – Run windows on your Mac – Faster

Windows to Mac Recommends: MacKeeper – while some say that the Mac “cleans itself up” I still think it’s important to clear out caches and unnecessary files – buy MacKeeper by following this link.

My Parallels 7 Upgrade Experience

A Parallels 7 upgrade wasn’t really top of my priority list at the start of last week, but I discovered that it was something I had to do in order to upgrade to OS X Mountain Lion. As I use my Windows 7 virtual machine on a daily basis, upgrading Parallels became a must before I could try out Apple’s new OS.

Finding the Parallels 7 upgrade and buying it was nice and easy and I was pleased to find some clear online documentation to help me with the preparation.

All I had to do was remove the Parallels Tools and antivirus from my existing virtual machine, shut it down and proceed with the upgrade.

Before I got started, I used MacKeeper to have a good clear out of my temporary and cache files. MacKeeper gets a mixed reception from Mac users, with many traditionalists saying Macs “clean themselves up.” I disagree, and frequently use the program to clear a good chunk of disk space – you can read my review of MacKeeper here or buy MacKeeper by following this link.

Anyway, with my cleanup complete, I went ahead and began preparing my virtual machine for the upgrade. At this point, disaster struck! Due to no fault of Parallels, my Mac hit a “Kernel Panic” and crashed.

When I booted back up, my Windows virtual machine refused to start with a “disk read error” message. I began cursing myself for even considering a Parallels 7 upgrade! Luckily, a restoration of the VM files from a recent Time Machine backup was all it took to restore things to their former glory.

My Parallels 7 Upgrade

My Parallels 7 Upgrade

With this all out of the way, the Parallels 7 upgrade was flawless. The new version installed over the top, and my virtual machine was soon up and running under the new version of the program.

In truth, I haven’t yet noticed many significant changes in terms of functionality but performance seems to have improved. One minor change that really helps is that the Parallels menu bar now appears when you hover at the top of the screen in full screen mode – a small thing that saves me time when previously I would have had to switch to windowed mode.

As I said at the start, a Parallels 7 upgrade was never a priority of mine, but the extra performance has been an unexpected bonus and, as before, the virtual machine environment is wonderfully stable. I am still happy to report that Parallels desktop is better than using Bootcamp!

You can find out more about Parallels using the link below:


Parallels Desktop 7 for Mac

My Mac News

Oh dear. It’s been quite some time since I posted here at Windows to Mac. I’m about to take some time off, so I thought I’d better find time for a little post before I neglect the blog again for a while!

So here are a few small updates about my recent life with my Mac:

1. I Dented my MacBook Pro

I love my Mac. I love it’s metal unibody frame. Sadly, it now has a dent in it. There’s an amusing irony to how this happened: I dented it by dropping my iPhone on it. It turns out the solid nature of Apple products can be a disadvantage when they decide to attack each other.

Dented MacBook Pro

Dented MacBook Pro

2. I haven’t Installed Mountain Lion

I was an “early adopter” of OS X Lion and it didn’t work out well. I have still, however, been tempted to install Mountain Lion, especially as online reports seem to suggest it is a fast stable OS release.

Unfortunately I have found out that Parallels, my favourite way of running Windows on my Mac, needs to be upgraded to version 7 to work with Mountain Lion. I am still using version 6 (and completely happy with version 6). My Mountain Lion upgrade will have to wait until I get round to it.

3. I haven’t Purchased a Retina Macbook Pro

I was rabidly excited about the release of the Retina Macbook Pro, and thought I’d be jumping at the chance of buying it. As it turned out, I was a little disappointed with what Apple gave us. I want the ability to upgrade my own SSD and RAM, and, quite honestly, I don’t WANT a 15” MacBook Pro.

I went to an Apple store, ready to be persuaded to hand over my credit card, but just didn’t feel suitably inspired. I’m prepared to wait to see if, as rumored, Apple bring us a 13” model in the coming months.

Windows to Mac
The tale of a writer and IT consultant's move from Microsoft Windows to Apple Mac. Essential reading for anyone choosing a new computer or comparing Windows and OS X.
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