Make Screencast Movies of your iPhone or iPad with QuickTime

Did you know that your Mac ships with a screencasting software that can be used for quickly recording movies of your computer screen? You can record the microphone audio along with the video, there’s an option to show or hide the mouse clicks during the screen recording and the movies can be exported in HD formats. This very-capable app is called QuickTime Player. And it just got better. If you have upgraded your Mac to OS X Yosemite, you can use the same QuickTime Player software to record the screen of your iOS device in 2 easy steps. All you need is an iPhone or iPad running iOS 8 and a Lightning to USB cable – it is the same cable that you are currently using to connect your iOS device to the computer or the charger. Record iPhone Movie

QuickTime as an iOS Screen Recorder

Step 1: Connect the iPhone to the computer through the 8-pin Lightning to USB cable. This will not work with older iOS devices that use the 30-pin connector. Step 2: Open the QuickTime Player on your Mac (Yosemite) and choose “New Movie Recording” from the File menu (screenshot). If you are to record screencasts of your desktop, choose the “New Screen Recording” option. Step 3: Click the arrow near the red record button and choose iPhone or iPad as the source camera. You can also select your device name in the Microphone section to record any audio coming out of your iOS device. Once you are done recording the iOS screen, you can use the File -> Export menu in the QuickTime Player to save the movie in .mov format at 720p or 1080p resolution that can be uploaded to YouTube without conversion. Also see: How to Record Android Screencasts

iOS Screencasting without the Mac

The iOS screencasting feature is only available with QuickTime on Mac OS X Yosemite and requires a relatively newer device running iOS 8 or later. If you are however using Windows, or running an older version of Mac OS X, you can still record iOS screencasts with the help of apps like AirServer, Reflector or X-Mirage. AirPlay is built into iOS and Mac OS X and these apps use the the same AirPlay technology to mirror anything on your iOS screen to your Mac or Windows computer over a wireless local network. No cables required.
This story, Make Screencast Movies of your iPhone or iPad with QuickTime, was originally published at Digital Inspiration on 20/10/2014 under Apple Mac, IPad, IPhone, Screencasting, Software

Upgrade your Macs without Using all your Monthly Bandwidth

I have almost exhausted my download bandwidth for this billing cycle and, lest you assume anything, I haven’t downloaded any torrents or movies from the Internet. All I have done is updated the Macs to the recently released OS X Yosemite and also downloaded the latest version of Apple iMovie, Keynote and other Mac software.

The Mac OS X Yosemite installer is about 5 GB in size and, for some unknown reason, the Apps Store doesn’t always support resumable downloads. So if your Internet connection goes down while the installer is getting downloaded or if there’s a problem connecting with Apple servers, you get the “unknown error has occurred” message and you’ve to download the whole thing again. I have to upgrade two Apple computers – an iMac and a Macbook – so the downloads are even a bigger hit on the monthly bandwidth.

Mac OS X Yosemite

If you are like me and have more than one Mac to upgrade, here an obvious tip that will help you save data – upgrade the OS and apps of one Mac and use the same offline installers to upgrade the software on your other Mac computers.

After some Twitter hunting, I figured out a Dropbox page where you can download the standalone offline installer of Mac OS X Yosemite. This is better than downloading from the Mac Store since the Dropbox client will automatically download the file to my Mac and it can resume broken downloads automatically.

Download and extract the zip file and double-click the yosemite.app file to run the installer on your Mac. The upgrade takes about 20-30 minutes and goes through without a hitch. If the progress bar at the OS X installation screen isn’t moving, you can press the CMD+L key to open the installation log and you’ll know if anything is happening in the backgroud.

The next step is to upgrade your existing Mac apps like iMovie (2 GB), Keynote (0.5 GB), Garageband (1.2 GB) and others. They are huge file and thus, in order to save data, you can upgrade them on one Mac and transfer the apps to your other Mac computers through the LAN or a USB drive.

Here’s what I do. My iMac and Macbook are connected to the same network and thus I can easily access each other’s files through the Finder. Say I have upgraded the apps of Mac A and need to transfer them all to Mac B. I will go to Mac A and temporarily share the Applications folder. I’ll launch Finder on Mac B and open the shared Applications folder of Mac A. I can now drag and drop the upgraded .app files from A to B. It will ask for the administrator password and the files are copied. You can’t do it the other way though (copying to B from A computer).

Copy Mac Apps

This is the easiest approach to copy applications from one Mac to another (and perfectly legal* if you own both the computers) but a downside is that your settings aren’t transferred. In that case, you’ll also have to manually copy the associated application folders from ~/Library/Preferences and ~/Library/Application Support/ to your other Mac.

[*] Apple says that “Apps [downloaded] from the Mac App Store may be used on any Macs that you own or control for your personal use.”


This story, Upgrade your Macs without Using all your Monthly Bandwidth, was originally published at Digital Inspiration on 20/10/2014 under Apple Mac, Software

How to Color Alternate Rows in Google Sheets

Microsoft Excel and other programs in Microsoft Office provide a handy feature called “Quick Styles” to help you quickly format a selected range as a striped table. The table can have zebra lines meaning alternating rows are formatted with different colors (see example).

Alternate Row Colors in Google Sheets

Google Sheets do not support zebra stripes (yet) but you can use conditional formatting combined with a simple Google Formula to create a formatted table. You can apply alternating colors to both rows and columns in Google Sheets easily.

Here’s the trick.

Open a Google Sheet and choose Conditional formatting from the Format menu. Select Custom Formula from the dropdown and put this formula in the input box.

=ISEVEN(ROW())

Select a Background color for the rule and set the range in A1 notation. For instance, if you wish to apply alternating colors to rows 1 to 100 for columns A to Z, set the range as A1:Z100.

Click the “Add another rule” link and repeat the steps but set =ISODD(ROW()) as the custom formula and choose a different background color. Save the rules and the zebra stripes would be automatically applied to the specified range of cells.

Google Formulas with Conditional Formatting

Tip: If you wish to extend this technique to format columns with different colors, use the =ISEVEN(COLUMN()) formula. Simple!


This story, How to Color Alternate Rows in Google Sheets, was originally published at Digital Inspiration on 16/10/2014 under Google Docs, Internet

Use Google Sheets for Multilingual Chat with Speakers of Different Languages

You can only speak and write English so how do you converse with a person in China who writes Mandarin but doesn’t understand a word of English? Google Translate is no doubt a good option but it is going to be tedious for you (and your Chinese friend) to translate each and every sentence manually before sending them through any messenger.

How do you break down the language barrier and chat with someone in another country when there’s no ‘common’ language between the two parties? Microsoft is building a version of Skype for that will allow real-time translation for voice and video calls. You can watch the video demo though the actual software is expected to become available for Windows 8 later this year.

There’s another option now for people looking to have multi-lingual text chats – Google Sheets. Since two people can work on a Google Sheet simultaneously, it can actually work as a simple chat client. And if you integrate the same sheet with Google Translate – which is easy – the text typed inside Google Sheets can be translated in real-time and automatically (Demo GIF).

Google Chat - Multi Languages

Multi-lingual Chat with Live Translation

Here’s the idea. You have two participants speaking different languages that have opened a Google Sheet at the same time. There are 2 columns in the sheet for each participant. Now Participant A can write text in his own language in column A and the translated version in Participant B’s language will appear instantly in the second column. And vice-versa.

To get started, open this Google Sheet and choose File -> Make a copy to make your own copy of the sheet in your Google Drive. Now hit the share button in your sheet and share it another person with “edit” permissions (since he or she would write the text inside your sheet).

That’s pretty much it. All you have to do now is put your name and your friend’s name in cells C4 and G4 respectively. Also select your native languages from the drop-down in cell C5 and C6. Now type anything in the yellow cell and it will appear in the second column in the participant B’s language. Similarly they can write in the green cell and the translated text would show up in your column.

Multi-lingual Chat in Google Sheets

Internally, the sheet is powered by Google Scripts. And it supports all language pairs that are supported by Google Translate from Hindi to French to German to Tamil. Give it a try!


This story, Use Google Sheets for Multilingual Chat with Speakers of Different Languages, was originally published at Digital Inspiration on 16/10/2014 under Google Translate, Internet

Restart your Android Phone in Safe Mode to Troubleshoot Problems

Do you know that you can restart your Android phone in safe mode much like your Windows or Mac computers? Press and hold the Power / Sleep button on your phone and you’ll be presented with an option to Power Off the device. Tap and hold that option and you will now be able to reboot your phone in “safe” mode.

Android Safe Mode

When the phone is in safe mode, you’ll see the words Safe Mode in the lower left corner of the screen. Apparently I am very late to the party – the safe mode feature has been available in Android for many years – but it does seem to solve two problems:

  1. If your Android phone freezes or crashes on startup, or randomly restarts, you can force restart your phone in Safe mode and uninstall any of the recent app(s) that may be preventing your phone from working correctly. Now when your phone is in safe mode, you would only see the factory-installed apps on the phone but you can still go to Settings -> Apps to uninstall any apps that you have recently downloaded.
  2. If your Android phone has become slow over time – because of all the installed apps, themes and widgets – you can use the safe mode to temporarily turn the tortoise into the hare without having to do a factory reset. The phone becomes insanely fast in safe mode and you can still use all the Google apps including Gmail, Chrome, Maps, Calendar and so on. The device feels more responsive too.

To exit the safe mode, restart your device by holding the power button, then power off and restart. The device will open in the normal mode automatically. All your apps and screens are preserved but the one big downside with Safe mode is that will log you out of all the non-Google apps. So if you have Android apps like Dropbox, Twitter or Facebook on your phone, you’ll have to login again in all these apps.


This story, Restart your Android Phone in Safe Mode to Troubleshoot Problems, was originally published at Digital Inspiration on 08/10/2014 under Android, Gadgets

A Price Tracker Made for Online Shopping in India

The festival season has kicked off in India and it is probably the best time to indulge yourself in online shopping. The biggest online retailers in the country – Flipkart, Snapdeal and Amazon India – are battling it out with big discounts and rock-bottom prices to bring new customers and also to maximize their share of your pocket.

Indian Online Price Tracker

The biggest online sale ever in India has recently concluded at Flipkart and, despite some technical hiccups, they sold over 2 million items in a single day to 1.5 million people. Impressive. Amazon India is launching a mega sale later this week while Snapdeal is already offering huge discounts on many products in their catalog. All in all, this definitely looks like a good time to open your wallet.

The prices of products at various shopping websites fluctuate frequently and wouldn’t it be useful if there were a mechanism that will alert you when the prices of specific products change. Well, Google Sheets can help here.

Using the Price Tracker – Step by Step

I had earlier written a price tracker for Amazon and the new version includes support for the most popular shopping websites in India. You can now use this Google Sheets based Price Tracker to monitor and compare prices of products on Flipkart, Snapdeal, Infibeam and Amazon India.

The Price Tracker will take no more than a minute to setup. Even my 9 year old son was able to get this up and running on his Chromebook without any external help. He is now using it to track prices of some toys and activity books that he wants me to buy for him this Diwali (better than wasting money on crackers).

  1. Click here to copy the Price Tracker Google Sheet in your Google Drive.
  2. Put the links (URLs) of one or more products from Snapdeal, Flipkart, Amazon.in or Infibeam in column A. You’ll have to put the links of individual product pages and not categories or search pages. You can add or remove items from this list later on as well while the Price Tracker is active.
  3. Go to the Cell A11 and put your own email address. This is the address where the price alerts will arrive.
  4. Open the India Price Tracker menu in the Google sheet (see screenshot) and choose Authorize. Next go to the same menu and choose Start Tracker to begin tracking.

That’s it. You’ll get daily email alerts when the prices of any of these products change. Internally, this tool is screen scraping prices from Flipkart and Snapdeal while in the case of Amazon, it gets the prices through the Amazon API.

India Price Tracking in Google Sheets

Also see: How to Save Money While Shopping Online in India

The tracker runs once every 24 hours but you can always change the frequency manually. Go to the Tools menu in the sheet and choose Script Editor. Go to Resources -> Current Triggers and change the frequency of the trackPrices trigger from daily to hourly.


This story, A Price Tracker Made for Online Shopping in India, was originally published at Digital Inspiration on 08/10/2014 under Amazon, Online Shopping, Internet

How to Connect an External Microphone to your iOS Device

With apps like Adobe Story, iMovie and ScreenChomp, it has become relatively easier for anyone to produce movies, slideshows, podcasts and other visual content on their iPads and iPhones. That said, the camera has improved considerably over the years but the one area where iOS devices still need to catch up is the audio. The in-built mic isn’t bad but if you would like to produce videos with high-quality audio, you will have to use an external microphone.

Connect Microphone to iOS Device

How to Use a USB Microphone with iOS

When it comes to choosing an external microphone for your iOS device, you have two options.

You can either use a plug-n-play iOS compatible microphone that directly plugs into your iPad or iPhone with a lightning to USB cable. One end goes into the USB microphone while the other into the lightning connector port. The recently launched Rode NT USB and Apogee MiC 96k are some of the best iOS condenser microphones in the market. They ship will all the necessary lightning and USB cables and require no batteries or external powered USB hubs.

Alternatively, if you already have a good-quality USB microphone that you are using with your computer – like the Samson or the Blue Yeti – the good news is that you can save some money and connect your existing desktop mic to your iPad or iPhone with the help of few cables and accessories – see illustration.

To get started, you would need a powered USB hub (look for the power adapter symbol in the description, also go for USB 3.0) and the lightning to USB adapter (remember, it’s the adapter and not the cable). Now connect the iPhone /iPad to the USB microphone through the USB hub as shown in the illustration above.

  1. Plug one end of the Apple Lightning to USB adapter into the Lightning port of your iPhone or iPad and connect the other end to the powered USB hub through the supplied USB Type B cable.
  2. Use the power adapter cord to connect the hub to the electrical outlet.
  3. Connect the external USB microphone to one of the available ports on the hub using the same USB cable that you were previously using to connect the mic to the desktop computer.

That’s it. You can open any app – Garageband or iMovie for example – and try recording your voice using the external mic. Tap the microphone head and if you notice a spike in the waveform, the connections are working properly.

If you are unable to hear the recorded audio, remove the lightning adapter from the iOS device and replay the audio. Or if your external desktop microphone has a headphone jack, you can use that to live-monitor the sound coming out of your iOS device.

[*] While you can connect an iOS device to a USB microphone directly using a lightning to USB cable, iOS is likely to throw an error saying – “Cannot use device – The connected device requires too much power”.

iOS Requires Power


This story, How to Connect an External Microphone to your iOS Device, was originally published at Digital Inspiration on 06/10/2014 under IPad, IPhone, Usb, Gadgets

10 Tips for Evernote Users

Evernote is the perfect tool to capture your ideas, to-dos, web page clippings, scanned images and everything else. It does take time to realize the utility of this powerful software, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll find it difficult to manage your digital life without Evernote.

I have been using Evernote extensively for about 2 years now and store practically everything from notes to web pages to reminders. And since Evernote can integrate will all the popular apps – Dropbox, Google Drive and Google Calendar to name a few – through web services like IFTTT or Zapier, that makes it even more useful.

10 Evernote Tips and Tricks

Here are some of the best features of Evernote that most of us may not be aware of. And if you have been wondering why would anyone need Evernote when Gmail can serve as a similar storehouse, these little things will convince you to make the move.

1. Password-protect Sensitive Text

While it is not possible to encrypt an entire note inside Evernote, you can select text inside individul notes and protect the sensitive bits with your own password. Evernote supports 2-factor authentication so it will be really difficult for someone to get in your account but with encryption, you get an extra layer of protection.

Password Encrypted Notes

Bonus tip: You can even search for “Notes with encyption” to quickly see all the encrypted notes.

2. Create a Watch Folder

People use Evernote to store scanned receipts, PDF manuals, cooking recipes, travel tickets and other documents that they may need on the go. Instead of manually importing these documents into Evernote, you can create a “watch” folder on your computer and any file that you drop inside this folder will automatically show up in your Evernote. This is a Windows only feature though.

3. Stay Local

The USP of Evernote is instant sync. You make a note on your Android phone and it will show up on your computer and iPad. That said, if you would like to create notes that only stay on your computer and do not sync with your other devices, you can create a Local Notebook. Notes and files place inside this notebook will not be uploaded to Evernote servers and you won’t be able to convert this into a synchnornized notebook anytime later.

4. Create Shortcuts to Notes

If you are open a note, you need to launch the Evernote application, search for the note and then double-click to open it. This is time-consuming but what you can do is use Apple Script on Mac to create shortcuts to notes that you frequently use and place them on the desktop. Here’s a sample script:

tell application id "com.evernote.Evernote"
	
	--- Replace NotebookName with your Evernote Notebook
	set notebookName to "NotebookName"
	
	--- Replace NoteTitle with the title of your note
	set matchingNotes to find notes ("intitle:NoteTitle")
	set matchingNote to item 1 of matchingNotes
	
	open note window with matchingNote
	activate
	
end tell

Save the .scpt file on your desktop and double-click it to quickly open the corresponding note.

5. Search Text inside Images

Like Google Drive, Evernote supports OCR and lets you search for text inside images and even handwritten notes. For instance, you can use the phone camera to snap restaurant menus and forward the photographs to your Evernote. The next time you want to order “Okra Masala”, you can just search in Evernote and it will show all the restaurant menus where that dish is available.

Bonus tip: Put recoType:handwritten or recoType:picture in the search box to see all your notes whose content can be extracted using OCR.

6. Use Nested Tags

You have been using tags to group related notes in Evernote but did you know that the tool also supports nested tags just like labels in Gmail. Open the Tags list in Evernote and drop a tag over another to set the former as a sub-tag of the latter. This makes tag organization easier and you don’t have to create separate notebooks for everything.

Evernote Nested Tags

Bonus tip: You can add special symbols like hash or the exclamation mark in the beginning of a tag name to put your most-used tags at the top of the list.

7. Advanced Evernote Search

Evernote supports a variety of advanced search operators (full list) to help you find the exact information you are looking for. Some examples:

  1. Use source:web.clip <keyword(s)> to search notes saved via the web clipper.
  2. Use created:day-2 to see notes created in the last 2 days. Or say created:week for notes added this week.
  3. Use source:mobile.* to get a list of notes created using any of Evernote’s mobile app.

8. Bulk-forward Emails to Evernote

Your Evernote account has a dedicated email address and any message forwarded to this address will become a note in your default notebook. If you have a bunch of messages in Gmail that you would like to store in Evernote, use the auto-forward script – just create a label in Gmail called Evernote and any mails with this label are forwarded to Evernote automatically.

9. Turn your Emails into Reminders

Evernote is not just a tool for archiving emails but the same workflow can be used to create quick reminders from your mailbox. Compose a new message, or forward an existing one, and put an exclaimation symbol in the subject line followed by the date when you would like to be reminded and send it to your Evernote address. For instance:

Subject: Learn how to code !2014/12/12
Subject: Pick up flowers !tomorrow

10. Edit Attachments Live

Evernote supports Live Updates and is therefore more convenient than storing file attachments in email (which are read only). Let me explain. If you have attached a PDF file to a note, you can double-click the attachment to edit the PDF and save. The file will be automatically updated in your note as well.


This story, 10 Tips for Evernote Users, was originally published at Digital Inspiration on 01/10/2014 under Evernote, Software

Add Collaboration Features to your Website with a Line of Code

Tools like Google Docs include real-time collaboration features that let multiple people work on the same document or spreadsheet at the same time. Then you have screen sharing tools, join.me or Chrome Remote Desktop for example, where there’s a master presenter and remote viewers can follow along.

Website with Real-time Chat
TogetherJS is a Mozilla project that brings similar collaboration features to your own website but without any coding. Once enabled, visitors to your website will be able to interact with each other on your site in real time.

They’ll able to see each other’s cursor (like in Google Docs), the clicks are highlighted and the screen content stays synchronized. Visitors will also have the ability to text chat and audio chat (using WebRTC) with each other while staying on your website. All this and more with a line of code.

Add TogetherJS to your own Website

To get started, all you have to do is insert a little JavaScript snippet anywhere on your web page(s). There are several configuration parameters available for the widget but we will use the default settings to keep things simple.

<script>
  TogetherJSConfig_autoStart  = true;
</script>
<script src="https://togetherjs.com/togetherjs-min.js"></script>

This will add a little floating widget to your website that will be visible to all visitors. They can click the “+” button in the widget to generate a unique TogetherJS URL. Anyone who clicks this URL will be able to interact with each other on your page in real time. It can’t get any simpler.

I have put up a quick page where you can test TogetherJS capabilities. Click the “+” icon and send the unique URL to another person to chat in real-time.

Add TogetherJS to any Website

There’s more. You can add TogetherJS features to any web page on the Internet with the help of a bookmarklet.

TogetherJS

This bookmarklet will load the TogetherJS library on the current web page and you can give the chat session a unique name. Another person can launch the bookmarklet on the same page on their own computer, enter the same session name and you’ll be instantly connected.

You can co-browse, watch each other’s activity or chat atop the page.


This story, Add Collaboration Features to your Website with a Line of Code, was originally published at Digital Inspiration on 30/09/2014 under Bookmarklet, Web Design, Internet

Restrict Google Forms to only Allow One Entry Per Person

You have created a survey using Google Forms but people have quickly figured out a way to game your poll and tilt the results in their favor. They are submitting multiple entries, and because Google Forms will not record the I.P. address or the email of the form submitter, it is nearly impossible for you to separate the duplicate submissions from the genuine entries.

How do you restrict Google Forms to only allow a single entry from a user?

If you are a Google Apps user, you can always restrict the Google Form to accept entries only from users who are part of your domain and the response spreadsheet will then record the username of the form submitter. However if you have a regular Gmail / Google Account, you have another option now to prevent multiple form submissions from the same user.

While creating the Google Form, click the Settings bar and turn on the option that says “Allow only one response per user.” When the unique option is enabled for a Google Form, respondents will have to sign-in with their Google account to access the form. Their email address won’t be recorded in the response sheet but Google Form will not allow another entry from the same Google Account.

If someone tries to fill the Google Form again, a warning message will be displayed saying “You’ve already responded. You can only fill out this form once. Try contacting the owner of the form if you think this is a mistake.”

This is by far the easiest approach though it does put your Google Form out of reach of people who do not have Google Account or those who are skeptical of associating the email address with their form entry (though this association is completely hidden from the form owner).

Google Forms - Multiple Entries


This story, Restrict Google Forms to only Allow One Entry Per Person, was originally published at Digital Inspiration on 30/09/2014 under Google Forms, Internet