Archive for the ‘Macintosh’ Category

Simple system for color-coding your files

I have a dead-simple color-coding system for my digital files. It’s based somewhat on Jamie Phelps’ system, “Dynamic Digital Organization” except I don’t bother using Smart Folders or even Jamie’s Eureka for Mac app, nice as it is. (Personally, I don’t find Finder replacements to be all that necessary, but you may differ.)

When I read Jamie’s post 4 years ago, I didn’t see much application for me. Now, however, I’m a full-time freelancer, so I have to play project manager and business developer as well as designer and web developer, so it helps to have some sort of system in place to track the status of my projects. When I worked for someone else, if it was on my desk, I had to work on it. If it wasn’t on my desk, I didn’t worry about it. Now, I have to think about all of it.

With physical files, it’s easy to physically place project folders into a stack reserved for projects that are currently in play, or a stack of projects you’re waiting to hear back on. Everything gets a project number, even things I only write a quote for.

Plus, there are several different kinds of “@waiting-on.”

Since I pretty much keep everything with me at all times as I live out of my messenger bag, I can’t easily sort the folders that way. So while every project has a digital and physical counterpart, I can manage everything’s status digitally.

Here’s how it breaks down:

  • Red: It’s finished, I’ve billed it, and I’m waiting for final payment.
  • Orange: The project is at the client and I’m waiting for feedback.
  • Yellow: I haven’t verified that I’ve got the project yet. It’s tentatively a project.
  • Green: This is an active project that I need to work on, today if possible.
  • Blue: A personal project involving one of my own brands or something more personal than that.
  • Purple: currently not used.
  • Gray: Projects that I made a quote for but didn’t get.

Once things are paid for, or it’s been confirmed that I didn’t win the project, the folders move from the Projects folder to the Archive folder, where they remain until I decide it’s time to clean house and back it up onto a DVD or external drive.

How do you manage your digital projects?

Minimal Mac


My friend Patrick Rhone has recently launched a new site devoted to running a minimalist Mac. It’s chock full of great tips for de-cluttering your Macintosh computer.

It’s also gotten me thinking about the idea of minimalism and eliminating unnecessary stuff so that I can be more productive. More on that later!

Launch Multiple Applications at Once with Automator and Quicksilver

I try to avoid having too many things in my Startup Items on my Mac as it tends to bog down the machine. However, there are several apps I use in concert with each other, such as the Adobe Creative Suite. Call me lazy, but I don’t want to click on all three icons in the Dock. I’d rather launch them all at once with a couple of keystrokes with Quicksilver. I figured out how to do this with Automator.

Automator Icon

  1. Launch Automator. The first thing it will do is ask you what direction to go in. We want to use the Custom option. Automator Start Screen

  2. Scroll down until you find “Launch Application.” Or just type “launch” in the search box and you’ll see it immediately. find-launch-app

  3. Select and drag “Launch Application” to the pane on the right to start building your workflow.

  4. The pane on the right displays a popup menu that allows you to choose what application to launch. You may have to choose “Other” at the bottom of the list, and navigate to the application you want. chosen-app

  5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 as needed if you want to include other applications.

  6. Save it as an application in the Applications folder. save-as-app

  7. Invoke Quicksilver and launch your app. That’s it! qs-automator

If you want to go back and change your workflow, you can always open an existing workflow in Automator.

CS3 Keyboard Shortcut Cheat Sheets (for Mac)

The Keyboard Shortcuts menu item in Adobe Illustrator CS3 About a year ago, the rookie designer in our office asked me how I am able to blaze through the Adobe CS3 apps with keyboard shortcuts. She wanted a list of the keyboard shortcuts so she could start learning them herself. I think I had just launched this site, and thought such a thing might be nice here. So, I started jotting down shortcuts on a 3x5 index card, and perused the web for other keyboard shortcut lists, but never really found what I was looking for. Everything had too much information or was too hard to read, or used someone else’s custom shortcuts. I was starting to give up. The project stalled.

Fast forward to late this summer. I discovered that all the Adobe CS3 apps allow you to export your shortcuts to a file (plaintext or html, depending on the app in question). Bingo! I simply exported the default keyboard shortcuts, pulled them into InDesign files, formatted the information nicely, and exported that to PDFs.

Adobe Illustrator CS3's keyboard shortcuts panel, with Export Text button highlighted.

After sharing those files on the forums, I condensed them down so that they only showed the items that had actual shortcuts assigned. There are a LOT of possible commands in each program, and comparatively few come with keyboard shortcuts out of the box. Most of the most-often used ones are mnemonic, so that helps. (Pressing “P” gives you the Pen tool.) The ones that aren’t just have to be committed to memory.

The Default Cheat Sheets

You Can Roll Your Own

Here’s the great part of it all: it’s easy to customize keyboard shortcuts to your liking. Delete the ones you don’t use, reassign those to commands you use more frequently or make sense to you. (I’d avoid changing the basic ones like Save, Close, etc. from the OS defaults.) Simply choose Edit > Keyboard Shortcuts and start modifying the ones you want to change. I recommend saving them to a unique name so you can come back to your own setup if your settings get reset. (It happens sometimes when the auto-updater runs.) Once you get your shorcuts set up, you can make your own cheat sheet.

Memorize the shortcuts you use the most. Next time you go through the menus looking for a command, look for the keyboard shortcut next to it, and commit it to memory. First, learn all the basic commands (Save, Close, Quit, etc.). Then learn the tool shortcuts. Get to where you have one hand on the keyboard and one hand on the mouse, avoiding mousing through to the menus. Build that muscle memory! So commit those shortcuts to memory, and make them work for you.

Photoshop Tip: Customize Undo/Redo Keyboard Shortcuts

For a long time, Photoshop used Command-Z as “Undo” and Command-Shift-Z as “Redo.” A few years ago, for reasons unknown to me, they changed Undo/Redo to the same shortcut, which forces you to resort to scroll through the History palette to get your documents back to a future state. It takes too long to mouse over to the history palette (if I don’t have to hunt for it first since it might be collapsed or hiding behind something else) and click, click, click to find the document state I’m trying to get back to. This for me is unacceptable and unintuitive, and interrupts my flow of thinking. Plus, it’s inconsistent with the other design apps I’m accustomed to using.

Custom Photoshop Keyboard Shortcuts for Undo/Redo

So for every fresh install of Photoshop I work with, I always change “Step Backward” to Cmd-Z and “Step Forward” to Cmd-Shift-Z. Now Photoshop appears to Undo/Redo in the same fashion as everything else does.