Shell scripting in macOS – Part 2: Managing information

This article is a continuation of the previous article. We will be taking the previous script and using it to build on the concepts we will learning in this article.

Using Variables to store information

First up we will look at variable. Variables are containers that can hold information. The biggest advantage of this is the fact that we can use information in our tasks simply by reusing the variable it is stored in. This means if there is any change at a later date, then we only have to change the value in the variable. 

So, in the future, if there is a need to modify the information, we only have a single point of change to make. This greatly aids  in the ease of maintenance of the code.

It also makes the script more readable.

NOTE: The value of a variable can be changed at a later point of time within the script. 

Creating variables is very easy. You simply declare a name and assign it a value using the = operator. For example, if we are going to be using the path to the logs folder then storing it in a variable called PATH_TO_LOGS makes sense. We would then follow it up with the = sign and follow that up with the path in quotes. 

PATH_TO_LOGS=“/Library/Logs/“

To use this variable in a command we would simple callout the name with the $ symbol prefixed before it. 

echo $PATH_TO_LOGS

The $ symbol is necessary to access the value being held by the container.

While declaring variables try to use names which explain the purpose of the variable.

Built in variables

We can see that it is very easy to define our own variables. However, we are not restricted to creating our own variables. The system provides us with predefined variables. These give us access to useful information such as:

  • Path to the current user’s home folder.
  • The shell interpreter being used.
  • The currently logged in user name. 

We can get the complete list of commands with the help of the printenv command.

printenv

How about using these variables? Well, we will use it the same way we would use our own variables. Just prefix the $ symbol before the variable name. 

echo "The path to the home folder is $HOME"

Let us update the script from the previous article.

#!/bin/zsh

echo "Running script to create folders."

TOOLS_FOLDER="Tools"
REPORTS_FOLDER="Reports"
HELP_FOLDER="Help"

TOOLS_FOLDER_CREATED=".$TOOLS_FOLDER-FolderCreated"
REPORTS_FOLDER_CREATED=".$REPORTS_FOLDER-FolderCreated"
HELP_FOLDER_CREATED=".$HELP_FOLDER-FolderCreated"

cd $HOME

echo "Creating folders: $TOOLS_FOLDER, $REPORTS_FOLDER, $HELP_FOLDER"
mkdir $TOOLS_FOLDER
mkdir $REPORTS_FOLDER
mkdir $HELP_FOLDER

echo "Creating hidden file for $TOOLS_FOLDER folder."
cd $TOOLS_FOLDER
touch $TOOLS_FOLDER_CREATED
cd ..

echo "Creating hidden file for $REPORTS_FOLDER folder."
cd $REPORTS_FOLDER
touch $REPORTS_FOLDER_CREATED
cd ..

echo "Creating hidden file for $HELP_FOLDER folder."
cd $HELP_FOLDER
touch $HELP_FOLDER_CREATED
cd ..

echo "Task completed. Have a nice day!"

Capturing command output

Now that we have seen how variables can be created and used, then next logical step is to use them to store the outcome of a command. Why would we need to do this? Let us suppose that a command returns the path to a folder and we would like to perform multiple tasks on this folder. We can simply save the path in a variable and then use the variable across the script. 

If storing the result of the command in a variable wasn’t possible then we would have to execute the command over and over again every time we needed the result.

But before we store the outcome of the command we first need to understand how we can capture the output of a command itself. This is done with the help of command substitution. The command to be executed is placed within the $ symbol followed by parentheses.

So to store it in a variable we would just place the command we would just place this on he right hand side of the = sign. For example, if we wanted to store today’s date we would use the date command placed within the $() on the right hand side of the = sign. On the left hand side of the = sign would be the name of our variable.

TODAY=$(date)

There is an older way of doing the same thing, instead of using the $() the command would be placed within 2 back ticks.

TODAY=`date`

Writing to files

While it is useful to store information within variables there are some limitation with this. Sometimes we would like to store our data outside the script for example on some other file. The advantage with this approach is that it allows us to access the information across multiple invocations of the script. 

The way we write to a file is by redirecting the output of the command from standard output to a file. There are 2 operators that help us with this.

The redirect operator with a single angle bracket will write the contents to a file. This will replace the existing content fo the file.

echo "Hello, World!" > /Users/Shared/message.txt

The redirect operator with 2 angle brackets will also write contents to a file. But this will append or add the existing content. 

echo "Hello, World!" >> /Users/Shared/message.txt

Depending on what you want you can use one of the 2 approaches. 

Logging events taking place in the script

A log file is used to note done certain events being performed by an app, script, process, or any task. It is a very useful troubleshooting tool. This would be a nice feature to add to our script. We can log the different events that are taking place. To do this we will use the same redirect operator to write to a file.

Log files are typically stored in one of two locations in macOS:

  • ~/Library/Logs/
  • /Library/Logs

For our demo we will store it in the ~/Library/Logs/ folder. This makes sense because our script will be making changes to a user’s home folder. So ideally, the log file should also stay in the user’s home folder.

The way we will generate our log file is by redirecting the output of the echo command to our file.

echo "Hello, World!" >> ~/Library/Logs/folderCreator_log_v1-1.log

So all the echo statements we have will be modified to redirect to the log. Additionally, we will use command substitution to include the date and time in out message. Let us modify the script above to reflect these new changes.

#!/bin/zsh

echo "$(date) Running script to create folders."

TOOLS_FOLDER="Tools"
REPORTS_FOLDER="Reports"
HELP_FOLDER="Help"

TOOLS_FOLDER_CREATED=".$TOOLS_FOLDER-FolderCreated"
REPORTS_FOLDER_CREATED=".$REPORTS_FOLDER-FolderCreated"
HELP_FOLDER_CREATED=".$HELP_FOLDER-FolderCreated"

TODAY=$(date)
PATH_TO_LOG="$HOME/Library/Logs/folderCreator_log_v1-1.log"

echo "$(date) Starting" >> $PATH_TO_LOG

cd $HOME

echo "$(date) Creating folders: $TOOLS_FOLDER, $REPORTS_FOLDER, $HELP_FOLDER" >> $PATH_TO_LOG
mkdir $TOOLS_FOLDER
mkdir $REPORTS_FOLDER
mkdir $HELP_FOLDER

echo "$(date) Creating hidden file for $TOOLS_FOLDER folder." >> $PATH_TO_LOG
cd $TOOLS_FOLDER
touch $TOOLS_FOLDER_CREATED
cd ..

echo "$(date) Creating hidden file for $REPORTS_FOLDER folder." >> $PATH_TO_LOG
cd $REPORTS_FOLDER
touch $REPORTS_FOLDER_CREATED
cd ..

echo "$(date) Creating hidden file for $HELP_FOLDER folder." >> $PATH_TO_LOG
cd $HELP_FOLDER
touch $HELP_FOLDER_CREATED
cd ..

echo "$(date) Task completed. Have a nice day!"

Passing information to a script

While storing information and capturing information within a script is useful. It is also useful to have the ability to give information to a script at the time of running the script. This allows the user of the script to have greater control over the end result or outcome. 

The information that is passed into the script is store in predefined variables known as positional variables. They are named $0, $1, $2 and onwards. Let us modify the script to use these variables.

#!/bin/zsh

echo "$(date) Running script $0 to create folders."

TOOLS_FOLDER=$1
REPORTS_FOLDER=$2
HELP_FOLDER=$3

TOOLS_FOLDER_CREATED=".$TOOLS_FOLDER-FolderCreated"
REPORTS_FOLDER_CREATED=".$REPORTS_FOLDER-FolderCreated"
HELP_FOLDER_CREATED=".$HELP_FOLDER-FolderCreated"

TODAY=$(date)
PATH_TO_LOG="$HOME/Library/Logs/folderCreator_log_v1-1.log"

echo "$(date) Starting" >> $PATH_TO_LOG

cd $HOME

echo "$(date) Creating folders: $TOOLS_FOLDER, $REPORTS_FOLDER, $HELP_FOLDER" >> $PATH_TO_LOG
mkdir $TOOLS_FOLDER
mkdir $REPORTS_FOLDER
mkdir $HELP_FOLDER

echo "$(date) Creating hidden file for $TOOLS_FOLDER folder." >> $PATH_TO_LOG
cd $TOOLS_FOLDER
touch $TOOLS_FOLDER_CREATED
cd ..

echo "$(date) Creating hidden file for $REPORTS_FOLDER folder." >> $PATH_TO_LOG
cd $REPORTS_FOLDER
touch $REPORTS_FOLDER_CREATED
cd ..

echo "$(date) Creating hidden file for $HELP_FOLDER folder." >> $PATH_TO_LOG
cd $HELP_FOLDER
touch $HELP_FOLDER_CREATED
cd ..

echo "$(date) Task completed. Have a nice day!"

The final script should look like:

#!/bin/zsh
echo "$(date) Running script $0 to create folders."
TOOLS_FOLDER=$1
REPORTS_FOLDER=$2
HELP_FOLDER=$3
TOOLS_FOLDER_CREATED=".$TOOLS_FOLDER-FolderCreated"
REPORTS_FOLDER_CREATED=".$REPORTS_FOLDER-FolderCreated"
HELP_FOLDER_CREATED=".$HELP_FOLDER-FolderCreated"
TODAY=$(date)
PATH_TO_LOG="$HOME/Library/Logs/folderCreator_log_v1-1.log"
echo "$(date) Starting" >> $PATH_TO_LOG
cd $HOME
echo "$(date) Creating folders: $TOOLS_FOLDER, $REPORTS_FOLDER, $HELP_FOLDER" >> $PATH_TO_LOG
mkdir $TOOLS_FOLDER
mkdir $REPORTS_FOLDER
mkdir $HELP_FOLDER
echo "$(date) Creating hidden file for $TOOLS_FOLDER folder." >> $PATH_TO_LOG
cd $TOOLS_FOLDER
touch $TOOLS_FOLDER_CREATED
cd ..
echo "$(date) Creating hidden file for $REPORTS_FOLDER folder." >> $PATH_TO_LOG
cd $REPORTS_FOLDER
touch $REPORTS_FOLDER_CREATED
cd ..
echo "$(date) Creating hidden file for $HELP_FOLDER folder." >> $PATH_TO_LOG
cd $HELP_FOLDER
touch $HELP_FOLDER_CREATED
cd ..
echo "$(date) Task completed. Have a nice day!"

Script locations

One last thing to talk about now is script locations. So far we have been placing our scripts where ever we wish and running them from there. But it may be a good idea to use a consistent location for the same. There are several candidates for this:

  • ~/Library/Scripts/
  • /Library/Scripts/

These are the more standard locations.

The only decision that needs to be made is whether it is the Library folder in the user’s home folder or the library folder located at root. This affects if the script is available only for a specific user or for all users on a computer.

There are other locations possible too. Developers often have a folder in the home folder called “Developer”. This needs to be manually created, but once created the system recognises it as the folder where files related to development are kept. You can create a scripts folder and place it in there.

Another popular location is the Application Support folder within the library folder. You can create a folder that represents items related to your scripts and then place the script in that folder. Note that these folders will have to be created by manually.

  • ~/Developer/Scripts/
  • ~/Library/Application Support/<your folder>/

These 2 locations would need to be created.

Scripts are not typically exposed to the end user. There is typically some kind of scheduling mechanism that triggers them. However, if a script is designed to be used by the end user you could even place them in:

  • /Applications/Scripts/
  • ~/Applications/Scripts/

Like the developer folder the applications folder in the home folder needs to be created. But once created the system recognises what it is intended for and gives it special privileges. The scripts folder within it will have to be created manually.

While this may not seem like a big deal. Placing your scripts in the correct location can lead to more consistent experiences, make troubleshooting easy, and also hide potential complexity.

Conclusion

The ability to store data within a script, pass data to a script or store data on an external file from within a script has several advantages. This makes the script more power and compact at the same time. It also makes the script less susceptible to errors and mistakes.

Video

Download

You can download the script from the same git repository as the previous one. The script is named folderCreator_v1-1.zsh.

Screen capture and recording in macOS

Continuing from the articles on recording macOS and iOS screens here is another handy built in tool.

Press the key combination ⇧ ⌘ 5 and it brings the screen capture/recording menu.

You can perform all the operations available from the menu here.

Of course once we start the recording then we can see the record button in the menu bar.

Once the recording is completed you can save it as a movie file.

This unified interface now offers a lot of convenient options for capturing visual content in macOS.

List of macOS Terminal commands

This article lists out different macOS terminal commands you might encounter. You can use this list as a starting point in your search for a command to perform a specific task. This list is by no means exhaustive.

Basic terminal commands are not listed here. Some of them are listed in the following Terminal command articles.
Terminal Commands – Basic
Terminal Commands – Part 2
Terminal Commands – Part 3

Many of the commands have also been used in the article I wrote some time back. You can have a look at the scripts to see some of the commands being used.

To get more information about the commands simply run the following command from within Terminal Application. For example, to view the manual page for tmutil simply type:

man tmutil

For fdesetup

man fdesetup
Here is a nice command to quickly open the man page in the Preview App.
man -t tmutil | open -f -a /System/Applications/Preview.app

Note

  • This is not a complete list of commands
  • Some commands are available through the macOS Recovery Volume only
  • Some commands required other resources such as the OS installer
  • Some commands are available with certain versions of the OS only

Please read the documentation for more details. Use the commands with care. Improper use of commands may result in loss of data or damage to the computer.

Commands


Installation

CommandDescription
startosinstallUsed to start the installation of macOS from the command line.
createinstallmediaUsed to create an external install disk.

Security

CommandDescription
fdesetupManage FileVault configuration.
securityManage keychain and security settings
spctlManage security assessment policy
csrutilConfigure System Integrity Protection (SIP) settings
resetpasswordPassword reset utility located in the Recovery Partition

File System

CommandDescription
hdiutilUsed to manipulate and manage disk images.
diskutilUsed to modify, verify, & repair local disks.

Data Management

CommandDescription
tmutilUsed to configure Time Machine settings in macOS
screencaptureTakes screenshot of the specified screen and saves the image at the specified location.
mdlsUsed to get metadata attributes for a given file
mdutilUsed to manage metadata stores that are used by Spotlight

Settings

CommandDescription
defaultsUsed to modify plist files. Typically used to update preference files.
ioregUsed to view the I/O kit registry
system_profilerUsed to generate system hardware & software reports.
plutilUsed to check syntax of property lists or covert property lists from one format to another
AssetCacheManagerUtilUsed to configure content caching settings.
openUsed to open documents from within the command line.
networksetupPerform network configuration.
systemsetupUsed to configure machine settings in System Preferences.
launchctlUsed to manage and inspect daemons, agents, & XPC Services

Applications

CommandDescription
codesignUsed to create, check, display code signatures.
pkgbuildUsed to build installer packages
productbuildBuilds a product archive
installerSystem software and package installer tool

User Account Management

CommandDescription
dsclThis is a command line Directory service utility that allows us to create, read, and manage Directory Service data.
sysadminctlUser account management
passwdChange user password
loginUsed to login to another user account.

Server & Device Management

CommandDescription
profilesUsed to install, remove, list, or manage Configuration profiles.
serveradminUsed to manage the services in macOS
mdmclientLocated in /usr/libexec/mdmclient it is used to manage interactions with the MDM.
asrApple Software restore: Used to copy volumes.

Scripting

CommandDescription
osascriptUsed to execute the given AppleScript

Share any commands you may know of in the comments window.

Disclaimer

The information Is Provided “As Is”, Without Warranty Of Any Kind, Express Or Implied, Including But Not Limited To The Warranties Of Merchantability, Fitness For A Particular Purpose And Noninfringement. In No Event Shall The Authors Or Copyright Holders Be Liable For Any Claim, Damages Or Other Liability, Whether In An Action Of Contract, Tort Or Otherwise, Arising From, Out Of Or In Connection With The information provided Or The Use Or Other Dealings In The information.

Useful scripts for macOS

Getting Started

You might find these articles useful

One of the advantages with scripts is the fact that you can easily automate many tasks. Here is an article that walks you through that process.

If you come across a situation where you want to perform a set of tasks on multiple computers then scripts come in very handy.

I will be providing the Shell Script version of the task. Feel free to make changes to the scripts as required. I will try to provide an AppleScript version of the tasks a little later.

This is not the only way to implement the scripts. There may be multiple approaches towards achieving the same result. You will have to explore and examine the correct approach.

This is not a comprehensive list. The scripts should give you some ideas and act as a useful reference when you are creating your own scripts.

I have tested these scripts on macOS Catalina 10.15

Download

You can download all the scripts from here.

Script CategoryPage Number
Settings and Accounts1
Security2
Data3
Information Collection4
File System5

Disclaimer

The Software Is Provided “As Is”, Without Warranty Of Any Kind, Express Or Implied, Including But Not Limited To The Warranties Of Merchantability, Fitness For A Particular Purpose And Noninfringement. In No Event Shall The Authors Or Copyright Holders Be Liable For Any Claim, Damages Or Other Liability, Whether In An Action Of Contract, Tort Or Otherwise, Arising From, Out Of Or In Connection With The Software Or The Use Or Other Dealings In The Software.


WARNING

Please try these scripts on a test computer. Some of the scripts do make changes to the system. Always test before using these scripts.

Automation on the Mac

Automating tasks on the Mac is very useful for a wide variety of reasons. In this article we are going to look at the different technologies available for automating tasks.

TOOLS

Automator

The simplest way of achieving automation. Automator which is a built in application allows you to create task workflows by simply dragging in a set of predefined routines into a specified sequence. Let us explore how it works by creating a watermarking print plugin

Let us look at how we can create a print plugin that automatically adds a watermark to the pdf file.

  1. First get hold of an image that you will use as a watermark.
  2. Open Automator.
  3. Click on “New Document”
  4. Choose Print Plugin as the type of task to createScreen Shot 2018-03-21 at 11.58.26 AM
  5. From the left hand side drag the “Watermark PDF Documents” option. You will be able to locate this from the PDF library on the extreme right.1
  6. Add the image that will be used as a watermark. Customise the settings to your desired level. You may have to use trial and error till you get the desired output.
  7. Similarly drag the Move finder Items to the right. You will be able to locate this from the Files & Folders library.2
  8. Save the task as WatermarkCreator.
  9. Open a text file.
  10. Select File > Print
  11. Click on the PDF drop down in the print dialog.3.4
  12. Select the newly created task.
    3
  13. You have now successfully setup your own watermark creator.

Shell Scripting

For those coming from a Linux/Unix background this might be a familiar option. Very often users need to run a series of terminal commands repeatedly. While it is not difficult to do this, wouldn’t it be nice if we could write all the commands in a single file? Shell Scripts help users do just that.

To create a shell script:

  1. Open TextEdit
  2. Write the following code in there (We will write code to create a series of files and folders in our home folder for a user called admin):
    #! /bin/sh
    cd /Users/admin/
    if [ -d "/Users/admin/Applications/" ]; then
    echo "Applications Folder Exists"
    else
    mkdir Applications
    fi
    if [ -d "/Users/admin/Sites/" ]; then
    echo "Sites Folder Exists"
    else
    mkdir Sites
    fi
    if [ -d "/Users/admin/Developer/" ]; then
    echo "Developer Folder Exists"
    else
    mkdir Developer
    fi
    cd Developer
    if [ -d "/Users/admin/Developer/iOSProjects/" ]; then
    echo "iOSProjects Folder Exists"
    else
    mkdir iOSProjects
    fi
    if [ -d "/Users/admin/Developer/macOSProjects/" ]; then
    echo "macOSProjects Folder Exists"
    else
    mkdir macOSProjects
    fi
    
  3. Save the file with the name FolderCreator on the Desktop.
  4. Open the Terminal Application
  5. Let us make the script executable. To do that, run the commands:
    cd ~/Desktop
    chmod 777 FolderCreator
    
  6. Now run the command:
    ./FolderCreator

You have now easily created your own shell script. For more information about terminal commands you can read the following articles: Terminal Commands for OS X – BasicTerminal Commands for OS X – Part 2Terminal Commands – Part 3, & Configuring/Troubleshooting OS X Using Command Line

AppleScript

AppleScript is Apple’s proprietary scripting technology. It comes bundled as a part of macOS. To create AppleScript tasks we need to use the built in AppleScript editor.

Here is an example of a small AppleScript

tell application “Finder” to set the view for all Finder Windows as column view
tell application “Finder” to close every Finder Window
tell application “Safari”
open location “<a href="http://www.arunpatwardhan.com">http://www.arunpatwardhan.com</a>
open location “<a href="http://www.amaranthine.in/feedback">http://www.amaranthine.in/feedback</a>
open location “<a href="http://www.amaranthine.in/gallery">http://www.amaranthine.in/gallery</a>
end tell

Copy that block of commands in your AppleScript editor and see what comes up.

There are many more things that can be done with AppleScript. You can have popup windows asking users for commands, turn off the computer. Change the settings for different parts of the OS and for different applications. All this with commands written in a single file. All the user has to do is double click the file.

For more information about AppleScript visit Apple’s Developer site.

Launch Agents, Launch Daemons

NOTE: Scheduling Launch Agents/Launch Daemons improperly may leave your computer in an unusable state. Always test this on a computer that does not contain important data. If you are unsure, please consult someone with knowledge of the same before proceeding ahead.

Launch Agents/Launch Daemons allow you to schedule tasks which are to be performed at intervals. You can also use them to ensure that tasks are kept running and that the user does not have the possibility to quit them. To setup a launch daemon:

  1. First create a Plist file that looks like the one below. I have created a script called echoer and placed it in the /Users/admin/Applications folder where admin is the user.Screen Shot 2018-03-22 at 10.34.18 AM
  2. Place the file in the ~/Library/LaunchAgents folder. Name it in.amaranthine.demod.plist
  3. Run the command in terminal to load the Launch Agent.
    launchctl load ~/Library/LaunchAgent/in.amaranthine.demod.plist

That’s it you have just setup a simple launch agent which will ensure that your script runs every 6 seconds.

For more information or to create detailed Launch Agents/Launch Daemons visit:Creating Launch Agents & Launch Daemons

Login Items

An easy way to automatically load, Applications/Files/Folder, as soon as well login is to use Login Items. This is very easy to do.

  1. Open System Preferences > Users & Groups
  2. Switch to the Login Items tab.IMG_1560
  3. Click on the ‘+’ sign at the bottom to add new Applications. Let’s add Maps so that it launches as soon as we login. You should see it appear in the list.IMG_1561

That’s it. You have setup login items. You can repeat this process for as many applications as you wish.

Others

PHP, Perl, Python, Javascript, Swift allow you to create custom automated tasks and routines. These require knowledge of programming.

Choosing the right approach

Which one to choose depends on a lot of factors but we can break it down to 2:

  • You are a technically qualified person and understand things like programming, scripting and command line
  • You are an end user working either at home or in office.

End User

If you are an End user then you should really stick to Automator and Login Items. These are the ones that are the easiest to implement and least likely to cause any issues. You could venture and explore other options if you have a good understanding of them. Or you can ask the IT or Tech Support teams to help you with scripting and other technologies.

Tech Support or IT Person

Any of the tools mentioned above can be used by you. Make sure that you have a good command over the tools and are able to troubleshoot issues arising out of their usage.

Note: The programs/applications/tools and languages mentioned in this article may not cover all the available options. Also, anyone who uses or implements the items mentioned in the article does so at their own risk. The author does not take responsibility for any loss or damage that may arise from the use of the programs/applications/tools and languages mentioned above.

 

Screen and Audio recording on macOS & iOS

In this article we are going to look at how we can use the built in Application: QuickTime to record a screen or a movie. In fact, the videos that you are about to see in the article below were created using QuickTime.

A good reason to record the activity on the screen would be to create a visual step by step guide which can be distributed to employees in the organisation. For example, you can create a video to show employees how they can sign into their company’s email account and access it from their iPhone or Mac.

Recording your Mac’s screen

Follow the steps given below to record your Mac’s screen:

  1. Open QuickTime Player
  2. Click on File > New Screen RecordingScreen Shot 2018-01-24 at 4.46.22 PM
  3. You should see the window popping up.
  4. From the drop down next to the Record button select the audio input & whether mouse clicks should be shown.Screen Shot 2018-01-24 at 4.47.29 PM
  5. Click on the Record Button. You should see a dialog asking you whether you want to record a small area or a full screen.Screen Shot 2018-01-24 at 4.47.52 PM
  6. The recording starts once the stop button in the menu bar becomes dark.
  7. Click on the stop button to stop the recording.
    Screen Shot 2018-01-24 at 4.57.49 PM
  8. Save the file that was created.

Recording your iPhone/iPad Screen

(Mirroring your iPhone Screen on the Projector)

The process of recording the iPhone/iPad screen is quite similar to recording your computer’s screen. The key thing to remember is to connect your iPhone/iPad to the Mac with the lightning cable.

Follow the steps given below to record your iPhone/iPad screen:

  1. Open QuickTime Player
  2. Click on File > New Movie Recording
  3. You should see the window popping up.
  4. From the drop down next to the Record button select the audio input & whether mouse clicks should be shown. The difference now is the fact that you get an extra option to choose the source.

Recording a Movie

Follow the steps given below to record a Movie on your Mac:

  1. Open QuickTime Player
  2. Click on File > New Movie RecordingScreen Shot 2018-01-29 at 4.11.38 PM
  3. You should see the window popping up.
  4. From the drop down next to the Record button select the audio input. You can also select your camera source from here.
    Screen Shot 2018-01-29 at 4.21.41 PM
  5. Click record to start recording & click on the stop button to stop recording.

Recording Audio

Follow the steps given below to record an Audio on your Mac:

  1. Open QuickTime Player
  2. Click on File > New Audio RecordingScreen Shot 2018-01-29 at 4.11.38 PM copy
  3. You should see the window popping up.
  4. From the drop down next to the Record button select the audio input.
  5. Click record to start recording and stop to stop recording.

Here is a quick video on how to perform the different tasks that we have seen above.

Buyers Guide for macOS & iOS in the Enterprise

This article is more of a productivity article aimed at getting first time users up and running quickly on their Mac, iPhones or iPads. Anyone looking to buy one of these products or Tech Support teams that help employees with their computers would find this article helpful. The thoughts shared here are personal, readers are welcome to share their own thoughts and experiences.

The article is not a comprehensive guide. Its aim is to give potential users some idea as to how the devices can be used in their work environment. Specifically from an Application perspective.

Macintosh

macFamily


Which one to buy?

This depends on how the device is going to be used. Here are 3 general classifications:

Basic Usage

Basic usage would mean simple day to day tasks. These are the tasks that would qualify for:

  • Checking emails
  • Browsing the web
  • Social Media
  • Listening to Music
  • Watching Movies
  • Composing letters
  • Preparing Presentations & running presentations
  • Note taking

In such a case you may want to consider buying a MacBook or a MacBook Air. If portability is not required then a Mac Mini would also do.

At entry level configurations these devices would do the job very well.

Intermediate Usage

If the tasks being performed are a little more demanding then you may want to consider higher configuration devices. Again in most cases the  MacBook or a MacBook Air would do. If portability is not required then a Mac Mini would also do. In all these cases consider one with slightly higher configuration.

For situations where the compute power is important you may even consider the MacBook Pro. For example, if there are programmers who need to work with a high configuration Mac and they need portability, then you can consider the MacBook Pro.

Pro Usage

This indicates that the tasks being performed are very compute intensive. These are some of the job profiles which may demand compute intensive resources:

  • Programmers
  • Video Editors
  • Audio Editors
  • Post Production Teams
  • Marketing & Creative Teams
  • Scientific Research

For such situations the higher end desktops & MacBook Pros would be required. So the iMac or the highest configuration Mac Mini, or the 15″ MacBook Pro would be best suited for such environments.

In some situations even more powerful computers would be required. The iMac Pro & Mac Pro should then be considered.


Built In Applications that might be useful

Productivity Tools

There are 3 applications which are a part of the suite called iWork that are very useful in organisations.

  • PAGES: Built in word processing application. You can easily created documents, letters, reports and even have them exported in Microsoft Office compatible format.
  • KEYNOTE: Built in presentation applications. Enables you to create powerful presentations from scratch. Like Pages it is possible to create presentations that are compatible with PowerPoint.
  • NUMBERS: Built in spreadsheet application. Enables you to quickly create spreadsheets and export them to Excel if needed.

The other advantage is the fact that these applications are also accessible from the cloud. Tight integration with iCloud means that you can make changes to documents from your Mac, iPhone, iPad, or iCloud.com.

Creative Tools

There are 2 applications which are available for creative purpose. These might be handy for people working in the creative departments.

  • IMOVIE: Quick create movies using videos, audios and photos that you have.
  • GARAGEBAND: A simple Music creation application that comes with a library of different instruments.

Popular Third Party Applications

These are just some of the applications.

Office Suite

Productivity

Cloud

Creative

Security

Communication

Data Backup

Virtualisation (Running Windows or Windows Applications on the Mac)


Some tasks that can be done with built in Applications

  • Scanning Documents using Preview
  • Signing Documents using Preview
  • Record Screen Activity using QuickTime
  • Record a quick movie using QuickTime
  • Automate Tasks & create workflows using Automator
  • Encrypt Data using FileVault
  • Show your iPhone/iPad screen on a projector using QuickTime on Mac
  • Backup data using Time Machine

iPhone/iPad

iosFamily


Which one to buy?

The decision on whether to buy the iPhone &/or the iPad depends a lot on what you intend to use it for. As such the major differences between the 2 devices are:

  • iPads tend to have larger screens
  • iPhone has cellular communication capability
  • iPhones are more portable as compared to iPads
  • iPads are better suited for long duration usage
  • iPads tend to be higher powered devices

While it appears that iPads are better than iPhones, that is not necessarily the case. iPhones being smaller and more compact have many advantages too.

Ideally speaking having both, an iPhone and an iPad, is the best thing to do.

To make a decision use the task list below to help find out if you need an iPhone or an iPad or both.

Note, even though I mention that the tasks can be performed easily on an iPhone, many of the tasks can also be done very easily on the iPad. The point is to illustrate ease of use in situations where you have to perform tasks with a single hand or when you are on the move.

Tasks easily performed on an iPhone

  • Making calls
  • Messaging
  • Scheduling activities such as: Reminders, Appointments, Events
  • Taking Photos & Videos
  • Emails
  • Banking Transactions
  • Finding Transit Directions
  • Finding a Taxi
  • Making E-Payments

Tasks easily performed on the iPad

  • Writing letters & blogs
  • Creating Presentations
  • Working with spreadsheets
  • Creating posters, flyers
  • Working with business applications
  • Content creation

If you do a mixture of tasks from both the lists then getting both an iPhone as well as an iPad is a good idea.

A thing to keep in mind is that the Pro version of the iPad also has a nice keyboard accessory as well as the  Pencil available. These 2 products make the whole experience so much better.

Screen size consideration

iPhone and iPad screen sizes vary quite a bit. Here are some tips on the tasks which can be best performed on specific screen sizes.

Creative Work

Generally speaking, creative tasks require a large screensize. So for an iPhone the smallest screen you should have is 4.7″. Similarly for the iPad the smallest screen you should have is the  9.7″.

Documents, letters, spreadsheets

These tasks are better performed on the iPads as such you can go for any screen size in them. Of the lot, its a lot easier to create documents and letters on the phone than spreadsheets. Again, for phones one should the larger the screen size the better.

Presentations

Like documents and spreadsheets presentations are a lot easier to create on the iPad. They can also be created from the phones. The larger the phone the better.

Messaging & Communication

This is one aspect where the screen size is not so much of an issue. In fact, some users may find the smaller screen size a lot better. Typically, the iPhone is a much better device than the iPad for this.

Productivity & General Tasks

This includes calling taxis, ordering food, taking notes, control keynote presentations, setting up appointments and reminders. These tasks are also best performed on iPhones. They can be done well with the iPad too.


Built In Applications that might be useful

Productivity Tools

There are 3 applications which are a part of the suite called iWork that are very useful in organisations.

  • PAGES: Built in word processing application. You can easily created documents, letters, reports and even have them exported in Microsoft Office compatible format.
  • KEYNOTE: Built in presentation applications. Enables you to create powerful presentations from scratch. Like Pages it is possible to create presentations that are compatible with PowerPoint.
  • NUMBERS: Built in spreadsheet application. Enables you to quickly create spreadsheets and export them to Excel if needed.

The other advantage is the fact that these applications are also accessible from the cloud. Tight integration with iCloud means that you can make changes to documents from your Mac, iPhone, iPad, or iCloud.com.

Creative Tools

There are 2 applications which are available for creative purpose. These might be handy for people working in the creative departments.

  • IMOVIE: Quick create movies using videos, audios and photos that you have.
  • GARAGEBAND: A simple Music creation application that comes with a library of different instruments.

Other Apps

  • Notes
  • Voice Memos
  • Files

Popular Third Party Applications

Office Suite

Productivity

Cloud

Creative

Security

Communication


Some tasks that can be done with built in Applications

  • Scanning Documents using Notes
  • Recording Voice Memos
  • Control HomeKit devices
  • Edit PDFs through iBooks
  • Create PDF documents through pages & then edit the PDFs either through iBooks or markup utilities
  • Record and Edit videos using the camera & iMovie

Useful iPad Accessories

 TV

There are a few things that can be done with the  TV. It can be used to mirror both macOS & iOS Devices. In which case apps such as Reflector are not really required.

It is very easy to setup and use. This can make projecting both the iPad screen as well as the iOS Screen very easy & it allows you to move across the room as you are not physically wired to the projector.

Final Word

As we can see there are a wide variety of apps available both for macOS & iOS. These include built in apps as well as Third party apps. The community of developers creating these apps is strong and growing. There are many more apps which can be used for a wide variety of purposes.

This article should give the user a fair idea as to the capabilities of devices such as iPads, MacBooks and the rest of the line up. The good thing is that for enterprise environments its easily possible to create apps that are tailored to the needs of that organisation and this makes the devices much more attractive.

macOS & iOS IT Tool List

This list is based on questions that I have been asked by various IT admins.

It is more of a collection of tools (mainly software, but a few hardware tools too) that Enterprise IT Teams might find useful while supporting/managing Macs & iPhones in the enterprise. Some of the tools are free, while others are paid. Also, it is not necessary that all the tools will be required. Of course, some tools are not meant for troubleshooting but provide a service themselves.

The below list is not an endorsement or recommendation of any of the products mentioned. These are just some of the products I have come across. You may have to do your own research to see which tool fits your organisation’s needs. The author is not responsible for any damages or loss of data that might occur from usage of these tools.

*This list is not a complete list but an ongoing project. Feel free to share your comments on tools that you may have used & I will add them to this list.

DEPLOYMENT

DeployStudio

Munki

macOS Server – NetInstall Service. To be used along with System image Utility

PACKAGE MANAGEMENT

Iceberg

pkgbuild

Suspicious Package

REMOTE MANAGEMENT

RealVNC

TeamViewer

Apple Remote Desktop

LogMeIn

BACKUPS

macOS Server – Time Machine Service

Retrospect

Carbon Copy Cloner

Chronosync

Crash Plan

DEVICE MANAGEMENT

Centrify

JAMF Casper Suite

AirWatch

Mobile Iron

macOS Server – Profile Manager Service

Apple Configurator 2

Heat LANRev

Cisco Meraki

filewave

Absolute Software

BoxTone

Maas 360 – IBM

Tangoe

Lightspeed Systems

VIRTUALIZATION

Parallels Desktop

VMWare Fusion

Oracle VirtualBox

DISK MANAGEMENT

Tuxera

Disk Drill

APPLE APPLICATIONS FOR THIRD PARTY OS

iTunes

iCloud Control Panel

Move to iOS from Android

Migration Assistant

AUTOMATION

Workflow for iOS

Automator – Built in app for creating Workflows.

AppleScript

Command Line Script

NETWORK TROUBLESHOOTING

iNetTools

Network Diagnostics

Network Ping

Wireshark

DISPLAY

Air Squirrel

SYSTEM TROUBLESHOOTING

Install Disk – I will be talking about how to create a multi-OS install disk in a later article.

SOFTWARE MANAGEMENT

macOS Server – Caching Service

Reposado

AutoPKG

Munki

HARDWARE

Thunderbolt 1,2,3 Cables
Thunderbolt 1,2
USB-C Cable

FireWire 400/800 Cables

Portable disk with macOS installed on it. Not the same as install disk. Its an external bootable hard drive with the OS installed on it. You can plug this into any Mac & boot from the external HDD.

VGA to MiniDisplay adapter

HDMI to HDMI Cable

Thunderbolt Ethernet Bridge

USB Ethernet Bridge

Adapters for the different ports supported by Macs & iPhones

Lightning Cables

Creating multi-OS Install Disk

In this article we are going to look at how to create a multi-OS Install Disk. We are going to look at the example of creating a multi-OS Install Disk for the following versions of the OS:

  • 10.9.1
  • 10.10
  • 10.10.4
  • 10.11.5
  • 10.12
  • 10.12.1
  • 10.12.2
  • 10.12.3

The idea is to have a single disk with multiple versions of the Install Disk on it. The versions should reflect the need of the organisation.

REQUIREMENTS

  1. USB Drive at least 75GB in Size. This depends on the number of Install drives you wish to have. At the very least there should be enough space to create 2 partitions of 8 GB each. 
    While I have mentioned USB drive, it need not be restricted to that interface. You can use Thunderbolt, FireWire or even an SDXC slot for this. Ideally the port should be one that is supported on maximum possible computers.
  2. Install setup for each version of the OS for which you want to create the install disk. The setup must match the version desired.
  3. A Mac running the same major version of the OS. You can only create an install disk for 10.9.x on a Mac running OS X 10.9.x, the same applies for the other versions of the OS.

The process is the same. It’s just that it needs to be repeated.

STEPS

  1. Create 8 partitions on a USB Drive. Assume that the USB Drive is called Recovery Drive. Give the partitions names Partition 1, Partition 2,….
  2. Connect the USB Drive to a Mac running 10.9.1 or later.
  3. Make sure that the OS Installer setup is located in the Applications folder.
  4. Run the following command in the command line.
    sudo /Applications/Install\ OS\ X\ Mavericks.app/Contents/Resources/createinstallmedia --volume /Volumes/Partition\ 1 --applicationpath  /Applications/Install\ OS\ X\ Mavericks.app
  5. Rename the partition as Install disk for OS X 10.9.1, if necessary.
  6. Once completed eject the USB Drive & connect it to a Mac running 10.10
  7. Make sure that the OS Installer setup is located in the Applications folder.
  8. Run the following command in the command line.
    sudo /Applications/Install\ OS\ X\ Yosemite.app/Contents/Resources/createinstallmedia --volume /Volumes/Partition\ 2 --applicationpath  /Applications/Install\ OS\ X\ Yosemite.app
  9. Rename the partition as Install disk for OS X 10.10, if necessary.
  10. Once completed eject the USB Drive & connect it to a Mac running 10.10.4
  11. Make sure that the OS Installer setup is located in the Applications folder.
  12. Run the following command in the command line.
    sudo /Applications/Install\ OS\ X\ Yosemite.app/Contents/Resources/createinstallmedia --volume /Volumes/Partition\ 3 --applicationpath  /Applications/Install\ OS\ X\ Yosemite.app
  13. Rename the partition as Install disk for OS X 10.10.4, if necessary.
  14. Once completed eject the USB Drive & connect it to a Mac running 10.11.5 or later.
  15. Make sure that the OS Installer setup is located in the Applications folder.
  16. Run the following command in the command line.
    sudo /Applications/Install\ OS\ X\ El\ Capitan.app/Contents/Resources/createinstallmedia --volume /Volumes/Partition\ 4 --applicationpath  /Applications/Install\ OS\ X\ El\ Capitan.app
  17. Rename the partition as Install disk for OS X 10.11.5, if necessary.
  18. Once completed eject the USB Drive & connect it to a Mac running 10.12 or later.
  19. Make sure that the OS Installer setup is located in the Applications folder.
  20. Run the following command in the command line.
    sudo /Applications/Install\ macOS\ Sierra.app/Contents/Resources/createinstallmedia --volume /Volumes/Partition\ 5 --applicationpath  /Applications/Install\ macOS\ Sierra.app
  21. Rename the partition as Install disk for OS X 10.12., if necessary.
  22. Once completed eject the USB Drive & connect it to a Mac running 10.12.1 or later.
  23. Make sure that the OS Installer setup is located in the Applications folder.
  24. Run the following command in the command line.
    sudo /Applications/Install\ macOS\ Sierra.app/Contents/Resources/createinstallmedia --volume /Volumes/Partition\ 6 --applicationpath  /Applications/Install\ macOS\ Sierra.app
  25. Rename the partition as Install disk for OS X 10.12.1., if necessary.
  26. Once completed eject the USB Drive & connect it to a Mac running 10.12.2 or later.
  27. Make sure that the OS Installer setup is located in the Applications folder.
  28. Run the following command in the command line.
    sudo /Applications/Install\ macOS\ Sierra.app/Contents/Resources/createinstallmedia --volume /Volumes/Partition\ 7 --applicationpath  /Applications/Install\ macOS\ Sierra.app
  29. Rename the partition as Install disk for OS X 10.12.2, if necessary.
  30. Once completed eject the USB Drive & connect it to a Mac running 10.12.3 or later.
  31. Make sure that the OS Installer setup is located in the Applications folder.
  32. Run the following command in the command line.
    sudo /Applications/Install\ macOS\ Sierra.app/Contents/Resources/createinstallmedia --volume /Volumes/Partition\ 8 --applicationpath  /Applications/Install\ macOS\ Sierra.app
  33. Rename the partition as Install disk for OS X 10.12.3, if necessary.

The commands shown above might be different from what appears on your screen. A lot will depend on what you have named your partitions as, the name you may have given to the OS Installer file, and the location of the OS Installer.

The process of renaming the partitions post creation of the install disk is not necessary, but very useful because that will help you identify the appropriate partition when using the drive.

The above process is very scalable & can be done for even more versions of the OS if required.

Screen Shot 2017-04-17 at 11.11.39 AM
This diagram illustrates the layout of the different partitions on a single USB Drive.

When to use Swift & when to use Objective-C?

Over the past few years I have received a number of questions with regards to Swift & Objective-C. Specifically related to the future of the 2. I will try to address those questions in the form of an FAQ.

Should I learn Swift or Objective-C?

This is a question that I get from developers new to iOS/macOS App Development. Ideally speaking, you should learn Swift. As that is going to become the main language for App development on Apple’s ecosystem. However, the reality is a little different. There are a large number of applications that are written in Objective-C. You are likely to encounter them at your workplace. You may also have to maintain, upgrade & improve those apps. In such a case, it makes sense to learn Objective-C too.

Can I mix Swift & Objective-C in the same project?

Yes! But remember that you should check for feature compatibility between the 2 languages. Adding Swift code to an Objective-C project may not be very beneficial as only those features that are compatible with Objective-C can be written in Swift.

Going the other way round is not a problem. You can read more about that here:Mixing Swift & Objective-C

Will Objective-C be deprecated in the future?

That is an interesting question. There is no formal announcement from Apple stating the Objective-C is going to be deprecated. However, one can expect more attention to be paid to Swift. That is where most of the newest techniques, tools & technologies are going to be available. Objective-C will keep running as it is as of now.

Can I mix Swift with other Programming Languages?

Swift can easily be mixed with Objective-C. If you wish to incorporate C++ or C code in your Swift Project then wrapping them in Objective-C code allows you to achieve this.

Apart from that Swift does support working with C code code. You can read about that here:Interacting with C APIs.

Swift does not provide interoperability support for any other languages as of now.

Which version of Swift should I use?

It is recommended that you use the latest available version of Swift. However, the actual version that you work on depends on many other factors like: compatibility with OS Versions, support & business related choices.

Why shouldn’t we just convert all our Objective-C code to Swift and keep things simple?

A very tempting proposition. However, practical realities prevent us from doing this. The process of converting from Objective-C to Swift is time consuming. Apart from having to convert the syntax, the code also needs to be optimised taking into account the new features that are available. This will mean extensive testing and quality assurance. Most companies will not invest their resources into this endeavour.

A better approach is to migrate to Swift gradually. Here are some ways to do this:

  1. If its a brand new product/app that you are creating, start it in Swift.
  2. Any new reusable code components that are being created should be done in Swift (they should be Objective-C compatible if you intend to use this code in Objective-C projects).
  3. If any part of a product is going to undergo heavy change, either due to a bug fix or a new feature. This is a good time to convert it into Swift.

A good example is how Apple is approaching the process of migrating to Swift. They are doing it component by component.

I have been developing apps in Objective-C for some time. I am able to create any reasonably complicated app now. If Objective-C hasn’t been deprecated then should I start making apps in Swift?

This is a choice that you have to make. It is recommended that new apps (at the very least) be made in Swift as that is the language that will undergo the maximum amount of changes & improvements in the future.

What do you suggest as a trainer?

Another question that I get very often. It depends on the situation. I would say learn both Swift & Objective-C. You can skip learning Objective-C if you are confident that you will not have to work with any projects written in that language.

If I am starting on a brand new project I would use Swift. But if its an Objective-C project I would stick to Objective-C.

Can Swift development only be done on macOS?

No! Swift development can also be done on Linux. However, iOS/macOS/tvOS/watchOS App Development can only be done on macOS through Xcode.

How should I migrate to Swift?

There are different approaches that one can use. It all depends on the situation and needs of your organisation. Here are some things that you can do:

  • Start development of brand new apps (from scratch) in Swift.
  • If you are creating a brand new library which will be used for future projects then go ahead with Swift.
  • If a major component of an existing app is going to be changed significantly then you can go ahead with Swift.

You can do all or some of the above. There may be other strategies too. You should also factor in the cost of migration from one language to another.