Here’s why you need a multiple-monitor setup in your life.
We weigh the pluses and minuses of every Apple desktop and laptop, from Mac mini to MacBook Pro.
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The new 13-inch model is supposedly a MacBook Air replacement, but I have my doubts.
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It’s likely that a new MacBook Pro is coming, but will we see a new MacBook Air?
Rumor has it that Microsoft has a modular computer in the works that snaps together like Lego.
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Which keyboard should you use to get the most out of your gaming experience?
Min-Liang Tan talks us through how Razer invented its sleek new Razer Blade Pro.
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Whether you’ve just bought a new Mac loaded with macOS 10.12 Sierra for recording music or have been laying down sick beats in your bedroom for years, the decision of whether to upgrade from Garageband to Logic Pro X can be a tough one.
Garageband is free and comes with a sweet selection of software-based guitar effects, a great visual drum machine and clean, accessible interface. Logic, on the other hand, costs a cool £149.99 ($200/AUS$300) and hides so much functionality under its glossy veneer that it’s used by professional beatmakers, including Adele and Sia.
There’s a bunch of articles out there detailing the differences between the two apps, so I’ll save that for another time. Instead, I’m going to take you through how I made the switch from Garageband, which I’ve been using to record fairly simple rock songs since 2011, to Logic.
I spent roughly one month getting to grips with Logic before recording a new song over the course of five days that you can listen to here.
The learning process was heaps of fun. I still consider myself a novice when it comes to music production, but even after a short length of time using Logic I feel like I’ve expanded my musical horizons massively — even if that’s only throwing the odd synth or clarinet into the mix.
If you’re a Garageband aficionado that’s wondering whether Logic is worth the outlay for you, then click (or tap) on ahead to check out 5 killer Logic Pro X features that helped me record the song linked above.
This article is part of TechRadar’s Mac Week. This year marks not only the 10th anniversary of Apple’s MacBook, but the triumphant return of macOS. So, TechRadar looks to celebrate with a week’s worth of original features delving back into the Mac’s past, predicting the Mac’s future and exploring the Mac as it is today.
I’m not the most experienced or skilled music producer, so I prefer to build up songs by recording short bars and then repeating them to create loops. This was challenging in Garageband because it involved lots of manual cutting and pasting, which not only took time but often meant that my bars often ended up being out of sync with the beat. Even using the Arrangement track, whether or not bars kept in time to the music often seemed inconsistent.
Logic narrows any margin for error thanks to its Repeat feature. After turning on Logic’s Cycle mode (which also exists in Garageband), I selected a bar to record and then played the part. Instead of playing it once and listening back, as I would in Garageband, I was able to record the bar multiple times until I was happy. After hitting the stop button, Logic’s Take Management feature allowed me to listen through each individual attempt before selecting the one where I’d nailed it.
This method of recording bars in bite-sized chunks speeds up the recording process as it removes the need to constantly keep clicking the mouse in-between takes. Garageband also lets you record an unlimited amount of takes within a single bar, but it will only ever play back the last one that was recorded.
After recording each individual bar, I opened up Logic’s fully-fledged mixer to check two things: first, that it was set to an appropriate volume. I tried to keep the main guitar riff, drums and bass fairly high up the mix to drive the rhythm section, with other instruments providing color.
Again, with my limited production knowledge (you’re going to get used to hearing me say that), I’m at least aware that assigning certain sounds to the left and right channels can help prevent a track from sounding overly busy. I kept the drums, electric piano and bass straight down the middle and panned them equally between both speakers, with everything else set either slightly or all the way to the left or right channels.
The longer I used Logic, the more I discovered menu options that came in useful down the line. One of them that I wouldn’t be able to live without now is the Repeat feature, which can’t be found in Garageband.
As I mentioned in the previous slide, I constructed the song out of bite-sized loops by repeating short bars. After recording one that I was happy with, I would hit Function + R to repeat it throughout a verse, bridge, chorus or other part of the song. It’s also possible to repeat a bar multiple times using the ‘Repeat Multiple’ command in the edit menu.
Logic also has an Advanced Tools option, which unlocks the software’s full potential by adding a myriad of new menus and icons to the interface. It’s not something that I delved into too deeply, but it did let me turn on one new feature that came in useful throughout the recording process — the ability to click a button to move the Cycle Locator along to the next bar.
Sure, I could simply select the next bar manually by clicking and dragging along the Cycle area, or I could click on the highlighted area and move it, but the simple act of clicking the ‘Cycle Forward’ button to go to work on the next bar felt like a satisfying way to progress. Logic is full of such little tricks and options, and I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface of Advanced Tools.
Another menu command missing in Garageband, Delete Unused Tracks, gave me a quick way of preventing my editing timeline from becoming too cluttered. Additionally, Logic imposes a limitation on the number of software instruments you can use in a recording, so it’s not a good idea to have them going unused.
I’d dabbled with software instruments in Garageband a few times, but the sheer range of sounds available in Logic makes it a truly different beast. The only “real life” instruments I used in the recording of the song were my guitar and bass guitar.
By the time I’d finished recording the track, I’d layered French horns, a Steinway Grand Piano, an electric piano, strings, flutes and clarinets over the top. Better yet, I used my computer keyboard to play each one of them. That’s right: the one that I type with.
Holding down the function key on my real keyboard and hitting ‘K’ brings up the on-screen Musical Keyboard, which shows you which notes your computer keyboard’s middle row of keys correspond to. I used the J, K and L keys to play the Steinway Grand Piano’s simple melody throughout the verses, while the synthesizer solo that starts at 1:44 used T, G, H, J, K and L.
Obviously using a computer keyboard isn’t preferable to using a midi controller with weighted, tactile keys, but if you want to add some electronic sounds on the cheap or away from home on your laptop, it’s a great solution.
Most software instruments can be further tweaked by doubling clicking on them. String sections and french horns, for example, let you choose between legato and staccato styles of playing, and you can add chorus effects to pianos. I love the skeuomorphic design of the control interfaces and will be saddened the day that they’re inevitably flattened into oblivion.
Whether it’s Muse or Chvrches, I’m a huge fan of arpeggiated electronic synths in songs. There’s plenty of scope to have fun with them in Logic thanks to two features: the first is through the Arpeggiator button, which takes a software instrument and plays the notes in an ascending, descending or random order.
You can also make up your own patterns if you’re not happy with the presets, and good fun can be had by opening the Musical Keyboard and mashing your computer’s keys to see what crazy note sequences Logic spits out.
The Alchemy plug-in (pictured above), which comes with the app , provides tons of weird and wonderful synthesizer sounds and arpeggio presets. I used one of them, called ‘Pulsing Chord Arpeggio’, to play the glistening two-chord arpeggio that can be heard at 00:40, 1:28 and 2:16. I recorded this by simply holding down the chord’s notes on my computer keyboard, and then changing the chord halfway through the bar to match what I’d played on the guitar.
One of Logic’s most useful interfaces that Gargeband lacks is the vertical Inspector bar (pictured above), which contains information and controls for a selected region. These include basic parameters — such as volume, panning between the left and right speakers, whether the instrument is muted or playing solo — and how many plug-ins are being applied to an instrument. There’s a mind-boggling number of ways that instruments can be modified and manipulated by stacking multiple plug-ins on top of each other.
The Inspector also lets you open up the equalizer for any selected instrument. I played the track’s bass line by connecting my guitar to my MacBook via my USB-equipped effects pedal. The recording wasn’t quite punchy enough, which I managed to fix by raising the low and mid-range frequencies in the equalizer. With no equalizer in Garageband, I would’ve been limited to raising or lowering that instrument’s volume. That would’ve obviously made it louder, but still perhaps a little thin-sounding.
As time went on, I picked on other small but useful controls that Garageband lacks. One example of this can be found in Logic’s Piano Roll editor, which lets you manually alter the length and pitch of notes recorded using software instruments. Logic includes a vertical view slider that makes notes “taller” and thus easier to manipulate — especially if you’re working with short, fast notes like the ones that I had to arrange by hand to create the synthesizer solo at 1:44.
And that just about brings us to the end of my first Logic Pro X experience. There’s plenty left for me to discover — including the Logic Pro X controller app for the iPad, how to work with Logic’s Flex Pitch and Track Stacks options and more. A few months ago I was afraid to venture beyond my musical comfort zone of guitar, drums and bass, whereas now the options are limitless. I think I’m ready to record my “Kid A”. (Yeah, right.)
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Some say Apple perfected the keyboard in 2007. We’re not one of them, which is why we’ve spent more money than we care to think about getting my supple digits accustomed to different Mac keyboards throughout the years.
The Cupertino, California-based firm pulled off a one-two sucker punch in 2015 by launching not one, but two new keyboards for the first time in eight years. Both the 12-inch MacBook and the new Magic Keyboard have proved divisive affairs with their low-slung keys, shallower than your average reality TV star.
The question is: are Apple’s keyboards getting better, or worse? Let’s look back at offerings we’ve owned in the last decade-plus, in addition to glossing over Apple’s latest Magic Keyboard.
This article is part of TechRadar’s Mac Week. This year marks not only the 10th anniversary of Apple’s unibody MacBook, but the triumphant return of macOS. So, TechRadar looks to celebrate with a week’s worth of original features delving back into the Mac’s past, predicting the Mac’s future and exploring the Mac as it is today.
You can almost imagine the 2003 version of Apple’s Wireless keyboard in a modern art exhibition next to Tracey Emin’s bed.
“Here lies a keyboard with the crumbs of a thousand lunches visible though its transparent base”, a totally plausible sign could read.
Transparent cases were the norm for Apple back in 2003, following its iMac G3 and PowerMac G3 computers of the era, and this keyboard looked pretty cool at the time. It packed the standard features you’d expect from a full-sized wired keyboard, including two USB ports and full-size number pad.
Although nowhere near as satisfying to type on as today’s mechanical keyboards, its spongey keys offered more travel and resistance than your average membrane keyboard and made for a curiously fulfilling typing experience.
Like an accountant in a Bugatti, Apple’s wired aluminum keyboard both oozes cool and can help you do your tax returns, thanks to its numeric keypad. Flatter, lighter and generally miles better looking than its 2003 predecessor, its 40 centimeters of sturdy metal build quality also make it a formidable weapon in the wrong person’s hands.
Perhaps surprisingly, it remains Apple’s most recent wired keyboard following the company’s decision not to refresh it in 2015. Which is just as well, as its comfortable keys, handily located USB ports (one on either side) and compact nature make it a treat for the fingers and the eyes.
Toting a similar design to Apple’s other 2007 aluminum keyboard (you know – the wired one), Apple’s Wireless Keyboard repositioned the arrow keys and removed the number pad to create a compact classic. So good, it was even worth raiding the bottoms of drawers for eight years to find re-chargable batteries with remaining fizz.
The Wireless Keyboard was so popular that early iPad cases literally bent over backwards to accommodate it. In 2012, this editor backed a Kickstarter-funded case called the TypeCover that transported both an iPad and wireless keyboard at the same time. It was expensive and rubbish, but it worked, and showed the lengths people were prepared to go to carry around their favorite hunk of metal.
Call time; we have a winner. For us, the 13-inch MacBook Air remains the king of Apple keyboards. It’s hard to put a finger – what’s that, a typing pun? – on just what makes it great.
Is it the subtle curvature of the Air’s chiclet-spaced keys, which possess a near-perfect amount of just-shallow-enough travel? Or perhaps it’s the spacious and comfortable aluminum wrist rest that aids you as you type. It could even be the way the keys wobble like an excited jelly.
Because perfection is boring, we’d like to see a new version of the 13-inch MacBook Air’s keyboard, one with larger key caps and increased stability (like the Magic Keyboard) but possessing the same amount of travel and style. Apple, if you’re listening, I have three words for you: redesigned MacBook Pro.
Like a parent loving both children but having an unconscious preference for one over the other, this editor in particular has always preferred the Air’s keyboard over the 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro.
Despite offering a similar amount of travel and having the same sized keycaps, there’s a subtle, but noticeable rigidity in the Pro’s keys that makes typing slightly less fluid than on the Air. It’s likely down to the Retina’s chunkier profile under the keyboard and overall weightier feel.
Don’t get me wrong, the experience isn’t a bad one: it’s just the Pepsi to the Air’s Coke; the McDonalds to its Burger King – the Van Damme to its Schwarzenegger. Likeable and popular, but no classic.
So this is, er, where things get a bit awkward. As we noted in our review of the 12-inch MacBook, you’ll have no trouble typing on it for short-ish periods of time.
Silly (and wrong) people sometimes mock Macs for being “expensive Facebook machines,” but in the case of the new MacBook, it’s only somewhat justified. This is one of the ultimate laptops for browsing the web and doing social media stuff, bashing out short quips to friends and typing out invites to UV bangle-littered foam parties.
But not so much for serious productivity – the 1mm of travel afforded by the keyboard’s Butterfly mechanism is simply too low for comfort when it comes to bashing out long documents. Wrist cramp sets in, inaccuracies creep into work and you’ll have a miserable time finding a USB-C keyboard –mainly because few, if any, exist yet.
Six keyboards in and we’ve arrived in the present, as illustrated by Apple’s new Magic Keyboard hiding in a plant pot.
What do you mean “why?” Leaf me alone.
It was with some nervousness that we read the release detailing the new accessory, which on the plus side doesn’t house Apple’s Butterfly mechanisms under its keys. At the same time, its “low-profile scissor mechanism” sounded ominous – would it be as unsuitable as the 12-inch MacBook for blistering typing sessions?
Spoiler: we used the Magic Keyboard to type this very article, and it was a mighty pleasurable (and pain-free) experience. However, Apple’s 2007 Wireless Keyboard this is not. The keys are much shallower (around 1mm versus 2007’s 2mm), and typing feels somewhere in-between that keyboard and the 12-inch MacBook’s. You really have to try it for yourself.
A nice touch over the 2007 Wireless model is its flatter profile. In the absence of a battery compartment, your wrists sit at a lower and more natural angle, which allows them to rest more comfortably on the desk – a bit like they do on the MacBook Air’s keyboard.
So, that’s that. If you want to check out some foliage-free images of Apple’s Magic Keyboard, then click on ahead.
The Magic Keyboard comes in a typically snug packaging set-up from Apple. Would you expect anything less?
It fits snugly into the back of the 2007 Wireless keyboard, too. This is arguably Apple’s most portable keyboard yet.
Pairing the Magic Keyboard to your Mac is as easy as connecting it via the supplied Lightning cable and turning it on using the button above. Within a few seconds you’ll get a message saying that you can disconnect the cable. Wizard-worthy stuff, indeed.
The new Magic Keyboard is thinner, shorter and much lighter (0.5 pounds versus 0.7 pounds) than the 2007 Wireless keyboard. It truly is a portable keyboard this time around and would make a fine companion to the iPad Pro or the Mac Pro.
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Whether you’ve just ordered yourself a new MacBook running the latest macOS 10.12 Sierra update or are looking to give your old Mac a new lease of life, there’s plenty of useful software for Apple’s platform out there.
The App Store offers a convenient route to download a huge number of apps, and there’s even more out there on the web. If you instead plan to grab some apps from the web, don’t forget to head over to your Settings > Security & Privacy > General panel first to set ‘Allow apps to download from: Anywhere’. Before changing it back afterwards, obviously.
From note-taking apps to image editors, windows managers and music production suites, check out our list of the best macOS apps that you can download today.
Sometimes you might want to save space on your desk by putting your MacBook to sleep and slipping it into a vertical holder. The problem there is that macOS automatically enters sleep mode when the lid is closed — and there’s no way to prevent this from happening without a third-party app. Caffeine used to be the best solution doing the rounds, but it has been usurped by Amphetamine.
Not only does Amphetamine look better in your Mac’s Menu Bar (in Dark Mode, anyway) and features support for Retina displays, you can set hotkeys to turn it on and off, activate it using keyboard shortcuts, receive alerts when it deactivates (via the Notification Center) and, best of all, it’s 100% ad free. It’s better than that first coffee in the morning, in other words.
Windows received the ability to snap windows and programs to the edges of the screen way back in Windows 7, so we’re quite surprised Apple took so long to replicated it with Split view in OS X El Capitan. But it still isn’t quite as full featured as Microsoft’s solution. The good news is that third-party apps to fill in the gaps, with the best being HyperDock, which covers window management and Dock functionality.
For windows, you can drag an app to the left or right edges of the screen (or the corners) and it’ll automatically fill that space. This makes it much easier to be productive on the desktop without wasting time dragging windows from the corners. For the Dock, hovering over apps activates something similar to Windows 7’s thumbnail previews, providing overviews of windows that can be accessed by a click or closed directly from the preview. Handy.
If you’ve bought a Mac and miss some of your old Windows programs, don’t worry – Parallels Desktop 12 can make it happen. Instead of having to dual-boot your Mac into a Windows partition, Parallels Desktop 12 allows Windows and macOS Sierra to co-exist side-by-side, and you can even run Microsoft-only programs such as Visual Studio 2015, or the Windows versions of the company’s Office 365 apps, alongside your native macOS ones.
All you need is a Windows 10 license – so prepare to buy one if you haven’t already. Or, alternatively, you can use Parallels to try a handful of free operating systems including Chromium (a free distribution of Chrome OS) or Linux Debian. This year’s version of Parallels is the most useful yet thanks to a new addition called the Parallels Toolbox, which allows you to easily carry out common tasks — from taking a screenshot to downloading YouTube and Facebook videos, and password-protecting all of your files.
If you’re anything like us, you’ll hate working with one monitor or screen. Portable monitors are still fairly expensive (and not to mention bulky), and luckily you can use an iPad instead using a nifty app called Duet. Developed by ex-Apple engineers, it works by tethering your iPad to your Mac using one of Apple’s Lightning cables and firing up the app on both devices.
You can then drag windows and apps onto your iPad’s display just like you can a second monitor, and if you have a more recent iPad with a Retina display then you’ll get the full benefit of all those pixels. Just know that the bandwidth isn’t quite what you would get with a proper monitor, so it can be a bit laggy when you notch the quality up. But it’s still more than usable for reading websites, typing up documents and watching videos.
Atom is a text editor that’s primarily designed for coders, but its flexibility and customization options make it a viable option for many different types of users. That’s because of two reasons: first, you can download a number of different Packages – effectively plug-ins – to make it bend to your will. It can be transformed into a Markdown editor for writing blog posts, for example, or you can hook it up to Evernote for storing notes in the cloud.
There’s at least 10 different word counters out there, and you can even add typewriter sound effects as you hammer out your delicious prose. Atom is also infinitely customizable on the visual side thanks to an editable back-end, allowing you to do anything from changing the font size, line height and colors to giving the caret Word 2016-like elasticity.
Whether you’re an aspiring rockstar or superstar DJ, Logic Pro X is one of the best music creation apps on the Mac. Developed by Apple itself, its accessible interface hides a ton of advanced functionality. The latest version comes with a slick new design, 64-bit architecture and new session drummer that will save you having to shell out for a drum machine.
It also works in natural harmony with iPads, providing a touch-based alternative method of creating song structures to dragging and dropping blocks in the main visual editor. Whether you’re a seasoned producer already (Sia used the app to record her hit song ‘Chandelier’) or are looking to upgrade from Garageband, Logic Pro X likely has what you need.
A simple app but an important one, to-do app Wunderlist’s strength lies in its cross-device functionality. It’s available on Mac, PC and Android and iOS, allowing you to pick up where you left off wherever you are using macOS’s Handoff feature.
Once you’ve created a list you can schedule reminders, add notes and embed it into the macOS Notification Centre using a widget. Team-based features are unlocked by signing up to Wunderlist’s Pro option for a yearly fee, and you can add files of any size without running into limits.
Evernote has morphed into a mighty note-taking app over the years. While some people will say that it’s too bloated, the sheer number of things that you can do with it still makes it best-in-class. You can type up notes, obviously, organizing them using a combination of folders and tags. You can even embed Google Drive documents, which are accessible in a click.
There’s also the ability to set reminders, share notes with friends, find information related to notes using Evernote’s ‘Context’ feature, create lists, and favorite notes that you frequently return to. Better yet, all of your notes are synchronized using the company’s servers, making them accessible on nearly any PC (through a browser or the native Evernote app) or mobile device in the world. The paid version lets you use Evernote with more than two devices while upping the amount of data you can sync each month.
GIMP (standing for GNU Image Manipulation) is one of the best free image editing apps out there. It’s a great alternative to Adobe Photoshop and comes with a massive array of professional-quality functions that let you tweak existing images saved in a range of formats or create fresh ones from scratch. Features include layers, highly customizable brushes, automatic image-enhancing tools and filters. You can do even more with it using plug-ins, which are available to download from the GIMP Plugin Registry.
Ulysses is one of the best “distraction-free” markdown editors out there today, balancing features with simplicity and beautiful design. Unlike Word 2016, or even Apple’s own Pages, Ulysses hardly features an interface at all. This allows you to get on with writing without being distracted by superfluous buttons and menus. The app uses its own brand of Markdown — a type of text formatting engine — that lets you highlight your writing in a way that makes organizing it simpler, and a vast number of export styles formats it in an attractive way once you’re finished.
There’s a handy attachments bar on the right-hand side that features an attractive word counter and lets you write notes to assist you in your writing. Notes can be accessed anywhere thanks to iCloud support, so you can pick up your iPad and carry on where you left off using macOS’s Handoff feature.
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