Katie's Week in Review: January 22, 2017

There’s a lot going on in the world this week, though it’s been a pretty quiet week for tech news. Here are the links of note for the week ending January 22, 2017:

Avoid Embarrassing Typos: Change El Capitan Look Up Preferences

I’ve never been a great speller and it’s especially difficult for me to catch typos in my own writing. Unfortunately, I’ve noticed that Apple’s built-in spell catcher has been failing me more often in El Capitan.

Recently in a post I used the word “amaizing” instead of “amazing” and the built-in spell check didn’t catch it as an error.

Since this was happening more often, I did a little digging I discovered that Spotlight thinks “amaizing” is the title of Track 4 on a Kanye West album. Perhaps Spotlight is pulling from a typo in the hidden meta data.  Typos hidden in meta data, Wikipedia or other sources Apple uses for look up data could be causing you problems.

This Apple Support Article on Look up words and El Capitan offered some guidance and clues for a fix. First, I turned off Wikipedia as a source in the preferences in Apple’s Dictionary App. (Contrary to popular belief, Wikipedia is not an authoritative source.)


Next, I turned off “Allow Spotlight Suggestions in Look up” in the Spotlight System Preferences.


Hopefully these two changes will help avoid (some) future embarrassment by pulling look up information from only standard (and hopefully correct) dictionaries. 

Bulk Convert Word Documents to Watermarked PDF files

I frequently prepare documents that I send off to clients or other parties to review. Generally these documents are created in Word or another text editor but I want to send the draft document in a PDF format, stamped as a draft.

MacOS makes it easy to print a file as a PDF and tools like PDFpen and Bronson Watermarker make it easy to stamp a PDF document as a draft. But what if you have a lot of Word documents you want to process in bulk, convert to PDF and stamp as draft. This happens frequently when I’m sending a stack of draft estate planning documents off to clients.

User Automation to the rescue! Sadly, Microsoft no longer ships Automator plugins any longer, but I found an AppleScript that will do the trick.

Plugging the AppleScript into Automator allows me to quickly and easily convert a batch of Word documents into PDF.

Luckily, Automator also has a feature that will allow you to add a watermark to PDFs. There’s a walkthrough of this workflow as well as sample files available on MacOSXautomation.com.

I put all the variables together in automator, added a few bits to rename files to suit my needs and saved it as a service. Here’s what the final service looks like:

Now, I have one click access in the finder to take any word file and export it to a watermarked PDF. Let’s hope Apple doesn’t abandon user automation is MacOS in the future.

Thanks, Sal.

Mac Power Users #360: Workflows with Charles Perry

This week on Mac Power Users, Charles Perry, one of the organizers of the Release Notes conference, joins us to talk about turning his passion into a business, then a podcast, then a successful conference and the tools and logistics behind all of it.

This episode of Mac Power Users is sponsored by:

  • Ministry of Supply: Dress smarter. Work smarter. Get a free pair of Smarter Dress Socks with your first purchase.
  • 1Password Have you ever forgotten a password? Now you don't have to worry about that anymore. Save up to 20% using this link.
  • The Omni Group We're passionate about productivity for Mac, iPhone and iPad. 
  • Marketcircle We help small business grow with great Mac, iPhone and iPad apps including Daylight and Billings Pro.

Automatically OCR PDFs with Hazel and PDFPen (2017 Edition)

Several years ago I wrote a very popular post on this site about how to automatically OCR Documents with Hazel and PDFpen. It occurs to me that in the years since that post I’ve updated my method and it was time for an update.

Optical Character Recognition (OCR) is a magical thing. Normally, when you scan something it is processed simply as a flat image. OCR is the process of converting scanned images of typed (or sometimes printed) text into machine-readable text. Once a PDF document is readable by the computer, there are any number of actions the computer can take on that document (see the article above). Thus the OCR is a critical first step.

I’ve setup a Hazel rule to monitor my downloads folder for any PDF that is not already OCR’ed. I determine if the file has already been OCR’ed based on whether the file has been created by ScanSnap (since I OCR all my scans) and whether that file’s contents includes a vowel. If the criteria is not met, then Hazel will run an AppleScript will kick off PDFpen Pro to OCR the document, then quit PDFpen when finished and tag the file as having been OCR’ed so Hazel doesn’t keep repeating the same action on it. The Hazel rule looks like this:

Screen Shot 2017-01-14 at 3.41.04 PM.png

Here’s the embedded script courtesy of Greg Scown, one of the developers of PDFpen. Note if you use PDFpen instead of PDFpen Pro you’ll have to alter the script accordingly,

tell application "PDFpenPro"
    open theFile as alias
    -- does the document need to be OCR'd?
    get the needs ocr of document 1
    if result is true then
        tell document 1
            repeat while performing ocr
                delay 1
            end repeat
            delay 1
            close with saving
        end tell
        --In PDFpen, when no documents are open, window 1 is "Preferences"
        --If other documents are open, do not close the App.
        if name of window 1 is "Preferences" then
            tell application "PDFpenPro"
            end tell
        end if
        -- Scan Doc was previously OCR'd or is already a text type PDF.
        tell document 1
            close without saving
        end tell
        --In PDFpen, when no documents are open, window 1 is "Preferences"
        --If other documents are open, do not close the App.
        if name of window 1 is "Preferences" then
            tell application "PDFpenPro"
            end tell
        end if
    end if
end tell

Katie's Week in Review: January 15, 2017

This week marked the 10-year anniversary of the iPhone launch. How much has changed in the last decade for Apple and the tech world. Here are the links of note for the week ending January 15, 2017:

Free Agents #12: Right Now It's Only Me, with Katie Floyd

The tables were turned a bit as this week I joined David Sparks and Jason Snell as their guest on the Free Agents Podcast. We talk about how I left my law firm job and out on my own. we talk about making the move, my workspace and work habits, and the issues of adding support staff and partners versus staying entirely independent.

Free Agents is one of my favorite new podcasts about independent workers, and the hosts aren't too bad either. If you're an independent worker, entrepreneur or thinking about becoming one. You should check it out.

Mac Power Users #359: Big Questions

This week on Mac Power Users David and I cover some of the most common listener questions from the Mac Power Users email archive including backing up photos, task overload, Apple IDs, cold storage backup, moving your iTunes library, the differences between tasks and calendar items, and more.

This episode of Mac Power Users is sponsored by:

  • Gazelle Sell your iPhone for cash at Gazelle! 
  • MindNode Delightful mind mapping for your Mac, iPad, and iPhone.
  • Pixelmator Powerful image editing that gives you everything you need to create, edit and enhance your images, now on iPad and Mac.
  • Squarespace: Make your next move. Enter offer code MPU at checkout to get 10% off your first purchase.

Tech To Keep You Warm At Night

We’re having a few days of unusually cold weather here in Florida. This past weekend the temperatures dropped to 28 degrees (F) which is about as cold as we get.

While I have a centralized gas heating system for my house, I prefer not to run it at night unless I have to. It’s not particularly energy efficient to heat an entire house when I’m only occupying a few feet for 8 hours. I generally just want to find a way to keep my bed warm during the hours I’m sleeping. For years, I’ve used a heated mattress pad and it generally keeps me all snuggly and warm in my bed on even the coldest nights.

I’ve often wondered if there was a way to automate heating my bed on cold nights. The heated mattress pad takes about 30 minutes to warm up the bed, so by the time I get in bed, it’s typically too late to turn it on. There has to be a techie solution to this problem…and there is.


To turn my “dumb” mattress pad into a smart one I knew I needed to plug it into a smart outlet. The problem is, most smart outlets, like the Belkin WeMo, only have the ability to turn power off and on. So, you have to find a fairly “analog” electric blanket or mattress pad that will remember its settings when turned off and on. (Think electric blankets from years ago that operated with simple on/off switches and temperature dials). This was probably the hardest part of my search and required me to replace my existing electric mattress pad, here’s the one I found on Amazon that worked.

Many of these mattress pads have separate controllers for each side. If you want these to be controlled by a single smart switch, you’ll need to combine both plugs into a single outlet, so will need an adapter to convert one outlet in to multiple. I like this one.

Now, you’ll need a smart plug to control the mattress. I use Belkin WeMo plugs because they work well with Alexa and are very customizable with the WeMo App. If you prefer something that is HomeKit compatible, check out the iHome smart plug.

iOS Screenshot 20170108-122115.png

Once everything is connected you’ll be able to warm up your bed by commanding your smart assistant or turning on your smart plug. In my case, I tell Alexa about a half hour before I’m ready to go to bed to “Turn on the Hot Blanket” and it starts warming the bed. Additionally, I’ve setup the WeMo App to automatically turn off the mattress pad after 2 hours so I don’t get too toasty at night. If I wake up and start to get cold, I can call out to Alexa to turn it on again. Echo integration was my preferred way to interact with the mattress pad since I have an Echo in my living room as well as an Echo Dot in the bedroom, so it's never far away.

Once the mattress pad or blanket is setup to the smart plug you open up a world of possible integrations.

Make sure you use good judgment and keep an eye on your rules. These blankets and mattress pads can get hot and be dangerous if left unattended. I’ve setup a “safety net” rule to make sure the blanket always turns off each morning and choose a blanket that will automatically shut itself off after several hours.

Who says technology won’t keep you warm at night?

MPU Chicago Meet-up

David and I will be in Chicago presenting at the ABA TECHSHOW this March and by popular demand are scheduling a meet-up for Mac Power Users listeners. If you’re in the Chicago area, we’d love to see you.

The date is set for the evening of March 15th. The exact start time and location is a little up in the air depending on the number of attendees, but the likely spot is the Chicago Hilton on Michigan Avenue or another venue nearby downtown.

This is a very causal event where you can chat with us and other MPU listeners. Friends and family are welcome. There is no cost to attend, but “tickets” are required and we're starting early because we need to have a headcount to complete our reservation with the venue. Please register only if you are sure you are attending and make sure every person in your group has a “ticket” to attend.

You can register here.