Tuesday, 24 December 2013

How to make a perfect web thumbnail using SharpResize

This article uses SharpResize.

Opening an Image

There are several ways to get your image into SharpResize.
  • New from clipboard using File > New From Clipboard or cmd-N
  • Drag the image onto application's dock icon
  • Drag the image onto application icon or alias
  • Drag the image into SharpResize's image well
  • File > Open or cmd-O
You can grab an area of the screen using cmd-ctrl-shift-4. Drag a rectangle and see the width and height of your selection. It's not an easy shortcut to remember but worthwhile.

In addition there are toolbar buttons for New from Clipboard, Open and Save.



Quality and size

When you open a new image, the width and height won't immediately set themselves to the size of your image. You may need all of your thumbnails to be a standard size. This is also important for SharpResize's single-step feature. If you do want to set the output size to the actual size of the image, press 'Actual' or cmd-=

Resizing will be performed with Lanczos sharpening which is noticeably better than the more usual bicubic. You will see the output image displayed in the image well.

The Quality slider is the jpeg compression of the output. For maximum quality you'll also get the maximum file size but the file size can be reduced significantly (maybe halved) by backing off that slider a tiny bit below maximum.

The Sharpening slider applies a further filter to further improve a resized image. Use judiciously - too much will result in an artificial look. The best setting here will depend on the image. Most pictures seem to look best with the slider about a third of the way. If the image includes text, any more than a small amount of sharpening can spoil the anti-aliasing and make the text look jagged.


Adjustments

New in v1.2 is this panel which allows you to correct brightness, contrast and saturation. The latter can be used to remove colour completely. Call up the adjustments panel with cmd-alt-A. To check your changes, toggle the 'Preview' button.


Saving

You can save the image using File > Save, cmd-S, the Save button or the toolbar Save button. There will always be a dialog shown and the image will be saved as a jpg.

Friday, 6 December 2013

Creating a FAQs web page using Clipassist

Clipassist version 3.4 has the ability to export a selected folder or all clips as a web page with expandable answers. A real-life example of this being used is here: http://peacockmedia.co.uk/integrity_support.html

Here's how.

1. Organise yourself a folder containing the clips that you want to include. Give each a short name. Note that at present they're sorted alphabetically by the short name, so you can use a, b, c to order them. A future version will allow you to drag to re-order.

2. A new feature of Clipassist 3.4 is the 'Full question' field. This is what appears as the question on the web page. Access it with the 'reveal' button or View > Show Full Question

3. The text in the main pane will appear as the answer to the question.

4. Fill in meta data keywords to help you search for this item later on.

5. Choose File > Export Folder to HTML or File > Export All to HTML

6. The exported file will open and function as a web page in its own right but it is designed for you to be able to copy and and paste the questions and answers into your existing page. The Qs and As are tagged <h2> and <p> so they should pick up your existing styles, and they have a class ("faq") so that you can customise their style further.


7. Note that if you copy and paste the Qs and As, you'll need to include the jquery stuff and styles in the head of the exported page to your site.
Clipassist was originally designed to save time by giving you easy access to standard clips of text. Hit an F key and you've got a paragraph of text on your clipboard ready to paste without any styling problems.

It still does that. But recent (frequently-requested) improvements have made it useful as a powerful FAQ's / knowledge-base system.

It already allowed you to organise your clips of text in folders. A search box and meta tagging allow you to find the response to a question easily and quickly.

v3.4 is just out and includes the ability to export your FAQs for web. Pages on the peacockmedia site are now generated using this system; eg http://peacockmedia.co.uk/integrity_support.html and http://peacockmedia.co.uk/organise/faqs.html

Less frequently-asked questions are also stored in the system for fast pasting into an email reply.

Version 3.4 is now available for download from http://peacockmedia.co.uk/clipassist/ and shortly on the Mac App Store.

Monday, 4 November 2013

509 server response in Integrity / Scrutiny results

I love support calls where I learn something new.

I've never seen a 509 server response before. 500 errors mean that the server was unable to fulfil a valid request, and the 509 means "Bandwidth Limit Exceeded"(not used by all servers).

In this case it meant that Integrity was hitting a site too fast for the server's comfort. Easily solved here by moving the 'Threads' slider over to the left, but if that hadn't fixed it, it's possible to further throttle the crawler by specifying a small delay between requests:


Testing all of the links within an XML sitemap using Scrutiny


I have been recently asked how to do this. Although Scrutiny can open a list of links in plain text or html formats, it won't currently open an xml sitemap file and test the links.

I will write this functionality into Scrutiny but in the mean time, here's my workaround:


2. edit your sitemap file in a text or code editor. Take out the first few lines and replace with:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<?xml-stylesheet type="text/xsl" href="http://peacockmedia.co.uk/displaysitemap.xsl"?>
<urlset>

(in files generated by Scrutiny the <urlset> tag says <urlset xmlns="http://www.sitemaps.org/schemas/sitemap/0.9"> - I don't know why the namespace stops this from working but it does)

3. open the sitemap file in a browser. The browser should display only the urls as a list.

4. 'select all' and copy that information

5. paste into a new text document, give it a name and save it somewhere

6. open that file in Scrutiny, check 'plain text mode' and press Go


I'm sure there's an easier way, let me know if you think of one.

Friday, 1 November 2013

Getting started - Hue-topia - Philips Hue home lights controller for Mac

After following these steps which will only take a couple of minutes, you’ll know how to make and use presets, set your lamps to turn on and off on schedule and set it to listen 

The latest version of Huetopia is available here

1.  If you’ve not already done so, make sure your Bridge and some bulbs are switched on and start Hue-topia. The first time that you start the app it will try to find your bridge and attempt to log in. Finding the bridge requires an internet connection. 

Make and try two presets

2. turn the brightness and the whiteness of all of your lamps all the way up and make sure all are on.

3. Click the [+] button (Save preset) and type ‘All white’ for the name of the new preset. OK that.

4. Turn the brightness and also the whiteness of all of your lamps to three quarters of the way up.

5. Click the [+] button (Save preset) and type ‘All warm’ for the name of the new preset. OK that.

6. You now have two presets and can use these from the Presets button in the toolbar and also from the status bar. Try this.

Set your lamps to turn on and off on schedule

7. Press the Schedules button or ‘Show schedules’ from the View menu (command-2 also shows this window).

8. Press the [+] button at the bottom-left of the Schedules window. 

9. Type ‘Daily’ for the name, select ‘On & Off’, select ‘group: all’, type 17:00 for on and 23:00 for off. Leave all days selected. Click somewhere outside of the small window to save and close those settings.

All lamps are now set to switch on at 5pm and off at 11pm.

Set your computer to listen for sound while you are out and respond by switching on the lights

10. Select t’he All warm’  preset and make sure that the ‘Listen’ button isn’t pressed in.

10. Click the Settings button in the toolbar or ‘Hue-topia > Preferences from the menu bar (command - comma is the standard keyboard shortcut for Preferences)

11. If you make a noise, you should see flashing lights in the level indicator. This uses your sound input source set in System Preferences > Sound > Input, so check there if you can’t see a sound level being indicated.


12. Adjust the slider so that you see red lights if you walk around the room or open a door.

13. Choose ‘All white’ 

14. Close that window

15. Return to the manual control window and click ‘Listen’ in the main toolbar. You’ll see that there’s a delay of 60 seconds which you can use if you are leaving the room or the house.

16 Click ’Start now’. The computer is now listening for sound and will respond by turning up all of the lights if it hears a sound. if there’s silence for 5 minutes, the lights should go back down again.

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Scanning a specific language version of a website

I've just had a very good support question about testing a particular language version of a website.

I'm posting a generic version of the question and answer here for the benefit of those who pose the same question via Google.

Question


We have regional sites which look for a country / language cookie to keep them in a certain locale. I would like to set up the crawl to stay in China or Japan but there needs to be a cookie to tell our website where the crawler is supposed to stay. Otherwise the site links you back to US/English.

Do Integrity or Scrutiny set or maintain cookies?


Answer


Cookies are disabled by default because it's possible for pages to be deleted from the site if the user has been logged into a CMS which has controls which appear as links. Cookies are system-wide, Scrutiny will pick up the authentication from the cookies and in testing a link which is a delete button effectively operates that button.

If you're sure that this won't happen then here's how you enable cookies for Scrutiny crawls:

In your settings tab, press Advanced and then tick 'Attempt to authenticate'. Leave the username and password fields blank and make sure that if you go to the site using Safari that you're logged out (ie seeing the site as a public user).

Then make sure that your Safari is seeing the site in the language that you want to check (ie so Safari has that setting in its cookies) and Scrutiny should pick up and send that Cookie.

Integrity (being free) offers link checking with fewer advanced options, and doesn't allow
authentication or handle cookies.

Friday, 25 October 2013

Scrutiny licence half price today

Just a quick 'heads up' - Webmaster tool suite Scrutiny is on 50% offer today at MacUpdate.com - see the ad on their home page.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Amazing tech for everyday tasks

It's little things that both amuse and amaze me about today's technology.

It tickled me when Scrutiny started up and started working exactly in sync with the sixth pip of the time signal on the radio. (It's set to scan one of my sites at midday on a Tuesday)



Maybe younger people take this kind of thing for granted but it's taken some amazing technologies to make that happen so accurately - my processor can perform several thousand million operations a second, my system is regularly updating its time from a time server. Rather ironically I wouldn't have noticed this effect if I'd been listening to R4 on DAB rather than FM!

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Finding 'soft 404' internal and external links.

A 'soft 404' isn't the page that the user requested, but which returns a 200 response code. The page may say 'Page not found' or it may be a default page such as the home page or a special page set up for the purpose.

If the page doesn't state that the requested page hasn't been found then it's confusing for the visitor. Unless the page returns a 404 or 410 code then it's very difficult for a web crawler to find the broken link.

Google doesn't like such pages - they don't want to index a page which isn't the expected page. They and other search engines are testing sites for soft 404s. It's best if your site returns a 404 or 410 code when a page isn't found.

However, if your site does return soft 404s or if you want to find your external links that link to soft 404s, then from version 4.5, Scrutiny and Integrity can try to spot and highlight them.

There's a new section in Preferences:



You can switch the feature off (in Preferences) if you have a large site and want best performance and this feature isn't important to you

If your site does generate such pages and you'd like them marked as 404 rather than 200, then either find a term in the page content itself (such as 'sorry, the page you are looking for does not exist') and add this phrase to the list on a new line. If your soft 404 page has a specific url, then you can add all or part of this url to the list.

To find external pages which may be soft 404s, the box in Preferences contains a list of suspicious terms. The list may be increased in future versions, but you can add to it yourself too.

Pages which look like soft 404s (ie return a 2xx code but contain one of the terms in url or content) will have a status of 'soft 404' and will be marked red as per regular 404 pages.

Monday, 30 September 2013

4 things I'm lovin' about OSX Mavericks

Mavericks is the soon-to-be released OSX 10.9. Apple have run out of cat names and want to promote their 'designed in California' aspect.

I have it running on a new Air and have been working through my own apps making sure that they're ready for Mavericks. I'm gradually using that machine for more and more tasks.

Some background: there are many things I disliked about Lion and have considered Snow Leopard to be the height of their powers. I felt that they'd lost their way - coincidentally at the time that Steve Jobs went off sick.

This year's Developer Conference was a turning point. I saw some well overdue features in OSX (I've been waiting for messages in OSX, for example). They turned back on some of the things that I hated (skeuomorphic design - I think the graphic designers ran amok while the usability guys were on holiday). And I saw them innovating once more.

Here are the new Mavericks features that really make it rock for me.

1. Tabbed finder

A small enhancement but really nice. They're already familiar and natural to use. You can tear off a tab into a new window or combine Finder windows.

 2. iOS App bonanza

We've had Notes and Reminders for a while but now they're alongside Messages, iBooks (your books from iTunes will now appear here) and Maps (Not quite as useful when on the move as a 3G-enabled device but still welcome)


3. Tagging files

Again, long awaited and really useful. We now escape from the concept of one file being in one folder. Assign a tag to files that are related, and click the tag in Finder's sidebar to see them all together as if they're in a virtual folder.

 4. Clean minimalist look

No more cows or trees will be harmed and they've run out of green baize. I refused to even open iCal post Lion - the torn-off pages looked silly and unnecessary. Thank you Apple for a lovely clean and consistent look to iCal, Address Book, Notes and others.

Some of the things that I don't like are still there. For example, mono icons in the sidebars and toolbars make it more difficult to find the item you're looking for.

I wish 'Save As..' would come back and I don't like my folders being hidden from me, but we haven't gone any further down this road and my fears about the filing system disappearing completely are allayed for now.

I'm using the new machine for more and more tasks and looking forward to using it as my main machine. I'm well and truly back on board with Apple.

Friday, 20 September 2013

Importing sales from Squarespace or Paypal into Organise

This tutorial requires Organise version 7.2.2 or higher.

(At time of writing this version is currently available from Organise's home page, soon from other download websites and from the Mac App Store after Apple's approval.)

First you'll need to obtain your data in csv format from your provider.

You'll find a new menu item - File > Import > Special.
Choose squarespace or paypal as appropriate.

There are two paypal imports because for reasons unknown I've seen two different formats from Paypal. Either try each menu item in turn and see which works best, or preview your csv and check whether the customer address is in one field with commas separating (paypal) or the parts of the address are in separate columns (paypal2)

Organise will attempt to import the information; for each line in the csv it will create:

  • an Order
  • Billing and Delivery Contacts if the information is in the csv. If a Contact with the same name and postcode exists already, Organise will not duplicate it but link to the existing one.
  • an Item in your inventory if an Item with the same item number doesn't exist already
  • a payment on the Order for the amount paid
Although the Orders list will be behind the Open file dialog, you may be able to see whether the expected information is in the columns. If something looks wrong or you know you've made a mistake, you'll be able to click 'Doesn't look right' to abandon the import. Otherwise press OK to continue. (You can of course later select the imported information and delete it if you need to).


Note that the new Orders will bear a transaction ID (known in Squarespace as the Payment Reference) displayed opposite Organise's own reference number. This isn't editable (but you can select and copy it) so you have a permanent reference to the original Squarespace / Paypal transaction. It also allows Organise to avoid importing the same record again if you try to import the same file again or import another file containing overlapping information.

Friday, 6 September 2013

An FAQs or Knowledge Base system

Clipassist has some powerful new features; a search box and the ability to meta-tag clips. These enable Clipassist to be used as an FAQs or Knowledge Base system.

 
To categorise your clips, switch to the folder view (the two buttons to switch between flat and folder views are at the bottom-right of the sidebar). Create folders with the [+Folder] button and name them. You can drag and drop your clips to move them to another folder.

From version 3.3, you can add tags, comments, search terms or misspellings to each clip. To show the tags field, use the little disclosure button at the bottom-left of the main text pane, or View > Show Meta Data or cmd-D.

To search by keyword you can simply type a keyword(s) into the search field.

As ever, you can copy the displayed clip using Edit > Copy, cmd-Alt-C or the toolbar button. Depending on your Preferences you can single-click or double-click the clip's name to copy the clip. 

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Screensleeves absolutely free for today only

Paddle.com are launching a new site and to celebrate are giving away freebies all week. I've teamed up with them to give away Screensleeves absolutely free for today only. (usually 4.95 to remove the 'please support' message). Tell your Maccy friends!

https://www.paddle.com/freebie/490532/screensleeves/

Update your XML sitemap by FTP on your server using Scrutiny


1. Crawl your site and switch to the Sitemap tab. Make sure that the information is correct. You can use rules to change the priorities and update frequency of your pages or edit those manually. You can use the canonical href to avoid duplicate urls in your sitemap.

2. In Preferences > Sitemap you can choose whether the exported file is saved locally, saved and then ftp'd or just ftp'd.
3. If you've chosen to save locally you'll see a save dialog. Enter a suitable name and location (for saving on your computer) and OK that.

4. If you've chosen to ftp then you'll see the ftp dialog. These details should be saved for future use with the site's settings (if you've already saved a set of settings for this site.)
The server name should be the full name of the server, without the ftp:// scheme. Check whether the root of your website has a directory on your server such as docs or htdocs. These should be the same details as you enter in an ftp application.

5. If the ftp doesn't appear to work, if you open Console (in your Applications > Utilities folder) and try the export again you can see a trace in the Console window.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Getting started with Organise - Creating an order, generating the invoice / delivery note

Here's how to enter the details of an order into Organise and generate paperwork in just a few clicks.

The process is very similar if using the 'checkout' (point of sale) interface.

1. Click the 'New Order' button or use File > New > Order or cmd-N
2. Add a title and select a status

3. Click the 'Billing' tab.  For an existing customer (or if you're not sure whether it's an existing customer) click 'Select Contact' and search for their name, postcode, whatever.  For a new customer, click 'New Contact' and paste in their details.  You can use the 'Paste' button to paste the whole name and address into the separate fields.

4. If the delivery address is the same as the billing one, skip to 5.  Otherwise repeat 3 in the Delivery tab.

5. If the items ordered are already in your inventory ('Items') then select them using the 'Select from Items' button.  Otherwise you can add an item 'Adhoc'. (which will not add the item to your Items list).
6. Click through to the 'Financial details' tab. Press the 'Calculate' button to add up the total of the order.   Enter a shipping amount if applicable. If the full amount has been paid, click 'Tender full amount'.  You can enter a part-payment using 'Add payment'
7. Choose a template (you may like to customise the templates first - use 'Edit Templates'). Click 'Generate' to put the Order details into the chosen Template.  You can print this or save as pdf for emailing or to keep a copy. If you press the 'Save PDF' button, the pdf will be attached to the order, find it by clicking back to the 'Details' tab.

8. Use other templates (you can create your own) to generate other paperwork - delivery note for example.

Friday, 30 August 2013

Press release - OSX productivity app receives facelift


I'd like to introduce you to Clipassist.

It's not a clipboard history but easy access to frequently-used bits of text, which it handles as plain-text.



I wrote it for my own productivity. While using any other app I can simply hit an F key and cmd-V and in two keystrokes I've pasted a block of frequently-used text with no formatting issues.



It's been available to everyone else for a while for free. I've recently given it a facelift as well as some useful new features (eg searchbox, New from clipboard) and released version 3.2 to the web (still free) and to the App Store (a mere 1.99)

Friday, 23 August 2013

Using canonical href to exclude duplicates from your xml sitemap

Here's the problem. Scrutiny is finding the same page on your site twice, each with a different url, and including both in your sitemap.
Duplicates in your xml sitemap may not be such a problem according to Google.

However, the same article explains that Google like to know which version of your url they should rank and which page they shouldn't.

The canonical href is the answer. Here is the explanation from Google, but in short, you need to insert a meta tag like this:


<link rel="canonical" href="http://peacockmedia.co.uk" />


This line means 'this is the url I'd like you to rank for this content'. (The page at the url given should obviously have the same content.)

From version 4.3, Scrutiny will pick up this canonical href. You'll find it listed in the SEO table but the column may be way over to the right, or you may need to switch it on in Preferences > Views. Note (as with any of the columns in Scrutiny)  if you're interested in this column you can move it by dragging:

 You can see in the screenshot above that the index page in this example now has the canonical href. After re-crawling the site, the problem at the start of this article has gone away. Scrutiny's Sitemap tab now only excludes pages where canonical (if present) doesn't match the url of the page. When I export my XML sitemap, only the http://peacockmedia.co.uk  version will be included.

Note that Scrutiny will exclude pages according to canonical href in version 4.3.1 and higher

Find duplicate content (same content, different url) in your website using Scrutiny

Duplicate content on your website is sometimes said to harm your search engine optimisation. It may not be such a serious problem as this article explains.

Here's how to check for duplicate content on your site using Scrutiny.

1. First scan your site. If your site isn't already in the sites list, press 'New' and type your starting url. Press 'Next' to see the default settings, press 'Next' again to accept those settings. Press 'Go' beside 'Check for broken links'.


2. When the crawl has finished, switch to the SEO tab

3. Switch the 'Highlight' to 'Duplicates'


You'll now see possible duplicates highlighted in orange. To see a list of the pages that Scrutiny thinks are duplicates for that url, double-click it to open the page inspector.


In this example, the problem has arisen because scrutiny has found links to the same page in two different forms - peacockmedia.co.uk/clipassist  and peacockmedia.co.uk/clipassist/index.html

Dealing with duplicates

If you want to deal with this problem, here are two ways.

1. If you know that every page on your site has a unique title, then tick 'page titles are unique' on the Settings tab. Scrutiny will use page titles to make sure that it doesn't list the same page twice. However, this won't give you the control over which version is included in your sitemap.



2. Use canonical meta tag in your pages

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Categorising your items in Organise

Organise v7.1 adds categories to Items. Items can be in one or more categories, or none. If you don't need to use categories then just ignore the categories box and all will work as before.

1. Categorising your items

You can type a category into individual items. For more than one category, separate using a comma:  

Alternatively, you can set the category for more than one item by selecting them (hold down shift to select more than one item in the table, use the search box to find your items, ctrl-click or right-click to call this context menu): 

Note that you can  remove multiple items from a category using the same method. To remove a category completely, choose it from the Filter box, select all items in the list and use the Remove menu item.

2. Using categories

The filter drop-down box will contain all the categories that you have entered. Simply select a category to see all items in that category. Alternatively you can type the category into the search box:

When adding an Item to an Order, you can type a category into the search box:

Reports that work on your inventory can now be tweaked to select items from a category:

Monday, 24 June 2013

Productivity improvements in Integrity and Scrutiny

Over the years the web crawling engine that's shared by Integrity and Scrutiny has become faster, more efficient, more accurate and free of problems. It does what it does really well.

But the interface hasn't kept up; it displays its results and then you're on your own. Support calls have been about what people want to do next:

"Where is this link that it's reporting?"

"I only want to copy that URL but there doesn't seem to be an easy way to do it"

I hope that the new version 4.2 will help with such tasks. Useful functions such as 'Copy URL', 'Visit', 'Highlight' and the exciting new 'Locate' function can be found via context menus, buttons, keyboard shortcuts and menus.

First of all, the 'by link' view is an expandable view, meaning that the list of pages that the link appears on can more intuitively be seen from that view without having to open the link inspector:

The link inspector is improved. You can still double-click in its table to either visit or highlight (according to your preferences) but you can now also pop up a context menu with a number of options, or use the new buttons to visit, highlight or locate:

The Locate function is a big help in those situations where you're not quite sure how the crawler has found a certain page - maybe it's an old page you thought you'd orphaned. Previously it was possible to trace the path but it was time-consuming. Now you can call up a list of the clicks required from your starting point to the link in question:

These useful functions are available from context menus - right-click or command-click the link or page to pop up a menu:

The new versions of Integrity and Scrutiny containing these features are available for download:

http://peacockmedia.co.uk/scrutiny/

http://peacockmedia.co.uk/integrity/

And on the Mac App Store shortly.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Periodic Table Of SEO Success Factors

I've just seen this wonderful graphic showing the factors which influence your search engine ranking with an indication of how each is weighted (and which ones work against you).


For the large version complete with lots of explanation.

Scrutiny will be able to help you with many of these things.

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Find missing meta tags

[Updated 9 May in line with Scrutiny v5]

Meta keywords may not be as important now as they used to be, but your meta title is one of the most important SEO factors and your meta description will appear on search result pages and net you click-throughs.

Here's how to check your site to see whether these things are in place using Scrutiny.

1. First you need to scan your site. At the Sites screen, press 'New' and type your starting url. Press 'Next' to see the default settings, press 'Next' again to accept those settings. Press 'Go' beside 'SEO'.

2. When the crawl has finished, the SEO screen will open

3. Make sure that the 'Highlight' box is switched to 'Missing metadata' (this is the default position)

4. It's easy to see which pages have missing title, description and keywords. These will be highlighted in orange or red.