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For Software Addicts: Yes!MaybeNah!
Mars Report:

Text Tools for Mac OS X: Free At Last!

Published January 24th, 2012
MarsThemes Text Tools Software

Some variation of these text tools have been included in CrystalClear Interface, as well as Crystal Black, since those applications were first released. However, the tools have nothing to do with the theming of buttons and windows, or with the general appearance of Mac OS X. I added them because they address a real need of mine, which no other software could do.

As a writer, I need ready access to a range of text functions, and I need them in whatever application in which I happen to be writing. In most of the rich text editors I use, those functions are available somewhere in the app’s menus, but typically they're in different places within each app. Some apps don’t include one or two key functions at all.

Mac OS X has a rich text framework that provides just the set of editing tools I require, and it would be extremely handy to be able to access those tools consistently across apps. This is precisely what the MarsThemes Text Tools do: Grant easy access to the key Cocoa text tools that writers and editors need but can’t find.

So, what text tools am I talking about? Here’s a list of the key tools:

  • Tables. I often find formatting content into rows and columns an extremely useful way of organizing information, but few RTF applications seem to agree with me. Mac OS X includes a quite functional table-editing tool that I can quickly use when needed without opening a CrystalClear Interface 2.6 Desktopprofessional word processor such as Pages, or reaching for a spreadsheet app like Numbers.
  • Lists. From time immemorial, both humans and Martians have found organizing information as lists to be an essential tool for viewing and encapsulating that information. Again, finding the built-in list feature can be a problem, especially in apps that don’t let you access Mac OS X’s RTF “Ruler” tool (more on that momentarily).
  • Links. In the internet age, writers often need to add hyperlinks to their documents, yet finding the built-in hyperlinking tool can be a challenge. The tool either isn’t there, it’s buried in a set of menus, or it’s somewhere that doesn’t make sense.
  • The Ruler. If you’ve ever used a Mac OS X RTF editor such as TextEdit or Bean, or some kind of information management application like DevonThink Pro, EagleFiler, or Journler, you’re probably familiar with The Ruler (though didn’t know it had a name). The Ruler is the strip of tools that appears above whatever text document you’re working on. It contains a menu of handy (and customizable) text styles, alignment tools, a customizable menu for setting line and paragraph spacing, a menu for setting and customizing lists, and a group of tools for setting margins, tabs, and indentation. Sometimes The Ruler appears automatically, but other times you must hunt for access to it. Unfortunately, many applications feel the need to replicate these functions in some quirky unique way (such apps include Evernote and MacJournal). In my ideal editing environment, I want to summon The Ruler when needed, and dismiss it when it’s not.
  • Strikethrough. Oddly, the only straightforward way of striking through text (a very useful thing to do!) is to open the Mac OS X Font panel, which has a menu that includes strikethrough and underlining functions.
  • Copy and Paste text styles. Yes, there are standard keyboard shortcuts for these functions, but I find they don’t work in all applications, and I often forget what they are. Yet I use the functions frequently.

One of my favorite uses of the Text Tools is in applications or text fields that support rich text but provide no access to RTF editing tools. An obvious example of this is Apple’s Stickies application, which apparently assumes that users only want to type paragraphs with no formatting. Using the Text Tools, you can add The Ruler, a table, and all the rest.

CrystalClear Interface 2.6 Desktop

Other note-taking apps I use heavily likewise provide no way to toggle The Ruler or add a table are Edgies and Sticky Notes. Both have some of the Text Tools accessible in their menus, but using their menus may be awkward. Since the MarsThemes Tools provide a contextual menu, the tools are always at your fingertips.

Other examples I like to point out are the Comments field in Xcode’s snapshots window and in the application Packages, the Notes field in Interface Builder, any text view you’re formatting in Interface Builder’s edit window, the image description field in Little Snapper, and various others. (For my developer colleagues, I should point out that using the tools in Interface Builder is especially nice, because it lets you enter attributed text without having to format it in an external RTF editor and then copying/pasting it into IB. Note also that I still use Xcode 3.2, so IB is a separate application.)

Then there are applications like Yojimbo, which should provide a way to format text, but don't. Here, the Text Tools let you add The Ruler, a table, etc.

As mentioned, the Text Tools are activated as a contextual menu — using either a right-click or a Ctrl-click — in the field or document you want to edit. The Tools also provide a keyboard shortcut — ^⌥ Y — to pop up the menu. The shortcut is particularly handy in fields CrystalClear Interface 2.6 Desktop(such as those in Interface Builder) that usurp the field’s normal contextual menu.

The MarsThemes Text Tools have only two user options, which you can access from the “Manage tools” item in the Text Tools menu, or from the “Text Tools” item in the application’s menu. The two options are:

  • Show more text tools
  • Show Manage Tools menu at top.

CrystalClear Interface 2.6 DesktopSelecting the first option adds the following tools to the menu:

  • Styles (used for adding a custom style to your personal list)
  • A “More Tools” menu, which includes the Capitalize functions, which normally appear in a submenu, as well as access to two handy formatting tools to control inter-letter spacing and baseline setting.
  • Access to the Substitutions setting panel.
  • A link to open the very handy Special Characters panel.

CrystalClear Interface 2.6 DesktopBy default, the Manage Tools menu appears at the bottom of the Text Tools menu,  but you can change that.

The Manage Tools menu also includes functions for checking updates, uninstalling, and getting help.

Finally, the Text Tools application is programmed so that it only loads into software that it detects has some kind of editing functionality. There’s no use loading the Text Tools into System Preferences or the Finder, for example. This keeps its overall footprint on your Mac as small as possible.

Text Tools is freeware, so give it a try! Hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

The software will be added as a premanent item on the MarsThemes website, under Software. You can download it here.

★ Technical Notes

The Text Tools run as a plugin to the Mars Theme Loader (MTL) framework. If you do not have MTL installed, the Text Tools installer will do that for you. If you uninstall the Text Tools, the uninstaller will disable the MTL agent at that time.

There are very few components to the Mars Text Tools:

  1. The plugin (TTFilter.bundle) located at /Library/Application Support/MarsThemes/plugins, and
  2. A folder containing this document (as a PDF file) and the Uninstall program. That folder is at /Library/Application Support/MarsThemes/TextTools

To uninstall the Text Tools, open an application where they're active, open the Text Tools menu (easiest way is from the Application's main menu) and select "Uninstall Text Tools." If you have trouble finding an application that's running the Tools, open the folder referenced above and run the UninstallTextTools application.

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