Cocktail is a general purpose utility for OS X that lets you clean, repair and optimize your Mac. It is a powerful digital toolset that helps hundreds of thousands of Mac users around the world get the most out of their computers every day.

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Dictate without an Internet connection

Starting with OS X Mountain Lion, your Mac could take dictation. But, just as with the dictation feature on iOS, the OS X incarnation required an Internet connection, couldn't show its progress while you spoke, and could only listen for about 30 seconds at a time. That all changes with a single checkbox in OS X Mavericks.

Open System Preferences and click on the Dictation & Speech pane. There, you'll find a checkbox for Use Enhanced Dictation. The first time you check it, you'll need to wait out a hefty (about 750 MB) download, but once you're done, you can dictate a lot more freely.

Now, transcription happens on your Mac (not Apple's servers), and you can see the transcription appear as you speak, in real-time. In fact, the cursor remains active too; if you see a mistake, you can click around (without speaking) to make your edits, put the cursor back where it needs to be, and start talking again.

OS X Mavericks also offer many speech-based editing tricks. While you cannot delete - if you say "delete that" OS X Mavericks types "delete that" - you can do quite a bit of other editing such as new line, new paragraph, plus tons of other symbols, spaces, capitalization and more. Here is Apple's KB article with a detailed list of dictation commands.

Activate emoji and other special characters in OS X Mavericks

In OS X Mavericks, there is a new character popover to access emoji and other special characters.

To activate it, hit Control+Command+Space and the popover will appear under your cursor. You can view recently used emoji and swipe down in the popover to show a search field that lets you find a specific emoji by name. You can also access the old-style Special Characters window by clicking the icon next to the search field.

Defragmenting or not defragmenting, that is the question!

Posted in General

People often ask us whether they need or should defragment their Mac’s hard drives. For those of you who love reading there are plenty of lengthy discussion floating around the Internet in the form of Apple tech notes as well as other articles. We decided to go for the short and sweet answer instead:

Unless you do some very specific tasks that are uncommon for normal users then you don’t have to worry about it. 

OS X has several built in technologies which automatically optimizes how files are saved to the hard disk in order to minimize fragmentation. While this won’t stop your hard drive from becoming fragmented over time it will slow down the process to the point where you might need to defragment once a year or so. Incidentally, installing system updates will force OS X optimize the operating system files and some commonly accessed files that are used during startup, etc. As long as you stay up to date you never really notice any slowdowns at all.

So when do you need to defragment? According to Apple you only really have to worry about it if you often work with video editing or similar tasks where you deal with very large files and combine this with only have very little free disk space. In this case you might need to defragment manually, but usually it gives a very small performance gain considering the time it takes to defragment the drive. A better solution might be to just move the big files to another disk for a few days and let OS X work its magic.

If you do have a drive you really think needs to be defragmented we’d actually recommend backing up and restoring your computer from a Time Machine backup instead of defragmenting it using a commercial tool. It gives you a good excuse to start backing up your files, it is generally much faster than defragmenting and it can usually solve other problems with your computer too. Not to mention that unlike the defragmentation tools available online, it is also free.

Access hidden files

Have you ever wanted to access a hidden file from an Open window or a hidden folder from a Save dialog? You can easily toggle hidden files by hitting Command+Shift+Period in any dialog window.