Today we are moving on to more minor applications in the Utilities folder. I actually use the Utilities Folder quite frequently. Due to the number of applications available there is going to be a couple of posts on the topic. Today I am going to feature Grapher, Grab and ColorMeter. In the next couple of days I am going to talk about Terminal, Keychain and Activity Monitor.
Grapher is a graphing utility. Its designed for mathematicians and engineers, however any one can use it. Although you can do really complicated 3D graphs, it works well with simple 2D for your kids homework.
To enter a line on your graph enter the formula into the white space above the graph. Entering a complicated formula can be quite difficult, however it you do get the hand of it. Most numbers are entered into a box and the styling is done for you, for example functions to the power of, are defined by pressing ^, a small white box will appear for your number. If you want to do a x over y symbol (fraction), press the forward slash button ( / ). Its quite hard to explain, however if you play around with the formula bar you will get the hand of it. When you press enter the line will appear.
You can enter more than one graph on the same “piece of paper” by pressing the plus symbol at the bottom of the sidebar. This is very useful for comparing graphs and equations.
There are a couple of other features I would like to point out. There is the Examples menu which I would suggest you have a look at if you find this app hard to use. If gives you an idea of how to enter an equation and the effects of having more than one. Clicking on the “Implicit and Explicit Curves” will give a good example.
The best way to use this program is to play, I mess around with it when I am given an equation to see what information I can yield from it. Usually I can find the roots of a quadratic equation quickly by seeing where it crosses on the x axis, this saves me a lot of work trying to work it out by hand.
The next app to check out is Grab, its is designed to take screen shots of your computer screen, however I have pointed it out for one specific purpose. Normally you take pictures by pressing Command + Shift + 3 for full screen, or Command + Shift + 4 (release and then drag with the mouse over an area) for a specific portion of the screen. You can press Command + Shift + 4 and then press space bar to take a picture of just an app. You can do all of these in Grab, however there is one option that is very useful which you can’t access by a short cut, this is a timed screen.
A timed screen allows you to take a picture of an area after you have set it up, this is very useful for taking pictures of games in action or applications which will not allow you to take a screen shot normally (Front Row being an example). Simply press the option under Capture in the menu bar and wait the required seconds before the time runs out. Your image can then be saved.
The final app which I would like to draw your attention to is ColorMeter, for anyone doing any for of design on screen I find this is a fantastic way to find the colour that you want. Basically its an eye dropper tool which will read the colour that your mouse is currently pointing to. I find this is a quick way to see what colour some one has used on a design with out having to open Photoshop. Simply point your mouse over the colour and read the RGB (or other colours values as set by the drop down menu).
There are two tips here I would like to point out, if you change the Aperture Size this will then take an every of all of the colours in the window. If you have it on the smallest it will take an average of just the pixel, the largest will take an average over a couple of pixels (I think a 15 x 15 pixel block). Every time you move your mouse the values will change, to lock the values simply press Command + L and this will lock the current colour value and allow you to read and store it more easily. You can also copy the colour value as a text and image under the colour menu option.
That about sums up the three small apps I wanted to tell you about today, tomorrow I will focus on Activity Menu, the app to view your system resources.