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How to Mass Rename Files in macOS

Original Source: https://www.hongkiat.com/blog/mass-rename-files-macos/

Renaming a single file in macOS is straightforward, but when it comes to bulk renaming multiple files, whether it’s 10 or 100, you certainly don’t want to do it one by one. Hidden within macOS is a feature that allows you to do just that, and it’s quite simple.

mass rename files in macOSmass rename files in macOS

In this article, I’m going to demonstrate how this feature works and explore the extent of its capabilities in terms of bulk renaming files.

First, navigate to the folder containing all the files you wish to rename. If they are scattered across different locations, it’s best to consolidate them into one folder.

Select all the files (Command + A), right-click, and then choose “Rename.”

Selecting all files for renaming in macOSSelecting all files for renaming in macOS

This is where the real action begins.

If you want to disregard their current filenames and sequentially number them, for example: image-1.png, image-2.png, image-3.png, etc., adjust the following settings:

Custom Format: image-
Start Numbers At: 1

Sequential mass renaming settingsSequential mass renaming settings

Here’s the results:

Result of sequential mass renamingResult of sequential mass renaming

If you wish to retain the existing filename but add the text “(done)” in front of all the files, do the following:

Under the “Format” dropdown, change it to “Add Text.“
With “Add Text” and “Before Name” selected, type in “(done).”
Click “Rename.”

Adding text before filenamesAdding text before filenames

Here’s what you’ll get:

Result of adding text before filenamesResult of adding text before filenames

This feature also allows you to bulk find and replace certain text in all filenames. For instance, if we want to remove all instances of “copy” from the filenames, here’s what we do:

Select “Replace Text” from the dropdown.
In “Find,” insert “copy“
In “Replace with” leave it blank.

Find and replace text in filenamesFind and replace text in filenames

And voilà, all instances of “copy” in the filenames are removed.

Result of find and replace in filenamesResult of find and replace in filenames

One important note: before you confirm the mass renaming of your files, take a look at the “Example” that shows you how the output will look. However, even if you make a mistake and realize it after the mass renaming, you can still hit Command + Z to mass undo all changes.

Preview of mass renaming resultPreview of mass renaming result

The post How to Mass Rename Files in macOS appeared first on Hongkiat.

Answering Common Questions About Interpreting Page Speed Reports

Original Source: https://smashingmagazine.com/2023/10/answering-questions-interpreting-page-speed-reports/

This article is a sponsored by DebugBear

Running a performance check on your site isn’t too terribly difficult. It may even be something you do regularly with Lighthouse in Chrome DevTools, where testing is freely available and produces a very attractive-looking report.

Lighthouse is only one performance auditing tool out of many. The convenience of having it tucked into Chrome DevTools is what makes it an easy go-to for many developers.

But do you know how Lighthouse calculates performance metrics like First Contentful Paint (FCP), Total Blocking Time (TBT), and Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)? There’s a handy calculator linked up in the report summary that lets you adjust performance values to see how they impact the overall score. Still, there’s nothing in there to tell us about the data Lighthouse is using to evaluate metrics. The linked-up explainer provides more details, from how scores are weighted to why scores may fluctuate between test runs.

Why do we need Lighthouse at all when Google also offers similar reports in PageSpeed Insights (PSI)? The truth is that the two tools were fairly distinct until PSI was updated in 2018 to use Lighthouse reporting.

Did you notice that the Performance score in Lighthouse is different from that PSI screenshot? How can one report result in a near-perfect score while the other appears to find more reasons to lower the score? Shouldn’t they be the same if both reports rely on the same underlying tooling to generate scores?

That’s what this article is about. Different tools make different assumptions using different data, whether we are talking about Lighthouse, PageSpeed Insights, or commercial services like DebugBear. That’s what accounts for different results. But there are more specific reasons for the divergence.

Let’s dig into those by answering a set of common questions that pop up during performance audits.

What Does It Mean When PageSpeed Insights Says It Uses “Real-User Experience Data”?

This is a great question because it provides a lot of context for why it’s possible to get varying results from different performance auditing tools. In fact, when we say “real user data,” we’re really referring to two different types of data. And when discussing the two types of data, we’re actually talking about what is called real-user monitoring, or RUM for short.

Type 1: Chrome User Experience Report (CrUX)

What PSI means by “real-user experience data” is that it evaluates the performance data used to measure the core web vitals from your tests against the core web vitals data of actual real-life users. That real-life data is pulled from the Chrome User Experience (CrUX) report, a set of anonymized data collected from Chrome users — at least those who have consented to share data.

CrUX data is important because it is how web core vitals are measured, which, in turn, are a ranking factor for Google’s search results. Google focuses on the 75th percentile of users in the CrUX data when reporting core web vitals metrics. This way, the data represents a vast majority of users while minimizing the possibility of outlier experiences.

But it comes with caveats. For example, the data is pretty slow to update, refreshing every 28 days, meaning it is not the same as real-time monitoring. At the same time, if you plan on using the data yourself, you may find yourself limited to reporting within that floating 28-day range unless you make use of the CrUX History API or BigQuery to produce historical results you can measure against. CrUX is what fuels PSI and Google Search Console, but it is also available in other tools you may already use.

Barry Pollard, a web performance developer advocate for Chrome, wrote an excellent primer on the CrUX Report for Smashing Magazine.

Type 2: Full Real-User Monitoring (RUM)

If CrUX offers one flavor of real-user data, then we can consider “full real-user data” to be another flavor that provides even more in the way individual experiences, such as specific network requests made by the page. This data is distinct from CrUX because it’s collected directly by the website owner by installing an analytics snippet on their website.

Unlike CrUX data, full RUM pulls data from other users using other browsers in addition to Chrome and does so on a continual basis. That means there’s no waiting 28 days for a fresh set of data to see the impact of any changes made to a site.

You can see how you might wind up with different results in performance tests simply by the type of real-user monitoring (RUM) that is in use. Both types are useful, but

You might find that CrUX-based results are excellent for more of a current high-level view of performance than they are an accurate reflection of the users on your site because of that 28-day waiting period, which is where full RUM shines with more immediate results and a greater depth of information.

Does Lighthouse Use RUM Data, Too?

It does not! It uses synthetic data, or what we commonly call lab data. And, just like RUM, we can explain the concept of lab data by breaking it up into two different types.

Type 1: Observed Data

Observed data is performance as the browser sees it. So, instead monitoring real information collected from real users, observed data is more like defining the test conditions ourselves. For example, we could add throttling to the test environment to enforce an artificial condition where the test opens the page on a slower connection. You might think of it like racing a car in virtual reality, where the conditions are decided in advance, rather than racing on a live track where conditions may vary.

Type 2: Simulated Data

While we called that last type of data “observed data,” that is not an official industry term or anything. It’s more of a necessary label to help distinguish it from simulated data, which describes how Lighthouse (and many other tools that include Lighthouse in its feature set, such as PSI) applies throttling to a test environment and the results it produces.

The reason for the distinction is that there are different ways to throttle a network for testing. Simulated throttling starts by collecting data on a fast internet connection, then estimates how quickly the page would have loaded on a different connection. The result is a much faster test than it would be to apply throttling before collecting information. Lighthouse can often grab the results and calculate its estimates faster than the time it would take to gather the information and parse it on an artificially slower connection.

Simulated And Observed Data In Lighthouse

Simulated data is the data that Lighthouse uses by default for performance reporting. It’s also what PageSpeed Insights uses since it is powered by Lighthouse under the hood, although PageSpeed Insights also relies on real-user experience data from the CrUX report.

However, it is also possible to collect observed data with Lighthouse. This data is more reliable since it doesn’t depend on an incomplete simulation of Chrome internals and the network stack. The accuracy of observed data depends on how the test environment is set up. If throttling is applied at the operating system level, then the metrics match what a real user with those network conditions would experience. DevTools throttling is easier to set up, but doesn’t accurately reflect how server connections work on the network.

Limitations Of Lab Data

Lab data is fundamentally limited by the fact that it only looks at a single experience in a pre-defined environment. This environment often doesn’t even match the average real user on the website, who may have a faster network connection or a slower CPU. Continuous real-user monitoring can actually tell you how users are experiencing your website and whether it’s fast enough.

So why use lab data at all?

The biggest advantage of lab data is that it produces much more in-depth data than real user monitoring.

Google CrUX data only reports metric values with no debug data telling you how to improve your metrics. In contrast, lab reports contain a lot of analysis and recommendations on how to improve your page speed.

Why Is My Lighthouse LCP Score Worse Than The Real User Data?

It’s a little easier to explain different scores now that we’re familiar with the different types of data used by performance auditing tools. We now know that Google reports on the 75th percentile of real users when reporting web core vitals, which includes LCP.

“By using the 75th percentile, we know that most visits to the site (3 of 4) experienced the target level of performance or better. Additionally, the 75th percentile value is less likely to be affected by outliers. Returning to our example, for a site with 100 visits, 25 of those visits would need to report large outlier samples for the value at the 75th percentile to be affected by outliers. While 25 of 100 samples being outliers is possible, it is much less likely than for the 95th percentile case.”

— Brian McQuade

On the flip side, simulated data from Lighthouse neither reports on real users nor accounts for outlier experiences in the same way that CrUX does. So, if we were to set heavy throttling on the CPU or network of a test environment in Lighthouse, we’re actually embracing outlier experiences that CrUX might otherwise toss out. Because Lighthouse applies heavy throttling by default, the result is that we get a worse LCP score in Lighthouse than we do PSI simply because Lighthouse’s data effectively looks at a slow outlier experience.

Why Is My Lighthouse CLS Score Better Than The Real User Data?

Just so we’re on the same page, Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) measures the “visible stability” of a page layout. If you’ve ever visited a page, scrolled down it a bit before the page has fully loaded, and then noticed that your place on the page shifts when the page load is complete, then you know exactly what CLS is and how it feels.

The nuance here has to do with page interactions. We know that real users are capable of interacting with a page even before it has fully loaded. This is a big deal when measuring CLS because layout shifts often occur lower on the page after a user has scrolled down the page. CrUX data is ideal here because it’s based on real users who would do such a thing and bear the worst effects of CLS.

Lighthouse’s simulated data, meanwhile, does no such thing. It waits patiently for the full page load and never interacts with parts of the page. It doesn’t scroll, click, tap, hover, or interact in any way.

This is why you’re more likely to receive a lower CLS score in a PSI report than you’d get in Lighthouse. It’s not that PSI likes you less, but that the real users in its report are a better reflection of how users interact with a page and are more likely to experience CLS than simulated lab data.

Why Is Interaction to Next Paint Missing In My Lighthouse Report?

This is another case where it’s helpful to know the different types of data used in different tools and how that data interacts — or not — with the page. That’s because the Interaction to Next Paint (INP) metric is all about interactions. It’s right there in the name!

The fact that Lighthouse’s simulated lab data does not interact with the page is a dealbreaker for an INP report. INP is a measure of the latency for all interactions on a given page, where the highest latency — or close to it — informs the final score. For example, if a user clicks on an accordion panel and it takes longer for the content in the panel to render than any other interaction on the page, that is what gets used to evaluate INP.

So, when INP becomes an official core web vitals metric in March 2024, and you notice that it’s not showing up in your Lighthouse report, you’ll know exactly why it isn’t there.

Note: It is possible to script user flows with Lighthouse, including in DevTools. But that probably goes too deep for this article.

Why Is My Time To First Byte Score Worse For Real Users?

The Time to First Byte (TTFB) is what immediately comes to mind for many of us when thinking about page speed performance. We’re talking about the time between establishing a server connection and receiving the first byte of data to render a page.

TTFB identifies how fast or slow a web server is to respond to requests. What makes it special in the context of core web vitals — even though it is not considered a core web vital itself — is that it precedes all other metrics. The web server needs to establish a connection in order to receive the first byte of data and render everything else that core web vitals metrics measure. TTFB is essentially an indication of how fast users can navigate, and core web vitals can’t happen without it.

You might already see where this is going. When we start talking about server connections, there are going to be differences between the way that RUM data observes the TTFB versus how lab data approaches it. As a result, we’re bound to get different scores based on which performance tools we’re using and in which environment they are. As such, TTFB is more of a “rough guide,” as Jeremy Wagner and Barry Pollard explain:

“Websites vary in how they deliver content. A low TTFB is crucial for getting markup out to the client as soon as possible. However, if a website delivers the initial markup quickly, but that markup then requires JavaScript to populate it with meaningful content […], then achieving the lowest possible TTFB is especially important so that the client-rendering of markup can occur sooner. […] This is why the TTFB thresholds are a “rough guide” and will need to be weighed against how your site delivers its core content.”

— Jeremy Wagner and Barry Pollard

So, if your TTFB score comes in higher when using a tool that relies on RUM data than the score you receive from Lighthouse’s lab data, it’s probably because of caches being hit when testing a particular page. Or perhaps the real user is coming in from a shortened URL that redirects them before connecting to the server. It’s even possible that a real user is connecting from a place that is really far from your web server, which takes a little extra time, particularly if you’re not using a CDN or running edge functions. It really depends on both the user and how you serve data.

Why Do Different Tools Report Different Core Web Vitals? What Values Are Correct?

This article has already introduced some of the nuances involved when collecting web vitals data. Different tools and data sources often report different metric values. So which ones can you trust?

When working with lab data, I suggest preferring observed data over simulated data. But you’ll see differences even between tools that all deliver high-quality data. That’s because no two tests are the same, with different test locations, CPU speeds, or Chrome versions. There’s no one right value. Instead, you can use the lab data to identify optimizations and see how your website changes over time when tested in a consistent environment.

Ultimately, what you want to look at is how real users experience your website. From an SEO standpoint, the 28-day Google CrUX data is the gold standard. However, it won’t be accurate if you’ve rolled out performance improvements over the last few weeks. Google also doesn’t report CrUX data for some high-traffic pages because the visitors may not be logged in to their Google profile.

Installing a custom RUM solution on your website can solve that issue, but the numbers won’t match CrUX exactly. That’s because visitors using browsers other than Chrome are now included, as are users with Chrome analytics reporting disabled.

Finally, while Google focuses on the fastest 75% of experiences, that doesn’t mean the 75th percentile is the correct number to look at. Even with good core web vitals, 25% of visitors may still have a slow experience on your website.

Wrapping Up

This has been a close look at how different performance tools audit and report on performance metrics, such as core web vitals. Different tools rely on different types of data that are capable of producing different results when measuring different performance metrics.

So, if you find yourself with a CLS score in Lighthouse that is far lower than what you get in PSI or DebugBear, go with the Lighthouse report because it makes you look better to the big boss. Just kidding! That difference is a big clue that the data between the two tools is uneven, and you can use that information to help diagnose and fix performance issues.

Are you looking for a tool to track lab data, Google CrUX data, and full real-user monitoring data? DebugBear helps you keep track of all three types of data in one place and optimize your page speed where it counts.

CPG vs FMCG: The Similarities and Differences

Original Source: https://ecommerce-platforms.com/articles/cpg-vs-fmcg

cpg vs fmcg

Retail has its own jargon in the same way other sectors do. Two such acronyms you might have come across include CPG and FMCG. 

In a nutshell, the former stands for consumer packaged goods, while the latter refers to fast-moving consumer goods. 

For clarity, here’s a quick definition of both CPG and FMCG:

What is CPG?

Consumers buy CPG goods often and tend to use them soon after purchase; as a result, their demand is pretty high. 

It’s also worth noting that CPG prices are usually low, but sales volumes are high, so lots of sales can generate a healthy profit.

What is FMCG?

Fast-moving consumer goods sell quickly, have a short shelf life, and are purchased frequently. Like CPG, they’re also sold at a low cost and can sometimes (confusingly) be referred to as CPG and sometimes called FMCPG (fast-moving consumer packaged goods). 

In summary:

Both CPGs and FMCGs have the following in common:

Low cost

Bought frequently

Require little customer engagement

Used quickly

Sold in high volumes

Distributed widely

Have low-profit margins

Have a high inventory turnover

In this article

What are CPG and FMCG?

Types of CPG 

Types of FMCG

CPG vs FMCG: The Main Differences

CPG vs FMCG: The Similarities

CPG vs FMCG: Brand Strategy 

CPG vs FMCG: Marketing Approaches

CPG vs FMCG: Advertising

CPG vs FMCG: My Final Thoughts


What are CPG and FMCG?

These terms are often used interchangeably, and products sometimes fall into both categories.

There are, however, some key differences, and we’ll look in more detail lower down. 

But, for now, the best way to think about CPG and FMCG is that although they’re incredibly similar, FMCG is kind of a subset of CPG, and goods that fall within it just happen to be consumed and sold faster than CPG. 

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Types of CPG 

Here are a few examples of different CPG types:

Beauty, toiletries, and personal care: cosmetics, makeup, skincare, haircare, deodorant, shower gel, toothpaste, soap, etc. 

Child and baby products: toys, diapers, baby food, formula milk, etc. 

Food and drink: packaged food (like potato chips), drinks, and other digestible goods

Household products: cleaning products and tools, small appliances, storage containers, detergents, and so on. 

Medicines: over-the-counter pharmaceutical remedies like painkillers, vitamins, supplements, and so on.

Pet products: pet food, pet toys, snacks, and so on for domestic animals. 

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Types of FMCG

Types of FMCG include:

Beauty and personal hygiene: toothpaste, shaving cream, razors, soap, body wash, and other items used daily by most consumers. 

Cleaning products: goods that sell fast and are used daily or often, such as dishwasher tablets, washing-up liquid, laundry detergents and fabric softeners, and house cleaning products. 

Drinks: that are bought by many consumers and consumed more than once a day, like tea, coffee, and soft drinks

Over-the-counter medicines: pain killers, antacids, and other remedies for day-to-day ailments.

Confectionery: items bought and eaten daily, such as chocolates, sweets, and chewing gum

Pet products: pet food

Paper goods: goods that are used quickly and regularly, like paper towels, toilet paper, and napkins

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CPG vs FMCG: The Main Differences

CPG products tend to be of occasional use and are sometimes durable goods; e.g., a bottle of shampoo won’t need to be used or replaced daily. 

In contrast, FMCG products are often part of daily life, so they sell faster and in greater volume. A sometimes cited example is milk vs cat litter. The former is easier to sell in larger volumes than the latter.

Another difference is that CPG businesses tend to invest money into brand development and aim for long-term customer loyalty. Conversely, FMCG businesses focus more on driving fast sales from a larger market. For example, in brick-and-mortar stores, FMCG products tend to be placed close to high consumer footfall areas to attract impulse buyers. For example, at checkouts and aisle ends. 

In short, CPG and FMCG brands take slightly different approaches to marketing to their target demographics (see below).

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CPG vs FMCG: The Similarities

Both can have a short shelf life. 

Both can vie for shelf space in physical stores.

Both are in high demand, low cost, and sold in high volumes.

Both tend to have mass market appeal and rely on hefty advertising and marketing campaigns to drive sales, customer loyalty, and brand awareness. 

Manufacturers of CPG and FMCG compete in a populated marketplace.

Larger FMCG and CPG companies often manage a range of brands that offer the same type of products that cater to different market segments, e.g., P&G with Olay skincare and SK-II luxury skincare.  

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CPG vs FMCG: Brand Strategy 

Given the competitive marketplace in which CPG and FMCG reside, companies in this arena need a strong brand strategy to increase sales and nurture brand loyalty. 

Part of any CPG and FMCG brand strategy must include market research and consumer product testing. 

However, marketing approaches will vary depending on what the products and target demographics are. 

Put simply, market research and consumer insights are essential (I.e., gathering data on consumer behaviors, preferences, and buying habits and keeping abreast of CPG and FMCG trends). 

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CPG vs FMCG: Marketing Approaches

It’s not an exact science, and you’ll find that in some instances, how CPG and FMCG brands market themselves is similar or the same. However, there are a few nuanced differences. 

For example, CPG marketing involves targeted campaigns aimed at particular consumer groups. Campaigns such as these often use a mix of traditional and more contemporary advertising methods. For example, print, TV, and radio in combination with digital channels, AI, email marketing, and social media. 

For instance, Nestle, PepsiCo, and Mars are apparently using an AI platform called Tastewise to help them with product ideas and market research reports. 

Some CPG businesses use influencers to engage with consumers and grow brand awareness. For example, the Grounded Food Co. uses TikTok influencers. 

As for FMCG marketing, this is often aimed at a broader target demographic, so mass marketing is the order of the day. This usually includes large-scale advertising and promotional campaigns, including various media channels like TV, online advertising, billboard ads, etc.

An example of mass marketing by an FMCG brand is McDonald’s. The brand frequently uses a mix of TV, billboards, and social media to promote its fast food. 

In addition, FMCG brands might also harness sponsorships to increase sales and build brand awareness. For example, Heineken beer sponsorship with the Formula One World Championship and Coca-Cola with the International Olympic Committee. 

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CPG vs FMCG: Advertising

As above, it isn’t an exact science. Still, broadly speaking, both CPG and FMCG use advertising to raise brand awareness and boost sales. 

Where CPG brands are concerned, they tend to focus on their products’ unique properties and benefits. For example, beauty products that promote anti-aging. 

CPG brands may also focus on specific demographics. For example, a brand might focus its attention on moms, like Target did when it created a range of sensory-friendly kids’ clothes. 

In contrast, FMCG brands might be more likely to use bigger and broader marketing tactics with mass appeal. Creative campaigns like this often focus on inciting humor and emotion to grab the attention of their customers. 

For example, the McDonald’s Raise Your Arches campaign turned the brand’s iconic arches into a pair of eyebrows in recognition of the universal appeal of grabbing a burger. 

FMCG ads might also include celebrity endorsements to broaden a product’s appeal, such as the Starbucks and Taylor Swift partnership.

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CPG vs FMCG: My Final Thoughts

You’ve made it to the end of my take on CPG vs FMCG! Hopefully, you now have a better understanding of what CPG and FMCG are and their similarities and differences. 

While CPG and FMCG are both non-durable products, the critical difference is that products that fall into the latter category sell faster.

What’s also clear is that the two terms are often interchangeable. However, there are a few differences, particularly in how brands market and sell such products.  

Navigating the retail industry can be challenging, so staying on top of its nuances is essential if you’re a seller who wants to penetrate a particular market. 

That’s all from me! Are you planning on selling CPG and/or FMCG? Let us know in the comments below. 

The post CPG vs FMCG: The Similarities and Differences appeared first on Ecommerce Platforms.

How to Turn Any Website into a Mac App

Original Source: https://www.hongkiat.com/blog/websites-into-mac-app/

Turning your website, or any website on the internet, into an app has been made easy with the latest macOS. If you spend a lot of time on a specific website or a few websites, then it’s wise to turn them into an app and then launch/visit them with just a click.

Website into Mac appWebsite into Mac app

When turned into an app, it behaves exactly like one; it can reside on your dock or in your Launchpad and is also searchable in Spotlight.

Turning a website into an app is pretty straightforward. Just make sure you are on the latest macOS Sonoma, then follow these steps:

Open the website in Safari, like so.

Opening website in SafariOpening website in Safari

Click the share icon on the top right side of the browser, and select “Add to Dock“.

Adding website to DockAdding website to Dock

In the “Add to Dock” popup window, you can change the name and even alter the website’s URL. Then click “Add“.

Add to Dock popup windowAdd to Dock popup window

The website is instantly turned into an app. It will then appear on your dock.

App icon in DockApp icon in Dock

It will also appear in your Launchpad.

App icon in LaunchpadApp icon in Launchpad

It can also be searched via Spotlight. (See more Spotlight shortcut keys).

App searchable in SpotlightApp searchable in Spotlight

When you click on the app’s icon and open the website, it looks exactly like how it would when opened with Safari, just without the bookmark bars.

Website opened as app without bookmark barsWebsite opened as app without bookmark bars

One thing to note is that all the browser’s features are also gone when opened as an app. For example, when you right-click, you can only “Reload” the page.

Reload option in appReload option in app

The next time you open the same website in Safari, it will indicate (on top) that you already have an app for it.

Indication of existing app in SafariIndication of existing app in Safari

To remove the app from your dock, just drag it out of the dock and hold it until you see “Remove“.

Removing app from DockRemoving app from Dock

To delete the app entirely, open Finder, navigate to /Users/your_username/Applications, then delete the app.

Deleting app from systemDeleting app from system

The post How to Turn Any Website into a Mac App appeared first on Hongkiat.

In Search Of The Ideal Privacy Icon

Original Source: https://smashingmagazine.com/2023/11/search-ideal-privacy-icon/

I’ve been on the lookout for a privacy icon and thought I’d bring you along that journey. This project I’ve been working on calls for one, but, honestly, nothing really screams “this means privacy” to me. I did what many of us do when we need inspiration for icons and searched The Noun Project, and perhaps you’ll see exactly what I mean with a small sample of what I found.

Padlocks, keys, shields, and unsighted eyeballs. There’s a lot of ambiguity here, at best, and certainly no consensus on how to convey “privacy” visually. Any of these could mean several different things. For instance, the eyeball with a line through it is something I often see associated with visibility (or lack thereof), such as hiding and showing a password in an account login context.

So, that is the journey I am on. Let’s poke at some of the existing options of icons that exist for communicating privacy to see what works and what doesn’t. Maybe you’ll like one of the symbols we’ll stumble across. Or maybe you’re simply curious how I — or someone else — approach a design challenge like this and where the exploration goes.

Is A Specific Icon Even Necessary?

There are a couple of solid points to be made about whether we need a less ambiguous icon for privacy or if an icon is even needed in the first place.

For example, it’s fair to say that the content surrounding the icon will clarify the meaning. Sure, an eyeball with a line through it can mean several things, but if there’s a “Privacy” label next to it, then does any of this really matter? I think so.

Visuals enhance content, and if we have one that is not fully aligned with the context in which it is used, we’re actually subtracting from the content rather than adding to it.

In other words, I believe the visual should bolster the content, not the other way around.

Another fair point: text labels are effective on their own and do not need to be enhanced.

I remember a post that Thomas Byttebier wrote back in 2015 that makes this exact case. The clincher is the final paragraph:

“I hope all of this made clear that icons can easily break the most important characteristic of a good user interface: clarity. So be very careful, and test! And when in doubt, always remember this: the best icon is a text label.”

— Thomas Byttebier

The Nielsen Norman Group also reminds us that a user’s understanding of icons is based on their past experiences. It goes on to say that universally recognized icons are rare and likely exceptions to the rule:

“[…] Most icons continue to be ambiguous to users due to their association with different meanings across various interfaces. This absence of a standard hurts the adoption of an icon over time, as users cannot rely on it having the same functionality every time it is encountered.”

That article also makes several points in support of using icons, so it’s not like a black-and-white or a one-size-fits-all sort of rule we’re subject to. But it does bring us to our next point.

Communicating “Privacy”

Let’s acknowledge off the bat that “privacy” is a convoluted term and that there is a degree of subjectivity when it comes to interpreting words and visuals. There may be more than one right answer or even different answers depending on the specific context you’re solving for.

In my particular case, the project is calling for a visual for situations when the user’s account is set to “private,” allowing them to be excluded from public-facing interfaces, like a directory of users. It is pretty close to the idea of the eyeball icons in that the user is hidden from view. So, while I can certainly see an argument made in favor of eyeballs with lines through them, there’s still some cognitive reasoning needed to differentiate it from other use cases, like the password protection example we looked at.

The problem is that there is no ironclad standard for how to represent privacy. What I want is something that is as universally recognized as the icons we typically see in a browser’s toolbar. There’s little if any, confusion about what happens when clicking on the Home icon in your browser. It’s the same deal with Refresh (arrow with a circular tail), Search (magnifying glass), and Print (printer).

In a world with so many icon repositories, emoji, and illustrations, how is it that there is nothing specifically defined for something as essential on the internet as privacy?

If there’s no accord over an icon, then we’ll just have to use our best judgement. Before we look at specific options that are available in the wild, let’s take a moment to define what we even mean when talking about “privacy.” A quick define: privacy in DuckDuckGo produces a few meanings pulled from The American Heritage Dictionary:

The quality or condition of being secluded from the presence or view of others.
“I need some privacy to change into my bathing suit.”
The state of being free from public attention or unsanctioned intrusion.
“A person’s right to privacy.”
A state of being private, or in retirement from the company or from the knowledge or observation of others; seclusion.

Those first two definitions are a good point of reference. It’s about being out of public view to the extent that there’s a sense of freedom to move about without intrusion from other people. We can keep this in mind as we hunt for icons.

The Padlock Icon

We’re going to start with the icon I most commonly encounter when searching for something related to privacy: the padlock.

If I were to end my search right this moment and go with whatever’s out there for the icon, I’d grab the padlock. The padlock is good. It’s old, well-established, and quickly recognizable. That said, the reason I want to look beyond the lock is because it represents way too many things but is most widely associated with security and protection. It suggests that someone is locked up or locked out and that all it takes is a key to undo it. There’s nothing closely related to the definitions we’re working with, like seclusion and freedom. It’s more about confinement and being on the outside, looking in.

Relatively speaking, modern online privacy is a recent idea and an umbrella term. It’s not the same as locking up a file or application. In fact, we may not lock something at all and still can claim it is private. Take, for instance, an end-to-end encrypted chat message; it’s not locked with a user password or anything like that. It’s merely secluded from public view, allowing the participants to freely converse with one another.

I need a privacy symbol that doesn’t tie itself to password protection alone. Privacy is not a locked door or window but a closed one. It is not a chained gate but a tall hedge. I’m sure you get the gist.

But like I said before, a padlock is fairly reliable, and if nothing else works out, I’d gladly use it in spite of its closer alignment with security because it is so recognizable.

The Detective Icon

When searching “private” in an emoji picker, a detective is one of the options that come up. Get it, like a “private” detective or “private” eye?

I have mixed feelings about using a detective to convey privacy. One thing I love about it is that “private” is in the descriptor. It’s actually what Chrome uses for its private browsing, or “Incognito” mode.

I knew what this meant when I first saw it. There’s a level of privacy represented here. It’s essentially someone who doesn’t want to be recognized and is obscuring their identity.

My mixed emotions are for a few reasons. First off, why is it that those who have to protect their privacy are the ones who need to look like they are spying on others and cover themselves with hats, sunglasses, and coats? Secondly, the detective is not minimal enough; there is a lot of detail to take in.

When we consider a pictograph, we can’t just consider it in a standalone context. It has to go well with the others in a group setting. Although the detective’s face doesn’t stand out much, it is not as minimal as the others, and that can lead to too many derivatives.

A very minimal icon, like the now-classic (it wasn’t always the case) hamburger menu, gives less leeway for customization, which, in turn, protects that icon from being cosmetically changed into something that it’s not. What if somebody makes a variation of the detective, giving him a straw hat and a Hawaiian shirt? He would look more like a tourist hiding from the sun than someone who’s incognito. Yes, both can be true at the same time, but I don’t want to give him that much credit.

That said, I’ll definitely consider this icon if I were to put together a set of ornate pictographs to be used in an application. This one would be right at home in that context.

The Zorro Mask Icon

I was going to call it an eye mask, but that gives me a mental picture of people sleeping in airplanes. That term is taken. With some online searching, I found the formal name for this Zorro-esque accessory is called a domino mask.

I’m going with the Zorro mask.

I like this icon for two reasons: It’s minimal, and it’s decipherable. It’s like a classy version of the detective, as in it’s not a full-on cover-up. It appears less “shady,” so to speak.

But does the Zorro mask unambiguously mean “privacy”? Although it does distinguish itself from the full-face mask icon that usually represents drama and acting (🎭), its association with theater is not totally non-existent. Mask-related icons have long been the adopted visual for conveying theater. The gap in meaning between privacy and theater is so great that there’s too much room for confusion and for it to appear out of context.

It does, however, have potential. If every designer were to begin employing the Zorro mask to represent privacy in interfaces, then users would learn to associate the mask with privacy just as effectively as a magnifying glass icon is to search.

In the end, though, this journey is not about me trying to guess what works in a perfect world but me in search of the “perfect” privacy pictograph available right now, and I don’t feel like it’s ended with the Zorro mask.

The Shield Icon

No. Just no.

Here’s why. The shield, just like the lock, is exceptionally well established as a visual for antivirus software or any defense against malicious software. It works extremely well in that context. Any security-related application can proudly don a shield to establish trust in the app’s ability to defend against attacks.

Again, there is no association with “secluded from public view” or “freedom from intrusion” here. Privacy can certainly be a form of defense, but given the other options we’ve seen so far, a shield is not the strongest association we can find.

Some New Ideas

If we’re striking out with existing icons, then we might consider conceiving our own! It doesn’t hurt to consider new options. I have a few ideas with varying degrees of effectiveness.

The Blurred User Icon

The idea is that a user is sitting behind some sort of satin texture or frosted glass. That could be a pretty sleek visual for someone who is unrecognizable and able to move about freely without intrusion.

I like the subtlety of this concept. The challenge, though, is two-fold:

The blurriness could get lost, or worse, distorted, when the icon is applied at a small size.
Similarly, it might look like a poor, improperly formatted image file that came out pixelated.

This idea has promise, for sure, but clearly (pun intended), not without shortcomings.

The Venetian Blind Icon

I can also imagine how a set of slatted blinds could be an effective visual for privacy. It blocks things out of view, but not in an act of defense, like the shield, or a locked encasing, such as the padlock.

Another thing I really like about this direction is that it communicates the ability to toggle privacy as a setting. Want privacy? Close the blinds and walk freely about your house. Want guests? Lift the blinds and welcome in the daylight!

At the same time, I feel like my attempt or execution suffers from the same fate as the detective icon. While I love the immediate association with privacy, it offers too much visual detail that could easily get lost in translation at a smaller size, just as it does with the detective.

The Picket Fence Icon

We’ve likened privacy to someone being positioned behind a hedge, so what if we riff on that and attempt something similar: a fence?

I like this one. For me, it fits the purpose just as well and effectively as the Zorro mask, perhaps better. It’s something that separates (or secludes) two distinct areas that prevent folks from looking in or hopping over. This is definitely a form of privacy.

Thinking back to The Norman Nielsen Group’s assertion that universally recognized icons are a rarity, the only issue I see with the fence is that it is not a well-established symbol. I remember seeing an icon of a castle wall years ago, but I have never seen a fence used in a user interface. So, it would take some conditioning for the fence to make that association.

So, Which One Should I Use?

We’ve looked at quite a few options! It’s not like we’ve totally exhausted our options, either, but we’ve certainly touched on a number of possibilities while considering some new ideas. I really wish there was some instantly recognizable visual that screams “privacy” at any size, whether it’s the largest visual in the interface or a tiny 30px×30px icon. Instead, I feel like everything falls somewhere in the middle of a wide spectrum.

Here’s the spoiler: I chose the Zorro mask. And I chose it for all the reasons we discussed earlier. It’s recognizable, is closely associated with “masking” an identity, and conveys that a user is freely able to move about without intrusion. Is it perfect? No. But I think it’s the best fit given the options we’ve considered.

Deep down, I really wanted to choose the fence icon. It’s the perfect metaphor for privacy, which is an instantly recognizable part of everyday life. But as something that is a new idea and that isn’t in widespread use, I feel it would take more cognitive load to make out what it is conveying than it’s worth — at least for now.

And if neither the Zorro mask nor the fence fit for a given purpose, I’m most likely to choose a pictograph of the exact feature used to provide privacy: encryption, selective visibility, or biometrics. Like, if there’s a set of privacy-related features that needs to be communicated for a product — perhaps for a password manager or the like — it might be beneficial to include a set of icons that can represent those features collectively.

An absolutely perfect pictograph is something that’s identifiable to any user, regardless of past experiences or even the language they speak.

Do you know how the “OK” hand sign (👌) is universally understood as a good thing, or how you know how to spot the food court in an airport with a fork and knife icon? That would be the ideal situation. Yet, for contemporary notions, like online privacy, that sort of intuitiveness is more of a luxury.

But with consistency and careful consideration, we can adopt new ideas and help users understand the visual over time. It has to reach a point where the icon is properly enhancing the content rather than the other way around, and that takes a level of commitment and execution that doesn’t happen overnight.

What do you think about my choice? This is merely how I’ve approached the challenge. I shared my thought process and the considerations that influenced my decisions. How would you have approached it, and what would you have decided in the end?