Creating An Audio Book - A Better Way

As soon as the iPod came out people have worked to get their old audiobooks onto their new digital devices.  My family got one of the 1st gen iPods and I used a huge kluge setup to get an audio recording of Alice in Wonderland off a 33 rpm LP and onto the iPod. When you have an audiobook on CD and want to create a digital copy for your iPod, iPad or iPhone, it's easy (but time consuming and tedious) to create manually.

Today there are a collection of scripts and applications that make creating an audiobook a breeze. My favorite for the task is an application called Audiobook Builder.

You can try Audiobook Builder (ABB) for free by downloading it from the Splasm web site but if you want to buy it, I recommend you save yourself $4 and buy it from the Mac Store

Building an audiobook with ABB is easy. Just launch the application and select "Create a New Project".  On the panel that pops up, enter in the name and author of the book and drag in a JPEG of the cover art. 

If you want to add more detail just click the "more" button and go wild.

Once the preliminaries are out of the way it's time to start ripping the CDs. On the main screen select "Chapters." You can see that there are several ways to add files. You can use the buttons at the top. Drag files to the drop zone or import from CD. I'm going to assume that you want to build an audiobook from CDs.
Just insert your first CD and select import as a single file.  You can play with the quality of the recording but the "normal" setting works fine and the file size isn't too large. For really long books that don't contain any music or other sound effects you could lower the quality. Conversely if you want to bring out the high's and low's of narrators voice you can bump the quality up. 

After the first disk is done you will be presented a screen asking for the next CD. Just keep feeding the disks until you are done. One of the cool features of Audiobook Builder is the ability to stop importing, quit the application and resume the build later. All your data is saved in an intermediary Audiobook Builder file. You don't create your iTunes Audiobook until you select the "finish" button after all your disks have been imported. 

When you are done importing all your disks your screen may look something like this:

Since we have created one file per CD, Audiobook Builder uses the CD name for each chapter. That makes importing easier but the iTunes CD database may contain different names for each CD. Just remember that the names of the chapters will show up in your iTunes Audiobook as the file name. 

Kind of ugly isn't it? The order of the books is correct and it will play just fine but I think it's ugly and annoying.  Maybe it's my OCD nature, but  I think it's better to rename the chapters so it's a bit more organized. Before you build your audiobook clean up the name of each chapter so it is easy to tell the order of the book. Just double click each chapter and rename it. I like to use the name of the book and "1 of 15" and increment up to "15 of 15." Nice and tidy.

Now that things are cleaned up it's time to build the audiobook. Select the "Finish" button and the "Build Options" button in the upper right under the artwork. 

At this point you can change the audio quality if you want to. If you're happy with your original setting just use the "Pass through" check box. The M4B setting allows you the ability to bookmark your audio files. Unlike music you want to be able to start where you left off so make sure you select M4B. You can also size the chapter to any length you want but because we went to all that trouble of creating one CD per chapter just use the per chapter part style setting. Once you have all your settings the way you want them click OK and then build your audiobook. 

That's it! When the build is complete Audiobook Builder will automatically add the files to iTunes and store the output files to the destination you selected.  

I'm a miser at heart but for $6 you can have a full featured way to build your audiobooks that makes life a lot easier. I highly recommend it.


Creating An Audio Book

If you spend a lot of time in your car one of the ways to pass the time is to listen to an audiobook. If you have an iPod, iPhone or iPad you know that you can download audiobooks from an online store like the iTunes store or Audible.  But if you have the Audiobook CD's you can also rip them and create your own audiobook. The challenge with ripping an audiobook CD is getting the set up correct so your file size isn't huge and your books don't get mixed up with your music.

To manually rip a set of audiobook CD's you first need to change your import settings. Open iTunes and go to the "Preferences" menu.

Click the "Import Settings" button and change the settings to a bit rate of 32 kbps. Make sure the checkboxes are checked for variable bit rate encoding and Optimize For Voice. The Optimize For Voice limits the frequency to the range of the human voice.

If your audiobook contains music as well as voice you may want to increase the bit rate to 64 or 128 kbps. 

For each disk you insert you will want to select all the tracks and make sure the Album and Artist information is correct. Set the genre to Audiobook and make sure that the disk number is included.  You will want to make sure that you have the disk number because you will want to keep your files in order. 

One of the things that's different about ripping audiobooks rather than ripping music is how your rip the tracks. With Audiobooks you will want to rip the whole CD as one track rather than ripping them individually as you would do with music. Otherwise you end up with hundreds of tracks for a full book. I always create one track per CD. To do that you will need to join the audio tracks as you rip. 

After you insert each disk and edited the Album and Artist info to your liking, select all the tracks on the disk and go to the "Advanced" menu and select "Join CD Tracks"

A bar will show up around all the selected tracks and only a single check box will be available. Now just click the "Import CD" button and iTunes will rip all the tracks and combine them to one file. 

Repeat this step will all the CDs of the Audiobook until you have as many files as you have CDs. 

Once you are done ripping you now need to make sure that your tag info is correct. To make things easier I've developed a personal system where I change the name of the track to the title of the book, then add 1of 15 or 2 of 15 depending on which track it is. I also make sure that the track number is correct and change the "Composer" information to whomever is the reader of the book.  Make sure that all the tracks have the same Album name or iTunes won't group them together.

You now only have one step left. You may notice that even though you selected the genre as Audiobook the files still show up in the "Music" menu. That can be a real pain if you have set iTunes in shuffle mode and suddenly someone starts reading a book to you. To get your book to show up in the iTunes book menu you need to change the file type.  Apple distinguishes music from audio books with a file extension. The music file extension is .m4a, the audiobook file extension is .m4b.

Select one of the tracks and go to the File menu and select Show in Finder. Open the folder of audio files and for each track just edit the filename and change the extension from .m4a to .m4b. You will get a dialog box asking you if you're sure just click the "Use .m4b" button. 

Now in iTunes delete the existing files and drag the new .m4b files back into iTunes. Your book should now show up in your iTunes Books menu and are ready to play!

I'm just letting you know that this is the hard way to do things. There are actually a  lot of applications and Applescripts that can simplify the job. In my next post I'll review my favorite app for creating Audiobook files. 


Add Chapters to Video Files

In my family, exercise is a way of life. But rather than workout at a gym we workout at home using workout DVDs. Since DVDs are so cumbersome to deal with I usually rip the DVD and use AppleTV to stream the workout to our TV. It's much easier to pick the workout you want and you don't have to paw through dozens of DVDs trying to find the right one. 

The challenge here is that most workouts you buy don't have chapters. That sounds like no big deal until you have a workout manic like my daughter who likes to repeat parts of a workout to make sure she breaks a sweat. So this post is dedicated to her so she can add her own chapter markers and really get a good sweat going.

People other than the workout obsessed may need to add chapters as well.  Adding chapters to a home movie makes it easier to find the section you want to show. Adding chapters to TV shows you record can make playback more enjoyable. Whatever your need, adding chapters to videos is easy to do. The first thing you need is a video file. 

If you need to rip a DVD, Handbrake is the easiest to use. You can read about how to do it here or here. After you have a file, the easiest way to add chapters is to use a free application called Subler.

Subler is a Mac OS X application that opens video files, allows you to add or remove media tracks inside them, and then saves them out again. In the specialized language of the video world, Subler is a "transcoder" or "muxer." It's an application dedicated to creating MPEG4 files (.m4v, .mp4) for Apple's  iDevices.

Subler's original purpose was to allow you to easily add subtitles to your video files, and thus the name "subler". In time, new features were added to help Subler solve similar common problems. For instance, with Subler you can open an existing media file, add chapter titles, remove an unwanted commentary track, tag the file with season and episode information, and then save it back out again.

The main features are:

  1. Remux video, audio, chapters, subtitles and closed captions tracks from mov, mp4 and mkv.
  2. Add a subtitle track. Add tx3g subtitles tracks, compatible with all Apple's devices (iPod, AppleTV, iPhone, QuickTime).
  3. Add multiple soundtracks
  4. Add and edit iTunes metadata and TMDb and TVDB support
  5. Add and edit chapters

You can download it here:

Today I'm only going to cover how to add chapters to a .mp4, .m4v or other video file. Download and start Subler and then open the video file you want to edit. You should see a screen that looks like the one below giving you the basic information of your file. 

To add chapters you can do it a couple ways. If you want uniform chapter markers go to the "Edit" menu and use the pull down menu. You can add chapters every 1 min through every 30 min. 

You can also add chapters manually. This is probably the better choice because you can add a chapter at a natural break point in the video. To add chapters manually select the "Chapter Track" line, click the box to make sure it's selected and use the "+" at the bottom of the window to insert a track. You can now edit the time and the name to the values you want.

When you are done you just save the file. I recommend saving under a new name just in case you need to re-edit the file. Once you save you are done! If you open the file in iTunes or play it in Quicktime you will see that there are chapter markers. 

If you want to burn a DVD of the file you can use Apple Burn or Roxio Toast and it will retain the chapters. 


Tivo & the Mac - Edit your Tivo files

I have had an ElGato EyeTV unit for quite a few years now and it's been great for recording over the air TV on my Mac. One of the great features of this unit is the ease of editing recorded shows. With very little effort you can edit out all the commercials and just watch a show without any breaks.  Now that I have a Tivo I sure didn't want to start watching commercials again so I started hunting for a great video editing program that's easy to use that can edit the Tivo files. Although EyeTV is still the gold standard I think I found a usable work around with MPEG Streamclip

I've already covered how to download your Tivo recorded shows to your mac here. Now that you have the show you need to get rid of the commercials. First, download the MPEG Streamclip application. When you open the application you will get a screen that looks like this:

To edit a file just drag it to the screen or use the "Open Files" selection in the "File" menu. There are two basic editing functions you are going to use; trim and cut. First you need to select the sections of the show you want to edit out. 

Drag the slider to the beginning of the show and type "I" for "Select In" then just hit command+T to trim out that section. Trimming a file will cut out everything you haven't selected.

Now move the cursor to the start of the first commercial break and hit the "I" key again. Move the cursor to the end of the commercial break and hit the "O" key for "Select Out." Just the commercials will be selected (as shown in the screen shot below). Then all you need to do is use the cut command (command+X) to get rid of the commercials. If you have trouble finding the right spot when you use the select in or select out location use the arrow keys on your keyboard. They will allow you to move a frame at a time to fine tune your selection location.

Just repeat  this for all the commercials in the show. When you get to the end of the show type the "O" key and do a Trim again to get rid of the ending credits and trailing commercials. That's it! 

Now a few comments about the whole process; One of the challenges I had with editing video was making sure that the audio was syncing. At times, after editing, the audio would get out of sync and there would be a split second delay when an actors mouth would move and the sound would come out. It's very annoying and can render the file unwatchable. 

To make sure that things stay sync'd up here's some of hints that should help.
  • Try to minimize edits. Only use one edit per commercial break and don't do a lot of little edits. 
  • Don't use the export function to save your video. Just do a "Save As." When you save it will save to the exact same format you used when you moved it from your Tivo to your Mac. Sometimes exporting to a different format will get the audio out of sync.
  • Do a "Fix Timecode Breaks" (command+F in the Edit menu) when you first open the file. This may help.

From what I have read, the unsynchronized audio may be a result of a frame rate issue from the original video program. If you have issues with synchronization maybe try setting the frame rate to a different value when you move the file from your Tivo to your Mac. 

Good luck and enjoy your shows!


Tivo & the Mac - Downloading Tivo files

I'm old enough to remember a time without the Internet. In fact, I'm old enough to have actually played on ARPANET the predicesor of the Internet. I was a kid at the time and don't ask me how I was able to sneak into the local college computer lab and log on. I'm not sure if the statue of limitations has expired yet.

I was also around when 2400 baud modems first came out and everyone thought it was amazingly fast. When modems speeded up to 9600 and 28k things were fast enough that you could actually download some video to watch. Of course you couldn't do it in real time, but you could do it. I still remember watching the Star Wars the Phantom Menace trailer on my Mac 7300. Wow! It took all day to download the 2 minute trailer, but it was worth it. It was only when I got my first cable connection that things became fast enough to stream small files to watch.

Now of course you have Netflix, Hulu, YouTube and even Apple's own iTunes store to get your video. The problem is, most of the content that's worth watching costs money. That's a problem, as my family will attest, I'm a tightwad and watch every penny.

Today I have a bundle of digital cable, Internet connection and a VOIP phone. I really only needed the Internet and phone but the price was actually cheaper if I included the digital cable. So why should I pay for TV shows twice when I'm already paying for cable? My monthly cable bill is high enough so why should I buy iTunes TV shows if I can watch them on my TV?  It was only when my family got addicted to some USA network shows that came on at 10:00 PM and I missed a few UW Husky games that I decided to take the plunge and get a Tivo. That way I could record what I was already paying for and watch shows when I had the time to watch them. Yeah Tivo has a monthly fee but it's the principle of the thing! Besides, a new toy is cool and fun to play with. My biggest problem with Tivo was working out how to get the shows from the Tivo box to my iPad, iPods and Apple TV where I could watch them the way I wanted to.

The standard application for moving recordings from the Tivo box to the Mac is Roxio Toast. It's what Tivo recommends and it's what Hollywood has blessed. The problem with Toast is that DRM Tivo attaches to all recorded shows doesn't allow any editing or transcoding of your recorded Tivo file. That's when I started looking around for another way. What I found that worked best was an application called iTivo.

iTivo is a great little application that allows you to download your Tivo recordings from your Series 2, Series 3 and TivoHD devices directly to your Mac. During the download it strips out the DRM and you end up with a file that you can edit and covert to any format you want.

The set up is easy. Just download iTivo from here and install the application. Once it's installed you will need to configure the iTivo application to work with your personal Tivo.  To do that you need the Tivo Media Access Key or MAK.

To get the MAK for your box you need to either use the on screen menus or log into the Tivo web page and click on the "View Media access key" link. Once you have the MAK for your Tivo box just enter it in the iTivo preferences.

Next you need to enable Tivo downloads on your box. You can do that from the same Tivo web page listed above. Select "Change DVR Preferences" and Enable Tivo downloads. Now iTivo is almost ready to go. Back in the iTivo preferences, after you enter the MAK you will now see a screen that looks something like this:

Notice that any recorded files you have are listed by show. But before you download you need to decide what format you want the show to be converted to.

Most Tivo HD recordings are large and are in a native format that Macs can't handle very well without a lot of tweaking. iTivo comes with a lot of format options. To make things easy, I recommend that you download the file in the format you want to end up with at the end of for process. If you plan on playing the file on your computer maybe you want to use Quicktime. If you plan on playing it on an iPod, iPhone or Apple TV use that selection. Remember that every time you transcode a video file you loose some resolution and detail so choose wisely so you don't need to convert things twice.

One cool feature of iTivo is the ability to edit the format parameters of the file you create. For me the best mix of quality and size was using AppleTV as a starting point and editing the variables. To do that select AppleTV in the pull down menu then select the "Advanced" tab.

In the "encoder video options" I edited the bitrate to 1800 and changed the video size from the AppleTV standard 960x540 to 720x480. Just edit thethe "dsize" variable. You can see the edits in the screen shot above.I also bumped up the audio to a bitrate in the "encoder audio options" to 224.

After you make these edits, select the "Save Custom Format" box and give it a name. Then you can pick it again with the next download without manually changing the variables each time.

Another option is to let iTivo remove commercials. It's a cool tool and great idea but in my testing it really doesn't work all that well. you end up with bits of your show missing or part of some lame commercial for a product you don't want. I would leave this option out.

Lastly you can schedule your downloads for a specific time. Remember that when you download you are transcoding the file so it will take a lot of CPU power. If you have a slower mac you may want to schedule it for late at night to minimize the impact to other processes.

Once you have set all your variables just select the show you want to download and click the download show button. You can read the iTivo Help or FAQ pages and learn about other tweaks you can make to this great application but that's the basics.

In my next post I'll show you how to edit the file and remove all the commercials.

UPDATE - 2/20/2013

iTiVo was broken for Mac OSX 10.8 Mountain Lion  but as of 2/20/2013 iTiVo is working again. The application does needs a manual fix however. Please download the latest iTiVo and apply the fix outlined in the this MacITHelp post


Mac OSX Lion - A few Finder tips and Tricks

Show Status Bar in Finder Windows

The new Mac OSX Lion operating system has a lot of new features but looks enough like the previous version of the operating system to throw you for a loop if you expect to see something and it isn't there. A great example of that is hard disk information.

In 10.6 Snow Leopard, at the bottom of every Finder window is a list of how many items are in the window and a total of the space available on whatever disk the window contents are located on.


By default Lion doesn't show this information. To get it back select the finder window, go to the top of the screen and select "View". Then select "Show Status Bar." That's it!


Change Finder Sidebar Icon Size

Another change that Lion sets by default is the size of the icons in the Finder window sidebar. Here's a picture of the Lion sidebar showing the default size

Sidebar Med.jpeg

To save a little space you can adjust the sidebar icon size using System Preferences. Just open System Preferences and go to General. Just change the sidebar icon size to small.

Sys Pref Sidebar.jpg

Now your Finder windows will look like this
Sidebar Small.jpeg

Configuring Finder Sidebar

The Finder sidebar also now contains a bunch of new icons and by default it's missing some old ones. To change that configuration you just need to click the background to bring up Finder then open Finder Preferences.

In the Sidebar menu you can add or delete menu items. For me, showing the machine Hard disks as well as other connected servers is a must so just check the appropriate Devices & Shared items. You can also add or delete folders you want to have at your fingertips whenever you open a finder window.

Finder Prefs.jpg

What is the same as older versions of Mac OSX is the ability to add items to the sidebar. Just drag folders you want to display to the sidebar and they will always be available for easy access.

Sidebar Games.jpg

The best thing to do with a new operating system is to explore and test things out. See if you can find a new function or option that you love (or hate) and drop me a comment below to let me know. I'll try to share some of the best so everyone can benefit.


Mac OS Lion - Creating a Lion Boot/Install Disk

One of the new "features" of Apple's new Lion operating system is it's total lack of physical media. The only place you can get Lion is to download it from Apple via the App Store. That's great for Apple as it saves the cost of creating, packaging shipping and displaying the boxed media. For the end user it's a mixed blessing.

It's great because you always know where to go get another copy. No more searching for your install disk. Just log into your Mac, fire up the App Store and download it again. The down side is that if you have a slow Internet connection or you have a lot of family Macs to load (you can install Lion on all your machines using your AppleID) it can take a while. If you have 4 or 5 Macs in your family like I do then downloading that 4GB file over and over again would be a real pain in your ethernet. To help you get around that problem you can download it once then create an install disk. 

Here are the steps to creating a Installation DVD. You can follow the same basic steps and also create a bootable flash drive if you want, just make sure it's greater than 4GB in size.

  • Purchase and download Lion from the Mac App Store. When downloaded it will be added to your Dock and Applications folder. Make sure you don't install Lion! Instead close the installer.

  • Go to the Applications folder and locate the Install Mac OS X Lion package.

  • Right-click the installer and choose Show Package Contents. 

    • Go to the /Contents/SharedSupport/ folder and locate the InstallESD.dmg disk image.

    • Drag "InstallESD.dmg" to your desktop

    Now you need to create a Boot DVD 

    • Open Disk Utility. 

    • To burn the image to DVD, click the Burn button in the Disk Utility toolbar and select the "InstallESD.dmg" file you dragged to the desktop . Insert a blank disc when the burn dialog displays, and then click Burn (be sure to have Disk Utility verify the burn to ensure the media works as it should).

    • Now you can take your disk to all your Macs and update to Lion. When you are done, just make sure to store your disk somewhere safe.


    Mac OS 10.7 Lion

    Since this is a Mac blog & you are reading this post I figure you have heard that Apple released a new operating system last week; code name Lion. This is the seventh iteration of their OSX operating system and it's got a lot of changes in it. Most users will be happy with the changes but as with anything new, it might take a while to adjust to the changes. If you haven't upgraded yet you need to make sure you are prepared.

    The first thing you can do to get ready is weeding out all those unwanted applications and data and doing a general clean up. Then, after you're done cleaning up do a backup. You do backups on a regular basis don't you?  If not, you can read through my posts about backups here and here. As a general rule ALWAYS do a full backup before a major OS upgrade.

    The next step may be painful but stick with me. Lion is a new OS and is getting rid of some of the old legacy code. That means some of your older applications may stop working. If you count on an application in your day to day computing life then it's good to check to make sure it will work after you upgrade.

    Back before Apple switched to Intel as the Mac CPU of choice they used chips made by IBM/Motorola called PPC (short for PowerPC or Performance Optimization With Enhanced RISC Performance Computing). That means appications that you rely on might stop working when you upgrade to Lion. To keep from shooting yourself in the foot it's a good idea to check before you upgrade. Here's how to check for PPC apps on your computer:

    Go to the Apple menu and open "About This Mac."  

    When the window opens click on the "More Info" button. That will bring up the system profiler application. Click on Software and sort by kind and you will see a list of all your applications. Those that are "Universal" or "Intel" will work fine in Lion. Anything that is PPC will not.

    If your favorite app is listed as PPC it might be time to find a replacement or see if an upgrade is available. For me that meant finally abandoning my old version of Quicken 2006 (yeah I was too cheap to even upgrade to Quicken 2007). Just know that the new upgrade for Quicken 2006 & 2007 , Quicken Essentials for Mac, doesn't have the same features as the much older version. I don't know why Intuit is so slow to upgrade the Mac version to match the Windows version but they haven't. Here's a good article about Quicken Essentials and some of its shortcomings.  

    That's just one bad example. Most of my day to day applications just needed an upgrade and they are Lion ready. I did loose some of my old games but that's life when you hang onto a game that's over 15 years old. Here's a quick look as some of the major players that are PPC:

    • FileMaker 6
    • FileMaker 8
    • Older Adobe software
      • Photoshop CS1, CS2 etc
      • Creative Suite older versions
    • Microsoft Office 2004

    After you weed through and delete your old data and applications, you check for PPC applications and upgrade or replace them, and you do a backup, you should be ready to update your computer to Lion. I'll review that upgrade process next.

    My plan is to offer up some tips and insight on Lion over the next few weeks. But that may get stretched out since the weather here in Seattle is finally improving and the weatherman says the temperature might actually reach 80°!!!  After living in perpetual fall-like drizzling rain and cloudy days for the past 11 months it's tough to spend time in front of a computer. 


    Fastmac U-Socket USB/Power Outlet

    Back in December of 2009 (is that really almost 2 years ago?) I found an online article advertising a very cool product that I fell in love with. Fastmac corporation had combined a standard 110V power outlet with 2 USB ports and called it U-Socket. I glanced around at my computer area and took note of the tangle of cables and huge number of power adaptors and decided I needed to get me some of these!

    Fastmac offered an introductory price of $9.99 per outlet but pre-order wasn't available. A coupe of months later they did offer up a pre-order but the price was now $19.95 each. I thought about it for about 10 seconds and then plunked down the $40 and sat back and waited for them to arrive. I waited. And waited ... and waited. 

    It turns out Fastmac had a great product but the US government needed them to make changes. Great for safety not so great for delivery quick delivery times. The USB ports went from a horizontal orientation above each outlet to a vertical orientation to the left side of each outlet. Not a big deal one would think but if you have to go through testing, verification and the US government approval process it can take a while. It also impacts the price. They now sell for $22.95 and come in a variety of colors. About 2 weeks ago I finally was  notified that the U-Sockets I had pre-ordered were available and they were on their way. I installed them today. 

    Each outlet comes with a wire nut, an extra wire in case your outlet is in the middle of an electrical run, a faceplate, the outlet itself and instructions.

    If you are a DIY type of guy then it shouldn't be an issue to install them yourself. Just make sure you keep safety in mind and TURN OFF THE POWER FIRST!  To install the two outlets took me about 20 minutes. The biggest issue is the size of the outlet. It requires at least a 16-cubic-inch electrical box to accommodate it. That means you may have to swap out a smaller electrical box for a larger one. Not necessarily an easy task.  Thankfully for me that was unnecessary.

    The two USB ports are USB 3.0-compliant, have 12W of total charging power and are rated at 2.1A.  My brand new iPad 2 can charge at full speed but if/when I get a second one it will slow things down a bit as they would share the power draw. 

    Another nice feature of the U-Socket is that it's designed to cut off power to the USB ports when nothing is plugged into them. That should put a stake through the heart of those vampire charging adaptors you leave in all the time.

    U-Socket is a great device, easy to install and unique in the market right now.  If you’ve been looking for a convenient way to charge all your i-devices and hate the mess of USB charging adapters, give it a try.


    Backups - Choosing The Right Software

    Knowing that you need to backup is one thing, actually getting around to setting it up and doing it is another. That's why you need to pick the right software for you. It's got to be something  you will use and better yet something you can set up once and will automatically do the backups for you. 

    There are a lot of good applications out there for backing up a Mac. Each of the programs have slightly different features and although all will do a decent backup, each have their own strengths and weaknesses. Just remember that there is no one tool that's perfect for everyone. Pick one that will work for the way you intend to do backups. Below I've listed some of the better known applications as well as some that a bit more obscure. For each application I've listed the current price and URL where you can download it.

    First up is Apple's own Time Machine.

    Time Machine - Free

    Time Machine is built into the latest versions of Apple Mac OS. It's already there in your applications folder, it's free and easy to use so you might as well use it. Just remember that Time Machine backups up everything that's changed on your Mac in the last hour. And does this every hour of every day that your Mac is turned on. 

    Open up System Preferences and click on the Time Machine icon to start setting things up. For the first set it up Time Machine asks for a destination drive and that's it. Just know that the first backup will take a while to complete because it's backing up everything! 

    Time Machine creates a folder on the external drive whose name contains the current date and time. It then copies the entire primary hard drive (except for files and directories that it has specifically been told not to copy) to the folder. Every hour thereafter, it creates a new folder on the remote drive using the same naming scheme, but instead of making another complete copy of the primary hard drive, Time Machine instead only backs up files that have changed. You will need a second hard drive of equal or greater size to make this work.

    Because 1 hour increments for backup can get annoying and eat up HD space you might want to use a program like:

    TimeMachineEditor - Free

    TimeMachineEditor is a software for Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard and Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard that lets you change the default one-hour backup interval of Time Machine.
    You can change the interval or create a more sophisticated scheduling that works for you.

    SuperDuper is a great program that can make a fully bootable backup. That can be a life saver if you loose your main hard drive. It has a built in scheduler that's easy to use. If you use it in conjunction to Time Machine you can have your incremental backup and store a bootable backup alongside your Time Machine volume—and it runs beautifully on both Intel and Power PC Macs!
    SuperDuper's interface confirms all your actions in simple, clear language to ensure that the end result is exactly what you intended. 

    SilverKeeper - Free

    SilverKeeper is free backup from LaCie. You can use it with any storage device that mounts on a Mac desktop. You can backup to  a hard drive, a CD-R/RW, DVD-R/RW/RAM, or other removable storage device with a FireWire, USB, IDE, ATA interface.  You can also create backup sets and schedule your backups. The features are more then adequate for most people and the price is right. 

    Carbon Copy Cloner - Free

    CCC 3 features an interface designed to make the cloning and backup procedure very intuitive. In addition to general backup, CCC can also clone one volume to another, copying every file to create an exact replica of your source volume.
    Deja Vu - $29

    Deja Vu is a little different in that it's a "preference pane" that lives in your System Preferences. It allows you to schedule unattended backups of important folders, or even your entire system. It allows you to mirror your data (deleting any file in the destination that's not in your source) and give you a different data sets for daily weekly or monthly backups. 

    iBackup - Free

    iBackup the software tool shouldn't be confused with iBackup the online backup storage company. iBackup software doesn't have the most Mac-like interface but it works. Since it's free you can download it and play around to see if this is the backup program for you. It allows for simple to set up scheduled backups of files, folders, applications or anything else you want to back up.

    Tri-BACKUP - $69

    Tri-BACKUP is let's you do an automatic backup of data as well as entire disks. It has dual modes: A simplified interface that let you do quick and easy setups or a more complex manual mode for a configuration of your backups. 

    It's kind of pricey for my tastes but if you have a small business or a lot of data you might to give it a try.