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Control Your Mac with Your PDA

by Dori Smith, coauthor of Mac OS X Unwired

You've bought your first Mac with Bluetooth, and now you're wondering what it's good for. Or you've had a Bluetooth Mac, and now you have a Bluetooth PDA, but you figure there must be something cool the two can do together, especially given all the Bluetooth hype you've heard. The answer is Salling Software's Clicker, a cool application that allows your Bluetooth devices (phones and PDAs) to act as a remote control for your Mac.

The first version of Clicker won two Apple Design awards at WWDC 2003: Best Mac OS X Product (Best of Show) and Most Innovative Mac OS X Product. That version (covered in the earlier O'Reilly Network article, Using Your Bluetooth Phone as a Remote Control) was great, but version 2.0 added entirely new functionality, allowing you to control your Mac with your PDA. In this article, we'll walk through how to install and use Clicker, and then we'll look at some examples of Clicker in action, using PowerPoint and iPhoto.

Mac OS X Unwired

Related Reading

Mac OS X Unwired
A Guide for Home, Office, and the Road
By Tom Negrino, Dori Smith

Installing and Using Clicker

Clicker for Sony Ericsson Bluetooth-enabled phones still works much the same as it did in the aforementioned "Using Your Bluetooth" article (with the addition of some cool new stuff) and it still costs $9.95. Clicker for Bluetooth-enabled Palm OS Devices costs $14.95, but does everything the phone version does and more. Together, both will set you back $24.90 (there's no bundle discount). Not much once you consider what Clicker can do.

After you've downloaded Clicker, you simply install it as you would any other application for your Palm. Launching Clicker on your PDA results in a screen similar to the one in Figure 1. (Note: If you've never paired your PDA to your Mac, check out Bluetooth on Mac OS X for information on pairing, or Chapter 6, "Bluetooth," of Mac OS X Unwired by Tom Negrino and myself.)

Figure 1: Clicker's waiting to connect to your Mac.

Tapping on the name of your Mac brings up a dialog like the one in Figure 2; if all works well, the connection will succeed and you'll then get the Salling Clicker menu shown in Figure 3. At this point, Clicker can control any of the applications shown: DVD Player, iPhoto, iTunes, Keynote, PowerPoint, and the Finder itself.

Figure 2: Clicker's trying to connect to your Mac.

Figure 3: Clicker's connected and ready to serve.

Clicker in Action: PowerPoint

When I was speaking at the recent O'Reilly Mac OS X Conference, I used Clicker on my PDA to control my PowerPoint presentation. Choosing PowerPoint from the previous list displays the menu shown in Figure 4. The most useful of the items shown is the one with the least descriptive name: Control.

Figure 4: Controlling PowerPoint with your PDA.

"Control" told my PDA to do several things simultaneously:

  • Act as a remote control that allowed me to move forward (and backwards) through my presentation using the navigator buttons.

  • Act as a timer, showing how long I'd been speaking (and therefore, how much time I had left).

  • Act as a note displayer, showing the notes that I'd entered in PowerPoint for my own reference.

So, while the slide shown in Figure 5 was displayed on the screen for the audience, my PDA showed me Figure 6. Unlike sessions where I've used a mouse to control my slides, I wasn't tied to sitting at my seat. Alternately, unlike sessions where I've used an IR remote, I didn't have to have a direct line of sight with my Mac.

Figure 5: A typical PowerPoint slide.

Figure 6: Session timer and speaker notes for that slide.

Hot presentation tip: When using Clicker to control your presentations (either via phone or PDA), turn Presentation Mode on (either from the menu bar or from Clicker's preference pane), as shown in Figure 7. This tells your Mac and paired device to do a number of useful things: among them are to not invoke phone events, to aggressively try to reconnect if the connection is lost, and it also keeps your Mac from sleeping/dimming (even when you aren't actively using Clicker). It won't turn off your phone, though, so be sure to turn yours off when you're presenting -- this is just as true for speakers as it is for conference goers!

Figure 7: Turn on Presentation Mode during presentations.

Clicker in Action: iPhoto

Let's say I'm speaking at a conference, and the subject of my cat arises (and you might be surprised at how frequently this actually happens).

I would, of course, then want to show the attendees exactly why he's worth their attention, and that involves showing one of his many pictures in my iPhoto library. But I don't want to show all of them to the attendees (that could take longer than the session itself), so I have to make sure that I choose just the right image to present. Clicker allows me to go through the images on my Mac's hard drive, look at them on only my Palm, and choose which one to display on my Mac.

To do this, I choose iPhoto from the list of applications we saw back in Figure 3, which then causes the list of commands to appear, as seen in Figure 8. Choosing "iPhoto Slideshow" displays a list of photo albums. I can pick the one I want and get a list of image names. Selecting one makes that image appear on my PDA (as seen in Figure 9); I can then either:

  • Click down on the navigator to advance to the next picture.

  • Click middle or right on the navigator to display the current image on the screen.

  • Click up on the navigator to view the previous photo.

  • Click left on the navigator to go back to the list of images.

Figure 8: iPhoto's list of commands.

Figure 9: Not his best angle, so I won't choose this one.

There are, of course, many other useful things that you can do with Clicker and iPhoto; for instance, you can run an iPhoto slideshow in a similar fashion to the PowerPoint slideshow covered above.

Hot iPhoto tip: You can reduce the level of JPEG compression (and thereby improve the quality, although transfer times will increase) of images shown on your Palm by changing a hidden setting. Quit Clicker, and then type in Terminal:

defaults write com.salling.SallingClickerHelper JPEGCompressionFactor 0.7

Further Resources

This article only covers a small amount of the functionality that Clicker ships with, and given that Clicker's commands are simply AppleScript under the hood, the only limits are your imagination and your scripting skills. If you want to know more, check out:

    The article, "Using Your Bluetooth Phone as a Remote Control," mentioned above briefly covers scripting version 1.
  • Chapter 6 of Mac OS X Unwired covers Bluetooth on Macs.
  • Salling Software has a page on developer resources.
  • The newly released AppleScript: The Definitive Guide doesn't cover scripting Clicker, but it's a good start if you decide you want to learn more about the language itself.
  • Clicker has an active support forum at Yahoo! Groups.

Dori Smith is coauthor of Mac OS X Unwired, JavaScript for the WWW: Visual QuickStart Guide, 4th Edition, author of Java 2 for the WWW: Visual QuickStart Guide, and a contributor to numerous online and print computer industry magazines.

O'Reilly & Associates recently released (November 2003) Mac OS X Unwired.

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